Excavation affords the only method of ascertaining the age of most
earthworks. Not until the spade has disclosed the evidence which an
ancient earthwork may hold in the relics which lie buried beneath its
area or within its banks, can we as a rule assign its construction to a
particular period. A striking illustration of this is afforded by the new light
which was thrown upon the age of Hunsbury Camp, in Northamptonshire,
by the unlooked-for discoveries during excavations there, as described in the
volume for that county in this series. At the same time such thorough
investigation has been possible in the case of only a very few of the large
number of earthworks in the country, and some working method of classification is necessary in dealing with them; the one which is now finding
general acceptance, which is adopted in the present work, is that set out
by the committee formed by the Congress of Archaeological Societies, of
which Mr. I. Chalkley Gould, F.S.A., is the honorary secretary. The
classification is based upon the form of the work, and stands as follows:—
A.—Fortresses partly inaccessible, by reason of precipices, cliffs, or water, additionally defended
by artificial works, usually known as promontory fortresses.
B.—Fortresses on hill-tops with artificial defences, following the natural line of the hill; or,
though usually on high ground, less dependent on natural slopes for protection.
C.—Rectangular or other simple enclosures, including forts and towns of the Romano-British
D.—Forts consisting only of a mount with encircling ditch or fosse.
E.—Fortified mounts, either artificial or partly natural, with traces of an attached court or
bailey, or of two or more such courts.
F.—Homestead moats, such as abound in some lowland districts, consisting of simple enclosures formed into artificial islands by water moats.
G.—Enclosures mostly rectangular, partaking of the form of F, but protected by stronger
defensive works, ramparted and fossed, and in some instances provided with outworks.
H.—Ancient village sites protected by walls, ramparts, or fosses.
X.—Defensive works which fall under none of these headings.
Although this classification is one of form it to some extent provides a
chronological guide which we may use tentatively, remembering that in
most cases the period of the earthwork must be judged finally by the finds
which may be made within its area. Even then it has to be remembered
that fortresses were used by successive occupiers of the country, each of whom
left their relics, so that a solitary find of any period proves little beyond the
fact that it was used during that period, which may not be that of its
construction. For instance, Roman relics are often met with on the hill-top
forts, but the investigation of this class of work would lead us to believe that
they are among the earliest of the whole series, although possibly enlarged
and strengthened at later periods and temporarily occupied by Roman forces,
whose peculiar fortification we have evidence for seeing in the regular
rectangular camps found usually on low ground. Not until the earliest relic
the work may hold has been extracted from it are we safe in assigning it a
period. It is necessary to insist upon this on account of the unscientific way
in which form has been made the test of age in the past, certain shapes being
assigned to certain races with a finality which later evidence has shown to be
quite unwarranted. And here, too, it may be well to warn the student of
these works against the ideas of those antiquaries of the last generation who
saw in them connected or opposing lines of fortifications covering a considerable tract of country, and arguing an organization which our knowledge at
present hardly justifies us in assuming.
We are probably right in looking upon some of the promontory and
hill-top fortresses as the earliest of the series, constructed in the Neolithic, or
Later Stone, Age as places of refuge and defence for the inhabitants of the
hut villages on the lower ground; while others may have been the work of
a later period when bronze or iron had come into use; but here again
caution is necessary, for we have learnt of late that we must be careful not to
under-rate what the earliest inhabitants could achieve with their horn pick,
bone shovel, and stone hammer. We must remember, too, that the Stone
Age to which some of these forts are assigned was far longer than any
succeeding age and probably covered thousands of years, and that the possibilities of achievement which had been reached by a long, if slow, development
were of a very high order, as is instanced by the construction of Stonehenge.
It is probable, then, that the earliest fort was the fortified hill-top, the shape
of the hill dictating the line of the work, and that next in order chronologically but probably falling within the same protracted period were the forts
on high ground, plateau forts as they are sometimes called, in which the line
of the work is independent of the form of the ground, but which generally
suggest by their construction and shape the hill-top fort. The use of the
rectangular enclosure, though typical of the Roman camp, was not confined
to the Roman period.
With the fortified mount and the mount and bailey fortress we are well
within the historic age, but we cannot here discuss the question as to whether
the Norman conquerors introduced it or found it here in a modified form.
There is, however, no question that the vast majority of such strongholds are
of post-Conquest date. The moated homesteads and enclosures appear so
distinctly mediaeval that it may seem out of place to include them with
ancient earthworks, but many of them may be survivals of enclosures round
the holdings of the Anglo-Saxon settlers, and it is not improbable that some
of them represent the later adaptation of the site of a much older work. I
have ventured to call attention to characteristics of two in this county which
would seem to support such a suggestion. The moats at Stratton Audley
and Beckley may represent such an adaptation.
A glance at the map of Oxfordshire shows that the distribution of earthworks is very singular. The county is divided by the Cherwell Valley from
Banbury to Oxford, and in the eastern portion of this division the works
which we may consider prehistoric are represented solely by the Dike Hills
at Dorchester, which constitute with the rivers there a fortress of the 'A' or
promontory class, and the Roman station of Alchester. The station which
is assumed to have existed on the site of the present village of Dorchester is
not dealt with here, as the later village covers the site and has destroyed its
works, and the relics which it may have left fall into another section of this
work. There is also on this side of the county the earthwork in Wyfold
Wood on the south, which we are unable to reconcile with either of the
classes in the scheme given above. Nearly the whole of the works which we
may consider the earliest are to be found, therefore, on the western side of
the Cherwell Valley, and on this side the map shows that they are mostly
confined to the north-west. With only two exceptions the works which we
have put in class 'B,' the hill-top and plateau forts, lie north of a line drawn
from Deddington to Shipton-under-Wychwood. This is understandable
when the physical conditions of the county are considered. It is, of course,
quite unnecessary here to insist upon the artificial character of the county
boundary, an invention of much later date than the class of earthworks we
are now considering, and with which consequently neither they nor the
people who constructed them have any manner of relation. The northwestern boundary line of the later county has been carried over the high
ground which constitutes the outlying spurs of the Cotswolds. Conical-shaped
hills and plateau-like elevations, intersected by innumerable valleys, form the
sort of country in which the hill-forts of early man are found, while the rich
red loam of the northern portion is the richest of the county and makes it the
best for habitation by a people who were already practising cultivation. The
altitude above sea-level is 300 ft. at the Cherwell at Banbury, and rises to
750 ft. at the Rollrich Stones on the western extremity of the county, and
crossing the border we ascend still higher as we approach the Cotswolds
proper. These hills are covered with remains of prehistoric earthworks, and
the Oxfordshire specimens—Madmarston, Tadmarton, Ilbury, Idbury, Lyneham, and Chastleton—must be considered as belonging to the Cotswold series.
Below Shipton-under-Wychwood we reach ground of lesser altitudes,
and here a great belt of forest stretched right across the county in ancient
times, comprising the forests of Wychwood, Woodstock, Shotover, and Bernwood, the latter in the north-east about Bicester and connecting with Northamptonshire forests. South of this ran the low plains of the Oxford clay
along the Thames Valley from Bampton to the inhospitable and dreary waste
of Otmoor on the east, and the lowlands give place on the south to the
wooded heights of the Chilterns. It must not, however, be understood that
the north-west was the only district inhabited by prehistoric man. A
reference to another section of this volume will show that his relics have
been found in all parts of the county, while the barrows and tumuli which
represent his burial mounds are found scattered all over the portion west of
the Cherwell. Of the forty-five existing specimens only seven are found in
the half of the county east of this river. This, coupled with the fact that
all the megalithic remains are in the western half, and that other remains of
this age appear more numerous there, would seem to suggest that the broad
Cherwell Valley formed the natural eastern boundary of a populous tribe
occupying the district of the Cotswolds. So far, however, as the absence of
the barrows in the eastern half is concerned, it is necessary to remember that
it has been much longer under the plough than a large portion of the other,
where the district between Burford and Charlbury covered by the Wychwood Forest and in which a considerable number of the barrows are found was
only disafforested in 1862, and that in a very few years many of the barrows
in the part now brought under cultivation will have ceased to exist.
The rectangular earthworks, except those in the parishes of North
Newington and Chadlington in the north, are extremely small and almost give
one the impression of miniature works connected with a Roman settlement
on the Akeman Street and within the area encompassed by the dyke called
Grim's Ditch, which exists to the north of this road in the western half of
the county, in which area Roman remains are plentiful.
In many parts of the country are to be found remains of lines of
entrenchment several miles in length and generally called dykes. There are
traces of three in Oxfordshire, one referred to above; another, also called
Grim's Ditch, in the extreme south of the county; and a third, called by
the three different names of Avesditch, Ashbank, and Wattlebank, running
from where the Akeman Street crosses the Cherwell to the northern
boundary of the county at Souldern. As with the camps, so with the dykes,
excavation must provide the final word as to their age. In the case of the
Wans Dyke, an extensive entrenchment in the south-west of England, the
theories of the antiquaries, which made it a Celtic work, were upset by the
investigations of General Pitt-Rivers, which showed it to be of Roman or
post-Roman construction. While therefore refraining from any explicit
pronouncements respecting the Oxfordshire dykes, it may at the same time
be helpful if we suggest an interpretation of their characteristics which may
provide a working basis for their future investigation. Two of them, the
Grim's Ditch, which we call 'A' to distinguish it from the work bearing
the same name in the south, and the Avesditch, seem to have a connexion
with the Roman road, the Akeman Street, which enters the county from
Aylesbury to the south-east of Bicester and leaves it below Burford. The
Avesditch commences at the ford of the road over the Cherwell, and runs
north on the high ground to the east of the river, while the Grim's Ditch
describes a semi-circle to the north with the road as its base. A study of the
banks of these dykes shows that the Avesditch would appear to have faced
west, and the Grim's Ditch north. We have shown above that the half of
the county west of the Cherwell would appear to have been an area of
greater population in pre-Roman times than that to the east, and a conjecture
regarding the dykes, which is feasible pending further investigation, is that
they were made by Romans who came from the east and constructed the
Akeman Street, and were made against the Britons of the north-west area of
the county. An examination of the Grim's Ditch and the Roman remains,
which its sweeping line covers, led General Pitt-Rivers to assign it to those
invaders. To the south of Akeman Street, and at almost an equal distance
from it as Grim's Ditch is on the north, is the small line of entrenchment at
North Leigh, which forms the southern boundary of the area of Roman
remains which has its centre at Stonesfield. This entrenchment faces south,
and three-quarters of a mile to the south of it is the ancient camp in Eynsham
Park, and it would appear, therefore, to have been part of the scheme
of protection by the makers of the road, and to have been part of
their defence against the British population, of less numerical strength
perhaps than that to the north, which occupied the country between the
forest and the Thames.
Turning to the southern Grim's Ditch, which we distinguish by
labelling it 'B,' we find the conditions analogous to those described in
connexion with the northern work. The Icknield Way also runs from near
Aylesbury, enters Oxfordshire at Chinnor and skirting the base of the
Chilterns leaves it at Goring, and across its course from Wallingford to
Henley ran the Grim's Ditch, cutting off the hilly country encompassed by
the southern dip of the Thames between these two towns. Its banks show
it to have faced south, and although the Icknield Way has the characteristics
of an ancient trackway rather than a Roman road, it is a suggestion equally
feasible as that thrown out in connexion with the northern works, that it
may have been used by a Roman invasion, starting from the same point near
Aylesbury as that which laid the Akeman Street, and which may have
thrown the Grim's Ditch across the Chilterns to separate itself from the
British population of a portion of their hills and woods. In the centre of the
area so cut off by the Ditch is the earthwork in Wyfold Wood, and although
we have been unable satisfactorily to include it in any class of the scheme of
classification adopted, it may be ancient and have been a fortress of the people
against whom the Ditch was constructed.
The whole of the county came in time under Roman domination, and
the remains of that people are scattered all over its area, but it is rather
significant that the only two sites which can be looked upon as more than
those of villas are both in the eastern half, at Dorchester, a little to the north
of the commencement of Grim's Ditch, on the south; and at Alchester, in
the rear of the Avesditch, on the north. These two were connected by a
Roman road. The evidence of the earthworks and dykes, as we are at
present able to read it, would appear to be that the sparsely populated plains
on the east were first occupied by Roman invaders coming from the Vale of
Aylesbury, and operating afterwards against the British population of possibly
greater account in the hills and woods of the west and extreme south. The
two local entrenchments on Gravenhill and Swyncombe Downs appear to
have been constructed against forces advancing along the lines of the Akeman
Street and the Icknield Way respectively. At the same time, it must not be
forgotten that the county suffered several other invasions by later forces, and
the above hypothesis is after all of only a tentative character.
