Old Winchester Hill Fort - outer defences

South-East Survey

We will start at the SW corner of the map below, where the Outer Defences come from the SW Survey (Ref 1) in an SE direction. The Outermost Defence is represented by the broad light air photo streak from Ref 3 air photo, which initially was used by the Chichester Roman Road (Ref 2) before it crosses the 500' contour (when it changes direction to slightly N of E). The two lanes of the Roman Road are shown as dashed pencil lines. The Outermost Defence continues as the broad light streak until the edge of the steep valley seen in the contours.

As discussed in Ref 1 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 as given in Ref 1. Thus the Outermost fighting terrace turns through near 90 degrees to run low down on this valley side as a Mixed Terrace (Ref 1) clearly visible in binoculars when the vegetation is low from the footpath running down to Westend Cottage (now a farm). It appears to curve round to meet the modern lane at a similar point as the parish boundary.


This feature is also visible in LIDAR obtained for the Roman Road. As we cannot show both on the map, the optical terrace is shown for the southern part, and the LIDAR is drawn for the northern - where it appears to go straight to the modern lane. As the contours indicate this is a narrow summit of the downs - in fact not much wider than the modern lane. This is a prime point of attack from the east, so the defences here may well be duplicated.

Flint Clearance Mounds

In the same viewing positions another optical Mixed Terrace is clear running high up on this valley side, and eventually curving round to join the modern lane. This is the second Outer Defence. What is common with both is that the lines on Ref 3 air photo seems to be followed by a series of approximately circular white circles. These are marked on the above map as black circles with white centres - the white centres represent the light circles. We cannot be certain these features are co-incident, but one of them at a similar northerly as the hill fort is visible on the LIDAR, while the second Outer Defence is visible on the LIDAR as two weak straight lines with the circle astride them. Here again the LIDAR marks appear to go straight on, and not curve round to join the modern lane, until they meet further LIDAR marks which are drawn - on the edge of a very steep valley. So again we show the optical terrace, and after it curves away we show the weak LIDAR lines - here they are keeping as far as possible to the brow of the hill.

No ground evidence has been obtained for these light circles, so we do not know if they are the same Flint Clearance Mounds mentioned by English Heritage west of the Hill Fort, nor what part they are playing on the Fighting Terraces. The one on the LIDAR would be consistent with a ring ditch with a raised interior.

Second Outer Defence

This Second Outer Defence comes from the SW Survey Map in the SW corner of the above map, where it is at least two terraces one above the other, with a Sketch Section given in Ref 1. It is marked by the black triangles along the dotted line shown by the OS on the above map. By the figure 2 it becomes one terrace going eastwards, and by the end of this path at the parish boundary there is no terrace. Just west of this figure 2 there are two sets of weak LIDAR marks which are drawn going northwards. Possibly these were further Fighting Terraces protecting the flat eastward approach to the Hill Fort. What seems to be happening is as terraces peel off northwards the number of terraces on this path reduces.

This Second Outer Defences peels north high up on the steep valley side and continues on high ground to meet the steep valley head over the route discussed above. Where part curves to join the Outermost Defence it become a double terrace - a Sketch section is given to the east.

There is an interaction with this Second Outer Defence and the Roman Road - for there is no break in the visible optical terrace which might be expected for the Roman Road to pass through. On the other hand there appears to be a break in the visible optical terrace for the northern lane of the Roman Road where this Second Outer Defence passes. It is also thought that where this northern lane crosses the footpath some 400' west of the figure 2 that the Roman Road goes under the terrace (Ref 4). These would imply that this Second Outer Defence was brought back into use after the Roman period - possibly as part of a Saxon burgh. It was assumed in Ref 2 that the Roman Road made use of an earlier Fighting Terrace. But it was noted that the northern fork in the terrace which takes the Fighting Terrace to higher ground was more pronounced than the southern fork which is the Roman Road. This may imply that the Outermost Defence was also brought back into use in Post Roman times. On the above map there is no evidence one way or the other for an interaction between the Roman Road and the Outermost Defence, except that the light line carries on after the Roman Road northern lane has left it, though no break was seen in the optical terrace of the Outermost Defence going NE to the modern lane.

