Ancient Monuments

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Oldbury Camp hillfort, bowl barrow and cross dyke on Cherhill Down

A Scheduled Monument in Cherhill, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.4223 / 51°25'20"N

Longitude: -1.9303 / 1°55'48"W

OS Eastings: 404945.107226

OS Northings: 169256.681116

OS Grid: SU049692

Mapcode National: GBR 3VG.QT6

Mapcode Global: VHB43.HJD0

Entry Name: Oldbury Camp hillfort, bowl barrow and cross dyke on Cherhill Down

Scheduled Date: 10 March 1925

Last Amended: 17 May 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018611

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31650

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: Cherhill

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Cherhill St James the Great

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes a multivallate hillfort, bowl barrow and cross dyke,
located on Cherhill Down, a promontory of the Marlborough Downs overlooking
the Lower Chalk to the north west.
The monument was originally constructed in the Bronze Age in the form of a
hill top enclosure consisting of a bank and ditch which surrounded an area of
6ha. This was enlarged in the Iron Age to form a hillfort. The north west and
east sides of the enclosure are sealed beneath the Iron Age defences but the
side to the south west survives as a single bank up to 1.5m high and a ditch
up to 0.6m deep which crosses the hillfort. In the Iron Age the defences were
enlarged and deepened on the north west and east sides and extended to the
south to enclose a further 2ha. The hillfort is defined by a bank up to 2.5m
high which is surrounded by a ditch up to 2m deep. A broad outer bank up to 2m
high flanked by a ditch up to 2m deep surrounds the monument apart from on the
north west side where the steep scarp provides a natural defence. To the east,
the inner bank turns in to form an entrance which is protected by an outer
bank or barbican. A break to the north west is modern, and part of the outer
ditch to the west and the outer bank to the east are unfinished. The hillfort
and surrounding area has been subject to quarrying and digging for flint and
hard chalk for building which has damaged the interior and part of the south
Just outside the north eastern margin of the hillfort, a bowl barrow 1m high
and 14m in diameter is located on an easterly slope below the outer ramparts.
It is surrounded by a ditch up to 0.4m deep and 2.5m wide from which material
was excavated during its construction. The barrow has a slight depression in
the centre which is interpreted as an excavation trench. It was partially
excavated in 1858 after a Bronze Age urn was found next to a flint digger. The
urn was inverted over burnt bones in a cist, slightly below the centre of the
barrow. At the bottom of the slope the mound has slipped and partly covered
the ditch. Outside the ramparts to the west, a linear boundary earthwork runs
north east-south west down the slope away from the hillfort for a length of
110m. It includes a broad ditch up to 0.4m deep flanked by a bank on either
side, each up to 0.5m high. The entire feature is 12m wide and interpreted as
a Bronze Age cross dyke. It is one of a series of linear earthworks recorded
on the downs west of Avebury.
On the western promontory of the hillfort, within the ramparts, a stone
obelisk known as the Cherhill Monument, and as the Lansdowne Monument, stands
on a three stepped plinth. It was built in 1845 by the Marquis of Lansdowne,
is 38m high and is Listed Grade II*.
A number of finds have been produced by flint digging including pottery, quern
stones and 14 Roman coins from the reigns of Domitian to Magnus Maximus.
Excavations of pits in 1875, 1890 and 1939 produced Iron Age pottery,
haematite, coated ware, loom weights, mullers, a weaving comb and the base of
one Iron Age vessel.
The Cherhill Monument and all fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling,
although 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.

Oldbury Camp hillfort, bowl barrow and the cross dyke to the west survive
well as important components of the prehistoric landscape in the Avebury area.
Partial excavation of the hillfort has shown that it contains archaeological
and environmental evidence relating to its construction, the economy of its
inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cunnington, , 'The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 23, (1887), 213-222
Cunnington, J, 'The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Account of a Barrow on Oldbury Hill, , Vol. 6, (1858), 73-74

Source: Historic England

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