2 miles east of Chiseldon, near Swindon, Wiltshire.



Despite being freely accessible to the public, Liddington Castle is rather difficult to get to. There is no car park or any place that is passable as one in the vicinity, and even the path which runs to it, the Ridgeway, from the adjoining road, is a modestly demanding uphill climb of almost a mile. Liddington Castle may be considered a fans-only monument, therefore; indeed I have been there twice and have yet to encounter a soul along the track or in the fort itself. On one level this is surprising, because its claim to fame is that it was once thought to be the location of Badon Hill; the mythical site of King Arthur's great victory over the Saxon invaders, though recent excavations have found no evidence at all to support this.


Perched on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, Liddington Castle possesses dominating views over almost three-quarters of its circumference, from the north then anti-clockwise to the south-east. The approaches from these directions are long and steep, and so would have provided a considerable obstacle to any aggressor even without taking the ramparts into question. These are roughly pentagonal in shape, enclosing an area of approximately 7.4 acres, and consist of a single defensive ditch with two entrances cut through it. The eastern entrance, at the apex of the north-eastern and south-eastern ramparts, is still clearly defined and consists of a causeway passing over the ditch and through a simple opening in the rampart; the ends of which may have been bounded by sarsen stones. The other entrance can be found opposite it near the western-most point of the fort, though it is not so obvious as it was deliberately blocked off at some stage. Chalk is the main material that was used to form the ramparts, and most probably they would have stood brilliant and exposed in their heyday, not covered with the grass that we see today. Although the use of chalk may well have been to show off, it is scarcely surprising as there is an abundance of it in the area; a quick glance at the ploughed fields on either side of the Ridgeway on the approaches to the fort will reveal that the soil is almost overwhelmed with it.


Liddington Castle was constructed in four stages, likely beginning during the very late Bronze Age / early Iron Age, 7-500 B.C. In the first instance a simple soil rampart was dug and backed with a wooden palisade, then subsequent developments, possibly 5-300 B.C., increased the size of the rampart by incorporating chalk blocks into it, culminating in a final heightening some centuries later. The dating of this last stage is very imprecise, simply Iron Age, but it could possibly have occurred as late as the Roman, even the post-Roman era. Finds of pottery from these times suggest that the fort may have been re-occupied in some form, adding weight, but still no evidence whatsoever, to the Badon Hill theory.


There is, however, plenty of evidence for the earlier occupation of the fort; surveys have revealed a plethora of post holes, pits and gullies. Most notable of all are the foundations of what may have been a great roundhouse, which, at 18 metres in diameter, is by far the largest such example found amongst other forts in the region. It could have been a shrine of some sort, but is most likely to have been the home of a person of high status. Its position within the fort seems to indicate that this was the case, as it has pride of place towards the centre of the fort, in the north-western portion, just above where a road may have passed, if we assume that one existed, linking the western and eastern entrances in a broadly straight line. Despite this activity, the archeology does not indicate that the fort was in use for long periods of time, nor was it ever densely populated, rather sporadic occupation is implied. Finds of pottery are most prevalent at the assumed foundation of the fort, 7-500 B.C., but with the exception of the later Roman pottery finds, none have been found that date later than 400 B.C. There is, regrettably, plenty of evidence for activity inside the fort from a much later era; flint quarrying took place between 1896 and 1900, and this has left its mark on the fort and played havoc with the condition of the south-western rampart.


Outside of Liddington Castle and overlooked by it, there are traces of what appear to be other forts which, due to their proximity, may have been intimately connected to it. One is 500 metres to the north (possibly including a double rampart) and the other near Chiseldon almost two miles to the west, dating to and enclosing an area of approximately Late Middle to Late Iron Age and 6 acres, and Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age and 20 acres respectively. Both of these sites, however, have been completely flattened by ploughing and only faint outlines of them can be seen with aerial photography.


Guide to Photographs



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