National experts talk about Oswestry hillfort’s future
TV archaeologist Stewart Ainsworth has claimed ancient hillforts should be “treasured” – and insisted surrounding fields should also be protected from development.
The Time Team archaeologist said areas surrounding the likes of Oswestry’s Iron Age hillfort – which he described as “spectacular” – were just as important as the hills due to their historical and religious significance.
He made the comments while attending a seminar event at Oswestry Memorial Hall, which was held by campaigners fighting plans to build 117 homes near the town’s hillfort.
More than 100 people attended to hear a number of expert speakers from across Europe discuss the the context of the hillfort, its historical significance and some of the archaeological finds made at the site.
The homes off Whittington Road have been included in Shropshire Council’s Site Allocations and Management of Development (SAMDev) plan, which will see more than 20,000 homes built across the county by 2026. Two further proposals to build homes near the hillfort were last week omitted from the planning blueprint, which had initially proposed about 200 homes would be built in the area.
Mr Ainsworth, a regular on the Channel 4 programme, said: “This is a spectacular hillfort. One of the impressive things about it is there are some unusual features which we don’t quite understand, which makes it unique and really quite unusual.”
“It’s important that we treasure the past. The zones around the hillfort, the penumbra, are just as important as the hill. Even in prehistory these areas had meaning for religion and history.”
Mr Ainsworth, who lives in Chester, has been studying Iron Age hillforts for 40 years and said he had long had an interest in the hillfort in Oswestry. “I’ve got a professional and personal interest in any development which potentially affects a major Iron Age centre,” he said.
Among the speakers at Saturday’sevent was Dr George Nash, professor of archaeology and anthropology at IPT in Portugal. He said: “Judging by the audience that turned out, clearly there’s an opposition against this ridiculous planning proposal. We’ve got to keep our green and pleasant land free of development for future generations.”
Maggie Rowlands, one of the organisers of the seminar, said: “We had a fantastic turnout. ”
Town councillors are due to meet tomorrow to form a response to the proposals.
[A SK 86642790 B SK 86702783] Tumuli [OE] (1)
"On the south side [of King Lud's Entrenchments] near the East end of two barrows: one close to the ditch is 86 yds round and about 8 ft high; the other at the distance of 60 or 70 yds is 96 yds round and apparently the same height." This latter barrow was opened by the first Duke of Rutland who found it 'full of bones'. Two hollow places near the top have not been completely filled in. (2)
'Two heaps to the SE of the E end [of King Lud's Entrenchments] are called Tumuli on the Ordnance Survey map: one of these
lately excavated proved only to be a rubbish heap'. (3)
'A' Round Barrow, almost destroyed; diameter 22 paces; height 1ft.
'B' Round Barrow ruthlessly destroyed; not filled in. A large number of large stones are showing in centre. Diameter 32 paces; height 4'6" - 5'.
'C' [SK 8679 2775] Doubtful Round Barrow full of rabbit holes and almost flat; dark earth at centre; diameter 15 paces; height 1ft.
'D' Round Barrow 26 paces in diameter; height 6 ft; small depression on top; slopes to the north; carries a number of pine
trees. [SK 86752794]. (4)
`E' [SK 86682787] A small barrow here. (5)
On 21st September, 1860, Thomas Bateman opened two barrows at Saltby. The first excavated is that nearest 'King Luds Entrenchment'
(A). Fragments of an urn of "coarse Celtic Pottery" a human skeleton and the bones of a dog and other animals were found. At a depth of 5ft on the natural surface, evidence of a large fire was found and among the charcoal, a tarsal ox bone. The second barrow (B) yielded only animal bones. Discolouration of the natural surface indicated a fire but all traces of charcoal had been removed before the barrow was constructed. (6)
The barrow 'A' SP 86632789 has been completely destroyed.
The barrow 'B' SP 86692782 remains but is much spread.
The barrow 'C' SP 86782775 has been destroyed.
The barrow 'D' SP 86752793 is in good condition 1.7m high.
Surveyed at 1:2500.
Several other barrows were seen as low spread mounds of stone in arable land at SP 86442808, 86612804, 86732808 and 86772807.
Also two large areas of scattered stone with indications of barrows were noted centred to SP 86402815 and SP 86602810. No traces of E, the barrow noted by Dare (5) was seen - destroyed by war-time buildings. (7)
At Saltby more barrows have been located forming a dispersed cemetery along the northern edge of the former Saltby Heath. There are now six certain barrows and six possible barrows located. (8)
SK 8670 2783 Barrow 'B' was excavated by Leic. Archaeological Unit from August to November 1978. It proved to be a composite earth and stone barrow. Five phases were distinguished; 1. pre-Barrow buried soil, 2. primary Funerary monument (earth with stone kerb), 4. completion of mound construction limestone capping, ditch and satellite burials and a secondary central burial, 5. later activity. Radiocarbon dating suggested tree clearance in 3220 + or - 90 B.C. The primary burial was dated 1550 + or - 70 B.C., the satellites 1380 + or - 90 B.C. and 1400 + or - 90 B.C. and a secondary burial 1490 + or - 70 B.C. In all six definite cremation burials were recovered and the remains of a possible seventh were found in the ring ditch. Two complete collared urns were recovered along with over 90 sherds of other pots including Beaker sherds. (9)
The barrow B, recorded by Authority 9 was seen as a cropmark and mapped from poor quality air photographs; it has a diameter of approximately 20m. The remaining barrows could not be identified. Centred at:-SK 8668 2783 (Morph No. LI.780.4.1) This description is based on data from the RCHME MORPH2 database. (10)
King Lud's Intrenchments (see SK 82 NE 1) and two adjoining tumuli - SK 8664 2790. Monument No. 90656 formerly LE 46b. Barrow. Descheduled.
