Old Winchester Hill Fort - outer defences

South-West Survey

The Introduction (Ref 1) described the evidence for there being outer defences to this Hill Fort. Detailed surveys of these will be published in three parts. This part will be to the South West of the traditional ramparts, which will include the outer defences immediately to the north of these ramparts. The second survey will be to the South East of the traditional ramparts, again including those immediately north of these ramparts, which lead off into the North East Survey. The South West Survey is shown below.

These outer defences are mainly fighting terraces, with a level way cut on sloping ground, which then makes a build-up on the down-hill edge. Here it is assumed a palisade was erected. The methods of showing these will follow our Roman Road notation. In the maps reproduced in this and subsequent reports the following symbols are used:

____________________ Terrace - built-up on downhill side

pppppppppp Mixed Terrace cut-back on uphill, built-up on downhill side


pppppppppp Pure Terrace - cut-back on uphill side only
[ These symbols are not being reproduced properly in the latest browsers - if this is occurring and you cannot use an earlier browsers ask us to send you the printed page. ]

Air photo streaks are shown at their actual size, lighter lines are shown dotted. Where an escarpment is seen by optical means white centred triangles are used.

Since two of these terraces run together one above the other for much of the circuit, where the above symbols become confusing, in these cases the details will be given by Sketch Sections, and only one set of symbols given to indicate position.

The symbols are placed along field boundaries, more to indicate their position and where to find them - rather than accuracy of plotting. We do not expect the field boundaries to be very accurately plotted by the OS, and in this type of difficult country large errors of OS surveying can be expected - see Ref 2. Field boundaries may also have moved since the 1908 survey.

Outer Defence

The tour will start at the SE corner of the above map, with the outer-most defence, above the figure 1. This is the northern lane of the Chichester Roman Road, and is reproduced from Ref 3. Here it is described how several of these terraces appear to go round the Hill, and was the first indication of these Outer Defences. Travelling westward from figure 1 the evidence is mainly air photography of broad light lines, with escarpments seen in binoculars at points shown. Then there is a fork in the light line. One fork climbs NW as shown, the other fork falls southwards, taking the Roman lane closer to the southern lane - the Roman lanes are shown in pencil dashed lines on the above map. The NW fork seems more substantial than the SW fork, and the interpretation is that the Romans re-used this outer defence for their northern lane. This would make this outer defence earlier than the Roman period - Iron Age or possibly Bronze Age.

The line then follows the contour of the hill round to the NE, and followed an old field boundary since removed, but visible as a disturbance and lighter line of Ref 4 Air Photo. An optical terrace is visible in the corner of the field as shown by the white centred triangles when viewed in binoculars from the actual fighting terrace above it (of which there is Sketch Section). (Note that another field boundary has since been constructed to the west.) The line becomes an optical terrace on passing Garden Hill Farm, and then becomes part of a steep escarpment where there is a Sketch Section. This outermost defence is the level way at the bottom of the escarpment, with the second terrace as the level way in the field high above at the top of the escarpment. Where there was likely to be a palisade it is shown by a dashed line. Modern field boundaries are shown as posts, and overgrown vegetation is indicated. The escarpment turns though nearly 90 degrees to run nearly due south, with the same arrangement as in the Sketch Section. This section is part of the modern Monarch's Way. These escarpments would be virtually impregnable. These terraces are enclosing a circular hill, visible and near to the Hill Fort, and would be ideal for their live stock.

The natural escarpment then turns near E - W, which is not quite as high as that to the north, and our outer defence is cut out of the escarpment part way up. The terrace above it is running on the track shown there. At the eastern end of this track (not now in use) the land becomes extremely steep and the escarpment very high as a valley runs in towards the traditional ramparts. We find here what we will see several times in our tour round the circuit - that when the land becomes steep the terraces disappear. They re-appear again coming out of this valley as shown on the last leg of these defences on the east side of the above map.

Steep land

There are several issues to consider with steep land. (i) If the land is very steep they may not have thought it necessary to provide any terrace defences. (ii) One has to consider the soils on the move, and the steeper the ground the faster will be this movement. On very steep slopes this movement may remove evidence of terrace construction. In the next survey there is a section where the land alters its slope and its possible to see the effect on the terrace remains - for a lot of the run they would not be recognisable as terraces. On balance they probably did provide a palisade on such steep slopes in order to keep their live stock where they wanted them, and a level way to be able to move their warriors quickly to trouble spots - but we may never know for sure.

The two terraces reappear on the east side of this valley, running along the wood boundary to the east side of the map. Our outermost terrace runs in the field, and the terrace above it in the wood quite well preserved. The Sketch Section shows the arrangement; the actual boundary fence is on the outermost terrace. As they leave this map they curve into the next valley, the higher one fading out first.

The Second Outer Defence

The Second Outer Defence is a trackway and footpath shown as the dotted line by the OS south of the traditional ramparts, above the figure 2 on the SE of the above map. In fact it is a double terrace, a second is clearly visible above the trackway when the ground is cleared. Some people claim there is another optical terrace in the field. These arrangements are shown in the Sketch Section. There is a change of direction more to the south, then a cultivated field takes over. The line can be detected optically, with the escarpments as shown - where it is still a double terrace. The line is also shown as a broad light line on Ref 4 air photo (not generally resolving into two lines), which follows a course above our outermost defence.

When this line joins the NE - SW line there is the important evidence of a fighting terrace shown in the Sketch Section at the NW corner of the above map. This is well preserved, with a sizeable build up, the levelled way marked by the OS as a track (not now used). The air photo suggests a possible course in the next field to join to the outermost defence as shown in the Sketch Section. Thereafter the second defence follows above the outermost defence to the eastern edge of the map. It is noted that when this second defence starts at Figure 2 it is at least two terraces, but when it arrives at its most westerly extent it is only one. We have not resolved what has happened to the extra terrace. We will see in later surveys that a single terrace can become several at points of danger.

The Third Outer Defence

Below Figure 3, below the traditional ramparts, is a drawing from a Lidar picture obtained for the Roman Road. From its position we were able to find a very eroded terrace across a footpath, but otherwise we would not have recognised it. For much of its way on this steep overgrown land below the traditional ramparts it cannot be seen. It is however clear where it runs out into the field, shown by black triangles, and can be traced by the Ref 4 air photo and binoculars up to BM466. Then it runs along the wood boundary as a well preserved fighting terrace, with cut-back and build-up, until the land become very steep, when it fades out. It probably ran eastwards, but as in the discussion on steep land, we do not know for sure. In some lights a line can be seen below the NE traditional ramparts when viewed from the NE. More will be said on tracing the Lidar mark eastwards.

Principal Surveyors

Philip Rowbotham. Richard Whaley

Map Caption Old Winchester Hill, OS Hants Sheet 59 NE, 6" : 1 mile, 3rd edition revised 1908. 1000' scale is in SE corner.


1.Outer Defences found to Iron Age Hill fort, FAB e News 11 Spring 2015 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/owhf0.htm
2. Richard Whaley A Hill Fort on Beacon Hill, NEHHAS FAB e News 9 Summer 2014, http://www.nehhas.org.uk/bhhf.htm
3. Richard Whaley, Under Old Winchester Hill, e News 9, Summer 2014 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch11.htm
4. www.bing.com Gettamapping 2011