Skip to content

The history of Oldbury Hill

Pathway through ramparts at Oldbury Hill Kent
With the ramparts steep on either side, imagine what it would have been like without the trees | © National Trust Images/Emily Pyle

Walking through the woodland at Oldbury Hill, you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was just that – a woodland. But there's much more to it than meets the eye. Beneath the canopy of trees lies one of the largest and finest Iron Age hillforts in Britain, dating back thousands of years.

What makes Oldbury Hill special?

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 two 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, earthwork defences were only needed on three sides. Wood for the fences was in good supply, and fresh water also wasn’t a problem, as natural springs fed a pond.

Who would live in such a place?

People were living at Oldbury Hill 55,000 years ago, in the middle of the Stone Age, but the hillfort came much later. Unlike other hillforts, which were built to protect wealthy individuals or whole communities, there is no evidence to suggest the site was permanently occupied.

A temporary refuge?

It's believed that the site was used as a temporary shelter – a place of refuge or a stopping place en route, although little surveying has taken place since the early 20th century and there have been great advances in archaeological research since.

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

Roman invasion

Whoever lived at the hillfort, even temporarily, certainly left in a hurry around 50 BC. Evidence of burning and piles of slingshots on the site shows 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.

Oldbury Woods, Kent, in evening light

Discover more at Oldbury Hill

Find out how to get to Oldbury Hill, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

You might also be interested in

Road through woodland at Oldbury Hill Kent

Things to see and do at Oldbury Hill 

Discover Oldbury Hill near Sevenoaks in Kent – home to some wonderful woodland and one of the largest and finest Iron Age hillforts in the country.

Overhead view of an octagonal table with the figure of Silenus, a drunken follower of Bacchu, in The Library at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire


Learn about people from the past, discover remarkable works of art and brush up on your knowledge of architecture and gardens.