Barbury Castle: a hillfort and bowl barrow


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Swindon (Unitary Authority)
Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Ogbourne St. Andrew
National Grid Reference:
SU 14938 76294

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.

Barbury Castle survives well and is known from part excavation to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, economy and the landscape in which it was built. In addition, it provides an important public amenity on the Ridgeway long distance path. It is one of a group of hillforts associated with this ancient trackway and provides evidence of wider land ownership in the prehistoric period. Bowl barrows, the most numerous form of round barrow, are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving bowl barrows recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of lowland Britain. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. The bowl barrow immediately north west of the hillfort survives as a visible earthwork and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence.


The monument includes a hillfort known as Barbury Castle and an adjacent bowl barrow, situated on a west facing promontory of the downs. The hillfort is one of a number located on or close to the line of the Ridgeway.

The hillfort includes two rings of banks and ditches enclosing an oval area of c.4.5 ha. The inner bank measures c.10m across with a level rampart 5m wide and standing up to c.3m above the height of the interior. The ditch was constructed by both digging into the natural slope of the hill and building up the rampart bank below to form its outer edge. This inner ditch measures up to 24m wide and is up to 10m below the top of the ramparts. The outer rampart measures up to 15m wide with a 7.5m wide top. This stands up to 3.5m above the surrounding ground level. The outer ditch is narrower, measuring c.10m wide and standing open up to 3m deep. Beyond this, to the north, lies a slight counter-scarp bank which has been much disturbed by quarrying in the past. There are two original entrances, situated to the east and west of the enclosure. A former track running between these follows the parish boundary between Wroughton and Ogbourne St Andrew. The entrances both measure c.10m wide and cross natural causeways left when the ditches were built. The eastern entrance is defended by a right angled outwork ditch extending out from the main earthworks. This measures c.7m wide and has become infilled due to cultivation over the last hundred years. Immediately north west of the hillfort lies a flat topped bowl barrow with a diameter of 13m. Its summit has a diameter of 5m. The barrow stands c.2m high and is surrounded by a partly infilled ditch c.3m wide, which has been eroded to the north. The ditch appears to cut into the counter-scarp bank of the hillfort to the south. A number of finds have been made in and around the hillfort over the years and a small scale excavation was carried out in 1875. The finds included an Iron Age blacksmith's hoard which contained parts of chariot harness furniture, a chariot wheel nave-hoop, sickles, spear heads and other metal work. Pottery from the hillfort is mainly Iron Age and Romano-British. The hillfort was occupied by the United States Army during World War II and has since had an Ordnance Survey trig point built on the inner rampart, just north of the eastern entrance. Excluded from the scheduling are the post and wire fences to the east of the hillfort, the Ordnance Survey trig point and all the Country Park public information signs and their posts although the ground beneath all of 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
Grinsell, L V, The Victoria History of the County of Wiltshire, (1957), 94 &268
'Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine' in Barbury Castle, , Vol. 68, (1972), 130
SU17NW 200, C.A.O., IRON AGE HILLFORT, (1985)
SU17NW 200, C.A.O., IRON AGE HILLFORT, (1986)
SU17NW 305, C.A.O., Barrow, Barbury Castle, (1985)
SU17NW 305, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1985)
Title: Landranger 1:50000 Source Date: 1987 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Sheet 173
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: SU 17 NW


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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