Dike Hills, Dorchester-on-Thames
Dorchester-on-Thames: Dike Hills.—At Dorchester the River
Thames, after running due south, takes a turn at right-angles south-eastwards,
and 1,070 yds. further on receives the River Thame, which runs into it from
the north. The flat meadow and arable land south of the village of
Dorchester is thus enclosed on three sides by the rivers; and across the north
end of this space, just south of the village, runs a double row of banks, from
the Thames on the west to the Thame on the east, and parallel to the
southern line of the former river, thus enclosing an area roughly rectangular
in shape of about 114 acres. These banks are known as the Dike Hills.
They have unfortunately been mutilated, and the plough has reduced a
portion of them, but they still exist, or may be traced, throughout the whole
line of their original course. The most perfect part, which seems to
have escaped any destroying agency, is that marked X—Y on the plan. Here,
as shown in the section A-B, the northern bank is the higher, and
this was apparently so throughout. There are traces of a shallow ditch on
the north of this, 6 ft. wide and 2 ft. below the adjoining field. The height
of the bank is 16 ft: 6 ins. from the bottom of this northern ditch, and
15 ft. 6 ins. from the level of the ground between the two lines of
banks. The banks are 55 ft. apart, and the height of the southern one is
13 ft. on the inside, and 8 ft. 6 ins. from the level of the ground enclosed by
the dikes and the rivers. This section of the banks is still covered with turf,
but has been cut through at its eastern end, which is nearest the village. The
northern bank apparently ends here in three mounds, which are due probably
to its disturbance in modern times, but it is to be traced again for about
70 yds. within the corner of the hedge of the adjoining field—in, however, a
very reduced condition. The southern bank has also been cut away at this
(the eastern) end, but its course, in the shape of a low bank, sloping northeast, is discernible, and it appears to have run more to the south, pointing for
a bend in the River Thame, at a distance of about 50 yds. from which it
makes a return south-westward. This interval between the southern dike
and the river, which appears to have been constructive and not the work of
destruction, suggests whether the entrance to the enclosure may not have been
at this point. A careful study of the ground, which is meadow-land, does
not afford sufficient evidence on which to lay down the likely course of the
northern bank at this end in its nearer approach to the river. Westward of
X on the plan is, unfortunately, arable, and the plough is taken over the
reduced banks and is gradually completing its work of destruction. They are
still, however, very plain and, indeed, are striking features in this perfectly
flat piece of land. Two gaps have been cut through to carry cart roads at W
and X. Between these points the height of the northern bank has
been reduced to 4 ft. above the field on the north, and 6 ft. 9 ins. on its
southern side; while the southern bank is only 5 ft. high on its northern
face, and 2 ft. 6 ins. above the field on the south. The tops of the banks have
been much flattened, and while at section A-B the tops of the banks are only
3 ft. or 4 ft. wide, here the width of the northern is 15 ft. and the southern
29 ft., while the flat intervening space has been filled up to only 28 ft. wide.
This middle section would seem to have suffered most, although we have no
evidence as to whether the banks were originally of uniform height throughout their course. Westward of W, towards the Thames, the heights of the
northern bank are 3 ft. 6 ins. and 7 ft. 9 ins., and the southern 7 ft. and 6 ft. on
their north and south faces respectively. Here again the plough has done its
usual work of flattening the tops and filling up the intervening space, the
summits of the two banks, north and south, being 16 ft. and 27 ft. wide
respectively, while the width of the space between them is only 24 ft. The
Dikes end at a hedge 100 ft. from the present bank of the river. In 1870
the farmer employed his labourers in reducing this end of the banks. (fn. 1)
In the banks where they have been subjected to agricultural operations
human remains and British, Roman, and Saxon coins have been found. (fn. 2) The
River Thames in that part which encircles the area has also yielded a British
shield and spear at Day's Lock; (fn. 3) two bronze spear-heads, while making a new
lock in 1871; (fn. 4) human bones in the Oxfordshire bank, 6 ft. below the surface, south of the eyot at Day's Lock in 1864; (fn. 4) and a Celtic buckler and
bronze dagger in the river at the site of the ancient ford at the junction of
the two rivers in 1837. (fn. 4) A bronze Saxon buckle of a sword-belt, a spindlewhorl and other objects were found in a mound at the south-east end of the
Dikes in 1874, (fn. 4) and General Pitt-Rivers found a quartzite pebble rubbed to
an obtuse edge at one end and trimmed flakes within the earthworks, and a
flint arrow-head has also been found. (fn. 5)
Within the area enclosed by the Dike Hills and the rivers Mr. F. Haverfield has noticed in the crops marks of circles and rectangles which in other
places in the vicinity have proved to be the sites of pre-Roman and Roman
settlements. (fn. 6)
On the Berkshire side of the Thames, opposite to the Dike Hills, are the
Sinodun Hills, the summit of one of which is crowned by a hill fort.
Fortresses on hill-tops following the line
of the hill
Round Castle, Bladon
Bladon.—In the woods on Bladon Heath are the remains of an earthwork,
called locally 'Round Castle,' which would seem to fall into this class although
the hill on which it is situated is low.
Round its summit, but now difficult to
trace owing to the plantation which covers
it, are the remains of two lines of entrenchments. Of the higher only a portion
remains, but this is better preserved than
the second line below it, which is slight.
The average height of the bank of the
upper line is 5 ft. from the top to the
bottom of the fosse.
Deddington: Ilbury.—A quarter
of a mile due south of the hamlet of
Hempton is Ilbury Hill, a pear-shaped
formation, the narrow portion pointing
north-west. Along the foot of the
western side runs a stream, and the slope
of the hill is much steeper on that side
than on the other. The 400-ft. contour
line runs round the hill just below the summit. The long axis, which
lies north-west and south-east, is 1,050 ft. long and the width of the
top of the hill at its broadest part is 500 ft. A single line of scarping runs
round the hill following its shape. The height of the bank varies, and has
been much reduced on the eastern side by ploughing, but is distinctly traceable all the way
round. It is
on the western
side where the
ground is not
cultivated and a
hedge has been
planted along it.
At the northwest point (section A-B) the
bank is 13 ft.
high on the outside and 1 ft.
6 ins. on the inside. There is
here a slight
trace of a ditch
13 ft. wide, the
outer bank rising 1 ft. 6 ins
and then falling
with the natural
slope of the hill. The entrance is on the western side, and from it there
appears to have been a way made down the slope of the hill to the brook.
Ilbury Hill Camp, Deddington
Swalcliffe: Madmarston.—About 300 yds. due north of Swalcliffe
mill a truncated conical hill rises from low-lying meadows through which
runs the stream which works the mill, surrounded by other hills of similar
height. The top of the hill is a flat plateau, the axis east and west being
550 ft., and that north and south at the longest part 450 ft. Round the
summit run lines of entrenchments, apparently originally three in number.
The top of the hill is ploughed, and this no doubt has destroyed the vallum
round the summit, supposing one to have originally existed. The planting
of a hedge round the top of the second line on the east side has obscured the
fosse there. The three lines are traceable on the south and west, but the
lowest ceases at a hedge at the north-west corner. The other two lines can
still be traced all round. The most perfect remains of the triple work are at
the south-west. The uppermost ditch there is 8 ft. 6 ins. below the summit;
the second bank rises from it and drops 4 ft. 6 ins. into the second ditch. The
entrance is on the south, and here the works have been carried down the slope
of the hill and turned inwards, the lowest of the lines here being on the
500-ft. contour line. The works of the entrance still exist, although a plantation which now covers this part of the hill makes it difficult to trace them.
About a quarter of a mile due south of the camp and in a line with its
entrance on rising ground on the opposite side of the stream formerly stood a
round barrow, now destroyed, and also on that side of the stream three stone
cists have been disinterred, each containing a skeleton at full length, face
downwards. (fn. 7) The barrow was opened before it was destroyed and was found
to contain ashes and burnt fragments of wood, but had apparently been previously disturbed. (fn. 7)
Madmarston Hill Camp, Swalcliffe
Fortresses on high ground but not dependent on
Chastleton.—On Chastleton Hill, which forms the south-western end
of the long high ridge on which stand the Rollrich Stones, which are three
miles to the north-east, is a roughly circular camp called locally 'Chastleton
Barrow.' Along the summit of this ridge is an old trackway—in this part the
road to Stow-on-the-Wold—which in the other direction runs past the stones,
through Tadmarton Camp and by Banbury to Northampton, as described
under Tadmarton Camp. About a quarter of a mile to the west of this trackway and in about the middle of the ground forming Chastleton Hill at an
altitude of 700 ft. above sea-level is situated the camp. It consists of a
single rampart of the uniform height of 9 ft. and 13 ft. on the interior and
exterior respectively, covered with turf and planted with trees. The enclosed
area is ploughed. The diameter of the rough circle described by the rampart
is 450 ft. A bridle road runs through it, probably by its original entrances
as there are no other openings in the rampart. Excavations were made here
by Messrs. E. W. Brabrook, A. White, and J. E. Price, and described by the
last-named in the Journal of the
Anthropological Institute, 1881.
The report states that the ramparts are formed of blocks of
oolite, the natural stone of the
district. In making sections of
the ramparts deposits of pottery,
burnt bones (all so broken as to
suggest that they were used for
the purpose of food) and charcoal, a bone awl made of
the tibia of a small animal,
a flint flake, burnt pebbles
and various burnt shells were
discovered. The explorers' description of the camp as rectangular appears to be an error,
and their suggestion that it is of Roman origin seems to lack evidence. (fn. 8)
Eynsham.—In Eynsham Hall Park is an interesting earthwork of somewhat unusual character. In Woodley's Copse, a small wooded enclosure in
the centre of the park, at the head of a shallow natural defile leading from
the south and represented on the Ordnance Survey Map by the 300-ft. contour line, is an irregular-shaped earthwork consisting of a single rampart
which rises on an average 3 ft. from the level of the enclosed area and falls
9 ft. into the ditch, which is of depth varying from 2 ft. to 4 ft. below
the level of the outside ground. The entrance was at the south-east corner.
The south-west and south-east sides conform to the contour of the ground,
which slopes into the valley. The ground to the north of the camp is
for some distance practically level, while the summit of the rising ground on
each side of the valley at the end of which the camp stands is somewhat
higher than the work itself. Looking at this part of the earthwork alone it
would appear to be a defensive work against any approach from the south
under cover of the small valley. From this, however, runs a second line of
embankment which has the appearance of an addition to the original work.
This bank is only 3 ft. high throughout its course, the ditch on the exterior
is very slight and all round its course it has higher ground without than
within. It leaves the earthwork first described at the south-east corner so
as to include the entrance and turns to the south and then south-west,
following the lowest ground of the valley until this turns a little eastward.
At this point the planting of a spinney has destroyed the bank, but here it
turns at right-angles to the north-west and ascends the rising ground until
it reaches the level of the interior of the smaller work, towards which it then
makes another turn. It does not, however, quite join it, and it may be that
this gap represents the entrance. The slight character of this bank and its
position with regard to the ground levels make it unlikely that it was part
of a defensive scheme. It has more the appearance of an enclosure for cattle,
but its situation in relation to the camp is in this case curious, for it is on that
side of it on which apparently an attack was to have been met. It is, too,
dominated by higher ground, while on the other sides of the camp is high
ground on which such a protective enclosure could have been made. The
suggestion which would meet with least objection would be that it was made
as an addition to the original work as a place for securing cattle after the
need for the latter as a place to meet an attack from this particular direction
had passed away. A small pond just below the entrance to the camp fed by
a stream from the north suggests the original water supply, but, if so, it is
curious that it has been left outside the second enclosure, but the pond itself
may be of later construction and the stream may originally have been led within
the bank. The arrows on the plan indicate by their direction the fall of the
ground and will help to make the situation clearer. About three-quarters of
a mile to the north-east was a small circular camp now destroyed, and about
the same distance to the north-west is a small line of entrenchment, both of
which are referred to under the headings for those classes.
mile to the south-west
of the village of Idbury and on the north
of the road from the
village at its junction
with that from Stowon-the-Wold is a
roughly circular camp,
the diameter of which
is 700 ft. It lies on
the edge of a tongue
of high ground which
falls on all sides save
the north and northwest. The altitude
is given on the Ordnance Map as 646 ft.
