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A slight univallate hillfort known as Medmenham Camp

A Scheduled Monument in Medmenham, Buckinghamshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.5553 / 51°33'19"N

Longitude: -0.8376 / 0°50'15"W

OS Eastings: 480686.110182

OS Northings: 184685.986638

OS Grid: SU806846

Mapcode National: GBR C4N.K1C

Mapcode Global: VHDWH.F5KJ

Entry Name: A slight univallate hillfort known as Medmenham Camp

Scheduled Date: 1 November 1966

Last Amended: 17 November 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013938

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27140

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Medmenham

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Medmenham

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Details

The earthwork and buried remains of the prehistoric hillfort known as
Medmenham Camp lies to the west of Bockmer Lane, occupying a commanding
position on the end of a spur overlooking the village of Medmenham to the
south and the broad valley of the River Thames. The circuit of defences is
roughly pear-shaped in plan, measuring approximately 350m north to south, and
300m across its wider, northern end. The fort tapers towards the south
following the topography of the spur. The defences here appear to have relied
primarily on the severity of the natural slopes, and are marked by an
artificial outward-facing scarp, varying between 6m and 12m wide and up to 3m
in height, with a slight terrace at the base and traces of a bank along the
summit. The bank may originally have been strengthened by a timber palisade
along the top. The hillfort is approached from the north and east over
relatively level ground and, reflecting this, the bank on these sides is
accompanied by an external ditch, which also extends part way along the
western arm. The bank and ditch remain clearly visible within the woodland
which covers the northern and western sections of the perimeter; where the
bank varies between 5m and 10m in width, and between 0.6m and 1.7m in height,
and the ditch measures on average 5m wide and 1m deep. The earthworks of the
eastern arm lie within an area of pasture which has previously been ploughed,
and are less pronounced. The bank here measures some 12m in width and 0.6m
high, and although the ditch has largely been infilled it can still be traced
as a broad and shallow depression. The entrance to the hillfort is provided by
a terraced trackway which ascends the slope along the outer edge of the
defences at the north western corner leading to a causeway, some 12m wide,
across the bank and ditch. The ramparts to either side of the entrance are
more elaborate than elsewhere around the circuit. A low counterscarp bank
follows the outer edge of the ditch for approximately 130m to the south of the
entrance. This also continues for a short distance to the north accompanied by
traces of a further outer ditch running along the inner edge of the
approaching trackway.
The interior of the hillfort falls away from the centre on all but the
northern side. It is divided roughly into two halves: the western side within
beech woodland and the eastern side under pasture, with the extreme north
eastern corner (including the defences) lying within the landscaped garden of
States House. The north western quarter of the interior contains numerous
small depressions, believed to be flint and gravel quarries excavated to
supply building materials in the 19th century. Numerous worked flints dating
from the Neolithic period and Bronze Age have been found in this area, and a
Paleolithic flint axe was discovered here in 1994, demonstrating even earlier
activity in the vicinity. A bronze knife blade found on the south west rampart
in 1959, is thought to be of Bronze Age date. Building remains, perhaps those
of a farmhouse, were recorded within the fort in the early 18th century; but
although stray pieces of brick have occasionally come to light, the precise
location of these structures remains unknown. It has been suggested that this
is the site of the castle built by the De Bolbec family in the mid 12th
century, during the period of civil war known as the Anarchy. This theory has
no historical basis, and the true location of Bolbec Castle has since been
identified on the outskirts of the village of Whitchurch, some 35km to the
north.
Medmenham Camp lies only 800m to the west of a second, similar hillfort known
as Danesfield Camp, which recent excavations have shown to have been occupied
in the Middle Iron Age (300-100 BC) and which is the subject of a separate
scheduling.
The stables and sheds in the southern part of the hillfort are excluded from
the scheduling, together with all fences, fence posts, railings and gates;
although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are
defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set
earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the
interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or
more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been
constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first
century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements
of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest
that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with
display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a
rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks
and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by
one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or
inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists
of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures
interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety
of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of
small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a
similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples
recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west
with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the
rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding
the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period,
all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of
national importance.

Despite quarrying (and an episode of ploughing in the eastern part of the
monument) Medmenham Camp remains very well preserved, retaining an almost
complete circuit of defences, together with the entrance and approach. The
interior will retain buried features related to the period of use which,
together with the silts of the ditches, will contain artefactual and
environmental evidence illustrating the date and character of occupation and
the appearance of the landscape at that time. The ground surface buried
beneath the banks is of particular interest as it may retain indications of
earlier land use; and there is scope for the investigation of earlier
activities in the vicinity, demonstrated by finds of Neolithic and
Palaeolithic date. Medmenham Camp forms part of a series of defended sites
established across the Chiltern Hills during the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age.
The hillfort's construction and commanding position demonstrates a need for
defence, either for the people themselves or for their possessions, and
provides important clues about the society which built and used the monument.
Comparisons with other Chiltern hillforts, provides further information in
this repect, and allows broader insights into the nature of society and
settlement in the late prehistoric period. The association between Medmenham
Camp and nearby Danesfield Camp, and the positions which they both hold on the
edge of the Thames valley, is considered to be especially significant for the
study of boundaries and the interaction between major tribal territories in
the later Iron Age.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Plaisted, A H, The Romance of a Chiltern Village, (1958), 26-7
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Buckinghamshire, (1914), 256-7
Keevil, G D, Campbell, G E, 'Records of Bucks' in Investigations at Danesfield Camp, Medmenham, Buckinghamshire, , Vol. 33, (1991), 87-99
Other
AM7 scheduling document, Craster, O E, Medmenham Camp, (1965)
Filed with Bucks SMR 1168, Underhill, F, Letter to J. Head (Bucks Arch Soc) from member of Berks Arch Soc, (1951)
record of finds accessioned by B.C.M., 1168,
Schedule entry No. 19058, Barrett, G, Bolbec Castle, a motte & bailey castle west of St. John's Church, (1992)

Source: Historic England

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