Extensive Outer Defences have been found to the Hill Fort on Old Winchester Hill, in the Meon Valley to the east of Exton (Ref 1 & 2). It was concluded in Ref 3 from societies we know more about that cattle raiding was an important part of warfare in the times of such Hill Forts, that security of livestock and possibly crops will be a feature of many of the Iron Age Hill Forts in Britain. This Hill Fort at Farnham is on our Project List, so we start here to see if similar Outer Defences can be found.
Indeed entering Cæsar's Camp from the A325 to the east of the earthworks provides plenty of evidence for the Fighting Terraces which are thought to form the Outer Defences to Old Winchester Hill Fort. A levelled way was cut on sloping ground 4-6 yards wide, with a palisade on the Build-up. An attacker would have to fight uphill and overcome the palisade, while the defenders would have a level platform to fight from. Such an arrangement would also provide fencing for livestock. At Old Winchester Hill, four such Fighting Terraces were found – two often running together. Above the A325 four such terraces can be seen – the A325 is probably built on one, and several more can be made out in the gardens below to the east of the A325. This escarpment would be a natural place to build such Outer Defences; it runs around the East and South sides of the Earthwork. Cæsar's Camp is around twice the area of Old Winchester Hill Fort – where the Outer Defences enclosed about 30 times the area of the traditional ramparts.
Details of these outer defences will be given in forthcoming reports with maps, and they will finally be fitted together so the full extent of the land enclosed can be seen. In this introductory report an account of the traditional ramparts is given. For it is not clear what the OS survey symbols mean, and it is generally necessary to establish what the OS surveyors included.
The Map above of the ramparts has Sketch Sections indicating the profiles across the ramparts. Starting at the easterly side, there is a huge natural escarpment which forms the major defence. The escarpment daggers shown by the OS are not man made. There may well have been some erosion since the Iron Age, but a fighting terrace can sometimes be seen at the summit. The Sketch Sections show by a dashed line where we expect a palisade to have been constructed. A further fighting terrace is shown in this Sketch Section below the steep escarpment. This is commanding quite a good escarpment, and follows the property boundary shown by the OS to the most westerly side of the Earthwork as shown by the triangles. For Old Winchester Hill this would have been taken as an Outer Defence – but at the SE corner is comes close to the main defences – and is a continuation of the southern defences, where fighting terraces are an integral part of the main defences. At Old Winchester Hill only one fighting terrace formed such an integral part.
North & North West Ramparts
This huge escarpment also forms the northerly and NW defence, and the easterly Sketch Section applies generally. Where the county boundary runs along this escarpment a bank and ditch have been cut. A section was cut through the ditch and bank in 1970 (Ref 4) on the NW side. Rial was interested in the deer park boundary which he takes as the county and hundred boundary through the earthwork. In our Crondall Hundred Charter Boundary project we found that the county and hundred boundary had been changed by Edward I in 1284 to run through the earthwork as a result of a dispute about this deer park boundary. Previously the county and hundred boundary had run south of the earthwork, where it can still be found (Ref 5). Rial found that this bank was medieval, under which was a series of post holes sealed by the bank (i.e. the post holes were not in the bank). We would take these post holes to be evidence of the Iron Age palisade on top of the steep escarpment shown in our Sketch Sections. The bank and ditch we expect to mark the county and hundred boundary, which generally would be made in Saxon times. But it makes little difference if it was made in 1284, and apparently the deer park did not exist in Saxon times. What is under the bank is likely to be Iron Age. This leaves little evidence for the deer park boundary at the excavation site – but at the top of this steep escarpment little fencing may be necessary.
The height of this NW escarpment is reducing as it goes west and further Fighting Terraces may occur towards the western end – shown in the NW-SE Sketch Section. These are on what looks like slumping of the main escarpment – which may have occurred since the Iron Age and so are shown as dotted lines.
The western corner is more complex than shown by the OS. A valley is running up to this corner, and to the west of it there have been extensive gravel workings which may have removed details. At present you could walk up this valley into the NE ditch shown in the Sketch Section for the SW side. However the middle Fighting Terrace in the NW-SE Sketch Section bends to the south and appears to become the palisade assumed to run just west of west ditch in the SW-NE Sketch Section. This would protect entry into both ditches, and gives evidence it was in use in Iron Age times. The lower Fighting Terrace also bends south, and probably runs off E-W along an escarpment south of the country boundary – but gravel workings have removed evidence.