The ground is under
the plough and the
work is very much
It consisted apparently of a single bank, with the entrance on the
Lyneham.—In the parish of Lyneham but situated by the side of the
Chipping Norton road, one and a quarter miles north-east of the village, is a
roughly oval camp consisting of a
single rampart 9 ft. and 6 ft. high
on its exterior and interior respectively, without a fosse. It is
situated on the edge of a hill which
falls from an altitude of 679 ft.
above sea-level to 317 ft. at the
River Evenlode, two miles distant.
The hill forms a spur from the
plateau and falls on all sides save
the north and overlooks miles of
country. A quarry has been cut
into the rampart on the south, and
the sections which have there been
disclosed show that it is made of
earth, although the soil of the district is so full of rubble that it has
the appearance rather of having
been constructed of small stones.
In 1842 several human skeletons
were found in this quarry, and human bones were also found close to the
camp in 1875. (fn. 9) Two Saxon spear-heads, similar to the one found in the long
barrow which stands on the edge of the hill 350 yds. to the south-west were
found in 1884, when some trees were planted at the north-east corner of the
camp. (fn. 10) The entrance is on the north side. Locally the work is known as
Tadmarton Heath Camp.
Tadmarton.—This camp is situated on Tadmarton Heath, one and a
quarter miles due south of the village and two miles due south of the
camp on Madmarston Hill. It stands on the highest part of Tadmarton
Heath, but its shape is independent of the ground, which is level for about
a quarter of a mile to the west, north, and east, and then falls gradually. The
Ordnance Survey Map gives an altitude of 641 ft. for the centre of the camp.
In shape it is roughly circular, the eastern side, where is the entrance,
and north-east is
550 ft. There is
a double line of
inner is well preserved throughout, but the outer
disappears on the
eastern side near
the entrance. A
road cuts through
the camp, and its
area on the northwest side of this
has been planted
as a fox-covert,
but the works are
still distinct, excepting on the
west, where the
outer vallum has
been destroyed by
the planting of a
modern hedge. On this side of the road the height of the inner vallum is
4 ft. above the area of the camp and 7 ft. above the ditch, the width of which
varies, but averages about 40 ft. from bank to bank. The outer vallum rises
2 ft. from the ditch on this side of the work, but is 37 ft. wide, with a flat top,
and has a second ditch of similar width to the inner. The outward bank of
this second ditch is 3 ft. high, and beyond it appears to be level ground, which is
so thickly grown with bracken, however, that it is difficult to tell whether
there was originally a third vallum. The area of the camp on the south-east
of the road is still open heath, and the works here are easier to trace. The
inner vallum rises on an average 3 ft. from the surface of the area and drops
5 ft. into the ditch, which on the south side is 50 ft. wide from bank to bank.
The outer vallum is 3 ft. high. This is much narrower than it is on the
north side, and although it appears to expand in width on the south this is
probably due to a modern cart-track to the neighbouring farm being run up
and along it at this point. There is no trace of an outer ditch on the south
and east sides. There is a break in the inner vallum on the north side suggesting a second entrance, but this may be modern.
At the south-east of the camp and at a distance of 150 ft. from the
outer vallum there is a small work of irregular form. The western side,
running north and south, is 150 ft.; its northern side is 100 ft.; its eastern,
200 ft.; and its southern, 150 ft. It was apparently surrounded by a ditch which
still remains in a slight form on the west and north. It is a much slighter
work than the camp and forms a small platform 3 ft. above the ground level
on the south and east and the bottom of the ditch on the north and west,
being one foot higher than the surrounding ground on the two latter sides.
There is no trace of a bank and it was probably a small stockaded enclosure.
The road which traverses the camp is an old trackway which runs from
Northampton, by Hunsbury Camp and other earthworks in that county,
crosses the Cherwell at Banbury, passes over Tadmarton Heath, turning due
west about a quarter of a mile past the camp and, running close to a smaller
camp now destroyed, continues past the Rollrich Stones, where it runs
between the circle and the outlying monolith, passes close to Chastleton
camp and joins the Fosse Way to Cirencester. The fact that it cuts through
the camp on Tadmarton Heath may be taken as evidence that the latter
existed at the making of the road.
Rectangular or other simple enclosures, including
forts and towns of the Romano-British period
Knollbury Camp, Chadlington
Chadlington: Knollbury.—This is a rectangular earthwork on the
north side of the road from Churchill to Chadlington and about one mile
north-west of the latter village.
It is on the side of a hill sloping
south-east and consists of a single
bank with no trace of a ditch.
Its form is that of a parallelogram,
the major axis, which lies northwest to south-east, being 500 ft.
and the minor 300 ft. It is
characteristic of the rectangular
earthworks in this county that
they are laid out so that their
sides run north-west to south-east
and south-west to north-east, as
in this case. The banks here are
covered with turf, although the
enclosed area and the field are
ploughed, and they are well preserved excepting that on the south-east, of
which only two fragments remain. The entrance was probably on this side
as there is no trace of an opening in any other. The north-east side is
bowed outwards at about half its course. The Ordnance Survey 551-ft.
mark is at the north corner. The ground within the area is level and is
rather higher than that without. An idea that the banks are built of stones
is probably due to the stony nature of the soil which is full of rubble, as at
Castle Bank, North Newington
Cornbury Park.—On the eastern side of the park on the high ground
above the River Evenlode are the remains of three small earthworks (see
map of course of Grim's Ditch 'A'). The first is at the north-east corner of
the park, close to the wall nearest to the town of Charlbury. Parts of three
rectangular sides remain. The complete side runs north-west to south-east and
is 270 ft. in length, consisting of a small bank, 3 ft. 3 in. high on the exterior
and 2 ft. on the interior, with a ditch which is 2 ft. below the outside ground.
At the north and south
ends the bank turns at
right angles to the
north-east and is continued on the north for
about 50 ft., and on the
south for 200 ft. On
the north and east the
ground falls rapidly.
At about 180 yds.
south-east of this there
is a small tumulus.
About half a mile
south of this work are
the remains of another,
similar in structure to
the one just described,
and with its sides conforming to the same
compass directions. In
this case the south-east side is complete and is 100 ft. in length, the bank being
3 ft. high both on the exterior and interior. The entrance was apparently in
the centre of this. It has a ditch on the exterior. This bank turns at right
angles north-west at each end for a short distance only, both ending abruptly
without any apparent reason. On the east the ground falls rapidly to the river
and on the opposite side of the valley on the bank above the railway the Grim's
Ditch comes to an apparent end pointing straight for the broken ends of the
earthwork. At a distance of 250 yds. south of this work is another and a
larger tumulus. The third earthwork is 130 yds. south-west of this tumulus
and consists of a ditch 3 ft. 6 in. deep running north-west to south-east for
250 ft. At the south end it turns north-east at rather an obtuse angle and
can be traced for about 100 ft. (see map of Grim's Ditch 'A').
North Newington: Castle Bank.—About three-quarters of a mile
north-west of the village and nearer Wroxton is a simple rectangular enclosure
called 'Castle Bank.' It is 570 yds. to the west of the road from Wroxton
to North Newington at the point where French's Buildings stand. It is
on level ground but on the edge of a small ravine or 'bottom.' It consists of
a single bank which is well preserved on the north-west side, where its height
on the exterior is 9 ft. Along the top of this bank runs the hedge of the
field in which the remainder of the earthwork is situated, and as this is arable
the work is being rapidly reduced and even where it is most distinct the bank
is only 2 ft. 6 ins. high on the exterior and 1 ft. 6 ins. on the inside. The
south-west side, which is slightly bowed outwards, is 500 ft. long, the remaining sides are 450 ft. each, that on the north-west being slightly bowed
inwards. On this side there are slight traces which suggest that an outer
ditch may have existed, but a footpath runs along its site on this side and if
so has probably obliterated it, while the plough has destroyed it on the
remaining sides. On this side the ground falls steeply to a small stream called
Padsdon Springs. The entrance was in the middle of this side, nearest, as is
often found to be the case, to the water supply. The 500-ft. contour line
runs along this side of the work.
Piddington: Muswell Hill.—On the summit of Muswell Hill, which
rises 392 ft. above the level of the village of Piddington, the Ordnance Survey
altitude at the top being 649 ft., and which commands a most extensive view
on all sides but the south, where it is intercepted by Brill Hill, is a rectangular
enclosure named 'The Wilderness' and popularly called a Roman camp. It
consists of a single bank forming a square, the sides of which are 250 ft. in
length and the height of which is 2 ft. 6 ins. above the interior and 4 ft. 9 ins.
on the exterior. The sides run due north to south and east to west. The
whole space is turf-grown and the banks are admirably preserved and have
certainly not the appearance of antiquity. It is difficult to look upon this as
a defensive structure. The hill juts out into the plain northwards in a commanding promontory, but it is not on this that the work is placed. Neither
is it on the highest part of the hill, the 600-ft. contour line running along
the eastern side, and the higher ground on the south slopes down to a
level with the top of the bank on that side, which has, therefore, no exterior
slope at this point, and the interior of the area is absolutely dominated from
Camp Near Ash Copse, Spelsbury
Spelsbury.—There is a small square earthwork in this parish although
three miles from the village to the south-east. It is two miles due east of the
town of Charlbury and 270 yds. north of the road
from that place to Woodstock, in a field south-east
of Ash Copse. Its sides are only 130 ft. in length,
and there is a single bank which has a fall of
3 ft. 6 ins. into a shallow ditch which can be traced
on two sides and part of a third. The south-west
side has been dug into, apparently for quarrying.
Like other rectangular works in this county its
sides run north-west to south-east and south-west
to north-east. It is within the area of the Grim's
Ditch and is to be compared with the small works in Cornbury Park,
which would seem to have some connexion with the Ditch. It may
further be noted that both this work and those in Cornbury Park are
the same distance (just under two miles) north of the Roman road, the
Alchester Camp, Wendlebury
Wendlebury: Alchester.—The most extensive Roman site at present
traceable in this county is that of the station Alchester, situated in the parish
of Wendlebury, one and a quarter miles south of Bicester, opposite the point
where the road from that town to Oxford makes a sharp turn to the west.
The road to this point is the Roman Way, which continued straight on through
the centre of the station and can still be traced to Dorchester-on-Thames.
The greater part of the site is, unfortunately, cultivated, but the course of the
raised ways through it can still be traced by the low banks which vary in
height above the ground from 15 ins. in some places to 3 ft. in others. In
that part of the field where they have been destroyed, shown by the dotted
lines on the plan, their course can still be laid down, as it is possible to note
where they commenced by the breaks in the other banks, and the direction of
the furrows has been changed to run parallel with them. At the south-east
corner there is a mound 4 ft. 9 ins. high, and at the north-east corner there are
the remains of another over which the hedge of the field has been carried.
In the meadow to the west of the site, 80 yds. from it, is a roughly circular
mound 200 ft. in diameter, and apparently rising from within a square base,
called 'The Castle.' Excavations have shown that this covers the remains of
a Roman building. We are only concerned here with the remains of the
station falling under the classification of Earthworks, and it must be sufficient
to state that Roman remains in the shape of foundations, coins, pottery, and
other articles have been found all over the site, together with many human
Fortified mounts with traces of one or more
attached Courts or Baileys
I have found no examples of class D, that is of the simple mount with
an encircling ditch or fosse, in this county. All the fortified mounts which
now exist either have or have had one or more courts attached, and therefore
fall under class E. In three of the examples given the type is not very
pronounced, and it is possible that we see it in a stage of transition. At the
same time it has appeared to be sufficiently traceable to warrant their inclusion in this class. At Chipping Norton the mount is of such a size and
shape as to present the appearance rather of a raised court than a simple
mount. At Deddington it presents the appearance of a mount from the
eastern sides only, its height on the western sides being very little above that
of the adjoining court, while at Mixbury it has practically been reduced to a
corner tower in the rampart.
