A slight univallate hillfort known as Medmenham Camp


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of A slight univallate hillfort known as Medmenham Camp
© 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.

Wycombe (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SU 80696 84665

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, generally between 1 and 5ha in size and located on hilltops. They are defined by boundaries consisting of two or more lines of closely set earthworks spaced at intervals of up to 15m. These entirely surround the interior except on sites located on promontories, where cliffs may form one or more sides of the monument. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and occupied between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. Small multivallate hillforts are generally regarded as settlements of high status, occupied on a permanent basis. Recent interpretations suggest that the construction of multiple earthworks may have had as much to do with display as with defence. Earthworks may consist of a rampart alone or of a rampart and ditch which, on many sites, are associated with counterscarp banks and internal quarry scoops. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances, which either appear as simple gaps in the earthwork or inturned passages, sometimes with guardrooms. The interior generally consists of settlement evidence including round houses, four and six post structures interpreted as raised granaries, roads, pits, gullies, hearths and a variety of scattered post and stake holes. Evidence from outside numerous examples of small multivallate hillforts suggests that extra-mural settlement was of a similar nature. Small multivallate hillforts are rare with around 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located in the Welsh Marches and the south-west with a concentration of small monuments in the north-east. In view of the rarity of small multivallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the nature of settlement and social organisation within the Iron Age period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Despite quarrying (and an episode of ploughing in the eastern part of the monument) Medmenham Camp remains very well preserved, retaining an almost complete circuit of defences, together with the entrance and approach. The interior will retain buried features related to the period of use which, together with the silts of the ditches, will contain artefactual and environmental evidence illustrating the date and character of occupation and the appearance of the landscape at that time. The ground surface buried beneath the banks is of particular interest as it may retain indications of earlier land use; and there is scope for the investigation of earlier activities in the vicinity, demonstrated by finds of Neolithic and Palaeolithic date. Medmenham Camp forms part of a series of defended sites established across the Chiltern Hills during the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age. The hillfort's construction and commanding position demonstrates a need for defence, either for the people themselves or for their possessions, and provides important clues about the society which built and used the monument. Comparisons with other Chiltern hillforts, provides further information in this repect, and allows broader insights into the nature of society and settlement in the late prehistoric period. The association between Medmenham Camp and nearby Danesfield Camp, and the positions which they both hold on the edge of the Thames valley, is considered to be especially significant for the study of boundaries and the interaction between major tribal territories in the later Iron Age.


The earthwork and buried remains of the prehistoric hillfort known as Medmenham Camp lies to the west of Bockmer Lane, occupying a commanding position on the end of a spur overlooking the village of Medmenham to the south and the broad valley of the River Thames. The circuit of defences is roughly pear-shaped in plan, measuring approximately 350m north to south, and 300m across its wider, northern end. The fort tapers towards the south following the topography of the spur. The defences here appear to have relied primarily on the severity of the natural slopes, and are marked by an artificial outward-facing scarp, varying between 6m and 12m wide and up to 3m in height, with a slight terrace at the base and traces of a bank along the summit. The bank may originally have been strengthened by a timber palisade along the top. The hillfort is approached from the north and east over relatively level ground and, reflecting this, the bank on these sides is accompanied by an external ditch, which also extends part way along the western arm. The bank and ditch remain clearly visible within the woodland which covers the northern and western sections of the perimeter; where the bank varies between 5m and 10m in width, and between 0.6m and 1.7m in height, and the ditch measures on average 5m wide and 1m deep. The earthworks of the eastern arm lie within an area of pasture which has previously been ploughed, and are less pronounced. The bank here measures some 12m in width and 0.6m high, and although the ditch has largely been infilled it can still be traced as a broad and shallow depression. The entrance to the hillfort is provided by a terraced trackway which ascends the slope along the outer edge of the defences at the north western corner leading to a causeway, some 12m wide, across the bank and ditch. The ramparts to either side of the entrance are more elaborate than elsewhere around the circuit. A low counterscarp bank follows the outer edge of the ditch for approximately 130m to the south of the entrance. This also continues for a short distance to the north accompanied by traces of a further outer ditch running along the inner edge of the approaching trackway. The interior of the hillfort falls away from the centre on all but the northern side. It is divided roughly into two halves: the western side within beech woodland and the eastern side under pasture, with the extreme north eastern corner (including the defences) lying within the landscaped garden of States House. The north western quarter of the interior contains numerous small depressions, believed to be flint and gravel quarries excavated to supply building materials in the 19th century. Numerous worked flints dating from the Neolithic period and Bronze Age have been found in this area, and a Paleolithic flint axe was discovered here in 1994, demonstrating even earlier activity in the vicinity. A bronze knife blade found on the south west rampart in 1959, is thought to be of Bronze Age date. Building remains, perhaps those of a farmhouse, were recorded within the fort in the early 18th century; but although stray pieces of brick have occasionally come to light, the precise location of these structures remains unknown. It has been suggested that this is the site of the castle built by the De Bolbec family in the mid 12th century, during the period of civil war known as the Anarchy. This theory has no historical basis, and the true location of Bolbec Castle has since been identified on the outskirts of the village of Whitchurch, some 35km to the north. Medmenham Camp lies only 800m to the west of a second, similar hillfort known as Danesfield Camp, which recent excavations have shown to have been occupied in the Middle Iron Age (300-100 BC) and which is the subject of a separate scheduling. The stables and sheds in the southern part of the hillfort are excluded from the scheduling, together with all fences, fence posts, railings and gates; although the ground beneath 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
Plaisted, A H, The Romance of a Chiltern Village, (1958), 26-7
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historic Monuments of Buckinghamshire, (1914), 256-7
Keevil, G D, Campbell, G E, 'Records of Bucks' in Investigations at Danesfield Camp, Medmenham, Buckinghamshire, , Vol. 33, (1991), 87-99
AM7 scheduling document, Craster, O E, Medmenham Camp, (1965)
Filed with Bucks SMR 1168, Underhill, F, Letter to J. Head (Bucks Arch Soc) from member of Berks Arch Soc, (1951)
record of finds accessioned by B.C.M., 1168,
Schedule entry No. 19058, Barrett, G, Bolbec Castle, a motte & bailey castle west of St. John's Church, (1992)


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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