Chanctonbury Ring is a small Iron Age hillfort that was used in various periods of history and is still a notable Sussex landmark today.

Charles Goring himself owned the Wiston Estate just to the east, which included Chanctonbury Hill. The Manor was originally owned by the De WistoneSton family after the Conquest and passed through various families due to marriage and ill-luck until it came into the hands of the Goring family in 1743. After Charles Goring planted the trees on the Ring, he watered them regularly, probably with the help of his staff, until their roots took hold, though the trees in the centre never grew very well and it was found that they were planted on an old Roman temple. Though Charles saw his trees grow to maturity, there was a take-over bid on the land by a friend of the Goring family, a Mr Roger Clough at Warminghurst Park (west of Ashington). In 1786, Mr Clough cut turf boundaries and "Trod in", a traditional way of claiming land, in this case due to an alleged right from the time of Charles I, but after many courteous letters back and forth, Charles Goring prevailed and the Beeches on the Ring and others he planted on the downs, all matured on his own land. His grave lies in Wiston churchyard, overshadowed by a great yew. The church itself was built in the 12th century but was mostly rebuilt in the 15th century, though some Norman architecture remains.
Before we consider the Archaeology of the Ring itself, it is worth looking at the surrounding area. In the weald below, there was a considerable amount of Roman activity due to the presence of the Stane Street to the north-west, with a smaller road, Whole Street (Hole Street on the Ordnance Survey maps) supposedly leading from Stane Street and passing through Buncton just to the north of the Ring and climbing the Downs next to Chanctonbury before heading towards Cissbury. Near to this road, Roman bricks have been found in the Norman portion of Buncton Chapel and Roman tiles have been found on Fair Oak Farm. Another Roman road leads north-west from Buncton and joins Stane Street near the small village of Hardham just south of Pulborough. Yet another small terraceway leaves Chanctonbury Hill on the north-west side and heads down past Locks Farm and just east of Green Farm where it joins an east-west road which passes just north of Green Farm. This main road heads west perhaps to Storrington and east through Hassocks, Ditchling and Streat before arriving at Barcombe.

The Saxons also seem to have left their mark on the area, with many place names ending in -ton, from the Saxon tun , meaning a farmstead. Apart from the Chancton farms just north of the Ring on which was found a crock of Saxon coins in 1866.

Closer to the Ring itself, situated across a spur of the downs, there are two "Cross Dykes", one to the west and one to the south-east, both cross the old Ridgeway that passes across the spur of downs that the Ring sits on. The one to the west is straight, with a gap in the middle through which the ridgeway passes. The one in the south-east is curved and consists of a double bank and ditch in one section and a single bank in another. There is evidence that Cross Dyke to the south east of the Ring went on for far longer than is currently shown on the OS maps. Though Cross-Dykes are generally thought to be Bronze-Age, the western Dyke was dated from pottery to the Romano-British period. The building of this Dyke at the time of the construction of the Temple within the Ring itself and the lack of postholes to suggest a defensive purpose suggest the feature is either a ritual or secular boundary marker. Within the curve of the south-east feature, there used to be a dew pond. Built in 1874 by Rev. John Goring, the pond was restored by the Society of Sussex Downsmen but is no longer in existance, though another one, even more recent, lies just outside the western Cross-Dyke feature and a third has now disappeared. The last two were built by people from Findon with the help of Rev. Goring.

There are tumuli scattered along the ridge on which the Ring sits. Three low burial mounds just south of the eastern entrance were excavated by Pitt-Rivers but nothing was found so he assumed them to be part of the defences of the fort. A burial mound located just above a disused pit to the west of the western cross-dyke yielded more interesting results. The barrow consisted of an inhumation of a woman who died in her early thirties and was buried with a Wessex style bronze dagger, a single post hole surrounded by flints just to the south and a cremation even further south. The finds were suggestive of a beaker burial.

The outer Ring of the fort itself is roughly oval, measures roughly 550ft by 400ft and has a two entrances, in the south-west and east. Pottery found and carbon dating on an animal bone suggests the fort was built in the early Iron-Age, in the 6th to 5th centuries BC. Since this time, the Ring has suffered many times, perhaps the greatest disturbance being by tree roots, though in the Second World War, dugouts were cut into the Ring in the "L.D.V pattern". Several Roman coins have been found within the Ring, dating from the time of the emperor Nero (54-68 AD) to Gratian (375-383 AD), though many have been lost to treasure hunters, one labourer boasted of selling a single coin to a gentleman for about a years wages. The only other interesting find apart from the building detailed below was a bronze Fibula (brooch).