Ascot-under-Wychwood.—In the grounds of the Manor House is a
circular mound, the summit of which is 42 ft. across in the direction shown
in the section on the accompanying plan, and 46 ft. along the diameter at
right angles to this. The average height is 8 ft., being highest (10 ft.) on
the east, where a broad ditch separates it from a broad raised court, and
lowest (5 ft. 6 ins.) on the west, where the ground has apparently been made
up at or since the erection of the adjoining buildings. The bank and ditch
of a large court remain in the adjacent field on the north-west side. The
return at the east corner near the mound suggests that it did not include it,
and the farm buildings and yards have destroyed all traces of the return of
the ditch to the mount on the south. There was apparently, however, from
the remains of a shallow bank between the ditch and the railway on this side,
a second ditch which would appear to have joined that to the east of the
mount and so have enclosed the whole work. Its further course has, however, been destroyed by the gardens of the house.
Banbury: Castle Gardens.—Banbury Castle, which dated from the
Norman period, was totally demolished after the Civil War in the seventeenth
century, and no plan, drawing, or detailed description made before its destruction is known. Its site is now occupied by gardens and by streets of houses,
but a careful study of the ground with the aid of a plan of the property made
in 1685, after the ground had apparently been cleared of buildings, (fn. 11) leads to
the conclusion that we are dealing with a fortress which was in its origin of
the mount or mount and bailey type. The making of streets and the cutting
of the canal through the site have destroyed much of the evidence of the
ground, but it is possible, from traces found in digging for draining and
building, to lay down the course of the outer moat. It appears to have had
four roughly equal rectangular sides enclosing a space of about seven acres.
In the centre of this area is a mound 9 ft. above the ground-level at its base,
now occupied by a rather ruinous cottage built at the demolition of the Castle
on to the only remaining portion of its wall. This mound, according to the
plan above referred to, was surrounded by a ditch now filled in, but the
course of which was apparently immediately round the base of the mound
and enclosing an area of 3 roods 3 poles. At the south-west corner the
mound is now disguised by the streets which run up to it, but the ground
here has been partly made up in recent times, while the road from the
Market Place was the original roadway into the Castle. On the other sides
its form is quite distinct. The mound is probably mainly natural, but increased or emphasized artificially. The regularity of the outer moat, which
is square and runs at equal distances on all sides from the inner work, does
not correspond with the usual character of the baileys in this class of fortress,
and leads to the suggestion whether it does not represent a later extension of
the original Castle, which may have been of the simple mount type, or have
had a small bailey attached which was destroyed in the later work.
The Castle, Chipping Norton
Chipping Norton: The Castle.—This consists of a large and high
mound 500 ft. long by 250 ft. in the widest part, standing from 14 ft. to 20 ft.
above the surrounding fosse, and divided by a small bank, which runs threequarters of its width across, into two unequal courts. Excepting a small
piece at the north-east end there is no trace of a raised bank round the edge
of the mound, the ground on the top of which is very uneven, as though it
covered the remains of destroyed buildings. On the ground on the east
below the mound another court is enclosed by a bank which rises 6 ft. on the
interior and joins the fosse round the mound at the north-east end, where its
exterior altitude is 14 ft. At this point there is a third bank which rises
1 ft. 3 ins. from the second ditch, and falls 6 ft. 6 ins. to the ground outside.
At this point the summit of the castle mound is, therefore, 27 ft. 3 ins. above
the exterior ground. The ground at this point and on the north-west slopes
to the level of the stream. At the south-west end it also falls steeply to the
stream-level, and here 20 ft. below the summit of the mound is what appears
to be a small natural spur of the hill, on which a modern residence has now
been built, but which originally may have been incorporated in the work.
Below the foot of this and the stream are low banks, evidently the remains of
a pool. The altitude given by the Ordnance Survey at the stream near these
is 500 ft.; on a level with the church south of the Castle it is 597 ft., and a
quarter of a mile further east it has risen to 710 ft. The work, therefore,
on the slope of
a steep hill, and
would be entirely commanded from
The Castle, Deddington
there is an extensive series of
an area of about
In this case the
on the Ordnance Survey
of an irregular
but little higher
than the level
of the ground
in the interior
of the court on
the west, but
rising on its
eastern side to a
bank 6 ft. above
the level of its
area and then
dropping 23 ft.
into the fosse.
The general section X-Y on the
plan will make
court on the
west is surrounded by a steep bank which on an average is 6 ft. higher on its exterior than interior, and on the south is a secondary bank forming a fosse which
is continued round the keep. The bank round the eastern court is much
slighter. In the centre of this court there is a depression, evidently
the remains of a pond, and at the far end of it are two others. There is a
spring at the western end near the base of the keep. At the bottom of the
field adjoining this court on
the south are the remains of
banks called 'The Fishers,'
evidently the remains of fishponds. The natural level of
the eastern court is lower
than that of the western.
The entrance would appear
to have been from the north
near the Keep.
In the park, near the church,
is a pear-shaped mound,
which has been cut into
at its narrow portion situated north-north-east. It is
13 ft. 3 ins. high at its highest
point, and on the east is a
court enclosed by a bank and ditch, the latter being outside, and 5 ft. 9 ins.
below the top of the former. There are no traces of a continuation of this
on the west, where the
church enclosure and a
modern road have been made.
Beaumont Castle, Mixbury
Castle.—This work consists
of two courts, the northern
of which is regular in shape
and practically square, while
the south bank of the southern
conforms to the course of the
adjacent road which runs
between it and the church.
It is significant to note that
this road is part of a footpath which runs from Brackley through Evenley Park,
where Roman remains have
been found, to the Roman
Way which runs from Alchester to the north-east and
which it joins at Finmere,
two miles east of Mixbury.
It was probably therefore in
existence before the construction of the castle. The
western rampart of the northern court ends on the north in a circular mound,
the flat top of which is 30 ft. across. This rises 9 ft. from the bottom of the
fosse, but opposite it in the angle of the latter there is a further depression
5 ft. deep, which, however, is probably not ancient. The mound is 5 ft.
above the interior of the court. The northern bank does not quite connect
with it, giving an appearance of an entrance from the fosse. The main
entrance from the outside is at the north-west corner of the southern court,
and then into the northern court in the middle of its southern side, a raised
way leading it over the fosse which separates the two courts. A short distance from the entrance the ground level of the northern court rises about a
foot. The fosse which surrounds both courts is of an average depth of 9 ft.
below the top of their banks and 5 ft. below the outside ground. The
surface of the ground of the northern court is irregular. There is a well a
short distance to the west of the fosse.
Oxford: The Castle.—This was originally a mount and bailey
fortress, but all that now remains is the mount, about 65 ft. high above the
lowest point of the surrounding ground, which is a conspicuous object by the side of
New Road adjacent to the
county hall. On this stood
the keep of the later stone
castle and a stone well-chamber
is enclosed below the top of
the mound. The site has been
so obliterated by the building
of the county hall and gaol
and streets that it is almost
impossible to trace the course
of the ditch enclosing the
bailey with certainty, but its
lines may be fairly conjectured. (fn. 12)
On the south-west runs one
of the many branches of the
river which serves here as part
of the Oxford Canal, and this
may have formed the defence
of the castle at this point, the
broad ditch commencing on the
west of the mound and, encircling the court, joining the stream again on the
south. The ditch is now entirely filled up. From the conjectural plan thus laid
down it would appear that the original fortress consisted of a mound with a single
court on the south-east. The ditch was of unusual width, but was possibly
widened to increase the defence of the castle, which lies very low, at a later period.
Swerford.—Here is a most interesting little specimen of this type of
fortress. Indeed, one might almost be tempted to look upon it as a combination of the classes 'D' and 'E,' or to speak perhaps more accurately, of
the development of the latter from the former. It consists of one circular
court, the mean diameter of which is 150 ft., surrounded by a ditch, the level
of the court being 16 ft. above the bottom of the latter, which is 6 ft.
below the level of the surrounding ground. The court is, therefore, really
a mound itself, the summit of which is surrounded by a bank 4 ft. high.
On the north, however, where was apparently the entrance, is a smaller
mound, the diameter of which is 50 ft. north and south, and which is
tapered in shape to join the bank of the court on the east. It rises 8 ft. 6 ins.
above the surface of the court. If we look upon the main court as an
original mound this looks like a subsidiary one guarding the entrance. On
this side the natural ground slopes to a brook about 100 yards distant. On
the east are two detached raised platforms, beyond which the ground drops
rapidly to the road. The larger of these carries a small mound, 12 ft. in
diameter, the top of which is 6 ft. above the bottom of the fosse separating
it from the mound at the north of the main court. Its height on the
opposite side is 5 ft. 6 ins. above the platform, which owing to the natural
fall of the ground at this point is itself 5 ft. high. The church stands on
the edge of the ditch on the south, and the latter is rather shallower here,
but this may be due to a subsequent filling in. The gardens of the houses
on the west and the churchyard on the south have cut into the outer bank
of the fosse on these sides.
Simple moated enclosures
Ardley.—In Ardley Wood, hidden amid the thick growth, is an ovalshaped enclosure surrounded by a ditch, the average depth of which
is 3 ft., enclosing the site of Ardley Castle, now demolished.
Manor Farm, Barford St. Michael
Chalford hamlet in this parish
is a rectangular moat enclosing a building, known as
Barford St. Michael.
—A moat on three sides of
the Manor Farm. It would
appear to have formerly extended on the south side from
a made-up bank and a feeder
from the River Swere. (See
of water abutting the north
end of Caldwell Farm
buildings may represent the
remains of a moat.
Britwell Salome.—A straggling piece of water on the north of the
site of the church and castle (supposed) now both destroyed, may have
enclosed them in its complete form.
Broughton.—Complete moat surrounding the Castle.
Bucknell.—Remains of moat at Manor House.
Chalgrove.—Remains of an irregular ditch enclosing the ground in
front of Manor Farm.
Caswell House, Curbridge
strip of water on the north
side of Henton Manor Farm
represents the remains of a
Chislehampton.—Remains of irregular moat surrounding site of Camoise
Court, formerly a nunnery.
Clanfield.—Moat surrounding Friar's Court, on
the site of a monastery.
remains of moat at farmhouse on the site of St.
of moat at Prescote Manor.
an interesting series of three
moats at Caswell House in
this parish. The first is at
the house and consists of
four sides, having the appearance in the plan of a parallelogram opened out at the
north-east corner, in which
open space are the present
buildings which the moat
does not surround. At a
distance due south of
170 yds. is a second moat
consisting of three irregular
sides, also with the open
side to the north-east, and
on this side until recently
stood some buildings. Close
to the south of this is a
smaller and very regular
four-sided moat, called Black
Moat, with the entrance
over the northern side, and
now also devoid of buildings in the interior. From this a dry ditch leads on
the south to the Norton Ditch, a small stream which feeds the first and third of
the series. There is a well on the open side of the second. (See plan.)
Cuxham.—Slight remains of a moat at Manor Farm.
Filkins.—Three sides of rectangular moat at Moat Farm.
Fringford.—A very slight trace of a moat here at the Manor House,
where the name 'Moat
Gardens' also perpetuates
it. There are likewise remains of three sides of a
moat at Cotmore Farm in
Godington.—A rectangular moat with a short
continuation on the north
side towards the east and
completely enclosing the
house and out-houses with
entrance from the south.
piece of water on the
north of the site of Phillis
Court on the banks of the
Thames may be part of a
Holton.—A rectangular moat on the site of Holton House, now
Remains of a moat on the east side of Church Farm in this parish,
near the road at the north-east corner of the park.
Islip.—Remains of a rectangular moat on the supposed site of Ethelred's
Kirtlington.—In the centre of the village, in an enclosure between
the school and the park wall, is a moat somewhat in the shape of a triangle,
26 ft. across at the narrowest part at the
north angle and about four times that
width on the east, enclosing an area of
about 150 ft. diameter. It is marked
on the Ordnance Survey Map as the
supposed site of John of Gaunt's castle.
Lewknor.—A rectangular moat
completely surrounding the buildings
known as Moor Court, with entrance
from the east. (See plan.)
Newton Purcell.—Remains of
a moat on the east of the village on
the site of the house of the Purcells,
the buildings of which have been long destroyed.
Northmoor.—A complete rectangular moat with house and buildings
inside at Manor Farm.
A ditch fed from the River Windrush encompasses the whole block of
buildings and grounds known as Gaunt House in this parish.
Oddington.—A large irregular ditch west of Oddington Grange,
enclosing the site of a monastery.