Getting onto the west bank from its north end if the above two Fighting Terraces were breached is protected by a deep pit, providing additional escarpments. But one could still walk up the east ditch – though with quite a long run of bombardment from the large escarpment at the western corner and the east bank which builds up from the corner. It is likely that something wooden was built here – maybe forming an entrance – for traditional entrances seem to be absent from the Hill Fort.
The traditional engineering of the Iron Age period is provided on the SW side, which is on flat ground limited by valleys running into it. Essentially two deep ditches were cut, forming two banks, the eastern one taking over from the NW steep escarpment to the north, and the valley side to the south. The western bank is flat topped.
The southern side is constructed down a valley. A ditch was cut in the northern valley side to give two escarpments, which takes over from the eastern ditch on the flat ground. The spoil is piled up on the northern valley side to increase the escarpment, and it takes over from the eastern bank on the flat ground. The southern ditch shown by the OS is the valley for most of the way – and not constructed by man – though it may have been deepened. It takes over from the western ditch on the flat ground. The gap shown in the earthwork between the SW and S sides is probably due to a track going through the earthwork – there is no evidence that this was an entrance to the Hill Fort. There is not a gap in the most southern tip shown by the OS – this will be considered when the rest of the defences have been described.
SE RampartsThe defences round to the easterly side are similar, and shown for the Sketch Section from the southern tip of the earthworks. A ditch was cut in the escarpment side near the summit, which takes over from the similar feature on the previous Sketch Section. The continuous line shown by the OS marks the bottom of the ditch – except it does not go all the way to the most easterly part of the earthwork, but ends as it begins to fall from the summit. Then there are four Fighting Terraces down this escarpment shown A, B, C & D. There is now no bank on the summit. The four terraces are at variable distance from the summit, the position of Terrace D is shown on the map with escarpment triangles – and it becomes the easterly Fighting Terrace of the Easterly Sketch Section. The other Terraces A-C come to a point here. There is a slight change for the last run of these defences to its eastern edge, where an additional Fighting Terrace was cut on the north side of the ditch at point "a" shown on the W-E Sketch Section (though note it is not visible on these defences running near due north).
A curious feature exists at the SE tip of the earthworks. With reference to the easterly W-E Sketch Section, a Causeway has been constructed from the easterly Fighting Terrace (taking over from Terrace D) to the summit within the earthwork. It is about 80'-100' wide at its base, and a narrow rounded top. The ditch of the southern ramparts comes to an end at this causeway. The 4 Terraces A-D continue along its southern side, coming to a point at its eastern end. A track climbs up the causeway on its northern side. This may be an entrance, with a wooden defended gateway at the top. It may have been difficult for an enemy to go up the narrow causeway top under bombardment from the gateway and the summit Fighting Terraces.
Returning to the southern tip of the earthwork, there is an error in the OS position of the county, hundred and parish boundary. The ditch is the ditch of the boundaries, and the upstanding Fighting Terrace takes over from the boundary bank on the summit.
The earthwork is not open at its southern tip as shown by the OS. The big escarpment ditch of the SE defences curves round under high ground to become the ditch constructed in the S defences on the northern valley side. It briefly becomes a terrace round the southern tip, but with a large escarpment below. Terrace D can be traced climbing round the southern tip with Terrace A some way above it on the steep escarpment – but with no sign of Terraces B & C between them which probably have merged with A. Terrace D is then lost in undergrowth. Terrace A is prominent round the southern tip continuing the same relationship with the big escarpment ditch and bank, then appears to turn as if it is going to cross the valley, though it is not visible in the valley bottom. Terrace D probably does this too lower down. Thus the two higher defences are continuous round the southern tip, accompanied by Terraces A & D which probably also prevent entry into the valley (which becomes the Western Ditch on the flat SW side).
Principal SurveyorRichard Whaley
Map Caption Caesar's Camp, OS Hants Sheet XX SE, 6”: 1 mile, 3rd edition revised 1908. 1000' scale is in SE corner. The Sketch Sections are through the ramparts, dashed lines indicate likely palisades. The southern tip of the earthwork is at SU8362 4983
1. Outer Defences found to Old Winchester Hill Fort, FAB e News 11 Spring 2015 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/owhf0.htm
2. For the Old Winchester Hill Fort Outer Defences Surveys: South West Survey, South East Survey, North East Survey
3. Richard Whaley, Old Winchester Hill Fort Composite Map, FAB e News 14 Spring 2016 http://www.nehhas.org.uk/owhfc.htm
4. N Rial, Proc Hants Field Club & Arch Soc 39, August 1982
5. R Whaley & G Hoare, Crondall Hundred Boundary, NEHHAS Journal 2 2002