The Trundle

Early Neolithic 4000 BC -> 3300 BC

Iron Age 800 BC -> 43 AD

Today I paid my local causewayed enclosure a visit, ably assisted by my father (whose fault it is that I became interested in archaeology in the first place).  The Trundle is situated on Goodwood Hill overlooking the racecourse with far reaching views towards Chichester and the Isle of Wight on a clear day.  It’s a lovely spot actually and I’ve been going there all my life: we used to go on family walks ‘up the Trundle’ when I was a child although in those days I thought it was just a big hill.

At the Trundle with my brother and grandpa c.1972

OS coordinates SU 81 SE 52.  The best place to park is in the car park at the end of the little track at the top of Goodwood Hill, just on the sharp bend to the left when approaching from Singleton.  I hadn’t noticed on previous visits but this part of the Goodwood Country Park, within the South Downs National Park, is called Seven Points. 

The archaeology bit

Prehistory-wise the Trundle is the site of both an Iron Age hillfort, also known as St Roche’s Hill, and the earlier Neolithic causewayed enclosure which it encircles and partly overlies. Although the Iron Age remains are quite obvious to anyone aware of their existence, due to the large surrounding bank and ditch, the Neolithic ones are far less discernible to the untrained eye and indeed probably best viewed from the air should you have access to a suitable form of transport (I don’t).  Also within the hillfort are the remains of a probable Medieval chapel, dedicated to St Roche.  I’ve tried to find out about said saint but can only find references to St Roch without an ‘e’.  If they are one and the same (and I’d be pleased if anyone could enlighten me as the Medieval era is not one I know much about) he was either the Patron Saint of the Plague or of the weather.  The chapel is unlikely to have been built before the last quarter of the 14th century and it was ruined by 1570, most likely as a result of the Dissolution.  A windmill was subsequently built on the site of the ruins but was razed in 1773.  There was also a masonic lodge on the hilltop in use from 1717 and 1757 and potentially a Bronze Age barrow beneath the site of these two buildings, so it is a site with an interesting, multi-period history.

Iron Age hillfort

Looking up to the Iron Age hillfort

Bank and ditch (and Dad)

Iron Age bank and ditch and Dad (slightly younger)

When I’d settled on the Neolithic as the era for my research I was looking forward to including the Trundle, so familiar and local to me, in my study.  My project centres around human remains in the early Neolithic era but, unfortunately, the Trundle will only get a small mention as the only human remains recovered during excavations there were fragmentary bone from some of the Iron Age pits, although they could have originated from the Neolithic phase of the site and been disturbed during later construction.

Causewayed enclosures are so-called because of their physical appearance of a series of concentric circles with internal ditches interrupted at intervals appearing to form causeways.  The Trundle is the largest example of a causewayed enclosure in southern England and comprises potentially five circuits.  There was been much debate over the years as to what the function of these monuments would have been with theories ranging from settlements or defensive structures to cattle enclosures or trade and exchange meeting places to ritual or burial places.  There seems enough variety of evidence to keep archaeologists debating the point of causewayed enclosures for the time being along with that of their early Neolithic contemporaries in southern England, the earthen long barrows and flint mines.  There are currently around 80 known causewayed enclosures in Britain, the vast majority of them in southern England with a few odd instances in Wales along with one in Cumbria and one in Northern Ireland.  Additionally there are a number of possible causewayed enclosure sites throughout southern England and a handful in Scotland.  These monuments are not confined to Britain though and are also found in France, Germany and Scandinavia; indeed it is thought that they probably originated in mainland Europe.

A recent, ground breaking radiocarbon dating study by Cardiff University and English Heritage has shown that causewayed enclosures began to appear in the landscape in the 38th century BC, increased significantly in number in the 37th century BC and that their construction began to cease by the end of the 36th century BC. Furthermore, a number of enclosures have been found to have very short lifespans.  All this evidence combines to characterise the early Neolithic as a time of rapid change and activity when these massive monuments were being constructed.  The fascination lies in why around 5800 years ago did people begin constructing them and what drove the early Neolithic people to put the undoubted effort necessary into doing so.

Folklore

Folklore regarding the Trundle involves the Devil and a golden calf.  It is said that a golden calf lies buried there but that any attempt to dig it up and benefit from its value is thwarted by the Devil himself (although he is not mentioned by name).

In the Down there’s a golden calf buried; people know very well where it is – I could show you any day.
Then why don’t you dig it up?
Oh, it’s not allowed; he wouldn’t let them.
Has anyone ever tried?
Oh yes, but it’s never there when you look; he moves it away.

There are accounts of the calf being known as Aaron’s Golden Calf, which may refer to the Catholic practice of burying valuable objects during the Reformation for safekeeping.  Alternatively, the legendary hoard may be a Viking one which a raiding party buried en route to a tussle at nearby Kingley Vale.  They are said to have left a ghost calf to guard the treasure and when the Vikings were defeated, not to return, the calf could be heard crying in the Goodwood woods.  It might be interesting to see if it is still crying…although I won’t be the one to conduct that particular bit of research.

Refreshments

IMG_2367-001The two nearby pubs are The Partridge in Singleton and our choice today: The Fox Goes Free at Charlton.  The Fox (as it used to be known, back in the days when the local hunt congregated there), is a cosy old pub with open fires, tiled floors, old school desks and chairs for seating, and heaps of character.  The beer’s good too: I would recommend the Fox Goes Free 3.8% from the Arundel Brewery.  Also available was the excellent Harvey’s Sussex Best and Otter Ale (from Devon).  The Fox is notable for being the venue of the first ever meeting of the Women’s Institute in December 1915.  Even more exciting than that, in 1975 an episode of Dr Who was filmed there: Terror of the Zygons, starring Tom Baker (the fourth and best Doctor) and Sarah Jane Smith.

References

Bayliss, A., Healy, F. & Whittle, A., 2011 Gathering Time: Dating the Early Neolithic Enclosures of Southern Britain and Ireland, Vol 1, Oxford, Oxbow

Parish, W.D. & Hall, H., 1957 A Dictionary of Sussex Dialect, Eastbourne, Gardners

Russell, M., 2001 The Early Neolithic Architecture of the South Downs, BAR British Series 321, Oxford, Archaeopress

Thomas, J. 1999 Understanding the Neolithic, London: Routledge

http://pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id+246354, accessed 22.01.14

http://cf.ac.uk/share/newsandevents/news/archaeology/neolithic-britain-revealed.html, accessed 22.01.14

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/discover/south-downs/explore/trundle/, accessed 22.01.14

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/iha-causewayed-enclosures/causewayedenclosures.pdf, accessed 22.01.14

http://www.sussexarch.org.uk/saaf/trundle/html#folk, accessed 22.01.14

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Trundle

  1. Ah, at last! Some mumbo jumbo for me to respond to…

    St Roch/Roche is a saint against plague. According to the Oxford Book of Saints (where it’s spelled Roch), he was born at Montpelier c1350 and died, probably, in Lombardy c1380. The plaque thing comes from the fact that, while in Piacenza he caught a dose of Black Death and only survived by being fed in the woods by a dog.

    We’ve visited quite a few churches in France with St Roch chapels and he’s always depicted with the dog, a round loaf of bread and pointing to a sore on his leg. We rather like him because of the dog.

    Also, St Rokeshill in Sussex is named after him.

    If you want to raise a glass to him, his feast day is August 17.

    Hope that helps.

    • Past Rambles

      Thank you very much for the info – anyone with a dog has to be one of the good guys. I wonder what the dog fed him?

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