Pyrton.—On the north of Golder Manor is a small rectangular moat
enclosing a space now destitute of buildings.
An irregular piece of water resembling a pool, but called 'The Moat,'
is on the east side of Pyrton Manor House.
Shirburn.—The castle is still perfect and stands in the centre of a moat,
rising straight from the water. It is reached by three bridges over the moat,
which on the north side is much broader, and is carried 50 yds. further
westward into the grounds.
Stanton Harcourt.—The Parsonage Farm is surrounded by a moat
on the three sides farthest from the village, at the north end of which it
stands. On those sides also the garden
is enclosed by a secondary moat beyond the one round the house, while
a ditch would appear to have formed
a third enclosure between these two
and the stream running on the west
of the house.
Stanton St. John.—A planted
enclosure called 'The Moat,' in a
field south-west of Studley Wood,
would appear to cover the remains
of a rectangular work.
Stratton Audley.—A plain
rectangular moat enclosing the site of
the castle now destroyed, with entrance from the north-west, remains in
a field called 'Court Close,' east of the church. The work lies on low ground
in the bend of a stream and about half a mile to the east of the Roman Way
from Alchester, which is supposed to explain the first part of the name of
this village. This situation is, perhaps, worth noting in view of the suggestion that these moated enclosures may mark the sites of more ancient works,
and also in this respect is the fact that its plan corresponds as regards its
relation to the compass points with those of the rectangular enclosures in
this county supposed to be ancient (see under class 'C'), its sides running
south-west to north-east and north-west to south-east. (See plan.)
Stratton Audley Castle
Thame.—Remains of moat at prebendal chapel.
Watlington.—A ditch on the south side of the site of the castle is
supposed to be the remains of its moat.
Weston-on-the-Green.—At the Manor House
are two sides of a rectangular moat of which the third
side can be traced, and which would enclose the space
in front of the house, the house standing on the open
High Lodge, Wychwood
Wychwood.—At High Lodge there is a small
moat enclosing the house and interesting from its
situation, which, before the disafforesting, was in the centre of Wychwood
Forest, and on the highest point of ground in the forest. It is a con
spicuous object now as it stands on the top of a high hill which rises from all
quarters, and which on the south ascends 200 ft. in three-quarters of a mile.
The altitude of the moat is 631 ft. above sea level. (See plan.)
Yelford.—Rectangular moat south-east of Manor Farm.
On the sites of Langley Palace, Beckley Palace, and Somerton Manor
House, in those parishes, are mounds which cover the remains of mediaeval
houses now destroyed. They do not appear to have been moated. In the
field in front of the rectory at Somerton are the banks of the fish-ponds.
Neither of these remains fall within either of the classes of the works dealt
with in this chapter, but it is, perhaps, necessary to notice them, as their
grass-grown mounds give them the appearance of being earthworks.
Moated enclosures with stronger defensive works
Bampton: The Castle.—A raised court, 500 ft. by 200 ft., bounded
on the east by the stream, to the north of the farm-house called Ham Court,
which is the gateway of the castle, now demolished, is all that represents this
work. On the west the ditch, which apparently enclosed a larger area,
southwards beyond the
court to the gate-house,
where it broadens to
almost twice its former
Barford St. John
Barford St. John.
—A moat about 7 ft.
deep and 56 ft. wide
runs on the north and
west of an area which
is roughly the shape of
an irregular pentagon,
and which is divided
into two courts by a
raised platform about
2 ft. high in the northwest corner. This probably marked the site
of the buildings, the
remainder of the area being an open court, round the north and east
edges of which is a slight bank. The moat on the south of the area
is now of very slight proportions, but the ground is very low, and the
standing water to the east is no doubt the remains of the defences which ran
along this side, and were continued between the banks which remain to the
west. These banks are 5 ft. high from the bottom of the ditch they form,
which is 38 ft. across. On the north of these the ground rises, and on the
slope is a small horse-shoe shaped work, evidently the site of an out-building.
The site encloses no buildings at the present time. (See plan.)
Lower Park Farm, Beckley
Beckley.—At Lower Park Farm, in this parish, is a double-moated
enclosure of a regular rectangular form, in which stands the farm-house. Of
the outer moat the north-west, south-west, and north-east sides remain, and
enclose an area 200 ft. square. The fourth side has probably been
destroyed by the farm buildings. In the centre of this are the remains of
two sides of a second ditch, the sides of which are
parallel to those of the outer. The two which
remain are the north-east and south-east, and they
appear to be the remains of an inner enclosure
100 ft. square. In view of the suggested ancient
origin of some of these moated enclosures, it is,
perhaps, worth while to draw attention to the fact
that the compass bearings of the sides of this work
correspond to those of the ancient rectangular earthworks of this county, and to those of Stratton Audley
Castle (q. v. under class 'F'), while its position in
regard to the Roman Way is the same relatively
as Stratton Audley. A Roman villa was situated
on the south-west between this site and the Way. (See plan.)
Cogges: Site of Castle.—On the banks of the River Windrush, in
this parish, is a double enclosure forming two courts, one to the south of the
other. The southern one is entirely surrounded by an irregular four-sided
moat, and the northern, which is of about equal area, has the river for its
western side and a ditch on the eastern.
On the northern side is a deep ditch with
a rampart on the inside springing from the
bank of the river and curving outwards.
The entrance was apparently at the northeast corner of this court. The rampart is
2 ft. 6 ins. above the surface of the court
and 8 ft. above the bottom of the ditch at
the western end near the river, and gradually
increases in height until at the eastern end
it is 6 ft. above the court and 12 ft. above
the ditch. The bottom of the ditch is 5 ft.
below the level of the outside ground.
The moat throughout is of an average
width of 17 ft. (See plan).
Radcot.—At Radcot Bridge, on the
Oxfordshire side of the Thames, is a
moated meadow, the enclosure being 400 ft.
by 500 ft. and resting on the bank of
one of the streams of which the river consists at this place. In form
it is more like those of class 'F,' but it does not appear to have been
constructed to surround or defend a homestead or buildings of any kind, and
as it is known as 'The Garrison,' it is probably of a military character,
although we are hardly justified in looking upon it as ancient. It was more
probably constructed at the time of one of the encounters of which this spot
was the scene in the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Moats and ramparts surrounding village sites
Nether Worton.—There are remains of a moat surrounding Nether
Worton House, and also of a continuation of it to the north beyond the
church, which is situated about 70 yds. to the north-east. Its course from
the house round the church can be easily traced, but its further line has
disappeared. It is most probable, however, that it included the Manor Farm,
at the garden of which it now ends. The three buildings thus named as
falling within the compass of the moat constitute the whole of the village.
A meadow to the east is called Mill Close, and was probably the site of the
mill which has been destroyed, and here there is a broad ditch which,
with the stream, would form a water enclosure within which the mill
very likely stood, and, if so, all the holdings of the village would be protected
Shelswell.—Two small fragments of a moat remain near the Home
Farm on the site of the Manor House, which from their direction may also
have encompassed the church, now destroyed, in which case the moat would
have included the whole holding.
Witney.—The Ordnance Survey Map marks the site of a 'Saxon
Rampart' along the edge of the hill which falls abruptly to the valley on the
west of the town. Such a work would appear from the map to have
encircled the town on the south and west sides. There would appear, however, to be now no remains of it, unless the broad ditch of about 5 ft.
deep on the south of the churchyard and vicarage grounds, and which is in
the line of the course laid down on the map, represents it. This may, however, be a boundary ditch of a later time. At the foot of the hill, and
running round this side of the town in a curve concentric with that marked
for the rampart, is 'Emma's Dyke,' an artificial watercourse 12 ft. wide, but
it would appear to have been constructed for drainage rather than for
Checkendon: Castle Grove, Wyfold Wood.—In Castle Grove, south
of Wyfold Court, there is a large earthwork, described on the Ordnance
Survey Map as a moat, and consisting of a ditch 9 ft. wide at bottom enclosed
by two banks, the inner rising 2 ft. 3 in. from the level of the area surrounded
by the ditch and 6 ft. from the bottom of the ditch, from which the outer
bank rises 4 ft. and is about one foot higher than the ground outside. The
ditch takes the shape of an irregular octagon, but the north side is open.
Here in the centre of what would have formed the eighth side is a small
pond, and the surrounding ground is marshy, and may have formed a natural
defence. The entrance appears to have been on the south-west. The surface
of the interior is level. The natural ground slopes away to the west, but is
level on all other sides. (fn. 13)
Stratton Audley.—On sloping ground, with higher ground above it,
on the west side of Oldfield's Copse and by the side of the road one and a half
miles north-east of the village of Stratton Audley are the remains of a small
circular earthwork. It consists of a bank enclosing a flat depression in the
ground of a diameter of 93 ft. On the western side where the ground is
highest this bank is only a few inches high on the outside, but it falls,
in a slope of 48 ft., 6 ft. 9 ins. to the bottom of the interior of the work.
The bank on the other sides is only about 1 ft. high. The entrance was
apparently on the north. It is commonly called a Roman camp, and the
Roman Way from Alchester passes at a distance of three-quarters of a mile to
the west, but it presents none of the features of a Roman work, and its
situation and small size render
it of very little value for defensive purposes. An old inhabitant of Stratton Audley
told me the banks had been
much lowered in his time, and
that rusty blades had been
found there. Locally it is
known as 'Stuttle's Bank.' It
has none of the characteristics
of an ancient earthwork, and
its present appearance suggests
a dried-up pond more than
anything, but tradition associates it with soldiers, and the
finding of the blades, which
were probably weapons of
some kind, supports the tradition, and it may have been
thrown up for temporary purposes by a small body of
Castle Grove, Wyfold Wood, Checkendon
Tadmarton.—In Tadmarton parish and threequarters of a mile due east of
Madmarston Camp is a line of
bank running west-south-west
and east-north-east for a length of 450 ft., and being 5 ft. in height. It is
grass-grown and planted with bushes. The ground to the south is ploughed,
but not that on the north. At each end the ground suggests that the bank
turned northwards, but there is now no trace of its continuation. A hedge runs
parallel to it on the north at a distance of 150 ft., separating the field in which it
stands from another which is under the plough, and in which there is now no
trace of any work. There is no trace of a ditch on either side of the bank.
Defensive earthworks now destroyed
Eynsham.—East of Eynsham Park in an arable field, at a spot 200 yds.
due west from the junction of the road from Eynsham village with Cuckoo
Lane at Tanner's Hill Clump, was a small earthwork which appeared on
the Ordnance Survey Maps before the last revision, from which it would
appear to have been oval in shape with the longer axis running north and
south 250 ft. in length and the shorter 225 ft., the western side being somewhat irregular.
Hook Norton.—Half a mile south-west of the circular camp on
Tadmarton Heath, and a quarter of a mile west of the cross-roads on
Wigginton Heath, and just inside the hedge of the second field from the road
near an old quarry, was a small earthwork now completely destroyed. It was
in shape an irregular pentagon, the dimensions of which are given in Beesley's
History of Banbury as follows: West side, 52 yds.; south, 69 yds.; east,
38 yds.; north-east, 39 yds.; north-west, 63 yds.; total circumference, 261 yds.
It was described as then (1841) reduced nearly to the level of the soil.
Excepting on the south he found traces of an outer vallum. Sufficient
remained for this work to be plotted by the Ordnance Survey in 1881,
but in the revised map of 1900 the site of the work is marked entirely by
Kiddington: Hill Wood.—Warton in his History of Kiddington (1782)
says that in this wood is a square Roman entrenchment with the ridge
and fosses in extraordinary preservation, and as yet undetected by any topographer. Hill Wood is a very thick plantation, the dense undergrowth of
which makes it extremely difficult to properly survey the ground. No
earthwork is marked here by the Ordnance Survey either in their 1834 or
1881 maps, and I have searched the wood and found nothing in the way of
banks and ditches but the boundary banks which mark the delimitations of
the different copses in all these woods. The wood covers the slope of a
steep hill which falls in a sharp descent towards the north-east, parallel to
the road to Oxford south of Over Kiddington, and is shown on the map of
the course of Grim's Ditch 'A,' which runs through an adjoining coppice
to the south-west, and if such a work exists it will probably be found in the
small portion of the wood on the top of the hill and to be of the character
of the miniature camps described under Cornbury Park and Spelsbury in
class 'C,' also on the course of the ditch.
