Large multivallate hillfort and Palaeolithic rock shelters at Oldbury Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Tonbridge and Malling (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TQ 58165 56303

Reasons for Designation

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.

Despite cultivation of some of the interior, the large multivallate hillfort at Oldbury Hill survives well with the complete circuit of the defences and the interior remaining largely intact. Partial excavation has demonstrated that the site contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the construction of the monument, its use and abandonment as well as the landscape in which it was constructed. Also present on the site are Palaeolithic caves and rock shelters which provide some of the earliest evidence of human activity. They occur mainly in areas of hard limestone in the north and west of the country, although examples such as those at Oldbury Hill exist in the softer rocks of south east England. Evidence for human occupation is often located near the cave entrances, close to the rock walls or on the exterior platforms. The interiors sometimes served as special areas for disposal and storage or were places where material naturally accumulated, for example due to flooding. Despite partial excavation, the Palaeolithic rock shelters at Oldbury Hill survive well with the remaining deposits largely undisturbed. Rock shelters are rare both nationally and in Europe as a whole. All such sites with surviving archaeological remains are therefore of national importance.


The monument includes a large multivallate hillfort of Iron Age date situated on the summit of Oldbury Hill in an area of Greensand. Two rock shelters, occupied in the Palaeolithic period, are situated within an outcrop of sandstone on the eastern side of the hill. The hillfort, which is roughly diamond-shaped, measures 1,350m north-south by 700m east-west. It has an enclosed central area of c.49.3ha, surrounded by earthen ramparts. These include an inner bank, which is c.10m wide and survives to a height of up to 1m above the interior of the enclosure, and a surrounding ditch, up to 3.5m wide and situated 3m below the crest of the bank. Beyond this is a counterscarp bank which measures up to 8m wide and 1m high on the south west side of the hillfort where there is a second line of defences, including a ditch 4m below the crest of the counterscarp bank. This has become infilled over the years and now survives as a buried feature, c.3m wide, visible as a terrace in the slope of the hill. There are at least two original entrances to the hillfort, one in the south and one in the north east. The southern entrance has additional earthwork banks to protect it. To the north east, the steep natural cliff edge of the hill had no need of additional earthwork defences, although it is believed that a wooden palisade was erected above the cliff. Partially excavated in 1938, the hillfort was again investigated in 1983-4. The excavated evidence suggests that the site was rapidly constructed on a huge scale but was never occupied on a permanent basis. Short-lived settlement was discovered in the southern half of the hillfort, possibly relating to the construction period. The site was abandoned by c.50 BC, although there does appear to be some later reuse as a quarry, possibly by a native Romanised population. Along the eastern side of the hillfort are two rock shelters, the northern situated just below the crest of the slope facing east, and the southern set c.50m east of the hillfort defences. These were occupied during the Middle Palaeolithic period (c.100,000 BC - 30,000 BC). The southern shelter is now visible as a rock overhang c.10m long and 3.5m deep with a height of up to 1.3m. A platform extends 3m in front of the overhang. The other shelter, c.90m to the north west, is c.15m long. The area beneath the overhanging rock is up to 1m deep and has a small cave, 2m deep and 1m high set into the rear rock face. A platform c.4m wide extends in front of the overhang. The shelters were first examined in 1890 and more recently in 1965. A worked flint assemblage, which includes a number of bout coupe handaxes, a type of tool typical of the Middle Palaeolithic period, was discovered. The deposit in which they were found is believed to date from the Early Devensian, the most recent of the glacial periods in Britain, between 45,000 and 30,000 years ago. Excluded from the scheduling are all fences, gate and fence posts, benches and footpath and bridleway marker posts, but the ground beneath all 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Collins, D M, 'Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology' in Excavations At Oldbury, Kent, (1970), 151-76
Collins, D M, 'Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology' in Excavations At Oldbury, Kent, (1970), 151-76
Thompson, FH, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Oldbury Camp, , Vol. 101, (1984), 381-382
Thompson, FH, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Oldbury Camp, , Vol. 99, (1983), 287-289
Ward Perkins, J B, 'Archaeologia' in Oldbury Camp, , Vol. 90, (1944), 127-176


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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