SK 8670 2783. Monument No. 90655 formerly LE 46c. Barrow. Descheduled. (11)
[SK 8583 2799 to SK 8662 2795] King Lud's Entrenchments (NR) [SK 8685 2793] The Tent [NR] (1)
'William, Earl of Bologne, Mortaigne and Warren, who died in 1160 gave 40 acres of land at Saltby to the Abbey of Croxton and all the waste lands at the three dykes.' 'On the boundaries of Saltby and Croxton is a rampart called King Lud's Intrenchments, extending from East to West for nearly 3/4 mile, consisting of a double ditch and several pits or hollows, one deeper than ordinary, into which they say, were stone stairs.' 'From the West it descends a gentle valley which it crosses near the East and terminates on rising ground at a pit called The Tent ['F'] where tradition says King Lud was killed. From ditch to ditch it is 7 yds broad, and in other places not more than 4 yards. Where the plough and spade have spared it, it is 6 ft high'. (2)
King Lud's Entrenchments. (Miscellaneous Earthwork - Class X). A line of entrenchments 3,050 ft long, lies due east and west; it occupies ground slightly higher than its southern prospect, in which direction the land gradually falls. The extreme west consists of a double fosse and single vallum, but it has been weakened in recent years; the most perfect section is one-third of its distance from the west, here are a triple vallum and double fosse; From the north side the vallum is 4ft high and 10 ft wide, the first fosse is 8 ft deep, the second vallum, of the same height, is 15ft wide, the second fosse 6 ft deep, and the outer vallum, 11ft wide, is 4ft above the exterior level. The eastern third of the entrenchments has almost perished.
The Tent is a deep pear-shaped excavation, perhaps a dwelling or a guardroom; the entrance is at the north-west, close to the vallum, at which point was also an entrance through the lines. A bank is around the curve of the north-east side, from which the hollow is 26ft deep. (3)
King Lud's Entrenchments have no special command of the neighbourhood; about 450ft above sea level, with land to the immediate north rather higher. The earthwork which consists of two ramparts and two ditches may have extended a few hundred feet further to the East; its purpose is uncertain, but it does not appear to have formed a boundary dike. It is now 
planted with trees. (4)
A double-ditched dyke; traces of the work begin on the north edge of Egypt Plantation, a little to the east of The Tent. It gets stronger till near the west of Cooper's Plantation the ditches are as much as 3 ft deep and then it tails off to vanish
before it reaches the road north of Saltby. The parish boundaries to the east and west look very much as though the work had once been much longer. (5)
Scheduled Monuments in Leicestershire. King Lud's Entrenchments. Saxon. A boundary of Frontier earthwork double-ditched. [No period is allocated to this earthwork in the Ministry of Works scheduled list]. (6)
Possible traces of a continuation of this feature are visible from SK 8452 2756 to SK 8421 2755. (7)
The three dykes mentioned by Authority 2, consist of 'King Lud's Intrenchment' and the 'Foulding Dykes'.
Nichols states:- "Half a mile nearer Sproxton (From King Lud's Intrenchment) a single ditch with a mound on each side crosses the road almost at right angles, the extent of which seems not more than 200 yards, and a quarter of a mile further is another running in the same direction for 3/4 mile. These two are called the Foulding Dykes .... the three entrenchments taken together (are called) the Three Dykes". (8)
The Foulding Dykes were not located; it is likely that they were destroyed by the construction of the airfield as was the eastern end of King Lud's. The remaining portions of the intrenchment are probably in much the same condition as they were in Nichols time; it is of a weak nature and was probably not defensive, more a boundary work. The bank to the south carries the footings of a stone wall, probably a later addition.
The reference to its existence pre-1160 in an area of waste land makes it vitually certain to be of Anglo-Saxon date, possibly the boundaries of a petty kingdom. Published survey 25" revised.
"The Tent" is a disused quarry of no archaeological import. (9)
The linear earthwork recorded by Authorities 1-9 was partially visible on vertical photography of various dates, but for much of its length it is obscured by tree cover; the Tent could not be identified for the same reason. (Morph No. LI.780.3.1)
The Foulding Dykes, mentioned by Authority 9, were not positively identified, but two separate linear features, running east-west, and lying between King Lud's Entrenchments and Sproxton village were seen as cropmarks and are separately recorded as SK 82 NE 22 and SK 82 NE 48. This description is based on data from the RCHME MORPH2 database.(10)
SK 8584 2798 - SK 8718 2784. King Lud's Intrenchments and adjacent barrow.
Earthworks exist in Cooper's Plantation for a distance of 750m and include three parallel banks separated by two ditches. The ditches are up to 1.5m deep and an average of 8m wide and the banks up to 0.5m high. An excavation section of the ditches has shown that the southern ditch is `V'-shaped in profile and the northern ditch `U'-shaped. There are also slight earthworks in Egypt Plantation comprising a single bank, to the north of a disused quarry, is up to 0.75m high and 8m with slight remains of a ditch on its northern side. Both earthworks have been modified by wartime airfield activity.
On the eastern side the entrenchments join the prehistoric trackway known as Sewstern Lane (LINEAR 77). The earthworks have long been considered as of Saxon origin, specifically identified with Ludeca of Mercia, but recent aerial photographic work has suggested that the monument may be part of an extensive prehistoric boundary system extending from Northamptonshire to the Humber and termed `the Jurassic spine'.
Associated with the linear monument is a Bronze Age barrow cemetery (SK 82 NE 2), of which one barrow is known to survive and is included in the scheduling [although not recorded under SK 82 NE 2]. The barrow measures about 25m in diameter and 1.5m high with no visible surrounding ditch. A hollow in the centre is the result of an excavation by Bateman in 1860 (but see SK 82 NE 2).
Scheduled (RSM) No. 17107. (11)