Spelsbury.—The 1834 edition of the Ordnance Survey Map shows a
rather large rectangular camp on the west of Ditchley Park on the Grim's
Ditch, which appears to form its northern side, at the spot where stands the
Model Farm. There is now no trace of this, and it is not shown on the
Spelsbury: 'Castle Ditches.'—In 1842 Alfred Beesley, the author of
the History of Banbury, was informed that there was 'until lately' a camp at
Spelsbury. (fn. 14) Lewis (fn. 15) says:—'On an eminence near the village is an extensive
triangular entrenchment called Castle Ditches, enclosing a space of about
24 acres.' It would appear to have been recently destroyed when Beesley
received his information.
Stonesfield: Callow Hill.—On the main road from Charlbury to
Woodstock and 3½ miles from the former place is marked on the 1834
edition of the Ordnance Survey Map 'Callow Hill,' in the distinctive
lettering used for ancient sites, which does not appear on the later
maps. Warton in his History of Kiddington says that there was a small
Roman encampment here, and General Pitt-Rivers records that there was
a rectangular enclosure thickly strewn with Roman tiles and pottery. (fn. 16) I can
find no more exact description of the work. The site would appear to be
at the present north-east corner of King's Wood, and there is now no trace
of the enclosure unless it be represented by the modern hedge which encloses
a roughly rectangular space of about 500 ft. by 150 ft. with a quarry at the
eastern end. It is, however, doubtful whether the work was of a defensive
nature, and it is more probably the site of a Roman villa, of which there are
several other remains in the immediate neighbourhood.
Dykes, Banks, etc.
There are in Oxfordshire remains of two extensive lines of entrenchments known as Grim's Ditch. One is in the middle of the county and the
other in the extreme south. The former I call 'A' and the latter 'B.'
Grim's Ditch 'A'
Grim's Ditch 'A'
This is a bank and fosse which runs in a semi-circular course, commencing in the northern portion of Blenheim Park and passing through
some portion of the parishes (though not in any case touching the villages)
of Glympton, Kiddington, Enstone, and Spelsbury, and ending, so far as its
present remains have been found, on the east bank of the River Evenlode,
south of Charlbury town. Dr. Plot (fn. 17) in 1676 and Dr. Warton (fn. 18) in 1782
traced it, but it is difficult at points to follow the course as laid down by
them. The work exists at present in fragments, and first appears in
Blenheim Park in the form of a slight entrenchment at the place south of
the Ditchley Gate, where Akeman Street crosses the park. There is now no
trace of it as it leaves the park, but 650 yds. due north of the gate it
reappears in the further hedge of the field in which Woodley's Farm
buildings are situated. From here it runs in a northerly direction down
the hill, which falls 68 ft. in 500 yds., to Slape Bottom. It consists of a
ditch 38 ft. wide, with a bank along the western edge the top of which is
6 ft. 4 ins. from the bottom of the ditch and 2 ft. 9 ins. from the ground level.
The ditch is 4 ft. below the ground level on the eastern side (see section
A—B on map). At Slape Bottom it enters Hark Wood and ascends the
opposite hill amid the woods which clothe its side. Here it is not so
pronounced. About 80 yds. from the bottom of the hill a barrow
rises in its course, after which to the northern end of Hark Wood it exists
in the form of a bank 7 ft. 6 ins. from the bottom of the ditch, which is to
the east, and is 43 ft. wide and 3 ft. 6 ins. below the ground, which here
slopes to the east. All traces of it are lost at the end of Hark Wood, but
it begins again suddenly with a dead end due apparently to no natural feature
at a point in Berring's Wood 570 yds. north-west of its end in Hark Wood
and 130 yds. south-east of Tomlin's Gate. Here as before the ditch would
appear to still face eastward, and is of the same width as before, being
6 ft. 6 ins. below the ground on the west and 3 ft. 6 ins. on the east. From
the top of the western bank the ground slopes with a natural declivity to the
rear; in fact the ditch runs along the eastern side of a defile, shown on the
Ordnance Survey Map by the 400-ft. contour line, for about 540 yds., when
it turns westward, and after crossing an open field, where its dimensions have
been very much reduced, enters Out Wood, in the middle of which it
ceases. There is no further trace of it in the direction in which it was
pointing, but on the summit of the hill, 600 yds. north of Out Wood and
at an altitude of 449 ft., it re-appears in a small section in the field to the
west of Assarts Cottage. It runs due east and west, and has been practically
demolished by the plough, but appears as a small bank facing north. It is
to be seen again at the western end of the same field, and can be traced, still
in a very much reduced condition, across the Kiddington Drive of Ditchley
Park. In the park there are no traces of it until a quarter of a mile to the
west of the house near the Rosary, where it appears again with the ditch
40 ft. wide. It has here the local name of 'Love Walk,' and runs east and
west on the north of the road from Ditchley House to Model Farm, at one
of the western entrances to the park. At the farm it makes a curious sweep
to the north as if to skirt the buildings, and comes to an end on the road,
which is apparently an old trackway. There is no raised bank remaining
along its course at this place, but the southern bank of the ditch is 6 ft. high
from the bottom, while the northern is only 3 ft. 6 ins. The ground here
slopes naturally to the north. At this point the ditch would enter the
cultivated and open ground between Ditchley and Charlbury, and there is
no trace of it until it re-appears in a field called Baywell to the south of the
latter place, where it runs in the shape of a bank 4 ft. high with the remains
of the ditch on the north along the northern side of a natural gulley, and
comes to an end above the railway and the River Evenlode, pointing straight
for one of the rectangular earthworks in Cornbury Park on the other side of
the narrow valley. This is the last appearance of it so far as it can now be
traced, but Dr. Plot asserts that he was told that it could be found in the
woods beyond Cornbury Park pointing for Ramsden. In this case it would
probably again join the Akeman Street, which runs through that parish, and
from which it started in Blenheim Park five miles eastward. The Roman
road, if this were so, would form a base upon which Grim's Ditch, as
sketched above, would form a semi-circular arc to the north, its centre being
at Stonesfield, near which village important remains of Roman villas have
The remains of two other pieces of entrenchment must be mentioned
as apparently forming part of the scheme of Grim's Ditch. The first is a
trench which commences at Starveall Farm, and, crossing the Charlbury to
Woodstock Road, runs due north down the hill to Pool Bottom, parallel to
but about half a mile to the west or in the rear of the section of Grim's
Ditch between Woodley's Farm and Slape Bottom. This ditch, which is
on ploughed land and is being rapidly reduced, is now 70 ft. from bank to
bank, the westward being 3 ft. high and the eastern half that height.
The second of the remains is of a short line of entrenchment which formerly ran east and west at 100 yds. north of Shilcott Wood above Ditchley
New Park and parallel with that section of Grim's Ditch from Ditchley Park
to the Model Farm. It has disappeared in the fields, but can still be traced
where it crosses the old trackway which runs down the west side of the park
and which at this spot is a grass-grown lane. This entrenchment would
be in front of the Grim's Ditch assuming that the latter faced outwards, as the
different heights of its bank would appear to justify us in looking upon it
In 1868 General Pitt-Rivers examined the ditch and the ground
encompassed by it, and came to the conclusion which he stated as
follows:— (fn. 19)
I have only to add, from personal inspection of it, that it is not merely a boundary,
but without doubt a fortification, for its commanding position, its adaptation to the features
of the ground, and the situation of its ditch, are points which, viewed tactically, are sufficient
to determine it to be a work of defence. Throughout its whole line it so much resembles
other dykes which I have examined in Yorkshire and elsewhere . . . that if I were to be
guided by its trace alone I should be inclined to class it with those dykes and to attribute it
to the same origin, but other considerations are favourable to its being a Roman earthwork.
These considerations are: firstly, that it covers a portion of the Akeman Street, which runs
across the country in a north-easterly direction, passing along the rear of this work in such
a manner as to be defended by it from a northerly attack; and secondly between Akeman
Street and the Dyke, and within the area defended by the Dyke, there are traces of several
Roman villas and other Roman remains. . . . These circumstances favour the supposition
that the Dyke may have been thrown up by the Romans to defend a Roman settlement
established in this place in connexion with the great road and to secure the communication
of the inhabitants with the road.
Against this assumption of a Roman origin must be set the evidence of
Mr. F. Haverfield, who in a communication on his examination of the
Akeman Street in Blenheim Park in 1898, (fn. 20) points out that so far as could be
judged the road ran over the ditch and cut through the entrenchment (which
is taken to be the commencement of Grim's Ditch), and if this be so the
entrenchment at that point, at all events, would appear to be pre-Roman.
Grim's Ditch 'B'
The second dyke bearing this name in this county appears to have run
from the River Thames opposite Wallingford in a south-easterly direction
across the Chilterns to the same river at Henley-on-Thames, the distance
between the two points being ten miles. The name Grim's Ditch applied to
this work appears in a charter of or before the reign of Richard I. Commencing on the west the ditch appears to have run from the river bank
three-quarters of a mile below Wallingford Bridge, along the north side of
the grounds of Mongewell House to the road from Crowmarsh Gifford,
where it reaches higher ground. It then runs east-by-south in a straight
line for 3 miles to Nuffield, and this section is the most perfect of its whole
course. From the lodge of Mongewell House to the edge of Foxberry Wood,
where it crosses
the Icknield Way,
about a mile and
a quarter, it exists
in the shape of
a grass-grown bank
5 ft. 9 ins. in height,
with a flat top 4 ft.
wide which appears
to be used as a footpath. It runs here
across high ground
which slopes gradually north and
south, though more
so to the latter, and
as the land is arable
it forms a conspicuous object seen
for some distance
when the ground is
clear of crops. In
Foxberry Wood and
Oaken Copse the
bank had been reduced, and outside
the latter to the
east it disappears altogether for about
200 yds. in the
course of a modern hedge. Then
it re-appears in the
shape of a ditch and
enters the belt of
trees leading into
Woods, and here the
bank appears again
on the north side of
the ditch. As it
descends into Morrell's Bottom and
the wooded enclosure north of
the bank rises 6 ft.
from the ground
level on the north and falls 8 ft. 6 ins. into the ditch, which is 7 ft. below
the ground level on the south and is 45 ft. wide from bank to bank. Inside
the enclosure the bank disappears and the work continues in the shape of a
ditch only: at first, near Woodlands Farm, with the sides of equal height, but
nearer Nuffield the northern side is 9 ft. 6 ins. above the bottom of the ditch,
and the southern 4 ft. 6 ins. It is here pointing straight for Timber's Barn, but
about 6 yds. inside the field in which the barn stands it comes to an end, to
re-appear again in the form of a ditch on the northern side of a rectangular
wooded enclosure called Heycroft Shaw, at the south corner of Nuffield
Common and half a mile due east of its end near Timber's Barn. It did not,
however, apparently go straight across this interval, for a bank about 270 yds.
to the south would suggest that the Ditch made a dip to this point and then
turned north-east to its present trace at the corner of Nuffield Common.
Continuing from the latter point a bank running south-east carries it to
Hayden Farm. The remainder of its course to Henley exists only in
fragments, and from these it appears to have been of a rather tortuous
character. It is a significant fact that down to Lambridge Wood, where the
last remaining section of it is to be found, the fragments of it are all on the
line of the southern parish boundary of Nettlebed and the western and
southern boundaries of Bix. It is not an unreasonable suggestion that these
parish boundaries were laid along the Ditch, and that in those parts where it
has disappeared the boundaries mark its course. It is upon this that the conjectured line of its course has been laid down on the map herewith. Often
these dykes became used as footways and obtained in places the local names
of lanes. In the Grim's Ditch 'A' a footpath runs down it from near
Woodley's Farm to Slape Bottom, and near Ditchley Park a section of it
retains the name of 'Love Walk.' A continuation of a fragment of the
Ditch under present consideration which appears at the north of Swan Wood
is a lane called 'Deadman's Lane,' while a portion of the southern boundary
of Bix, in one of the gaps of the remaining course of the ditch, but leading
straight to the one in the woods above Greys Court, runs along a lane called
'Rocky Lane.' In these lanes we may possibly see further evidence of the
course of the Ditch, and if so they support the suggestion that it was used
in the demarkation of the parish boundaries.
