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Large multivallate hillfort and Palaeolithic rock shelters at Oldbury Hill

A Scheduled Monument in Ightham, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2843 / 51°17'3"N

Longitude: 0.2666 / 0°15'59"E

OS Eastings: 558166.314872

OS Northings: 156348.545497

OS Grid: TQ581563

Mapcode National: GBR WN.ZWW

Mapcode Global: VHHPM.KZTB

Entry Name: Large multivallate hillfort and Palaeolithic rock shelters at Oldbury Hill

Scheduled Date: 2 August 1923

Last Amended: 10 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007458

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23018

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Ightham

Built-Up Area: Ightham

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Ightham St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Rochester


The monument includes a large multivallate hillfort of Iron Age date situated
on the summit of Oldbury Hill in an area of Greensand. Two rock shelters,
occupied in the Palaeolithic period, are situated within an outcrop of
sandstone on the eastern side of the hill.
The hillfort, which is roughly diamond-shaped, measures 1,350m north-south by
700m east-west. It has an enclosed central area of c.49.3ha, surrounded by
earthen ramparts. These include an inner bank, which is c.10m wide and
survives to a height of up to 1m above the interior of the enclosure, and a
surrounding ditch, up to 3.5m wide and situated 3m below the crest of the
bank. Beyond this is a counterscarp bank which measures up to 8m wide and 1m
high on the south west side of the hillfort where there is a second line of
defences, including a ditch 4m below the crest of the counterscarp bank. This
has become infilled over the years and now survives as a buried feature, c.3m
wide, visible as a terrace in the slope of the hill.
There are at least two original entrances to the hillfort, one in the south
and one in the north east. The southern entrance has additional earthwork
banks to protect it. To the north east, the steep natural cliff edge of the
hill had no need of additional earthwork defences, although it is believed
that a wooden palisade was erected above the cliff.
Partially excavated in 1938, the hillfort was again investigated in 1983-4.
The excavated evidence suggests that the site was rapidly constructed on a
huge scale but was never occupied on a permanent basis. Short-lived settlement
was discovered in the southern half of the hillfort, possibly relating to the
construction period. The site was abandoned by c.50 BC, although there does
appear to be some later reuse as a quarry, possibly by a native Romanised
Along the eastern side of the hillfort are two rock shelters, the northern
situated just below the crest of the slope facing east, and the southern set
c.50m east of the hillfort defences. These were occupied during the Middle
Palaeolithic period (c.100,000 BC - 30,000 BC).
The southern shelter is now visible as a rock overhang c.10m long and 3.5m
deep with a height of up to 1.3m. A platform extends 3m in front of the
overhang. The other shelter, c.90m to the north west, is c.15m long. The area
beneath the overhanging rock is up to 1m deep and has a small cave, 2m deep
and 1m high set into the rear rock face. A platform c.4m wide extends in front
of the overhang.
The shelters were first examined in 1890 and more recently in 1965. A worked
flint assemblage, which includes a number of bout coupe handaxes, a type of
tool typical of the Middle Palaeolithic period, was discovered. The deposit in
which they were found is believed to date from the Early Devensian, the most
recent of the glacial periods in Britain, between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fences, gate and fence posts, benches and
footpath and bridleway marker posts, but the ground beneath all these features
is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between
5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of
concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron
Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC
and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of
permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection
of the power struggle between competing elites.
Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have
ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances
although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may
comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts,
oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally
include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or
circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered,
for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as
raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain
evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include
platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fencelines, hearths and ovens.
Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial
activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture
occurred on many sites.
Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded
nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh
Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere.
In view of the rarity of large multivallate hillforts and their importance in
understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological potential are believed to be of
national importance.

Despite cultivation of some of the interior, the large multivallate hillfort
at Oldbury Hill survives well with the complete circuit of the defences and
the interior remaining largely intact. Partial excavation has demonstrated
that the site contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence
relating to the construction of the monument, its use and abandonment as well
as the landscape in which it was constructed.
Also present on the site are Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters which
provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity. They occur mainly in
areas of hard limestone in the north and west of the country, although
examples such as those at Oldbury Hill exist in the softer rocks of south east
England. Evidence for human occupation is often located near the cave
entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms. The interiors
sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or were places
where material naturally accumulated, for example due to flooding.
Despite partial excavation, the Palaeolithic rock shelters at Oldbury Hill
survive well with the remaining deposits largely undisturbed. Rock shelters
are rare both nationally and in Europe as a whole. All such sites with
surviving archaeological remains are therefore of national importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Collins, D M, 'Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology' in Excavations At Oldbury, Kent, (1970), 151-76
Collins, D M, 'Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology' in Excavations At Oldbury, Kent, (1970), 151-76
Thompson, FH, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Oldbury Camp, , Vol. 101, (1984), 381-382
Thompson, FH, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Oldbury Camp, , Vol. 99, (1983), 287-289
Ward Perkins, J B, 'Archaeologia' in Oldbury Camp, , Vol. 90, (1944), 127-176

Source: Historic England

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