Oldbury Hill, Kent – an Iron Age Hillfort

Walking through the woodland at Oldbury Hill, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was just that - a woodland. But there's more to it than meets the eye... beneath the canopy of trees, lies one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Britain.

Built into the hill about 100 BC, the hillfort (sometimes known as Oldbury Camp) was a defensive settlement. Covering an area of 123 acres, its defences included over 2 miles of ramparts (banks or walls) and palisades (high wooden fences with no space between posts).

 

Why build a hillfort here?


Set along a main route from Maidstone to Godstone, Oldbury Hill had commanding views across the Weald. As its eastern side was naturally steep, they only had to create earthwork defences on three sides. Wood for the fences was in good supply, and fresh water was also no problem, as natural springs fed a pond.

 

Who would live in a place like this?


We know that people were living at Oldbury Hill 55,000 years ago, in the middle Stone Age, but the Hillfort was much later. Unlike other hillforts, which were built to protect wealthy individuals or whole communities, there is currently no evidence to suggest the site was permanently occupied. It is believed that the site was used as a temporary shelter - a place of refuge or a stopping place on route, although little surveying has taken place since the early 20th-century and there have been great advances in archaeological research since.

Built around 100 BC, it was rapidly constructed with a single bank and ditch, possibly to protect against the Belgic invaders. However, the later re-inforced fortifications show that the Belgae were in control of the site.

 

Invasion


Whoever lived at the hillfort, even temporarily, certainly left in a hurry around 50BC. With evidence of burning, and piles on slingshots on the site, they would have been no match for the invading Roman army. Making use of its position along the main communications route, the Romans also occupied the site for a while, before moving into the hamlets at the bottom of the hill.