Idbury Camp hillfort


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.

West Oxfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 22874 19543

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.

The hillfort known as Idbury Camp survives as a visible earthwork, despite the ramparts having been partly levelled into the ditches by cultivation. It is known from stray finds recovered after ploughing to contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction. Further buried remains sealed in the primary ditch fills will provide evidence of the environment in which it was built.


The monument includes a hillfort situated on the east side of Westcote Hill, c.500m south west of the present village of Idbury. Its ramparts have been reduced in height by cultivation but survive as low earthworks. The infilled ditch is clearly visible on aerial photographs. The defences include a roughly oval rampart aligned north east-south west which encloses an area of about 3.5ha. It measures c.10m wide and stands up to 0.4m high. It was revetted with limestone dry walling and originally stood much higher. Beyond the rampart lies a deep defensive quarry ditch from which material was obtained to construct it. This has become infilled with levelled rampart material but is clearly visible as a darker band of soil 15m wide. To the south it can be seen as a hollow feature through which the road to the village runs. At least one entrance is known to have broken the circuit of defences. It lies on the northern side. Many finds of Iron Age and Romano-British pottery, metalwork and bone have been made both inside and around the monument, usually after ploughing. Human skeletons dated to either the Romano-British or the early Anglo-Saxon period were also found in a disused stone quarry situated just outside the hillfort, immediately south of the later road. The extent of this cemetery is, however, unknown. The hillfort's Anglo-Saxon place name suggests that it still stood as an obvious bury or fortified place in the immediate pre-Norman period. Excluded from the scheduling is the boundary fence between the field in which the monument lies and the road; also excluded is the road surface itself, although the land beneath both 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Witts, G B, Archaeology handbook for Gloucestershire, (1883), 28
PRN 1448, C.A.O., IA FORT, (1978)
PRN 1449, C.A.O., Anglo-Saxon cemetery (remains of ?), (1978)
Several photographs of site, Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey, (1900)
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Series Source Date: 1923 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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