Uffington Castle: a univallate hillfort immediately north of the Ridgeway on Whitehorse Hill


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

Vale of White Horse (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 29946 86327

Reasons for Designation

Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Uffington Castle survives as a well known and outstanding example of its class. Our understanding of the monument has been enhanced by partial excavation and geophysical survey from which the site is known to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction and the landscape in which it was built. This is one of a number of monuments on Whitehorse Hill which represent an unusual grouping of secular and burial sites dating from the Neolithic to Saxon periods. Together these provide an insight into changes in religious and secular needs and beliefs over a period of more than four thousand years.


The monument includes a large Iron Age univallate hillfort known as Uffington Castle, situated immediately north of the Ridgeway on Whitehorse Hill. The hillfort has an internal enclosure covering 3.2ha with maximum dimensions of 220m from west to east and 160m from north to south. This is surrounded by a single bank c.12m wide and c.2.5m high inside a ditch 15m wide which is now partially infilled but which survives as a grass covered feature c.3m deep. This is surrounded by a counterscarp bank c.8m wide and up to 1m high.

The hillfort has a single entrance to the west in the form of a causeway flanked by the out turned ends of the inner rampart. These then turn back around the terminal ditch ends to join the counterscarp bank. The site has been the subject of a number of partial excavations, notably in 1850 and 1990, and it is known from this that the rampart and gateway had several phases of construction. The main rampart consisted of timber bracing and chalk rubble with the inner face lined with sarsen stone. Recent geophysical survey work has shown that evidence of further features, including postholes and pits, survive in the interior of the hillfort, despite it having been ploughed in the Middle Ages and containing earthworks representing ridge and furrow cultivation.

The monument is closely associated in local tradition with the White Horse hill figure nearby, while pottery and coins from the period of the hillfort's occupation have been found on the burial monuments further down slope.

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
'Berkshire Archaeological Journal' in Uffington Castle, , Vol. LX, (1962), 48
O'Connor, , Startin, , 'Oxoniensia' in Uffington Castle, , Vol. XL, (1975), 325
Miles, D, Uffington Castle, 1975, Excavation report (summary)
PRN 7302, C.A.O., White Horse Hill Figure, (1976)
PRN 7304 (2), C.A.O., HILLFORT, (1976)
PRN 7304, C.A.O., HILLFORT, (1976)
Uffington Castle and area, Ancient Monuments Laboratory, White Horse Hill Location of Magnetometer Surveys, (1993)
With S. Palmer, Jeffery, PP, Uffington Castle, (1993)


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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