Oldbury Camp hillfort, bowl barrow and cross dyke on Cherhill Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018611

Date first listed: 10-Mar-1925

Date of most recent amendment: 17-May-2000


Ordnance survey map of Oldbury Camp hillfort, bowl barrow and cross dyke on Cherhill Down
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Calne Without

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Cherhill

National Grid Reference: SU 04890 69244


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

Oldbury Camp hillfort, bowl barrow and the cross dyke to the west survive well as important components of the prehistoric landscape in the Avebury area. Partial excavation of the hillfort has shown that it contains archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, the economy of its inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a multivallate hillfort, bowl barrow and cross dyke, located on Cherhill Down, a promontory of the Marlborough Downs overlooking the Lower Chalk to the north west. The monument was originally constructed in the Bronze Age in the form of a hill top enclosure consisting of a bank and ditch which surrounded an area of 6ha. This was enlarged in the Iron Age to form a hillfort. The north west and east sides of the enclosure are sealed beneath the Iron Age defences but the side to the south west survives as a single bank up to 1.5m high and a ditch up to 0.6m deep which crosses the hillfort. In the Iron Age the defences were enlarged and deepened on the north west and east sides and extended to the south to enclose a further 2ha. The hillfort is defined by a bank up to 2.5m high which is surrounded by a ditch up to 2m deep. A broad outer bank up to 2m high flanked by a ditch up to 2m deep surrounds the monument apart from on the north west side where the steep scarp provides a natural defence. To the east, the inner bank turns in to form an entrance which is protected by an outer bank or barbican. A break to the north west is modern, and part of the outer ditch to the west and the outer bank to the east are unfinished. The hillfort and surrounding area has been subject to quarrying and digging for flint and hard chalk for building which has damaged the interior and part of the south rampart. Just outside the north eastern margin of the hillfort, a bowl barrow 1m high and 14m in diameter is located on an easterly slope below the outer ramparts. It is surrounded by a ditch up to 0.4m deep and 2.5m wide from which material was excavated during its construction. The barrow has a slight depression in the centre which is interpreted as an excavation trench. It was partially excavated in 1858 after a Bronze Age urn was found next to a flint digger. The urn was inverted over burnt bones in a cist, slightly below the centre of the barrow. At the bottom of the slope the mound has slipped and partly covered the ditch. Outside the ramparts to the west, a linear boundary earthwork runs north east-south west down the slope away from the hillfort for a length of 110m. It includes a broad ditch up to 0.4m deep flanked by a bank on either side, each up to 0.5m high. The entire feature is 12m wide and interpreted as a Bronze Age cross dyke. It is one of a series of linear earthworks recorded on the downs west of Avebury. On the western promontory of the hillfort, within the ramparts, a stone obelisk known as the Cherhill Monument, and as the Lansdowne Monument, stands on a three stepped plinth. It was built in 1845 by the Marquis of Lansdowne, is 38m high and is Listed Grade II*. A number of finds have been produced by flint digging including pottery, quern stones and 14 Roman coins from the reigns of Domitian to Magnus Maximus. Excavations of pits in 1875, 1890 and 1939 produced Iron Age pottery, haematite, coated ware, loom weights, mullers, a weaving comb and the base of one Iron Age vessel. The Cherhill Monument and all fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling, 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.

Legacy System number: 31650

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Cunnington, , 'The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine, , Vol. 23, (1887), 213-222
Cunnington, J, 'The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine' in Account of a Barrow on Oldbury Hill, , Vol. 6, (1858), 73-74

End of official listing