St.Ann’s Hill Fort (aka Eldebury [Oldbury] Hill Fort) – 27.7.2003
As Juamei said, not the most evocative Hill Fort in Britain, but a pleasant walk if you can try to forget the constant hum of the traffic from the nearby (but unseen) M ways. The whole of the open area covers 57 acres in all.
The info board gives a tiny bit of info on the hill “St.Ann’s Hill takes its name form a chapel built around 1334 dedicated to St.Ann. Its original name was Eldebury (Oldbury) Hill with an old fort, and there are traces of old earthen defences on the top. The most notable resident of the Hill was the radical politician Charles Fox whose house was opposite the present main entrance. The hill was presented to the Local Authority by Baron Camrose of Longcross and opened by the Rt.Hon. Neville Chamberlain MP in June 1928”.
The ramparts are not particularly strongly preserved. Best on the west side. Also strong on the East side but the track up to the Reservoir Cottage (at the top of the hill) makes them look a bit false.
NB – The roads towards the hill are signposted to a point but overgrown at the crucial turnoff onto ‘St.Anns Hill Rd’ so look for the road sign of that name.
[visited 30/3/3] Another tree clad hillfort imperceptable as such unless you look closely. There is a sort of bank-ditch combo kinda encircling the hill, but not cared for and in one place replaced by huge girt concrete steps. The ever present distant roar of the M25 / M3 / Heathrow really detracts from this otherwise pleasant little retreat from North Surrey.
The best viewpoint in the place affords a nice view of a couple of rivers / lakes in the foreground and Heathrow just past them. We can only imagine what it was like even 100 years ago compared to now, I'm guessing somewhat more relaxing...
So in all, very nice I'm sure for the residents of Chertsey, somewhat less appealing for those of us who entered this area just for this experience. Go to Oldbury instead, you'll be glad you did!
On this eminence, which was anciently called Eldebury or Oldbury Hill,, and on which, Mr. Manning says, "were the visible traces of a Camp," now possibly hidden by the plantations, was a Chapel, dedicated to St. Anne, which was erected about 1334; and in June the same year, Orleton, bishop of Winchester, granted license to the abbot and convent of Chertsey to perform divine service in the new-built chapel during his pleasure. In the August following, he granted an indulgence of forty days to such persons as should repair to and contribute to the fabric and its ornaments.* Nothing remains of this edifice except a rude fragment of a wall.
"Near the top of the Hill," says Mr. Aubrey, "is a fine clear Spring, dress'd with squar'd stone; within a little of which, on the hill side, lies a huge stone (a conglobation of gravel and sand), breccia, which they call the Devil's Stone, and believe it cannot be mov'd, and that treasure is hid underneath."** The spring still remains, and is stated to be seldom frozen when other springs are so; but the stone was removed and destroyed many years ago.
Another Spring, once highly reputed for its medicinal virtues, rises on the north-east side of the hill, in the wood or coppice called Monk's Grove, which gives name to the seat inhabited by the Right Hon. Lady Montfort. This spring, according to Aubrey, had been long covered up and lost; but was again found and re-opened two or three years before he wrote. The water is now received into a bason about twelve feet square, lined with tiles.
*Manning and Bray, 'Surrey', vol iii. p226.
**Aubrey's 'Surrey', vol iii. p185.
From vol 2, p243 of 'A Topographical History of Surrey' by Brayley and Mantell (1850).
‘Prehistoric London’ by Nick Merriman (1990 – ISBN 0112904475) mentions that “St.Ann’s Hill near Chertsey has evidence of occupation as early as about 750 BC”. Which dates it to a similar time as Caesar's Camp on Wimbledon Common, and most probably earlier than Caesars Camp, Keston, Loughton Camp and Ambresbury Banks.