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Chilworth Ring and Castle Hill, near Southampton
by Jo Bailey
With the last year’s lockdowns leading to lots more local walks ‘off the beaten track’, I found myself exploring two Iron Age sites on the border between Southampton and the Test Valley.
Chilworth Ring and Castle Hill sit opposite each other on either side of a small valley that runs into Southampton City Golf Course. They are only 800m apart and both are Scheduled Monuments, but they are set in very different surroundings and have suffered very different fates. A 1946 edition of the 25" to 1 mile map for the area shows the two monuments before development. (The link will open in a new webpage.)
Chilworth Ring is the larger of the two enclosures, a small univallate Iron Age hillfort on the east of the valley. It covers about two hectares and its bank and ditch are well preserved in the back gardens of a ring of large, detached houses. It was partially excavated in 1928 by Dorothy Liddell on behalf of Hampshire Field Club and Southampton University in advance of development. Her notes are published in the Proceedings (Liddell 1931). Clearly, although the site had already been sold at this stage, it wasn’t actually built on until well after the Second World War. The access road cuts right through the bank but at least the memory of the site’s origins lives on in the name of the cul-de-sac as ‘Chilworth Ring’ and one of the houses is even called ‘Druids’! (See the two photos above.) The houses that are there now must have been built between the 1960s and 1980s. (See photo below.)
The nearby Castle Hill earthwork to the west is thought to have been an Iron Age cattle enclosure, although I am not aware of any excavations on or finds from the site. Like Chilworth Ring it also has a circular, single bank and ditch but it is still covered in woodland, part of Lord’s Wood. This means it is accessible to the public so it’s possible to follow the bank on foot, which is over one metre high in places. However, it is very overgrown and very popular amongst mountain bikers. The two photos below illustrate the difference in the surroundings of Castle Hill from Chilworth Ring.
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