The buildings within the Ring are Roman and are only a few inches below the surface. The one in the centre is probably a temple, the design being seen in similar temples such as at Lancing Ring and was probably in use from the mid 1st to 4th centuries AD. The two sets of walls of the temple are made of flint and brick held together and plastered with mortar and the floor between the inner and outer walls is of hard rammed chalk with a possibility of mosaic in some places as tesserae (pieces of mosaic) have been found near the inner wall along with large quantities of roof tile, which probably only covered the inner section, with the outer section being a courtyard. To the east, there appears to be no outer wall, indicating the entrance to the temple was to the east and pointed towards the entrance in the eastern rampart. Outside this entrance there is a piece of hard worn ground in a dumbbell shape, perhaps as if a guard had been pacing backwards and forwards. To the north of this is a small building which had a door with an iron hook and walls which were covered with clay on the inside and a large quantity of wood ash was found on the floor of the building, which was probably an oven. A small path leads north from this building to a rubbish pit. The final building, to the South-West of the temple, is constructed in the same way as the temple but has a strange pointed design. This building hasn't been properly excavated and it's use remains a mystery, though it is generally thought to be Romano-British.

When a replanting of the trees within the camp was due in 1977, a dig was undertaken first to see what could be found about the nature of the Iron Age fort. Apart from world war two disturbances, the first suprise was the discovery of Neolithic flintwork (polished flint axe, arrowhead and scrapers) and a small amount of Bronze Age pottery which put the history of the hill further back. Little Iron-Age material was found despite the camp being dated to that era and 10% of the interior being excavated, with only one post hole and a shallow pit being found. The pit contained early Iron Age pottery, animal and human bones, pieces of unworked dark red flint, the only pieces found on the site, and a piece of granite originating from Cornwall. This single pit has been interpreted by some as a votive feature rather than a rubbish pit, making the idea for military use of the camp more unlikely. To the West of the main temple, a layer of rubble was found which covered another layer of oyster shells which lay on top of bare chalk bedrock, perhaps suggesting that the area around the temple was cleared of topsoil when it was used, though to the south, a area of tessellated pavement was found, constructed from cubes of green sandstone. The oyster shells were probably part of the ritual of the site. Similar deposits have been found at other temples, such as at Hayling Island just over the border into Hampshire.

Excavation of the ramparts showed there were two phases for constuction. The first, Early Iron-Age rampart, was a simple ditch and dump with a slope constructed of tightly packed chalk on the inside of the rampart. Iron-Age pottery was found within the ditch in a lower layer to date this phase. Above this pottery was found large quantities of Romano-British pottery and animal bones. The bones were mostly cranial fragments of Ox and Sheep, indicating they are ritual in nature as similar deposits have been found in the ditches of Iron-Age forts such as Harrow Hill. This marks the second Romano-British phase of construction during which the inside of the ramparts were augmented with a vertical wall of chalk blocks. No postholes or signs of wooden defences were found relating to either phase.

The lack of any evidence of settlement in the camp can be interpreted in several ways. The enclosure can be seen as either a refuge for a nearby settlement in times of trouble, a stock enclosure or a ritual centre. The reuse of the site for a Roman temple would suggest the latter. There is a lack of pottery dated between the 4thcentury BC and mid 1st century AD suggesting abandonment during that period, though Iron-Age finds are scarce at the site anyway so this is no definite indication.

Although the great storm of October 1987 stripped the Ring of it's domed beauty, the felling of the trees also provided opportunity for further excavation, which was carried out in subsequent years prior to the replanting of the trees. Though these excavations haven't been fully written up, notes about what was found have filtered through and an interim report is available from the Field Archaeology Unit in Ditchling.

The first items to be found before excavation were the leg bones of an adult male exposed under tree roots 25 metres east of the temple. The burial was aligned East-West and the bones were carbon dated to 960-1280CE (Ref: GU5116). The main temple area was relocated and the outside of the outer wall was found to be covered in red plaster. Further excavations uncovered the second irregularly shaped temple structure originally thought to be in the shape of a tear drop. The temple was actually polygonal with a rectangular entrance chamber floored with a mosaic. The entrance chamber pointed in an easterly direction, much like the main temple structure, with the walls constructed of mortared flint. Finds in this secondary structure included large quantities of pig bones, mainly teeth and jaw fragments, possibly from sacrificial offerings. Similar quantities of pig bone have been found at the Romano-British temple on Hayling Island just over the border into Hampshire.