Ancient Monuments

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A slight univallate hillfort known as Prittlewell Camp, 500m east of Sutton Road crematorium

A Scheduled Monument in St. Luke's, Southend-on-Sea

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Latitude: 51.5577 / 51°33'27"N

Longitude: 0.725 / 0°43'29"E

OS Eastings: 588992.702076

OS Northings: 187829.06186

OS Grid: TQ889878

Mapcode National: GBR YBR.HV

Mapcode Global: VHKHM.J33Q

Entry Name: A slight univallate hillfort known as Prittlewell Camp, 500m east of Sutton Road crematorium

Scheduled Date: 27 February 1961

Last Amended: 8 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017515

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29408

County: Southend-on-Sea

Electoral Ward/Division: St. Luke's

Built-Up Area: Southend-on-Sea

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Prittlewell St Mary Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort of the later Bronze Age or
Early Iron Age which is located on the northern outskirts of Southend-on-Sea,
some 500m east of the Sutton Road crematorium.

The monument occupies the northern edge of a broad terrace which is not
particularly elevated and yet commands extensive views over the valley of the
River Roach to the north, east and west. The monument has been recognised as a
prehistoric enclosure since at least 1893, when pottery from the `oppidum'
(defended settlement) at Prittlewell was exhibited at a meeting of the Essex
Field Club.

The hillfort is nearly circular in plan, measuring approximately 250m in
diameter. The south western third of the perimeter is defined by an earthen
bank and external ditch which survive within a wooded belt. The bank averages
3.5m in width and 0.9m high. The ditch is less clearly visible, having been
partly used as a corporation dump in the 1920s, although some sections remain
exposed and measure up to 4m in width and 1.4m in depth.

The northern and eastern sections of the ramparts have been reduced by
ploughing, although undulations marking the line of the defences were noted in
the early part of this century and the line of the bank has been recorded from
the air as a cropmark (a variation in crop growth caused by buried features).
Observation of a pipeline trench to the Barling Outfall Works in 1929 revealed
that the external ditch may not have continued around this side of the
hillfort, perhaps as the approach from this side was already restricted by
marshy land.

A trial trench, cut through the southern ramparts and across the southern edge
of the interior in 1929, provided evidence for the composition of the bank and
the original profile of the ditch.

The excavators also examined a pronounced mound (known locally as `The
Look-out') situated on the south eastern part of the perimeter. This mound,
which measures some 20m in diameter and 1.5m high, was found to be completely
artificial and to contain quantities of tile and medieval pottery spanning the
period from the 13th to the 15th century. A depression in the centre of the
level summit was found to have resulted from a previous, unrecorded
excavation. The excavators were unable to account for the origin of the mound,
although the evidence which they recorded is now thought to indicate the base
of a medieval post mill, sited on the highest point on the ramparts in order
to take advantage of the prevailing wind.

All fences and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although the
ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes,
generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and
defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively
small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth -
fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to
their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have
generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places
of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a
rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access
to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple
gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation
indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate
features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few
examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large
storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and
square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often
represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight
univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally.
Although on a national scale the number is low, in Devon they comprise one of
the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is
relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the
Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within
the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh
Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight
univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition
between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive
comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further
archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Despite having been reduced by ploughing and obscured by dumping, the slight
univallate hillfort known as Prittlewell Camp remains substantially intact and
will retain significant archaeological information. The circuit of defences is
clearly defined by earthworks to the south and west and evidence exists for
the buried remains of the remaining part of the circuit. Buried features
related to the period of occupation will survive beneath the ploughsoil of the
interior and these, together with the earlier fills of the surrounding ditch,
will contain evidence for the date of the hillfort's construction and for the
duration and character of its use. Environmental evidence reflecting the
appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set and the economy of
its inhabitants may also survive in these buried deposits and on the old land
surface sealed beneath the bank.

The hillfort's location on a low-lying plateau rather than a summit or ridge
is somewhat unusual, although far from unique within the low-lying topography
of the region. Comparison between these sites and, more specifically, with
other forms of contemporary habitation between the Roach and the Thames, will
provide valuable information concerning the hillfort's position in the
settlement pattern and social structure of the period.

Although the interpretation of the 'Look-out' mound as the base of a medieval
post mill has not been proven, evidence from the 1929 excavation does support
this conclusion. Such mounds were designed to raise the windmill and to
stabilise a vertical post (or tree) which allowed the superstructure to be
turned to face the wind. Post mills are known to have existed from the 12th
century onwards and although no medieval examples of the timber superstructure
survive today, their appearance is recorded in contemporary illustrations.
Examples of mounds which retain organic remains or form components of other
sites are considered worthy of protection. The mound at Prittlewell, located
on the line of the earlier defences, provides an interesting insight into the
subsequent use of the hillfort and the medieval economy of the surrounding

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Mepham, W A, 'Trans Southend-on-Sea & District Antiq & Hist Soc' in Prittlewell Camp: Report of Excations 1929, (1930), 29-48
Mepham, W A, 'Trans Southend-on-Sea & District Antiq & Hist Soc' in Prittlewell Camp: Report of Excations 1929, (1930), 29-48
Wymer, J J, Brown, N R, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in Settlement and Economy in South East Essex 1500BC - AD1500, (1995), 157
Wymer, J J, Brown, N R, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in Settlement and Economy in South East Essex 1500BC - AD1500, (1995), 157
Oblique monochrome (copy in SMR), RAF, 58/192/P1/5041, (1949)
RCHME, Inventory of Historic Monuments in Essex, (1923)
Recent discovery of AP evidence, Gould, S (ECC Archaeology), Cropmark evidence at Prittlewell Camp, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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