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Monument details

HER Number:TR 15 NW 33
Type of record:Monument
Name:Bigberry Camp (also known as 'Bigbury'), Harbledown

Summary

An Iron Age hillfort and probable cattle compound at Bigbury Camp, Harbledown. During excavations in 1962-3 to the north of the supposed eastern entrance, evidence of a strong palisade in the bottom of a ditch was revealed. Small finds in the primary site of the ditch included several potsherds of East Kent Early Iron Age, "A" gritted ware, and an ovoid slingbolt of burnt clay precisely matched by one from a hill-fort in Belgium. In 1932-33 excavations also discovered a slave gang chain more than 18 ft in length and including several neck collars.


Grid Reference:TR 117 575
Map Sheet:TR15NW
Parish:HARBLEDOWN AND ROUGH COMMON, CANTERBURY, KENT

Monument Types

Associated Finds

  • BRIDLE BIT (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • GOAD (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • HARNESS RING (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • PLOUGH (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
  • SHERD (Iron Age - 800 BC to 42 AD)
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1005169: Bigberry camp

Full description

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[TR 117 575] Bigberry Camp [NR] (1) Bigberry Camp, Harbledown. An univallate hill fort with an annexe, probably a cattle compound, to the north. Excavations in 1932-33 found a slave gange chain that was 18 feet long and comprised several collars. (2-4) Scheduled as "Bigbury Camp". (5) In 1962-3 excavations by F Jenkins at TR 1192 5764, to the north of the supposed eastern entrance, revealed two large post holes, probablyrepresenting a strong palisade in the bottom of a ditch. Small finds in the primary site of the ditch included several potsherds of East Kent Early Iron Age, "A" gritted ware, and an ovoid slingbolt of burntclay precisely matched by one from a hill-fort in Belgium. Excavations are to be continued. Resurveyed at 1:2500. (6) Local people have now decided to rename "Berry" properties as "Bury", (a) and the Fort name should conform. The root is Old English Burh, Burg, Byrig, etc, the modern spelling is immaterial, though "Bury" is a more usual form than "Berry". (7) TR 117 575. Bigberry. Listed in gazetteer as a univallate hillfort with annexe covering 10.7ha. (8)

The first recorded find from the site was a group of Late Iron Age ironwork recovered during gravel quarrying in 1861. This included a share, coulter, a cattle goad, an iron tire and a horse bit. (9)

In 2009-11, during fencing works around the site, Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out a watching brief. This work recorded the soil sequence across much of the site, over the ramparts, and also located some evidence of occupation. Within the inner rampart a dark soil layer was found which contained burnt flint, prehistoric pottery and a copper alloy harness ring. Charcoal from this layer was dated to the late 4th or early 3rd century BC. This occupation deposit was thought to be similar to that identified during the 1936 excavation in section 14 of that work. (10)

From the National Heritage List for England:

A hillfort in a strong position on a plateau some 230ft above sea level. The northern position is defended by a double bank and ditch of considerable strength while the southern portion is naturally defended by a steeply sloping natural bank - almost a cliff in parts - which has possibly been slightly steepened by artificial means. The southern half has been almost entirely destroyed by gravel diggings, and is excluded from the scheduled area, but the nothern half is in good condition. The eastern end has been disturbed by the cutting of the modern road and a mineral railway, but at the western end and original entrance can still be traced.

Additional areas of earthworks along S and NE sections of the camp. A site survey by Messrs A.J.Clark and H Thompson showed the southern ramparts remained fairly well intact S of the gravel pit.

As on AM7 originally a univallate hillfort but with northern annexe with bivallate defences added.

In 2008 Canterbury Archaeological Trust carried out a survey of the earthworks following coppice clearance and ahead of additional clearance works. (11)

From the National Heritage List for England:

List entry Description
Summary of Monument
Iron Age large univallate hillfort called Bigbury Camp, 405m north-west of Merryweather.

Reasons for Designation
Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Despite some development and disturbance in the past, the Iron Age large univallate hillfort called Bigbury Camp survives relatively well. It has been shown by partial excavation to contain significant archaeological remains relating to its construction, use and history.

History
See Details.

Details
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 December 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes an Iron Age large univallate hillfort known as Bigbury Camp surviving as earthworks and below-ground remains. It is situated at the eastern end of a ridge, north of the River Great Stour at Hambledown.

The hillfort was originally a univallate hillfort but a northern annexe was later added with bivallate defences. The southern part of the hillfort has been partially destroyed by gravel digging but where earthworks survive they are denoted by a single bank and ditch. The northern annexe of the hillfort was added at a later date and is defended by a double bank and ditch. The earthworks follow an irregular curvilinear plan. It has been suggested that the annexe may have been used as a cattle compound although this is uncertain. There is an entrance in the eastern side of the hillfort.

The hillfort was partially excavated in 1933-4, 1962-3 and 1978-80. These excavations uncovered structural remains of a hut circle and evidence for the defences on the eastern side of the hillfort. North of the eastern entrance two large postholes were revealed, which may be the remains of a palisade. The finds included Iron Age pottery sherds, metalwork, a slingbolt of burnt clay and a slave gang chain approximately 5.4m long. (12)


<1> OS 6" 1962 (OS Card Reference). SKE48371.

<2> OS Iron Age Britain Map 1962 (OS Card Reference). SKE48417.

<3> Arch J 89 1933 87-115 (RF Jessup) (OS Card Reference). SKE36764.

<4> Arch Cant 48 1936 151-68 (RF Jessup & NC Cook) (OS Card Reference). SKE35227.

<5> AM Eng & Wales 1961 58 (MOW) (OS Card Reference). SKE33009.

<6> F1 FGA 08.02.63 (OS Card Reference). SKE42902.

<7> CS Canterbury 17.06.70 (OS Card Reference). SKE39495.

<8> BAR 62 British Hill-Forts: An Index 1979 231 (AHA Hogg) (OS Card Reference). SKE37546.

<9> Brent, J., 1861, Roman cemeteries in Canterbury, with some conjectures concerning its earliest inhabitants, p33 (Article in serial). SKE17548.

<10> Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 2012, Archaeological watching brief on fencing work at Bigbury Camp, Kent (Unpublished document). SKE17547.

<11> Canterbury Archaeological Trust, 2008, Archaeological Landscape Study & Field Survey of Kent Wildlife Trust Land at Bigbury Camp & sections of the Blean Woodlands (Unpublished document). SKE18120.

<12> Historic England, National Heritage List for England (Index). SKE29372.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1962.
<2>OS Card Reference: OS Iron Age Britain Map 1962.
<3>OS Card Reference: Arch J 89 1933 87-115 (RF Jessup).
<4>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 48 1936 151-68 (RF Jessup & NC Cook).
<5>OS Card Reference: AM Eng & Wales 1961 58 (MOW).
<6>OS Card Reference: F1 FGA 08.02.63.
<7>OS Card Reference: CS Canterbury 17.06.70.
<8>OS Card Reference: BAR 62 British Hill-Forts: An Index 1979 231 (AHA Hogg).
<9>Article in serial: Brent, J.. 1861. Roman cemeteries in Canterbury, with some conjectures concerning its earliest inhabitants. Arch Cant 4: 27-42. p33.
<10>Unpublished document: Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 2012. Archaeological watching brief on fencing work at Bigbury Camp, Kent.
<11>Unpublished document: Canterbury Archaeological Trust. 2008. Archaeological Landscape Study & Field Survey of Kent Wildlife Trust Land at Bigbury Camp & sections of the Blean Woodlands.
<12>Index: Historic England. National Heritage List for England.

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