Liddington Castle

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Liddington Castle
Aerial photograph of Liddington Castle
Liddington Castle is located in Wiltshire
Liddington Castle
Liddington Castle
Liddington Castle shown within Wiltshire
Alternative nameLiddington Camp
Coordinates51°30′57″N 1°42′01″W / 51.51584°N 1.70020°W / 51.51584; -1.70020
OS grid referenceSU209797
Altitude277 m (909 ft)
Part ofThe Ridgeway
Area3 hectares (7.4 acres)
Founded7th Century BC
PeriodsLate Bronze Age and Iron Age
Site notes
Excavation dates1976
Public accessyes
DesignationScheduled Monument Number 1016312
Liddington Castle
Earthworks at Liddington Castle

Liddington Castle, locally called Liddington Camp, is a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age univallate hill fort in the English county of Wiltshire.[1] At 277 metres (909 ft), it is the highest point in the Borough of Swindon.

It is sited on a commanding high point close to The Ridgeway and covers an area of 3 hectares (7.4 acres). Liddington Castle was one of the earliest hill forts in Britain, with first occupation dating to the 7th century BC. The earthworks consist of a relatively simple oval bank of timber and earth fronted by a ditch, with opposing causewayed entrances on the east and west sides. The western entrance was later blocked off and the eastern one may have been lined with sarsen stones. A palisade of wooden posts may have lined the top of the bank. During a later phase the bank and ditch were improved and a rampart of dumped chalk, excavated from the enlarged ditch, increased the height of the bank.[2]

The site was disturbed by flint mining between 1896 and 1900. The archaeologist A. D. Passmore collected "everything of human manufacture which was found" during this period, and the artefacts were deposited in the Ashmolean Museum.[2] Passmore wrote about these findings in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine in 1914 (issue 38).[3][4]

The hillfort was partially excavated in 1976 (sponsored by Lamar University and University of Birmingham).[3] The excavation revealed a large pit 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) in diameter and at least 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in) deep. The bottom of the feature was not reached and it was interpreted by the archaeologists who dug it as a ritual shaft. Similar shafts have been recorded at Wapley Hill in Herefordshire and Cadbury Castle in Devon. The excavation also suggested the rampart was constructed in four phases, the latest being in during the Saxon period. Finds of pottery suggest Liddington Castle was abandoned during the fifth century BC, with perhaps some later re-occupation during the Roman period.[5] The excavation uncovered four fragments of human bone.[3]

Liddington Castle is sometimes suggested as a possible site of Mount Badon and thus the location of the late fifth-century AD Battle of Mount Badon mentioned in Gildas's De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, Nennius's Historia Brittonum and Annales Cambriae. There is, however, no archaeological evidence to indicate activity during this later period.[3]

World War II control bunker on Liddington Hill in 2012

During World War 2, the hilltop surrounding Liddington Castle was used as a Starfish site (bombing decoy designed to appear as a burning town or city).[6][7][8][a] Evidence of this use remains in the form of the surviving command bunker, located 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) north-east of the fort, and a metal trough used to simulate explosions and fire.[9]

Liddington Castle was the favourite haunt of local writer of natural history and rural life, Richard Jefferies, who spent much of his spare time walking through the wide chalk expanses of the Marlborough Downs. It was on this summit that he relates in The Story of My Heart that his unusual sensitivity to nature began to induce in him a powerful inner awakening - a desire for a larger existence or reality.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Liddington Castle (1016312)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Historic England Liddington Castle". Historic England. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Hirst, Susan; Rahtz, Philip (1976). "Liddington Castle and the Battle of Badon: Excavations and Research 1976". Archaeological Journal (153). doi:10.1080/00665983.1996.11078728. ISSN 2373-2288. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  4. ^ Kings, Marrissa (5 July 2011). "The Passmore Slides". Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 2 December 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  5. ^ Payne, Andrew (1996). "The Wessex Hillfort Project" (pdf). Historic England. p. 26. Archived from the original on 12 April 2021. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  6. ^ Dobinson (2000), Appendix 1: Gazetteer of Sites.
  7. ^ a b Dobinson (2000), Appendix 1: Gazetteer of Sites, Table 1.4: Civil Starfish (SF Series).
  8. ^ a b Dobinson (2000), Appendix 1: Gazetteer of Sites, Table 1.7: Civil QL and QF (C Series).
  9. ^ Bowden, Mark (April 2001). "Liddington Caste archaeological earthwork survey". Archaeological investigation report series. English Heritage. ISSN 1478-7008. Retrieved 12 April 2021. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ Jefferies, Richard. "The Story of My Heart". Archived from the original on 9 September 2006.


  1. ^ The site is SF41(a) and C71(a).[7][8]

Coordinates: 51°30′57″N 1°42′01″W / 51.51584°N 1.70020°W / 51.51584; -1.70020