Grim's Ditch 'B'
Reverting to the remaining traces after Hayden Farm in the parish of
Nuffield, a footpath along a hedge planted with trees and sweeping in a curve
first south and then south-east would appear to be its course. The boundary
of the Nettlebed parish joins this and runs along it, and upon it at the
northern edge of Swan Wood there is a trace of the Grim's Ditch in a bank
from which runs the lane called 'Deadman's Lane.' The present boundary
leaves this to make a straight turn to the north-east for 120 yds., and then at
right angles again back to the lane, and the latter would appear to have been
the more probable continuation of the Ditch, which re-appears at the point
where the boundary rejoins the lane and runs due south, skirting the western
edge of Highmoor Common Wood, for 700 yds. and then turns, still carrying
the parish boundary, due east for 300 yds., where it ceases. In Highmoor
Common Wood, at the point where Grim's Ditch re-appears on the north,
there is a trench running to the east through the wood, known as Highmoor
Trench, which can hardly, however, have been part of the course of the
Ditch. After leaving the remains of the Ditch at the south of Highmoor
Common Wood the parish boundary continues eastward to a plantation
called Broom Pightles and then southwards to 'Rocky Lane' and eastward
along it into the woods north of Greys, in which slight remains of the ditch
have been traced on its course, and then up to the north-west corner of
Lambridge Wood. There the Ditch re-appears, but leaves the boundary and
in the form of a ditch makes a sweep to the south-east for about half a mile,
and then comes to an end, pointing straight for Henley town. This is the
last trace of the Ditch.
Ash Bank, Wattle Bank, or Avesditch
This was an entrenchment running north and south on high ground to
the east of the River Cherwell and about two miles from it, for a distance of
about six miles, from just below Souldern on the north to near Kirtlington
on the south. Very few traces of it now remain, and these do not suggest
that its dimensions equalled those of the Grim's Ditches. Its line, commencing at the north, appears to have been along the road from Inkerman Farm,
south of Souldern village, to Fritwell, through that village and along the course
of the lane called Raghouse Lane, by Kennel Copse and Ballard's Copse (the
ancient name of which was Chilgrove), to the Heath in the parish of
Middleton Stoney. Of its course so far, which was almost due south in
direction, only a very few slight traces now remain. At the Heath it turned
south-south-west and can still be distinctly traced along the whole length of the
large meadow to the west of Middleton Park. Here it is now a ditch 27 ft.
wide, with the eastern bank 4 ft. 9 ins. from the bottom and the western bank
3 ft. 6 ins. The length of this traceable section is a mile and a quarter, and on
the western side runs a cart-road which at the south-west corner of the field
takes the form of one of the old enclosed trackways which no doubt it was
originally throughout. The ditch, however, disappears at this point, but threequarters of a mile further on and a mile north of Kirtlington the trackway
joins the Portway, and here the ditch re-appears and crossing the road maintains the same compass bearing that it had before, and is to be traced for
630 yds. in the fields, when it ends abruptly in the middle of the second
field, pointing straight for the spot where the Akeman Street crossed the
Cherwell. These fields are ploughed and the ditch is being rapidly filled in
by the operation, but the bank facing north-west is still distinct and has a
height of 18 ins. above the ground at its foot. The Portway, generally
called a Roman road, which the ditch crosses above Kirtlington, runs between
it and the Cherwell, and appears from its direction as though it may also have
joined its northern end near Souldern.
Local Dykes, Banks, etc.
In addition to the three entrenchments described above, which cover
several miles of country, there are four smaller ones, which are distinctly local
North Leigh.—In this parish in the fields half a mile south-west of the
village and commencing in the second field from the junction of the road from
the village with that from Witney on the opposite side of the road to Eynsham
Park, is a line of entrenchment running east and west for 650 yds. down the
side of a hill sloping westwards. It consists of a slight bank with a ditch on
the south 5 ft. 3 ins. below the top of the bank and 18 ins. below the level of
the ground beyond.
Bicester: Gravenhill.—At the eastern extremity of the wooded hill
which rises so conspicuously from the level country to the south of Bicester,
and which is half a mile due east of Alchester, there is a line of entrenchment
which follows the top of the hill for 200 yds., along its northern face and then
turns along its south-eastern edge for 380 yds., making an acute angle at its
eastern point. Along the northern face it would appear as though the
natural fall of the ground had merely been emphasised by scarping. On the
south-eastern face the work consists of a ditch 2 ft. 3 ins. deep from the higher
bank above and rising 15 ins. in front. The entrenchment would appear to
be a local and temporary one to meet an attack from the east, from which
direction Akeman Street approaches it, rather than a general fortification of
the hill top.
Swyncombe: The Downs.—Along the top of the northern face of the
bold spur of the Chilterns called Swyncombe Downs runs an entrenchment
commanding the Icknield Way, which approaches the base of the hill from
the north-east, and the large expanse of plain from which the hill rises steeply
some 300 ft. It consists of a trench 4 ft. deep and 35 ft. wide. It commences near the highest point of the hill on the east, and running due west
along its northern edge turns north-west and descends the slope to within
130 yds. of where the Icknield Way crosses its base. Its total length is one
mile, and from the point where it turns north-west to descend the hill towards
the road there appear to have been two slighter lines running to the rear of
it to the west and south-east, as though to protect this narrow part of the hill
nearest the Way from being taken in the rear.
Witney.—In a field on the south side of the road from Witney to Burford
between the first milestone from Witney and the road to Crawley, is a low
bank just within the hedge of the field and running parallel to it for nearly
its entire length and then turning to the south-west. It has the appearance
of being a boundary bank.
Tumuli, Barrows, etc.
Lyneham.—About 350 yds. south-east of Lyneham Camp on the south
of the hill and commanding extensive views on all sides but the north. The
major axis runs north-north-east to south-south-west, and appears to have been
184 ft. long and 44 ft. wide at the broadest part, but the reduced state of the
northern end, about a third of the whole, makes it difficult to give an exact
estimate of its original dimensions. The wall of the field runs across the top
of the barrow about 80 ft. from its northern end, and beneath the wall there
is a shallow depression which would appear to suggest that the barrow had
previously been opened at this spot. The portion to the north of this wall
is being rapidly demolished by the plough. The portion south of the wall is
grass-grown and well preserved, the highest point being 7 ft. from the ground
level. On the top of the barrow, 40 ft. from the northern end, stands a
monolith, the height of which above the reduced surface of the barrow is
5 ft. 9 ins. It is 5 ft. 10 ins. wide and 18 ins. thick.
The barrow was opened under the direction of Mr. Edward Conder in
1894, and he contributed a paper giving an account of the excavations and
finds to the Society of Antiquaries, (fn. 21) accompanied by a plan and sections of the
barrow. It was found to be constructed of the rubble stone of the district.
Several trenches were sunk and the finds consisted of a long cist on the level
of outside ground, under the floor of which were a certain amount of animal
charcoal, a few fragments of bone, a tooth, some fragments of lightly baked
dark-coloured pottery, one piece of which was marked with white lines; a
second and smaller cist slightly above the ground level with a perforated floor
stone; above this and about 9 ins. below the surface of the barrow fragments
of a human skull and a portion of the humerus; a complete human skeleton
lying north-east to south-west, apparently a later interment, a javelin 9¼ ins.
long characteristic of the Saxon period and a knife 8¼ ins. long close to the
right of the skeleton; a skeleton lying full-length nearly north and south
with a small knife 57/8 ins. long; calcined stones; fragmentary remains of a
third skeleton close to the surface lying on the left side in an L-shaped trench,
head to north and feet to east; a large monolith 4 ft. 6 ins. by 3 ft. and 11 ins.
thick in a horizontal position at the north-west end and 2 ft. below the surface, lying east and west, at which latter end it touched a line of carefully
laid roughly quarried stones; a skull on the ground level resting on two flints
with a third flint in close proximity; a quantity of human bones and the fragments of at least four skulls on ground level and all heaped together; remains of
small knife and umbo of Saxon shield; four pieces of iron which pieced
together measured 20 ins. long, 2 ft. below surface; skull and remains of the
ulna of a child, horse's teeth and signs of fire slightly below ground level; in
a dug-out hole 9 ins. below ground level some small flints, fragments of human
bones, pieces of wood charcoal and traces of burning. The total height of
the standing monolith proved on excavation to be 10 ft. 6 ins. The opinion
of the meeting was that the primary burial had not been found, and it was
suggested that it may have been at the spot where the wall crosses the barrow
and where the depression of its surface suggests a previous opening.
Wychwood Forest.—In Slatepits Copse is a long chambered barrow,
at a point 160 yds. south of the road leading through from west to east and
67 yds. on the east of the road from north to south. It is not marked on
the Ordnance Survey Map. It lies on ground sloping to the south, its long
axis running east-south-east to north-west-north, and is broader and higher at
the eastern end, where the remains of a small stone chamber have been
exposed. The length is 100 ft., and the width at the broadest end 56 ft.,
and at the narrow end 44 ft. The height at the eastern end is 5 ft. 6 ins.
above the ground level on the north and 6 ft. on the south, where the ground
is naturally lower owing to the fall of the hill. The chamber is a little to
the north of the centre line, and 20 ft. from the eastern extremity. There
are three stones exposed, two parallel with the length of the barrow, the
exposed portion of the larger on the south being 5 ft. 6 ins. above the ground
and 6 ft. wide; and the smaller, which is 5 ft. to the north of this, 2 ft. above
the ground, and 1 ft. 6 ins. wide. These formed the parallel walls of the
opening, and the third is across the rear of them and slanting forward, the
exposed portion measuring 4 ft. in height and 5 ft. in width. At the western
end the height of the barrow is 2 ft. 6 ins. above the ground on the north,
and 5 ft. 6 ins. on the south. It has been disturbed. Akerman, (fn. 22) who is, so
far as I find, the only writer who has noticed this, apparently overlooked,
example of a chambered barrow in this county, says it was plundered a few
years before he wrote by a keeper. One of the present keepers told me
they had dug into it for rabbits and had found nothing.
Adwell.—On the summit of Adwell Cop, well preserved, 350 ft.
circumference, 12 ft. high.
Asthall.—On the south of the road from Burford to Witney at the
point where the road from Asthall joins it, planted and well preserved except
that its shape has been somewhat spoilt by a wall which has been built round
its slope to a height of 4 ft. 6 ins., 190 ft. circumference, 8 ft. 6 ins. high.
In a field on Leigh Hale Plain in Asthall parish, west of Stockley Copse,
215 ft. circumference, 5 ft. high.
Badgemore.—'The Mount' in Henley Park.
Black Bourton.—About half a mile south of the village on the west
of the Faringdon road, now partially destroyed by the plough.
Chadlington.—Near Jubilee Plantation, in ploughed field, almost
South-west of Old Downs Farm, almost destroyed.
Chinnor.—On the summit of Chinnor Hill, a northern spur of the
Chilterns 800 ft. in altitude, and rising 300 ft. from the Icknield Way
which runs at its northern base, a pair of twin barrows enclosed in one ditch,
200 ft. circumference and 6 ft. high respectively.
Another on hill summit in Chinnor Wood, 175 ft. circumference and
4 ft. high.
Churchill.—On the south side of Borsbery Lane, planted with trees
and surrounded by a wall and in good preservation, 200 ft. circumference and
9 ft. high.
'The Mount,' on high ground on the south of the village, surrounded
by a ditch 3 ft. below the ground level, in admirable preservation, grassgrown and planted, 260 ft. circumference, 12 ft. 6 ins. from the ditch in
Cornbury Park.—There are two barrows in Cornbury Park close to
the small earthworks described in class 'C.' The northern one is 100 ft.
circumference, 1 ft. 6 ins. high; the southern 200 ft. and 6 ft., with a very
old oak growing from the top. The northern appears to have been opened.
Crawley.—There were five barrows in the fields bounded by Riding
Lane on the west, Pay Lane on the east, and Akeman Street on the south.
One near Chasewood Farm had disappeared when the Ordnance Survey map
was revised in 1898. Two of the other four have since been destroyed, the
remaining pair being close to the hedge on the south of Blindwell Wood.
One on the south of the hedge is on ploughed land and is being rapidly
reduced. The other on the north side of the hedge is planted, and although
better preserved has evidently been mutilated. It is 115 ft. circumference
and 5 ft. high.
Enstone.—In ploughed field on bridle road from Lidstone to Spelsbury
Down Farm, almost destroyed.
Mound in Ditchley Park near Kiddington Drive in Enstone parish,
surrounded by a ditch 4 ft. 6 ins. deep, 343 ft. circumference, 9 ft. high from
bottom of ditch.
