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Stonea Camp: a multivallate hillfort at Latches Fen

A Scheduled Monument in Wimblington, Cambridgeshire

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Latitude: 52.5165 / 52°30'59"N

Longitude: 0.1325 / 0°7'57"E

OS Eastings: 544799.908702

OS Northings: 293096.488219

OS Grid: TL447930

Mapcode National: GBR L3M.B9Z

Mapcode Global: VHHHR.70XN

Entry Name: Stonea Camp: a multivallate hillfort at Latches Fen

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1925

Last Amended: 5 January 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012539

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20453

County: Cambridgeshire

Civil Parish: Wimblington

Traditional County: Cambridgeshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cambridgeshire

Church of England Parish: Wimblington St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a multivallate hillfort situated on a low promontory at
the southern end of the island of Stonea overlooking Latches Fen. In terms of
recent history, the defences survived as earthworks under grass until the
early 1950s and are well recorded on maps and published descriptions. By 1959
partial infilling of the ditches had taken place and the monument had been
brought under plough. Small-scale excavations in 1959, 1980 and 1990 revealed
that the ditches survived as buried features and that the silts which had
accumulated in them over the years prior to their infilling were well
preserved. The most recent investigations recovered human remains in the
fills of the ditches. In 1990 a change of tenancy enabled the owners to take
most of the monument out of cultivation and early in 1991 a programme of
restoration took place: the modern material which had been used to infill the
ditches was excavated in a controlled manner, so as not to disturb even those
silts which had accumulated up to the 19th century, and used to reconstruct
the banks, so that the appearance of the monument is much as it was in the
1940s. Where the banks were reconstituted, a membrane was laid over the
original ground surface to provide a barrier between in situ and restored
The hillfort covers an area of 450m north-south by 400m east-west. Although
partially damaged by a modern quarry measuring 80m by 60m near the south-
eastern corner of the monument and despite several years of cultivation, a
large area of the interior contains evidence relating to the use of the site
in the Iron Age, surface collection of finds in this area having recovered
late Iron Age and early Roman pottery. The defences were constructed in at
least three stages. The first stage comprised a single ditch and inner bank.
Only the south-western arm of this rampart is recorded because its north-
eastern arm is thought to have been modified during the construction of the
third phase rampart; it is estimated that this first stage of the defences
enclosed a relatively small area measuring 270m by 180m. Except for a length
of reconstructed bank and ditch at its eastern end, the rampart survives as a
buried feature. The second stage also comprised a single bank and ditch but
was much larger, defining the maximum known extent of the monument. The
south-western arm is relatively straight, following the 2m contour at the foot
of the higher ground and running parallel to the line of the earlier
enclosure. With the exception of a 30m length at the south-eastern end, which
is visible as a cropmark, this arm has been reconstructed as an outer ditch 5m
wide by 0.5m deep with an inner bank 5m wide by 0.5m high. The north-western
end of this arm is truncated by a modern quarry, now flooded. The curving
western arm lies in an adjacent field and is visible as a slight bank of
gravelly soil; it has not been restored. Early maps record two gaps in the
rampart, one adjacent to the modern quarry and at least 30m wide, whilst a
second, smaller gap was only 5m wide. The northern and north-eastern arms are
fairly straight, measuring 110m and 225m respectively; all but a 25m stretch
at the western end of the northern arm has been reconstructed to give a ditch
7m wide by 1m deep and a bank, totally consisting of modern material, 7m wide
by 1.5m high. Just outside the junction of the north-eastern and eastern arms
was a 14th century farmhouse known as The Stitches; the buildings are now
demolished without trace. The eastern arm comprises a ditch 4-7m wide which
is original and has not been altered by reconstruction, although where the
northern part of this arm protrudes into the adjacent field, by up to 10m, it
is infilled and may be observed as a slight hollow containing darker soil.
The third stage of the defences comprises a curved double rampart which runs
over the crest of the promontory to form a D-shaped enclosure with the south-
western arm of the second stage rampart serving as the spine of the D. This
is the best preserved of the three ramparts in that the original bank survives
in places. The ditch of the inner rampart survives as an open feature 7m wide
by about 1m deep, while the bank has been reconstituted over most of its
length and is now up to 10m wide by 0.5m to 1.5m high. A gap in the bank and
ditch, 80m from the south-eastern end, is thought to be a relatively modern
alteration to provide access to a large quarry pit which lies within, while at
its western end the ditch joins the smaller flooded quarry. The outer rampart
is shorter than the inner and on the eastern side is effectively formed by the
second stage rampart. The rampart comprises a ditch 5m wide by 1m deep and a
bank of similar width 1.5m high; the rampart has been reconstructed over about
four-fifths of its length except at the western end where part of the
earthwork is original and a further part survives below ground. To allow
vehicular access across the third stage defences, two 5m wide gaps have been
left in the reconstructed ramparts.
A line of electricity pylons at the eastern side of the monument and all
fences are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath 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.

Stonea Camp is one of only three such sites known to survive in Cambridgeshire
and, although altered by ploughing and localised quarrying, the monument
retains considerable archaeological potential with the preservation of cut
features in the interior, buried soils beneath the banks and silts within the
ditches. The ditches and banks have been shown by partial excavation to
contain evidence (including human remains) pertaining to the contemporary use
of the site. Because of the low-lying situation (unusual for this monument
type) the ditches also contain conditions for the preservation of waterlogged
deposits, dating to the Iron Age, from which artefacts in organic materials
and data enabling reconstruction of the Prehistoric environment may be

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Philips, C W, The Victoria History of the County of Cambridgeshire, (1948)
Malim, T., Discussion with the project director, (1991)
Potter, T.W., Excavations at Stonea Camp (unpublished draft in SMR File 06033),
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" Series
Source Date: 1902

Source: Historic England

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