|Wolstonbury: a Henge?
(Many thanks to Miles Russell of Bournemouth University for providing the interim report of his 1995 excavations at Wolstonbury, from which some of this information is taken)
The widely held belief that most, if not all, Sussex downland univallate enclosures are Iron Age or later has been shown to be inaccurate by the discovery of at least four continuously ditched sites of Neolithic construction: Bury Hill, Court Hill 1 and 2 and Halnaker Hill. All sites were thought to be Iron Age, prior to excavation.
The Sussex Downs are often thought to be completely lacking in Late Neolithic/ Early Bronze Age ritual/ communal monuments such as Henges. This was challenged in 1989 with the discovery of an Early Bronze Age, class II (double entrance) henge monument at Mile Oak farm, 6km to the south west of Wolstonbury, during rescue excavations in advance of the A27 Brighton bypass (Rudling and Russell 1990; Russell 1996.)
There is also a cluster of found 'exotic' grave goods, metalwork and stone tools of this date in central southern Sussex that would 'appear to emphasise the ritual/ ceremonial importance of the Wolstonbury/ Brighton Zone in the Later Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.'
Two of the things that put me off the Wolstonbury Henge theory are location and size. However, there are Henges on hilltops (Figsbury Rings for example). And although it is big for a henge, it is not as big as 'henge enclosures' like Durrington Walls, Mount Pleasant and Marden.
Wolstonbury has been heavily damaged by 18th-19th Century flint quarrying, with lots of small pits being dug here and there. This has led to much speculation regarding the original entrances, as the north and south sections of the bank have been so affected by quarrying that the entrance could have faced in either of the two directions. Two potential entrances aligned on a North – South East orientation is akin to recorded examples of Class II Henge.
Unfortunately, funding fell through for planned further investigations at Wolstonbury. I believe this monument warrants further research, if it does indeed constitute a 'non-utilitarian' monument on the Sussex Downs.
Posted by danielspaniel
9th May 2005ce
Edited 9th May 2005ce