Category: Berkshire Hillforts

The Hillforts of Berkshire

The hillforts of Berkshire have dwindled in number over the years – not through agricultural erosion or quarrying, but through a series of boundary changes. Where in 1962 Mrs. Margaret Alwyn Cotton recorded some twenty-one hillforts (Cotton, 1962), today they only number seven. Four of them (Borough Hill Camp, Bussock Camp, Grimsbury Castle and Perborough Castle) are in a relatively tight cluster, with Membury Camp and Walbury Camp as near satellites. Membury Camp is only clinging on by its fingernails however, as the Berkshire/Wiltshire border snags around a quarter of its area, making it more out than in. Caesar’s Camp is the farthest flung of the group, at 22 miles from its nearest neighbour.

Caesar’s Camp is not only the most distinctively shaped of Berkshire’s hillforts, but it has to be one of the most distinctively shaped hillforts in the country. Hogg described it as a ‘curious oak leaf plan’ (Hogg,1975), a characterisation which is difficult to top. Perborough Castle, back over to the west of Berkshire, has unfortunately suffered from agricultural erosion over the decades (as well as probable destruction by fire during the Iron Age) but is survived by a truly eye-catching contemporary field system which has been partially protected by woodlands.

Borough Hill Camp is a lesser known hillfort for two reasons – one of which is its diminutive size (a little over half an acre, or .25 of a hectare), and the other is because no-one has managed to decide whether it ever existed. Where-as it seemed to be something of a certainty in the 20th century, by the 1960s it had been demoted to ‘unlikely’. Though it is mainly included here for the sake of completeness, I also can’t bear the thought of being partially responsible for it slipping from the record should the demotion turn out to be unjustified. As with so many hillfort sites, only excavation is likely to reveal any further data.

At the other end of the scale, Walbury Camp, which has no identity problems, comes in at a whopping 82 acres (32 hectares), and like Perborough Castle is associated with an extensive prehistoric field system.

If you’re using the Digital Hillfort Map to plan trips to hillforts that have caught your attention, please be aware that some of them are on private property and require permission from the landowner to visit.