Iron Age fortified enclosure known as Salmonsbury Camp


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Iron Age fortified enclosure known as Salmonsbury Camp
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cotswold (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SP 17397 20821

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 Iron Age fortified enclosure known as Salmonsbury Camp survives well and despite some recent development along its western flank, a large area of the monument remains undeveloped, ensuring the preservation of below ground remains. Excavations have revealed that within the area of the camp, evidence exists for settlement from the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age periods through to the end of the Roman period. It is also clear that the camp retained considerable significance for the local community throughout the early medieval and medieval periods, as it is named as a landmark in Saxon charters, gave its name to the Hundred in which Bourton-on-the-Water lies, and was the place at which the Court of the Hundred met throughout that period. Archaeological exploration has revealed that the buried deposits relating to the sequence of occupation is both well preserved and of a considerable depth. Investigations have also revealed evidence for the Iron Age defences which have survived as below ground remains, as well as for settlement dating from at least the first century BC to the fourth century AD. This evidence for settlement takes the form of the buried remains of structures and features such as ditches and pits, which will provide information about the use and division of space, the density of occupation and the number of people who might have lived within the fortified enclosure. Objects found within the area of the camp also give an insight into the lives of the people who occupied the site, and will include pottery, metalwork, coins, glass and worked stone which might have been manufactured at the site or brought in from elsewhere. Organic remains in the form of burnt grains and seeds will also have been preserved within the archaeological deposits at Salmonsbury, and will give an insight not only into the diet of the inhabitants of the area, but also into the wider landscape. Salmonsbury Camp was reviewed as part of the Gloucestershire Historic Towns Survey, and it has been suggested that it may have developed as a market centre during the Iron Age, drawing people in to trade from the surrounding area, and continued to fulfill a similar role during the Roman period, complementing the activities of the Roman small town at Bourton Bridge, just over 1km to the west.


The monument includes the known surviving extent of the Iron Age fortified settlement which lies in an open valley immediately to the east of the town of Bourton-on-the-Water. The fortified site covers an area of approximately 23ha and lies on a gravel terrace between the Rivers Dikler and Windrush. The camp is rectilinear in form and defended by a double rampart, each bank having an external ditch. These defences are visible as earthworks on the north, east and south sides of the enclosure where they survive to a height of up to 2m. On the western side the line of the defences has been obscured, and probably destroyed by building works. Two original entrances into the camp have been identified, one in the centre of the northern side, which is still visible, and the other in the centre of the west side of the defences, which has been built over. On the eastern side of the enclosure, extensions in the form of banks with external ditches project for about 150m eastwards from the north east and south east corners of the enclosure. These extensions define an annexe of about 6ha, flanking a naturally marshy area near the River Dikler. The first plan of Salmonsbury Camp was produced in 1840 by Sir Henry Dryden and W Lukis. In 1881 the entire circuit of the defences could still be traced and masonry was noted in the main rampart, which stood to a height of 2m at that time. A series of excavations was undertaken by Dunning between 1931 and 1934, and revealed evidence for pre-Iron Age, Iron Age and Roman occupation of the camp, as well as Anglo-Saxon activity within the general vicinity. Pre-Iron Age activity was represented by the presence of a Palaeolithic tranchet axe, numerous flint flakes, several arrowheads and sporadic finds of Peterborough ware pottery of Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date. Dunning believed that his excavations of 1931 revealed two phases of Iron Age occupation, the first of which preceded the construction of the defences, and which he dated to the later first century BC. The second phase of occupation corresponded with the construction of the defensive enclosure and was dated to the first half of the first century AD. Both phases revealed evidence for occupation in the form of round houses, rubbish pits, pottery and metalwork, including a hoard of 147 currency bars found in 1860. Roman occupation within the defended enclosure at Salmonsbury dates from the later 1st century to the early 4th century AD, during which time the defences to the east appear to have been reduced, possibly to aid the cultivation which was taking place within the area. Although there is no evidence for Anglo- Saxon occupation within the area of the camp, several burials have been found dug into the ramparts and two small cemeteries have also been discovered, one close to the northern rampart and the second close to the south east corner of the enclosure. It is also clear that the camp retained considerable significance for the local community, as it is recorded as `Sulmonnes Burg' in a charter of Offa of Mercia dated AD 779, and the courts of the Liberty or Hundred of Salmonsbury traditionally assembled at the northern entrance to the enclosure throughout the medieval period. A number of features are excluded from the scheduing; these are the houses and outbuildings of the properties known as Avilon, Bury Close and Woodlands House, Camp House, Burghfields Cottage, Bury Barn Cottage and Greystones Farm, the roads and tracks known as Moor Lane, Greystones Lane and the track running south from Greystones Farm, Cemetery Lane, and all boundary walls, fences and pavements. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included. The modern cemetery and an area around Burghfields House are totally excluded from the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Elrington, C R, The Victoria History of the County of Gloucestershire - Slaughter Hundred, (1965), 35
Marshall, A, Magnetometer survey at Salmonsbury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Glos, (1995), 1-4
Meaney, A L S, Gazetteer of Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Sites, (1964), 93
Wymer, J J, Lower Palaeolithic Archaeology in Britain, (1968), 84
Dunning, G C, 'Hillforts: Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland' in Salmonsbury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, (1976), 75-118
Dunning, G C, 'Hillforts: Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland' in Salmonsbury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, (1976), 75-118
Dunning, G C, 'Hillforts: Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland' in Salmonsbury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, (1976), 75-118
Dunning, G C, 'Hillforts: Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland' in Salmonsbury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, (1976), 75-118


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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