Ditchling Beacon Hillfort

Ditchling Beacon hillfort is a rectangular univalate Iron Age enclosure of around 15.31 acres (6.19 hectares). It has unfortunately been much mutilated at various points in its long history, suffering from dew pond digging to post-war deep ploughing.

A limited excavation in 1985 established an Early Iron Age date based on pottery found in a rampart dump, and a C14 date of 902-340 BC taken from animal bone found at the bottom of a rampart ditch. (1)

There was also an earlier excavation in the 1920s, but not a great deal was discovered beyond some Roman and ‘La Tene III’ pottery. The La Tene III identification of the pottery shards – if correct – would date the finds to approximately 120BC to AD43, or, in other words, the Late Iron Age (2).

Additionally some circular structures in the eastern part of the hillfort were investigated, the excavators being under the impression that they were roundhouses, but this proved not to be the case. Unfortunately we do not know what they were – large storage pits as at Caburn perhaps? There are the remnants of a number of field systems nearby to provide the grain to fill them – if, that is, they were contemporary with the hillfort.

The late date of the pottery  – in the absence of context from the excavation – may be explained by the presence of a Romano-British settlement 1km south east of the hillfort. This appears to have been an oval enclosed Iron Age or Romano-British enclosed settlement which, like much of the hillfort,  has also been ploughed out. It originally measured 44.5 by 34.2 metres and contained a number of circular impressions – either domicile foundations, large pits, or possibly a mixture of both. (3)


(1) Hamilton, S; Manley, J; (2001) Hillforts, monumentality and place: A chronological and topographic review of first millennium BC hillforts of South-East England. P.10.

(2) The Iron Age of England and Wales officially ends on the eve of the Roman Invasion.

(3) Pastscape entry for Monument No. 403173.

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