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Barbury Castle: a hillfort and bowl barrow

A Scheduled Monument in Wroughton, Swindon

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Latitude: 51.4854 / 51°29'7"N

Longitude: -1.7864 / 1°47'11"W

OS Eastings: 414926.17182

OS Northings: 176292.201232

OS Grid: SU149762

Mapcode National: GBR 4W6.Z07

Mapcode Global: VHB3S.ZXGP

Entry Name: Barbury Castle: a hillfort and bowl barrow

Scheduled Date: 18 August 1882

Last Amended: 20 May 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014557

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28109

County: Swindon

Civil Parish: Wroughton

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Wroughton

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument includes a hillfort known as Barbury Castle and an adjacent bowl
barrow, situated on a west facing promontory of the downs. The hillfort is one
of a number located on or close to the line of the Ridgeway.

The hillfort includes two rings of banks and ditches enclosing an oval area of
c.4.5 ha. The inner bank measures c.10m across with a level rampart 5m wide
and standing up to c.3m above the height of the interior. The ditch was
constructed by both digging into the natural slope of the hill and building up
the rampart bank below to form its outer edge. This inner ditch measures up to
24m wide and is up to 10m below the top of the ramparts. The outer rampart
measures up to 15m wide with a 7.5m wide top. This stands up to 3.5m above the
surrounding ground level. The outer ditch is narrower, measuring c.10m wide
and standing open up to 3m deep. Beyond this, to the north, lies a slight
counter-scarp bank which has been much disturbed by quarrying in the past.
There are two original entrances, situated to the east and west of the
enclosure. A former track running between these follows the parish boundary
between Wroughton and Ogbourne St Andrew. The entrances both measure c.10m
wide and cross natural causeways left when the ditches were built. The eastern
entrance is defended by a right angled outwork ditch extending out from the
main earthworks. This measures c.7m wide and has become infilled due to
cultivation over the last hundred years.
Immediately north west of the hillfort lies a flat topped bowl barrow with a
diameter of 13m. Its summit has a diameter of 5m. The barrow stands c.2m high
and is surrounded by a partly infilled ditch c.3m wide, which has been eroded
to the north. The ditch appears to cut into the counter-scarp bank of the
hillfort to the south.
A number of finds have been made in and around the hillfort over the years and
a small scale excavation was carried out in 1875. The finds included an
Iron Age blacksmith's hoard which contained parts of chariot harness
furniture, a chariot wheel nave-hoop, sickles, spear heads and other metal
work. Pottery from the hillfort is mainly Iron Age and Romano-British.
The hillfort was occupied by the United States Army during World War II and
has since had an Ordnance Survey trig point built on the inner rampart, just
north of the eastern entrance.
Excluded from the scheduling are the post and wire fences to the east
of the hillfort, the Ordnance Survey trig point and all the Country Park
public information signs and their posts although the ground beneath all of
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.

Barbury Castle survives well and is known from part excavation to contain
archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction,
economy and the landscape in which it was built. In addition, it provides an
important public amenity on the Ridgeway long distance path. It is one of a
group of hillforts associated with this ancient trackway and provides
evidence of wider land ownership in the prehistoric period.
Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments
dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most
examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as
earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple
burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often
acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar,
although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form
and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl
barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring
across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are
a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable
variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important
information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early
prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period
and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of
The bowl barrow immediately north west of the hillfort survives as a visible
earthwork and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Grinsell, L V, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire, (1957), 94 &268
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Barbury Castle, , Vol. 68, (1972), 130
SU17NW 200, C.A.O., IRON AGE HILLFORT, (1985)
SU17NW 200, C.A.O., IRON AGE HILLFORT, (1986)
SU17NW 305, C.A.O., Barrow, Barbury Castle, (1985)
SU17NW 305, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1985)
Title: Landranger 1:50000
Source Date: 1987
Sheet 173
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series
Source Date: 1980
SU 17 NW

Source: Historic England

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