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Danesfield Camp



Naturally this camp hasn't really anything to do with the Danes, but is a hillfort from the Iron Age. When some of the site was excavated in the 1990s, various earlier artifacts were found too, so it's known the promontory was being used in the Bronze Age and Neolithic too. It's right on the cliff overlooking the Thames, so it only has earthworks on three sides. The SMR says "The site offers a clear vantage point onto the river, and wide views across the flood plain into Berkshire." This attractive spot wasn't overlooked by more modern settlers either, so that is why there is now a hotel there. Alas when the house was built c1900, they just flattened the western banks entirely and bunged the building on top. Apparently "A short section of the inner bank and ditch survives as earthworks to the south of the mansion, adapted in the early 20th century to serve as a rock garden with an ornamental walkway." So that's handy isn't it. You can even be taken on a tour of the gardens this summer, as part of the National Gardens Scheme.

My attention was drawn here by a totally unprehistoric but weird bit of folklore, about the Uncorrupt Hand of St James. Yep that's (allegedly) St James the apostle himself, Jesus's mate - here in Buckinghamshire. Who'd have thought it. His hand used to be kept in a chapel that was right here in the fort (the chapel, along with another house, got knocked down to be replaced by the present Danesfield House). Once upon a time it was kept in Reading Abbey and was a big draw for pilgrims. And today it resides at St Peter's church in Marlow, and you can see it there for yourself. There's a colour photo on Elizabeth Chadwick's blog, if you've got the stomach for it. I was reading about some of its adventures here in a 1901 book called 'Memorials of Old Buckinghamshire', by P H Ditchfield. So, not prehistoric. But says something about how we give meaning to and value the ancient past perhaps.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th June 2013ce
Edited 15th June 2013ce

Comments (1)

You start by saying "Naturally this camp hasn't really anything to do with the Danes". I have no proof that there is any connection here, but on website it does mention the Danes fighting along the Thames, retreating from Maidenhead to Reading in the 9thC and so that would have taken them right through this location.

It reads "In the 9th century, the Danes were said to have disembarked from their longboats at Maidenhead and fought their way through to Reading, which they subsequently made their base of operations........ After the Earl of Salisbury failed in his attempt to assassinate Henry IV at Windsor (1400) and restore Richard II to the throne, he fled first to Sonning and then Reading. His followers tried to buy him some time by holding Maidenhead Bridge. They had a pitched battle with the Royal forces for three days but were eventually overcome and the Earl was eventually captured and executed".

Maybe there is more of a connection with the Danes than at first thought. It would be good if others could shine more light on this!
Posted by Dave from Maidenhead
10th January 2015ce
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