Bratton Camp Iron Age hillfort, the Westbury White Horse, barrows and trackways on Bratton Down


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Bratton Camp Iron Age hillfort, the Westbury White Horse, barrows and trackways on Bratton Down
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 90189 51628

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.

Bratton Camp is a well preserved example of its class. It survives as extensive and substantial earthworks within an area of public access and consequently has value as a public amenity. The fort, although the most visually impressive element of the hilltop, was preceded by funerary monuments of both Neolithic and Bronze Age date; the Neolithic long barrow is one of only 500 examples recorded nationally. A complex of substantial hollow trackways, probably of medieval or later date approaches the hillfort from the north east where in the 18th century, the slopes of the hill were utilised for the construction of the Westbury White Horse, a major landmark feature providing a visual identity to this particular area of Wessex. Together the diverse elements of this monument provide evidence for the use of Bratton Down for funerary, defensive and display purposes over a period of five millennia.


The monument includes Bratton Camp Iron Age hillfort, together with the 18th century Westbury White Horse, a Neolithic long barrow, Bronze Age round barrows and a group of sunken trackways. The monument lies at a height of 225m OD in a prominent position overlooking Westbury at the edge of the Salisbury Plain chalk escarpment. The Iron Age hillfort is multivallate, possessing two circuits of ditch and bank which together enclose a pentagonal area of approximately 9.3ha. The hillfort, which has one clearly defined entrance on the south side, measures internally 430m east-west by 120m at the west end and 300m at the east end. The short west side and the long north side occupy the crest of steep escarpment slopes and the ditches are stepped one above the other, the rampart slopes rising 5m to 6m above the base of the ditches. The defences here span a total width of approximately 30m. The south side of the hillfort and the southern half of the east side cross Bratton Down and here the twin ramparts are of roughly equal height and again approximately 30m in total width. The northern half of the east side crosses the head of a re-entrant valley where the outer rampart and ditch have been largely destroyed by quarrying or landslips and the construction of a farm track. The short north east side straddles a narrow steep-sided ridge up which runs the Port Way. This passes through a further and possibly original entrance, at which point the two ramparts have separated to form a small annexe, the outer ditch of which has, in places, been removed by quarrying. Quarrying has, in the past, also taken place within parts of the interior of the fort. Excavations in the 18th century by Whitaker in the interior of the hillfort produced quernstones and a collection of large pebbles suggested as possible sling stones. Abutting the western rampart of the hillfort is the Westbury White Horse, the first documentary record of which is in 1742. The original horse, according to a drawing published in 1772, faced south, but was destroyed in 1778 and replaced by the present one, facing north. This horse, which is cut into a very steep slope immediately below the western defences of the fort, is naturalistic in form and has, since 1936, been redefined using concrete. The long barrow, which lies within the interior of the fort, is a substantial mound 73m long and, at its widest point, over 17m across. It is approximately 3m high at the highest (eastern) end, the height reducing to a little over 2m at the west end. The barrow has been partially excavated on at least three occasions, initially in the 18th century by Whitaker without recorded results. In the early 19th century two investigations by Cunnington revealed first pottery, animal bones, and a bead, and subsequently three skeletons. In the mid 19th century further investigations were carried out by Thurnham who found a primary cremation platform for one or two adults. The remains of two Bronze Age round barrows are recorded as lying within the defences of the hillfort. The most pronounced, a mound 16m in diameter and 1.2m high, with a clearly defined central hollow and traces of a surrounding ditch, lies between the inner rampart and the out-turned outer rampart to the east of the southern entrance. This was investigated by Cunnington in 1802, without recorded result. The second example, described as a small flat barrow encircled by a ditch, was also apparently excavated in 1802 without recorded result and can no longer be located on the ground. A complex system of sunken trackways lies parallel to the Port Way along the narrow steep-sided ridge to the north east of the hillfort. Although most likely to be of medieval or later date they may relate to the possible hillfort entrance at this point. Their complexity, together with that of the quarrying adjacent to the hillfort ramparts, may mask additional elements of the hillfort itself. Excluded from the scheduling are all roads, areas of hard standing, fences, posts, gates, steps, stiles and drinking troughs, although the ground beneath these features is included. The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.

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, W, Britannia, (1772)
Colt Hoare, R, The Ancient History of Wiltshire: Volume I, (1812), 55-56
Colt Hoare, R, The Ancient History of Wiltshire: Volume I, (1812), f. p 55
Colt Hoare, R, The Ancient History of Wiltshire: Volume I, (1812), f. p 55
Wise, F, Further Observations upon the White Horse and other Antiquities, (1742)
Meyrick, O, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Sir Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington, (1948), 216
Meyrick, O, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Sir Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington, (1948), 216
Robinson, P, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Bulletin' in The exacavations of Jeffery Whitaker at Bratton camp, , Vol. 25, (1979), 13-13
Robinson, P, 'Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Bulletin' in The exacavations of Jeffery Whitaker at Bratton camp, , Vol. 25, (1979), 11-13
Thurnham, , 'Archaeologia' in On Ancient British Barrows etc (Part 1: Long barrows), , Vol. 42, (1869), 192-193


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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