Whitehawk Camp is a 5,500 year old Stone Age monument (a causewayed enclosure) on Whitehawk Hill in Brighton, East Sussex. It is a rare type of ritual monument (predating Stonehenge by around 500 years) and is of considerable national importance. The hill is a portion of chalk downland on the eastern edge of Brighton which overlooks the coastal plain.
The monument measures around 289 m by 213 m and comprises four concentric rings of ditches broken up by numerous causeways. Its survival is remarkable: it is now surrounded by the city and development has crept up to its edges. Despite neglect over recent decades earthworks are still visible on the south-western / north-eastern parts of the monument.
From the archaeological evidence we believe that activity at Whitehawk Camp commenced around 3650BC. The inhabitants of the camp (Brighton's first residents!) were probably using the camp on a periodic basis to meet and carry out ritual activities including feasts and ceremonies. Causewayed enclosures lie on the boundary between hunter/gathering and settled farming based lifestyles: these monuments therefore represent one of the most significant cultural transitions in human history.
A number of archaeological investigations have taken place at the Camp from the late 19th century to modern times including: investigations by the Brighton and Hove Archaeological Club (later renamed BHAS) (1929), Cecil Curwen (1932-1933) and students of Mortimer Wheeler (1935). Almost 200 m of ditches were excavated during this period, together with parts of the interior.
The excavations of 1929-35 were of high quality for their time and the material they generated played a significant part in the definition of the early British Neolithic. The majority of excavated material is held by the Royal Pavilion Museum and many of the objects provide an enigmatic link to the past from the Whitehawk style of decorated pottery, to 'chessboard' chalk objects and many animal and human remains.
Whitehawk Hill is also home to one of Britain's rarest and richest natural habitats: ancient chalk grassland. A range of activities over time has created a variety of habitat types and around 40 different plant species can be found in a square meter of turf. The hill provides a habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna including rare and threatened species of butterfly, orchids and invertebrates. There are also important local varieties of fruit trees on the hill. Whitehawk Hill is also strongly associated with community food growing with three allotment groups sited around the Camp.
The stone tools, bone, food waste and pottery within the collection provide the opportunity to explore butchery, cooking, diet and storage. Whilst the human bones inform as to health and diet, Whitehawk Hill's natural heritage allows us to explore food procurement and consumption through species identification and foraging.
Whitehawk Camp is a National Monument No. 10276 (Ancient Monuments Act of 1976) and a Designated Local Nature Reserve (2004, 59 hectares).
Whitehawk Camp is located approximately 1.5 miles east of Brighton city centre. See this Location map.
How to get there
Whitehawk Camp can be reached from the A27 Brighton bypass. If you are travelling to Brighton on the A23 take the A27 eastbound. Head for signs directing you to the University of Sussex and then take the B2123 to Woodingdean, Turn right at the traffic lights and the Camp is approximately one mile on your right. Opposite Brighton racecourse.
Alternatively, if you are coming from the seafront head for the Palace Pier before driving eastbound down Marine Parade. Turn left at the first set of traffic lights into Lower Rock Gardens. Turn right at the second set of traffic lights into Edward Street, then first left into Freshfield Road. Whitehawk Camp is at the top of the hill. There is limited on road parking.
A frequent train service runs from London Victoria, London Bridge and Kings Cross Station to Brighton station. The journey takes approximately 1 hour. There are also frequent coastal services running from Eastbourne, Hastings, Worthing and Portsmouth.
Brighton and Hove bus company run a service between Brighton Marina and Hove / Brighton town centre which stops a short from the summit of Whitehawk Hill: Service nos 21, 21A, 21B. Alight at top of Manor Hill.