Wandlebury Camp: a multivallate hillfort, earlier univallate hillfort, Iron Age cemetery and 17th century formal garden remains


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

South Cambridgeshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 49401 53423

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.

The multivallate hillfort at Wandlebury Camp was preceded by a slight univallate hillfort, a type of hillfort characterised by a single line of defences that are usually relatively small in scale. Hillforts of this type are rare with around 150 examples known nationally. The majority of slight univallate hillforts were constructed in the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age and may have served as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge or permanent settlements.

Wandlebury Camp is one of only three large multivallate hillforts known to survive in Cambridgeshire. Despite some alteration, the monument still retains many of its original features, including an extramural cemetery to the south east of the defences. Small scale excavation has demonstrated the survival of below ground features in the interior, including evidence of Iron Age buildings and buried rampart structures. Excavation, and the study of artefacts retrieved since the late 17th century, have also shed significant light on the development of the site from univallate to multivallate fort between the Early and later Iron Age. The hillfort lies in relatively close proximity to other monuments of similar period and function, such as the hillfort at Arbury Camp to the north. Wandlebury Camp may also have formed part of a series of defended sites including Borough Hill, Arbury Banks and Ravensburgh Castle which extend across the chalk uplands to the south east. The comparative study of chronological and morphological variations between these monuments provides important evidence for the development of prehistoric societies in the region.

Post-medieval formal gardens are usually found in direct association with the dwellings of high status individuals in society and were created as an expression of wealth and refinement, forming a setting for such residences. Seventeenth and 18th century gardens tend to comprise a regular or symmetrical pattern of flowerbeds, water features, paths, terraces or lawns forming a vista related to the main building.

The garden at Wandlebury is a well preserved example, with terraces leading down to a rectangular pond to the north of the former mansion. Later developments wherein the garden formed the centre of a more `natural' landscape of parkland and orchards are also evident. The presence of these remains enhances the importance of the monument by illustrating an unusual sequence of adaptations of the hillfort interior in later periods.

Wandlebury Camp is open to the public.


Wandlebury Camp occupies a commanding position on a plateau at the crest of the Gog Magog Hills, about 600m south west of the Via Devana Roman road. The monument includes an Early Iron Age slight univallate hillfort which was altered in the later Iron Age into a large multivallate hillfort. Further alterations to the site occurred in the late 17th and 18th centuries when a mansion with stables and a formal garden was constructed within the defences for Lord Godolphin.

The visible remains of the defensive earthworks are those of the later multivallate hillfort, which is circular in plan, having a diameter of almost 320m. At their maximum extent the defences consisted of a pair of concentric ditches separated by a bank, an outer or `counterscarp' bank, and a third bank within the inner ditch. The counterscarp bank has been reduced in places over the years but is generally 10m wide and 1m-2m in height. The outer ditch is between 10m and 15m wide and up to 3m deep. The area enclosed by the outer ditch was landscaped in the 17th century to form gardens and orchards; the inner ditch was infilled at this stage and the banks reduced in height. The intervening bank separating the ditches now stands to a height of approximately 1m, and slight earthworks mark the line of the inner ditch and bank on the northern side of the enclosure. Partial excavation has revealed that below ground remains of Iron Age structures and storage pits survive in the interior of the hillfort, and that the infilled ditch is preserved as a buried feature retaining a V-shaped profile. Iron Age coins, brooches, beads and weaving combs have been recovered from the interior of the monument at various times since the 17th century.

The slight univallate hillfort was identified during excavations in 1955-6 when it was found that the surviving, outer, ditch had superseded an earlier ditch, 4.6m deep and 2.4m wide at the base. The earlier ditch was accompanied by an inner rampart consisting of a timber revetted bank 4.3m wide. Artefacts found during the excavation date the earlier hillfort to the fourth century BC, after which the site fell into disrepair followed by a long period of abandonment. The site was reoccupied in the early first century AD, at which time the defences were upgraded to form the multivallate hillfort.

Two inhumations, thought to be Iron Age in date, were discovered in 1967 during extension work to the cricket pitch some 25m outside the south east entrance to the site. A further five inhumations of similar date were revealed in 1976 when high winds uprooted trees in the same area. The narrow spur containing these burials, which extends to the south east of the hillfort, is therefore considered to be the location of a cemetery related to the occupation of the hillfort.

In the late 17th and early 18th century a mansion with associated outbuildings and stables was constructed by Lord Godolphin in the southern part of the interior of the fort. The mansion was demolished in 1956, at which time the stable building to the west was converted into houses (West House) and the offices and shop of the Cambridge Preservation Society (Gog Magog House). The foundations of the mansion are now indicated by low walls containing a raised garden to the east of Gog Magog House. To the north of these foundations three regular platforms descend towards a rectangular pond. The terraces are 36m in length (approximately the same length as the southern aspect of the original mansion), 12m wide, and descend in 0.5m intervals. The pond, which was re-excavated in 1988 to reveal its former dimensions, measures approximately 30m north to south by 20m east to west and lies about 10m to the north of the lowest terrace. The pond and terraces are thought to be part of the formal garden designed in the late 17th century to complement Lord Godolphin's new mansion.

Four causeways give access to the hillfort, all of which are modern, as is the bridge to the south east of Gog Magog House. The abutments of an earlier post-medieval bridge lie near a modern pond to the south of East House. Underground service tunnels, constructed in the post-medieval period to enable the unobtrusive movement of servants, run south eastwards from the former mansion and stables towards the outer ditch. These brick-lined abandoned tunnels now serve as a bat sanctuary and a purpose-built entrance structure is located on the inner side of the outer ditch. The 15th century, timber-framed granary located to the east of Gog Magog House was brought to the site by the Cambridge Preservation Society and re-erected in 1981.

The following are excluded from the scheduling: Gog Magog House, West House and the three cottages further to the south (all Listed Grade II); the Grade II Listed Tadlow granary, the Farmery, the modern bridges, and all other modern buildings (including the entrance to the bat roost); all fences and garden walls and the made surfaces of all drives, paths and courtyards; although the ground beneath all these features is included in order to protect buried remains.

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
Camden, , Britannia, (1722)
Fox, C, Archaeology of the Cambridge Region, (1923), 135
Phillips, C W, The Victoria History of the County, (1948), 40
'The Gentleman's Magazine' in The Gentleman's Magazine, , Vol. xxxvi, (1883), 118
Denston, C B, Cra'ster, M D, 'PCAS' in , , Vol. 60, (1967), 108-109
Evans, C, 'CAU Excavation Report' in Excavations at Arbury Camp, Cambridgeshire, (1990)
Hartley, B R, 'PCAS' in Wandlebury Camp Iron Age Hillfort. Excavations of 1955-6, (1957), 1-27
Hartley, B R, 'PCAS' in Wandlebury Camp Iron Age Hillfort. Excavations of 1955-6, (1957), 1-27
Taylor, A, 'PCAS' in Wandlebury Camp, , Vol. 67, (1977), 118
Taylor, A, Denton, B, 'PCAS' in , , Vol. 67, (1977), 1
Cambs SMR 04636, (1990)
converstaion with the site warden, Clarke, W, (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.

End of official listing

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