North of ramparts

We will now move to the west side of the above map where the two Outermost Defences come from the SW Survey (Ref 1) north of the traditional ramparts. These are shown in a Sketch Section in Ref 1 with the Outermost in the field, and the Second above it in the wood. As they bend round into the steep valley running up to the easterly traditional ramparts the Second terrace fades out, but the Outer continues low down near the valley floor before fading out in the mouth of the valley. Nothing can be seen from here onwards up this steep valley. But the two terraces can be traced again coming out of the east side of this valley, and running as before along the field - wood boundary with much the same Sketch Section as in Ref 1. Though here they are less well preserved. It is more likely that these Fighting Terraces were continuous at some height round this valley. But as discussed previously, soils on slopes must be regarded as on the move, and on steeper slopes this movement may remove recognisable remains of the terraces. Examples of this are visible to the north of the next steep valley. On the valley floor water action is likely to remove the remains.

As the terraces bend round into the next very steep valley (which leads up to the valley head discussed above where the two LIDAR lines from the Second Outer Defence go) the terraces fade out - and again nothing can be seen up this valley. Only one terrace can be found coming out of the NE side of this valley, and runs in a NE - SE direction near the 400' contour, climbing slightly near the field boundary. Here the steepness of the land varies. Where it is moderate the Fighting Terrace is recognisable as shown in the Sketch Section to its west. Where the steepness is greater something can generally be seen but it is not recognisable as a terrace. This stretch is good evidence that the slope of the ground determines if the terrace is preserved. This stretch is shown by spaced triangles - as a terrace is not recognisable all the way. Where the field boundary turns near north a clear terrace is visible as it goes off into the Northern Survey.

Again it is likely that the two Fighting Terraces continued into this valley, the Outermost coming out of it to form the Northern circuit. It is likely that the Second Outer Defence joined the two LIDAR lines coming up from the south - to complete this Second circuit. At this point however a prominent LIDAR line is drawn in, curving northwards. Here on the ground a terrace is visible in the new year (at other times it may be lost in grass). Again it is not practical to show both the terrace triangles and the LIDAR. A Sketch Section of this and the modern lane is shown to the east. What we appear to have here is a narrow fortified way enclosing the narrow summit of the downs. Its purpose was to move live stock quickly and safely from the northern enclosed circuit which will be described in the next report. Near the top of the above map the contours move westward as the summit of the downs widens. The fighting terrace follows the top of the steep slope, then turns north again to follow the contours. At the top of the map it is clear to see crossing the footpath going down the hill.

The Third Outer Defence

In Ref 1 a Third Outer Defence was shown as prominent LIDAR marks to the south of the traditional ramparts, and this is continued on the above map going eastwards. They can be recognised on the footpath coming down from the eastern side of the traditional ramparts when you know where they are as a very eroded terrace, otherwise it would not have been recognised. To the east of this path the land is cultivated, and the marks become much weaker. They can be seen to turn through near 90 degrees to climb the steep slope, but fade out around the 600' contour, and have not been traced further. On the Ref 1 map the terrace can be traced to the west of the traditional ramparts, with a stretch of well preserved Fighting Terrace in woodland before fading out on very steep land. From what we can see from the LIDAR it is probable that this Third Defence continued north of the traditional ramparts around the 500' contour to rejoin the lines we last saw to the east of these ramparts. In some lights a line can be seen on the northern slope below the ramparts, but not sufficient to fix its position. The land is very steep here - more than to the south of the ramparts.

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 SW corner.


1.South-West Survey, FAB e News 12 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/owhf1.htm
2. Richard Whaley, Under Old Winchester Hill, e News 9, Summer 2014 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch11.htm
3. www.bing.com Gettamapping 2011
4. Richard Whaley, Up to Teglease Down, e News 11, Spring 2015 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/rrch12.htm