Ancient Monuments

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Vespasian's Camp

A Scheduled Monument in Amesbury, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.1744 / 51°10'27"N

Longitude: -1.7925 / 1°47'33"W

OS Eastings: 414598.704792

OS Northings: 141707.202517

OS Grid: SU145417

Mapcode National: GBR 502.9M8

Mapcode Global: VHB5B.WR61

Entry Name: Vespasian's Camp

Scheduled Date: 2 May 1940

Last Amended: 6 November 2017

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012126

English Heritage Legacy ID: 10360

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Amesbury

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Amesbury St Mary and St Melor

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


An Iron Age hillfort, known as Vespasian's Camp, situated on a prominent spur immediately west of the River Avon at Amesbury.

Source: Historic England


The monument, which falls into two areas of protection, includes the earthwork and buried remains of an Iron Age hillfort, known as Vespasian's Camp. The hillfort occupies a strong defensive and a dominant position at the south end of a prominent spur immediately west of the River Avon at Amesbury.

The hillfort is some 730m in overall length from north to south and some 374m wide at the southern end, narrowing to around 100m wide at its northern end. The ditch, up to 10m wide, is present on the north and south-east sides and along most of the west side of the enclosure. Outside the ditch, on the west, is a counterscarp bank that has been slightly modified and measures some 0.4m high internally. The rampart measures up to 40m wide, and on the west side it stands up to 7.5m above the base of the ditch and up to 2.2m high internally. South of Stonehenge Road, the eastern rampart has been levelled for a distance of approximately 75m since 1969, and near the south-west corner it has been damaged by quarrying. A fragment of the rampart survives in the garden of Sky House up to a height of 1.0m high internally but its exterior face appears to have been considerably modified by the adjacent road junction. The defences encompass an area of approximately 14ha.

There is an original entrance at the north end of the defences, possibly widened in the C18, and the rampart to either side of it survives as a massive earthwork. It seems probable that there were further original entrances where the medieval and modern road running west-east cuts through the site, but both have been heavily modified.

The slightly-domed interior of the hillfort rises to around 91m; at the southern end, overlooking the river, the ground level drops slightly to about 69m. The summit of the fort contains a number of features including a mound, rising up to 1m and cut in half by a carriage drive. This is believed to be a barrow. To its south is a large circular platform, rising to about 1m, which was most likely created as part of the C18 landscape. It has been suggested in the past this was formed out of another barrow but there is no physical evidence to support this. To the north of the surviving barrow is a square platform, approximately 0.7m high, including an isolated length of scarp. Further down the slope to the east are two intricately shaped scarps, which represent terraces created as part of the C18 landscape. Below the circular platform and these scarps is Gay's Cave with its accompanying 'Diamond' of paths, a late C18 grotto (listed Grade II*).

The site contains a number of veteran trees, probably the result of C19 planting.

Gay's Cave, an C18 listed Grade II* grotto, including its network of paths, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Vespasian's Camp, an Iron Age hillfort at Amesbury, Wiltshire, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Representativity: An outstanding example of its type;

* Potential: The hillfort has the potential to preserve a good range of archaeological evidence;

* Rarity: Surviving Iron Age hillforts are relatively rare nationally and this is the only Iron Age fortification in the immediate Stonehenge area;

* Group value: For its important group value with Amesbury House and Park, both listed and registered;

* Survival: Despite some disturbance to the southern portion of the hillfort it survives well.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pugh, RB, Crittall, E, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire, (1957), Part 1, p 21-279
Haynes, S, 'Constructing eighteenth-century meaning in a prehistoric landscape: Charles Bridgeman's design for Amesbury Abbey' in Landscapes, , Vol. 14.2, (2013), 155-173
Hunter-Mann, K, 'Excavations at Vespasian's Camp Iron Age hillfort, 1987' in Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 92, (1999), 39-52
Goddard, EH, 'Bronze implements found in barrows at Amesbury, 1770' in Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 38, (1913), 115
Goddard, EH, 'Bronze Age implements not previously noticed' in Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 43, (1926), 350-2
Cole, M, Vespasian's Camp, Amesbury, Wiltshire: report on geophysical survey, August 1995 (Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report 44/95)
Haynes, S, The re-interpretation of a pre-historic landscape in the eighteenth century: how far did the presence of earthworks at Amesbury Abbey, and in the surrounding landscape, influence the 1738 design by Charles Bridgeman? Unpublished dissertation: University of East Anglia.
Mark Bowden, Stonehenge Southern WHS Project: Vespasian's Camp, Amesbury, Wiltshire: analytical earthwork survey (Historic England, 2016, Research Report Series no. 49/2016)

Source: Historic England

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