Ancient Monuments

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Small multivallate hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.1327 / 53°7'57"N

Longitude: -0.2142 / 0°12'51"W

OS Eastings: 519574.319711

OS Northings: 360998.447862

OS Grid: TF195609

Mapcode National: GBR HRZ.LNY

Mapcode Global: WHHKV.PJ67

Entry Name: Small multivallate hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm

Scheduled Date: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017880

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29728

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Woodhall Spa

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Woodhall Spa St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes the buried remains of a small multivallate hillfort
460m east of Old Abbey Farm. It is situated in a prominent position on the
western side of the Southrey gravel terrace between the rivers Witham and
Although the monument's system of ramparts has been reduced by ploughing and
can no longer be seen on the ground, the three infilled and buried ditches are
clearly visible from the air as a series of cropmarks. These cropmarks, which
are areas of enhanced growth resulting from higher levels of moisture retained
by the underlying archaeological features, have been recorded on aerial
photographs since 1948.
Orientated north west-south east, the hillfort is roughly oval in shape,
measuring about 120m long by 90m wide overall, and it is estimated that the
width of the defences between the inner and outer ditches is at least 30m.
Aerial photographs show that the outermost ditch is broken by a causeway to
the south east, aligned with a further causeway across the middle ditch. The
middle ditch is also broken to the south and at two points on the northern
arc. The innermost ditch circuit is, however, complete and access to the
central area may therefore have required a bridge. The gaps between the
ditches would have been occupied by banks constructed from the upcast, with a
possible third bank around the edge of the interior.
No archaeological investigations have taken place at the site, but the results
of excavations at a similar monument at Tattershall Thorpe (the subject of a
separate scheduling) some 2.5km to the south east, and also on the Southrey
terrace, may provide some insights into the monument's construction and use.
These comparable Iron Age enclosures may have been used as occasional refuges
in troubled times, although their primary function was as seasonal stock
corrals, perhaps with only intermittent human occupation. The elaborate bank
and ditch defences may have served not only to contain the animals but also to
deter both predators and cattle rustlers, and the substantial earthworks may
also have been intended to reflect the status of the group.
Environmental evidence from the ditches at Tattershall Thorpe indicates that
the area was not ideal for crop cultivation, and a community whose economy and
prestige was based on stock rearing would have invested considerable time and
effort in the construction of suitable means of containment and protection of
Furthermore, the proximity of the two similar sites in the same ecosystem
implies that both shared the same primary function.
No dating evidence is yet available for this monument, but it seems likely to
have been at least broadly contemporary with that at Tattershall Thorpe, and
may even have been within the control of the same community.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are
defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set
earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the
interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or
more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been
constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first
century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements
of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest
that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with
display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a
rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks
and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by
one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or
inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists
of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures
interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety
of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of
small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a
similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples
recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west
with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the
rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of
national importance.

Although the hillfort 460m east of Old Abbey Farm has been reduced by
ploughing, the ditch system, causeways and interior remain undisturbed beneath
the present ground surface. Archaeological investigations of a similar site
2.5km to the south east at Tattershall Thorpe indicate that the buried ditches
will survive well and that the fills of these ditches will contain artefactual
evidence relating to the dating, construction, period of use and function of
the monument. It is thought that the same fills will retain high levels of
organic material, providing valuable environmental evidence to illustrate both
activities focussed on the site, and the exploitation of the landscape in
which the monument was set.
The interior of the enclosure will contain further environmental and
artefactual evidence together with features such as pits, post holes and
surfaces. These remains will contribute to an understanding of the function
and use of the site, and a comparison with the information derived from the
Tattershall Thorpe monument may have significance for the study of land use
and agricultural practices in the area during the Iron Age.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Chowne, P, Girling, M, Greig, J, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in Excavations At An I A Defended Enclosure At Tattershall Thorpe, , Vol. 52, (1986), 159-88
oblique monochrome print, St Joseph J K, BT/58, (1948)
oblique monochrome print, St Joseph, J K, CDK 46, (1977)

Source: Historic England

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