Old Winchester Hill Fort - outer defences

North - East Survey

We will start at the SW corner of the map below, where the Outermost Defences come from the SE Survey (Ref 1) in a Northerly direction. The Outermost Defence is represented by a Mixed Terrace along the field boundary in good condition. Its Sketch Section is similar to that published in Ref 1 for this stretch of the Outer Defence just to the south.

As discussed in Ref 2 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 2.

Peake Wood

The line enters Peake Wood where no evidence has been seen. The slope becomes very steep, sloping down to the west. The effect of steep slopes removing evidence is discussed in Refs 1 & 2. There have also been forestry operations here since the 1908 map. Its likely the fighting terrace followed the 1908 edge of Peak Wood, for evidence then follows the line of trees marked on the above 1908 map. There are fewer trees now, but strong binocular evidence of a Mixed Terrace follows them.

From here on we have mainly a single fighting terrace enclosing land stretching over a mile from the Hill Fort's traditional ramparts. In the other two surveys there are generally two terraces running quite close together.

We then have a feature which is similar to the Sketch Section in the NW corner of the above map. It is only seen clearly near the lane to Warnford (Hayden Lane). It is a method of creating a fighting terrace when the land is rising in the direction you want the terrace to run. Essentially a ditch is dug, and the spoil thrown up into a bank with a flattened top for the fighting terrace. The Ref 3 Air Photo suggests this arrangement continues down to meet the terrace following the line of trees. However, where this clear bank ends (it is shown as the black triangles) another terrace curves away to the south, joining the terrace below near the Old Chalk Pit. Possibly one replaced the other as a more suitable arrangement.

Natural Escarpment

The reason this bank feature was constructed was to reach a Natural Escarpment, which provided a strong defence. Its top appears to be flattened for a fighting terrace, and it proceeds downhill in a NW direction for 1000', where another flattened bank feature carries it NE uphill (towards modern masts). It is a prominent feature running along a field boundary, with a Sketch Section in the NW corner of the above map. At the top there are further escarpments for the northern extremities of these Outer Defences. Up to this point they are still visible from the Hill Fort traditional ramparts.

The Outer Defence now turns southwards, probably along a field boundary on the 1908 map, but no longer there. As the contours show, a narrow steep valley is coming from the north, the west side of which the Outer Defence runs. The white centred triangles show the optical terraces which can be observed. By the northern field boundary a Mixed Terrace can be seen - remains are often better preserved near field boundaries. This arrangement continues southwards until the valley head, which is drawn in pencil - it forms an arc where the high flatter ground starts near the 600' contour. No definite evidence can be seen until near the boundary with Old Winchester Hill Lane, when an optical Mixed Terrace can be seen - this in fact runs across the Lane - and can be seen in binoculars looking up or down the Lane. At this point the Lane itself becomes Built-up on its eastern edge - as it is throughout its length onto the SE Survey Map (Ref 1), where it is taken as the Outermost Eastern Defence. A Sketch Section is shown at this point, the tarred modern lane shown in black, and the dotted line the position of the likely palisade.

This Sketch Section may suggest that there is a second fighting terrace in the field to the west of the Lane - for further south after the slight bend in the Lane it becomes clear as shown on the map. The land is sloping down hill east of the lane, but it becomes steeper further south, possibly justifying a double terrace initially.

Cross Dyke

The contours show we are now approaching a point where the high top of the downs has a minimum width, and a complex set of defences are constructed here to repel invasion from the north. In the northern junction of Old Winchester Hill Lane and Hayden Lane a large bank is to be found, about 4' high and 40' wide. It is not obvious as it is covered in nettles and bracken in the centre and overgrown on the sides. A Sketch Section is shown through this, with Hayden Lane as the tarred area, and its steep north facing edges. There is a second inner bank to the south in the field which will be discussed later.