Glympton.—In Hark Wood and on the Grim's Ditch, 160 ft. circumference, 6 ft. high.
Kiddington.—In the field north of Wood Farm, grass-grown, planted
and well preserved, 230 ft. circumference and 6 ft. high.
In King's Wood Brake, 165 ft. circumference, 5 ft. 6 ins. high.
Langley.—Two small barrows east of Hen's Grove. The southern of
the pair has been opened by a trench to its base and is left in that condition.
It is constructed of rubble stone, which appears to extend 1 ft. below the
ground level at the centre, 175 ft. circumference, 4 ft. high. The other
has been almost levelled by the plough.
Leafield.—On high ground to the north of the village and commanding an extensive view in all directions, grass-grown, planted and well preserved,
320 ft. circumference, 11 ft. 6 ins. high on west and 8 ft. on east. It has the
appearance of having been opened.
Lew.—On summit of a hill on west of village, planted and well
preserved, 350 ft. circumference, 9 ft. high.
Mixbury.—On Barrow Hill, which is only a slight rise in a field on
the west of the village, and on which the barrow was constructed. Much
reduced by the plough. Situated close to a hedge on the other side of
which the Ordnance Survey marks the discovery of human remains.
Over Norton.—Mound on the summit of the hill in Over Norton
Park, 161 ft. circumference, 3 ft. 6 ins. high.
Over Worton.—On the hill on which the church stands and just
outside the north wall of the churchyard is a mound 198 ft. circumference
and 9 ft. high, planted, and having the characteristics of the other round
barrows of this district. A report in the parish says that it covers a heap of
rubbish piled there at the restoration of the church in 1844, but the present
rector (Rev. W. H. Langhorne) tells me that an old inhabitant says that he
remembers the mound there before the restoration. On the other side of the
valley is Ilbury Camp, a conspicuous object from the spot where the mound
Ramsden.—To the south of Wychwood Forest on the farm road to
Brize's Lodge, on ploughed land, nearly destroyed.
Sarsden.—On south of road from Churchill opposite Nursery Plantation,
called 'Squire's Clump,' planted and surrounded by a wall and ditch and in
good preservation, 225 ft. circumference, 13 ft. high from the ditch which
is 3 ft. deep.
Another partly within Skew Plantation and partly in ploughed field,
very much reduced.
Shipton-under-Wychwood.—In a plantation on Shipton Down,
200 yds. west of the spot where the road from Charlbury crosses that from
Shipton to Burford, is a round barrow admirably preserved and which differs
from any other specimen in this county in being partially surrounded by a
rectangular earthwork. The mound is 280 ft. circumference, 10 ft. 6 ins. high.
It stands on the open side of a rectangular area, the other three sides, the
north-west, south-west, and south-east, being enclosed by a small bank 3 ft.
high, the first-named of which is 50 ft. from the barrow and the other two
100 ft. The ground is level and there would appear to be slight traces of a
very shallow ditch on the inside of the bank.
Spelsbury.—Two in a ploughed field east of Spelsbury Down Farm,
Stoke Lyne.—On the south of the road from Tusmore to Souldern,
planted and well preserved, 191 ft. circumference, 5 ft. high.
Swalcliffe.—On rising ground beyond the stream, a quarter of a mile
due south of Madmarston Camp, is 'Rowbarrow.' It was opened about
1854, and bones, burnt wood, and sand found, but appeared to have been
previously opened. It was then described as 100 ft. circumference and 12 or
14 ft. high, (fn. 23) but is now practically destroyed.
Swinbrook.—In ploughed field north of Southlawn Cottages, partially
Another west of Pain's Farm, planted and well preserved, 200 ft. circumference, 8 ft. high.
Tadmarton.—A pair of barrows on Heath, 360 yds. north-west of camp.
Wootton.—About half a mile south of Glympton on the west of the
road to Wootton, on the top of a hill, is a mound called the 'Copping Knoll,'
175 ft. in circumference, 3 ft. high.
Wychwood.—On the hill on which the moated enclosure High Lodge
stands, about 300 yds. to the north-west of the Lodge, are two small barrows,
on ploughed land and partially destroyed, the western one being almost
Another just inside the forest wall and 60 yds. south of Waterman's
Lodge, 200 ft. circumference, and 11 ft. high from the lowest part of the
ground, which slopes away here to the east.
Crawley.—In the corner of the field next to Maggott's Grove, on the
top of the hill south of Crawley Bridge, was an elongated barrow, which
when measured by Akerman about 1858, (fn. 24) when nearly half had already been
removed, was 107 ft. by 83 ft. Since then the demolition has been practically
completed, but its site is still to be traced on the high ground in the southwest corner of the field next to the plantation. It had been opened for
stone, was again opened by Akerman, and again in 1864 by Dr. Thurnam
and Professor Rolleston. (fn. 25) It was found to be full of skeletons, ranging west
and east with feet to the latter, the skulls being very brachycephalous. Two
bronze buckles and one of iron and a small bone camula were found and
some shards of Romano-British pottery. Dr. Thurnam agreed with
Akerman that the barrow was of the Romano-British period and belonged
to a class of elongated grave mounds which might be taken for a primeval
long barrow, from which, however, it differed in not varying in width and
height. They are sometimes met with outside camps occupied by the
Other destroyed barrows
In addition to those barrows referred to above as being destroyed there
are records of others which formerly existed.
Warton in his History of Kiddington (1782) says that there were perishing
fragments of a few barrows on Shotover Hill, and Parker (Early History of
Oxford) says that many mounds were formerly visible on Bullingdon Green,
from one of which was produced early pottery, human bones, and burnt
Beesley in the History of Banbury (1841) mentions a barrow called
'Round Hill' on the north side of the lane leading from Bloxham to Milton,
72 ft. in length and 12 ft. high. A note in his MS. additions states that this
was partially destroyed in 1867 and a skull found. He also mentions a single
barrow and a pair of twin barrows on the crest of the hill on the road leading
down to Brailes. They were nearly levelled at that time. In his additions
he notes the destruction of a pair of twin barrows at Berryfields Farm, Great
Rollright, in 1842, previously to which it was opened by him, and bones,
ashes, and white sand were found. He also records the destruction in the
same year of a barrow called 'Round Hill' on Portmeadow, Oxford. It
had been previously opened.
In Fritwell parish, but to the south of Souldern Village and near the
courses of the Portway and the Avesditch, stood a barrow called 'Ploughley
Hill,' which Beesley (1841) records as then recently destroyed.
The name 'Lowbarrow House' of a house, three-quarters of a mile south
of Leafield, suggests the existence at one time of a barrow at this spot.
Mr. Conder, in the paper to the Society of Antiquaries on Lyneham
Barrow in 1895, records that he observed to the north of the barrow five
or six low circular mounds which he thought might be the remains of
Defensive Earthworks, Dykes and Banks, Tumuli and Barrows, &c.
The points of the compass are given approximately, but will be found sufficient to indicate the
position of the parish. Distances are to the church or centre of the village or town.
'Des.' signifies the former existence of a work now destroyed. T = Tumuli and Barrows.
|Adwell, 1¾ m. SE. Tetsworth||T|
|Alchester, see Wendlebury|
|Ardley, 4 m. NW. Bicester||F|
|Ascot-under-Wychwood, 3 m.
|Ash Bank, &c., Souldern to
|Asthall, 3 m. E. Burford||T (2)|
|Aston Rowant, 4 m. NE.
|Avesditch, see Ash Bank|
|Badgemore, ¾ m. N. Henley.||T|
|Bampton, 16 m. SW. Oxford||G|
|Barford St. John, 2½ m. W.
|Barford St. Michael 2½ m. W.
|Beaumont Castle, see Mixbury|
|Beckley, 4½ m. NE. Oxford.||G|
|Bicester, 12 m. NE. Oxford.||X|
|Black Bourton, 1 m. NW.
|Bladon, 2 m. S. Woodstock||B|
|Brightwell, 3 m. NW. Watlington||F|
|Britwell Salome, 1 m. SW.
|Broughton, 3 m. SW. Banbury||F|
|Bucknell, 2½ m. NW. Bicester||F|
|Chadlington, 3½ m. SE. Chipping Norton||C, T (2)|
|Chalgrove, 4 m. NW. Watlington||F|
|Chastleton, 5 m. WNW. Chipping Norton||B|
|Checkendon, 6 m. W. Henley||X|
|Chinnor, 3½ m. NE. Watlington||F, T (3)|
|Chipping Norton, 18 m. NW.
|Chislehampton, 7 m. SE. Oxford||F|
|Churchill, 3 m. SW. Chipping Norton||T (2)|
|Clanfield, 2 m. W. Bampton||F|
|Clattercote, 6 m. N. Banbury||F|
|Cogges, 1 m. SE. Witney||G|
|Cornbury Park, Charlbury||C (3), T (2)|
|Crawley, 2 m. NW. Witney||T (3)|
|Cropredy, 4 m. N. Banbury||F|
|Curbridge, 2¼ m. SW. Witney||F (3)|
|Cuxham, 1½ m. NW. Watlington||F|
|Deddington, 6 m. S. Banbury||B, E|
|Enstone, 4 m. SE. Chipping
|Eynsham, 6 m. NW. Oxford||Des., B|
|Filkins, 5 m. SW. Burford||F|
|Fringford, 4 m. NE. Bicester||F (2)|
|Glympton, 4 m. NW. Woodstock||T|
|Godington, 5½ m. NE. Bicester||F|
|Grim's Ditch (A), Charlbury to
|Grim's Ditch (B), Wallingford
|Holton, 6 m. E. Oxford||F (2)|
|Hook Norton, 4½ m. NE.
|Idbury, 5½ m. NW. Burford.||B|
|Islip, 5 m. NE. Oxford||F|
|Kiddington, 4 m. NW. Woodstock||Des., T (2)|
|Kirtlington, 5 m. NE. Woodstock||F|
|Knollbury, see Chadlington|
|Langley, 5 m. NE. Burford||T (2)|
|Leafield, 4½ m. NW. Witney||T|
|Lew, 3½ m. SW. Witney||T|
|Lewknor, 3½ m. SE. Tetsworth||F|
|Lyneham, 6 m. NE. Burford.||B, T|
|Madmarston, see Swalcliffe|
|Middleton Stoney, 3 m. W.
|Mixbury, 8 m. N. Bicester||E, T|
|Nether Worton, 3 m. SW.
|Newton Purcell, 5½ m. NE.
|North Leigh, 3¼ m. NE. Witney||X|
|Northmoor, 6 m. SW. Oxford||F (2)|
|North Newington, 2½ m. SW.
|Oddington, 5 m. SW. Bicester||F|
|Over Norton, Chipping Norton||T|
|Over Worton, 4 m. SW. Deddington||T|
|Piddington, 4½ m. SE. Bicester||C|
|Pyrton, ¾ m. N. Watlington||F (2)|
|Radcot, 3 m. SW. Bampton.||G|
|Ramsden, 3½ m. N. Witney||T|
|Sarsden, 3 m. SW. Chipping
|Shelswell, 6 m. NE. Bicester.||H|
4 m. NE. Burford||T|
|Shirburn, 4 m. S. Tetsworth||F|
|Spelsbury, 2 m. N. Charlbury||C, des. (2), T (2)|
|Stanton Harcourt, 4½ m. SE.
|Stanton St. John, 4½ m. NE.
|Stoke Lyne, 4 m. NW. Bicester||T|
|Stonesfield, 4 m. W. Woodstock||Des.|
|Stratton Audley, 3 m. NE.
|Swalcliffe, 6 m. W. Banbury.||B, T|
|Swerford, 4½ m. NE. Chipping
|Swinbrook, 2 m. E. Burford||T (2)|
|Swyncombe, 5 m. E. Wallingford.||X|
|Tadmarton, 5 m. W. Banbury||B, X|
|Thame, 13 m. E. Oxford||F|
|Watlington, 15 m. SE. Oxford||F|
|Wattlebank, see Ash Bank
Wendlebury, 2¼ m. SW. Bicester||C|
|Weston-on-the-Green, 4 m.
|Witney, 11 m. W. Oxford||H, X|
|Wootton, 2½ m. N. Woodstock||T|
|Wychwood, 5 m. NE. Burford||F, T (4)|
|Yelford, 3¼ m. S. Witney||F|