Ancient Monuments

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Hillfort on King John's Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Worldham, Hampshire

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Latitude: 51.1336 / 51°8'1"N

Longitude: -0.9209 / 0°55'15"W

OS Eastings: 475600.125927

OS Northings: 137703.286767

OS Grid: SU756377

Mapcode National: GBR C9L.VBS

Mapcode Global: VHDYD.0R0T

Entry Name: Hillfort on King John's Hill

Scheduled Date: 26 October 1971

Last Amended: 10 October 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020314

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34137

County: Hampshire

Civil Parish: Worldham

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire

Church of England Parish: East Worldham St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Winchester


The monument includes a small multivallate hillfort of Late Iron Age date,
prominently situated on the summit of King John's Hill, a steep sided,
Greensand tor rising 700m east of East Worldham. The simple fort defences
completely enclosed the flat summit of the hill, forming a roughly oval,
north-south aligned interior area of approximately 0.8ha. Subsequent quarrying
for malm has caused significant disturbance to the northern part of the
monument, removing the defences in this area. Elsewhere, the defences survive
as two concentric scarps separated by a broad ledge, except to the north east
where access to the interior is obtained by way of a steep spur which is cut
at the base by a slight transverse ditch. This ditch extends into a later
boundary feature that curves around the eastern base of the hill, enclosing a
series of irregular, possibly natural terraces on the fort's lower flank.
Partial excavation of the monument in 1939 and 1947 yielded fragments of
pottery and other items indicating a Late Iron Age date of around 100 BC, and
revealed two infilled storage pits. Further buried remains associated with the
original use of the monument, including traces of round houses, compounds,
granaries, iron ore smelting hearths and outbuildings, can be expected to
survive within the interior of the fort.
The excavations also revealed debris and buried structural remains associated
with at least two later phases of use of the monument. These include fragments
of medieval pottery dated to the 13th and 14th centuries, squared ashlar
blocks, and other building materials that lend support to a local tradition
that King John had a royal hunting lodge built on the hill's summit. Further
support is lent by documentary evidence which records the existence of a deer
park at East Worldham from at least 1372. The excavations also revealed
several short lengths of rough stone wall, rammed malm floors, an oven and
stoke hole made of burnt clay or mortar, and numerous bricks, tiles and other
building materials dated to the Tudor and post-medieval periods.
The modern fences which cross the monument are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath them is included.

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

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.

The hillfort on King John's Hill is unusually small in area and the defences,
both natural and artificial, are relatively slight. In this respect the
monument falls between the comparatively high status settlement indicated by a
fort and several classes of smaller defended settlements and enclosed
farmsteads found throughout south western and central southern England. It
survives well, despite some disturbance by subsequent quarrying, and partial
excavation has shown that it retains archaeological remains and environmental
evidence relating to the monument's original construction and use and its
subsequent re-occupation during the later medieval and post-medieval periods.
The traditional association of the site with one of King John's hunting
lodges, for which some archaeological evidence survives, demonstrates the
continued importance of the monument during the medieval period and
illustrates an aspect of the activities of medieval nobility. Usually located
within or adjacent to a deer park, the construction of such lodges and the
laying out of associated parks attained a peak period of popularity between
1200 and 1350, coinciding with a time of considerable prosperity among the
aristocracy, that still exerts a powerful influence on the pattern of the
modern landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
History of the King's Works, (1963), 929
Maitland Muller, M, 'Alton Museum Report' in Alton Museum Report, (1950)
Maitland Muller, M, 'Alton Museum Report' in Alton Museum Report, (1950), 5
Williams-Freeman, J, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in King John's Hill, East Worldham, (1940), 398-99
Williams-Freeman, J, 'Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club' in King John's Hill, East Worldham, (1940), 398-99
Ferguson, Maj. V, Letter to JP Williams-Freeman, (1939)
Ferguson, Maj. V, Letter to JP Williams-Freeman, (1939)

Source: Historic England

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