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Slight univallate hillfort and a World War II vehicle testing station on the summit of Ebury Hill, 550m west of Haughton Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Upton Magna, Shropshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.7436 / 52°44'37"N

Longitude: -2.6737 / 2°40'25"W

OS Eastings: 354613.131322

OS Northings: 316435.362262

OS Grid: SJ546164

Mapcode National: GBR BM.0BF9

Mapcode Global: WH8BN.W9ZH

Entry Name: Slight univallate hillfort and a World War II vehicle testing station on the summit of Ebury Hill, 550m west of Haughton Farm

Scheduled Date: 8 June 1972

Last Amended: 15 April 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021283

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35856

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Upton Magna

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Uffington Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a slight univallate
hillfort, within and adjacent to which are the remains of a World War II
vehicle testing station.

The hillfort is situated on the summit of Ebury Hill at its north eastern
end, 550m west of Haughton Farm. Although the hill does not reach a great
height, it nevertheless provides a commanding view of the surrounding north
Shropshire plain. The hillfort lies 2.4km NNE of another slight univallate
hillfort on Haughmond Hill, which is the subject of separate scheduling.

The hillfort on Ebury Hill is D-shaped in plan, and its overall dimensions are
approximately 230m north west-south east by 250m south west-north east. The
area defined by the defences is about 3.6ha. The rampart is composed of
earth and stone, and has an average width of 12m. Its height varies from 1.5m
to 3.2m externally and 0.7m to 2.1m internally. It is bounded by an external
ditch, which has been largely infilled, but survives well as a buried feature.
Along the south western side the ditch is visible as a shallow depression, up
to 0.8m deep, and between 5.5m and 7m wide. The northern part of the eastern
side of the defensive circuit, together with the north eastern part of the
interior, has been removed by stone quarrying. The earliest large scale
Ordnance Survey map published in 1881 shows two breaks through the defences
into the quarry. It is likely that one of these breaks also served as the
original entrance into the fort. The southernmost break leads into the
former quarry remains, while the gap to the north has been sizeably enlarged.
In 1934 quarrying operations within the interior revealed the remains of two
level building platforms cut into the rock, which had been paved with flat
pieces of sandstone.

In 1944 a small-scale archaeological excavation was undertaken, which involved
cutting two sections across the bank and ditch. A hearth is reported to have
been found under the bank. Two modern breaks in the south western part of the
defensive circuit were probably created at this time. In 1977 a limited
archaeological excavation was carried out within the interior of the fort. No
structural remains were revealed, but pieces of coarse Iron Age pottery were
found which are believed to be from containers used in the transport of salt.
In 1999 an archaeological watching brief was undertaken within the southern
part of the fort's interior. Beneath the topsoil and cutting into the
subsoil two small pits were found in close proximity to a layer of burning.
While no artefacts were recovered to indicate the date of these features, it
is considered that they relate to the Iron Age occupation of the site.

The archaeological excavation conducted early in 1944 was carried out in
response to the use of the site as a vehicle testing station. The
establishment of this station involved the construction of concrete roads, the
building of barracks, offices and related structures. The Ordnance Survey map
of the area produced shortly after World War II shows the layout and extent of
the station.

A concrete road, 7.25m wide, provides access to the station from a minor road
to the north east. Immediately to the west of the access road is a small
disused, rectangular stone quarry, which would have provided a suitable base
for a sentry post. To the south of this small quarry the access road splits:
to the west the road continues into a larger former stone quarry within the
hillfort; to the south the road runs past the extant remains of barrack
blocks, offices and stores. A series of connecting concrete roads, forming
parking or storage bays, was laid out to the west of these buildings. To the
north of these bays concrete roads enter the hillfort through two cuttings
made in the defensive circuit on the south western side, and terminate in a
turning circle.

