Cissbury Ring - History and Facts | History Hit

Cissbury Ring

Kyle Hoekstra

08 Oct 2021
Image Credit: Nick Hawkes / Alamy Stock Photo

About Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring in West Sussex is one of Britain’s largest hillforts and one of the earliest flint mines in England.

History of Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring is an Iron Age hillfort in the south of England, enclosing 26 hectares of chalky landscape on the West Sussex’s South Downs. It was first constructed around 4000 BC. From various positions on Cissbury Ring, there are excellent views of the surrounding landscape. To the north lies the historic woodland of the Weald. To the south, 80 miles of Sussex coastline.

Cissbury Ring is a single rampart enclosure. The remains of these banks and ditches are clearly evident today. It has been the site of Neolithic flint mines, Iron Age and Romano-British settlements, a mint, a Tudor warning beacon, and anti-aircraft defences from World War Two.

The evidence of flint mining at Cissbury is of particular interest because they trace a change in the practice of flint extraction. While gathering flint from deposits close to the surface was easier, the flint extracted from deeper shafts yielded higher quality rock.

Over almost 1000 years of use, around 200 mines shifts were dug into Cissbury. These shafts extended to depths of up to 12 metres. These were excavated with antler picks. Up to eight interconnecting galleries spread laterally from the bottom of the shafts. In the 1950s, excavations by John Pull revealed a woman who appeared to have been crushed by a mine shaft collapse around 2000 BC.

The origin of Cissbury Ring’s name has variously been attributed to the fabled South Saxon king Cissa, or Julius Caesar. Alternate interpretations spring from early English descriptions of Cissbury as the ‘latest [or last] fort’.

Augustus Lane-Fox excavated part of Cissbury Ring in 1867-8. In preparation for the Normandy Landings in 1944, the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were stationed at Cissbury Ring. A 45 kilogram gun was stationed on the fort’s ramparts, as well as an anti-aircraft gun.

Cissbury Ring today

Cissbury Ring is managed by the National Trust, who use ponies to clear growths of scrub on the hilltop. These help to keep paths clear for visitors. Like many ancient earthworks, Cissbury Ring has been the subject of illicit metal detecting. These heritage crimes can be identified by the loose clods of turf that are placed over find-spots and should be reported to the police.

Getting to Cissbury Ring

Cissbury Ring is easily accessible to walkers along the South Downs Way, while the most convenient parking is located in Findon, near Worthing. The multi-day walk along the South Downs is also one of History Hit’s recommended Historical Hikes in England.

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