Old Winchester Hill Lane has worn a hollow way through this northern bank, but shows a distinct bump - which shows signs of cars' undercarriages hitting it if they go too fast - this bump is shown on the map. To the east it continues down the hill as the field boundary, which is built up considerably on the southern side. The northern field is under cultivation and remains are not so apparent. Going west, there is a bump where Haydon Lane passes over it, and Ref 3 Air Photo suggest a course for this bank which is drawn on the above map. Where binoculars show optical banks they are shown by white centred triangles (only one escarpment is shown, there is not room for two escarpments without causing confusion). This feature appears to have ends - the east seems to end in the Whitewool Hanger (a wood) where it becomes extremely steep. The west seems to curve round into woods with uncertain ending. This differs from the fighting terraces we have seen so far, which are continuous features. The interpretation is that this bank feature may be from an earlier age. It is thought that in the Bronze Age large banks and ditches were constructed cutting off tops of hills such as this, or on lower slopes, large enough still to be visible today. It is likely this feature was reused and incorporarated into the Outer Defences.

That this likely Bronze Age feature was intimately incorporated can be seen from the behaviour of the fighting terraces as they approach it from the south. As can be seen from the lower Sketch Section, the single fighting terrace coming along the lane from the SE Survey has multiplied into four fighting terraces. One can see some of them forming. The Outermost easterly one is a level way in the field. The next is below the fighting terrace that the tarred lane is on. To the west of the tarred lane is a Cut-back, with level ground beyond it. This Cut-back and the boundary of the lane are the two lines close together on the 1908 map. As the three easterly fighting terraces approach the bank they curve round and become part of the bank which stretches across the flattish area of the top of the downs. The Outermost one becomes considerably built up. The second is a large fighting terrace on the side of the bank - which is likely to have been built up here. Even the terrace the lane was on appears above that. These terraces probably bend round to provide one or more defending northwards.

The Cut-back to the west of the lane follows the two lines close together on the 1908 map - but becomes a low bank before fading out (before the two lines end on the 1908 map). This bank is the bank shown in the central Sketch Section, and is thought to be marked on the Ref 3 Air Photo and drawn on the above map, and seen optically as shown on the above map. Heading for this spot is the second westerly Outer Defence, which will be discussed next. The section of the likely Bronze Age bank to the west of Old Winchester Hill Lane, given in the central Sketch Section, does not show the same detail as that to the east of the Lane. Both of these have been used as dumps which may obscure such details. Or it may be an issue that to the east of the Lane is the Outermost Defence, while the Bank to the west of the Lane is actually within the Outermost Defences that we have been following since the start of this report.

The Second Outer Defence

In the SE Survey, Ref 1, we described the Second Outer Defence as forming a narrow fortified way with the most easterly outer defence along the narrow top of the downs. It enters our NE Survey Map at the bottom of the map, some 700' to the east of the Outmost Defence where we started this report at the SW corner of the map. The downs have widened and this Second Outer Defence is attempting to keep to the top of the steep slope down from the summit of the downs. It is a prominent Mixed Terrace before the field boundary carrying a parish boundary, with optical evidence for a short distance in the field to the north. There is then some uncertainty as to its course. It would have to change direction slightly to the north to avoid going down hill. There is a slight disturbance on the Ref 3 Air Photo along the dashed line on the above map - which probably marks its course. It would connect with southern bank of the complex defence across the minimum width of the summit of the downs described above. Viewed from the parish boundary and the Mixed Terrace this south bank is clear in binoculars and appears to be bending round as showed on the map. Richard Whaley

Map Caption OS Hants Sheet 59 NE, 6" : 1 mile, 3rd edition revised 1908. 1000' scale is in NW corner. A small part of Sheet 51 SE is spliced onto to the top to complete the Outer Defences. The line between the two sheets is maintained.

1. South - East Survey, FAB e News 12, Summer 2015 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/owhf2.htm
2. South-West Survey, FAB e News 12, Summer 2015 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/owhf1.htm
3. www.bing.com Gettamapping 2014