The quarry within the hillfort measures approximately 100m by 160m. In the
deeper northern third a pool has formed into which a concrete ramp decends.
The concrete road system within the quarry also consists of an oval circuit.
To the west of this circuit is a low revetment wall built of concrete blocks.
It was associated with a building depicted on the early post-war Ordnance
Survey map. A flight of concrete steps at the south eastern side of the quarry
provides access from this part of the testing station to the higher ground to
the south. At the south western corner of the hillfort interior is a
rectangular building platform cut into the bedrock, which probably served as
the base for a lookout post.

The military base was established here to test small semi-armoured personnel
vehicles fitted with a Bren Gun (a light machine gun), known as Universal or
Bren Carriers. These tracked vehicles were manufactured at the Sentinel Wagon
Works in Shrewsbury, about 4.5km to the south west. They were designed to
carry men and equipment over rough ground with speed. In preparation for the
Normandy landings in June 1944 these vehicles had to be modified so that they
could be driven through water. The number of military buildings within the
station strongly suggests that the site was not only used to test vehicles
after their modification, but also served as a base to train drivers before
they were sent to Normandy and to other theatres of war.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: all posts
and fences, all post-World War II buildings and exterior surfaces, the post-
built `wigwam', utility poles and the electric power points for caravans,
wooden benches and fire beater stands, children's play equipment, the quarry
excavator bucket and the concrete base on which it stands; however, the ground
beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

The slight univallate hillfort on Ebury Hill is a good example of this
class of monument, despite its modification from quarrying and the
establishment of a World War II vehicle testing station. In Shropshire
hillforts of this type are comparatively rare in relation to other types of
hillforts with more sizeable defences. The defences will retain evidence about
the nature of their construction. Organic remains surviving in the buried
ground surface beneath the rampart and within the ditch will provide
information about the local environment and the use of the surrounding land
before the hillfort was built and during its occupation. Small-scale
archaeological investigations conducted here have provided an indication of
the nature of the buried features and contemporary artefacts that lie within
the interior of the hillfort. In the parts of the interior which have not
been affected by later activity, buried structural features and associated
artefactual and organic remains are expected to survive particularly well,
and will provide significant information about the lifestyles and
occupations of the inhabitants. The importance of this hillfort is further
enhanced by its location to the nearby, and broadly contemporary, hillfort
on Haughmond Hill.

The Normandy landings, which began with the D-Day invasion on the 6th June
1944, were one of the most important events during World War II, and the
vehicle testing station on Ebury Hill played a vital role in preparing for
these landings. It is a rare example of this kind of specialised military
establishment. The layout of the testing station survives virtually intact
and provides a clear indication of the scale of operations and their
organisation. The use of a prehistoric hillfort provides an interesting link
between the strategic needs of society in the first millennium BC and
towards the end of the second millennium AD.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Chamberlain, P, Ellis, C, Making Tracks: British Carrier Story 1914-1972, (1973), 29
Chamberlain, P, Ellis, C, Making Tracks: British Carrier Story 1914-1972, (1973), 60
Forrest, H E, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeology Society 1937-38' in Roman Roads Committe: A Brief Report, , Vol. 49, (1938), 93
Hannaford, H R, 'Shropshire County Council Archaeology Service Report' in A Watching Brief at Ebury Hillfort, Haughton, Shropshire, , Vol. 160, (1999)
Simms, R S, 'The Antiquaries Journal' in Ebury Camp, Uffington, , Vol. 28, (1948), 30
Stanford, S C, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Ebury Hill Camp - Excavations 1977, (1985), 9-12
Stanford, S C, 'Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society' in Ebury Hill Camp - Excavations 1977, (1985), 9
Willis, H, 'Antiquity' in Archaeological aspects of D-Day: Operation Overlord, , Vol. 68, (1994), 844
Other
County Series map Shropshire 29.13 1:2500, (1881)
Lowry, B, (2002)
Rev 1949 - see initial scheduling map, SJ 51 NW Provisional Edition, (1954)

Source: Historic England

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