(November 2022) Did you know? – Burdrop Hill Top

Hill Top Security and Shelter

During the Iron Age and Roman era there was a large hilltop fort on the conical hill above Swalcliffe, known as Madmarston Hill. It has been extensively excavated and remains of human activity, including iron bars used as currency, iron implements and weapons (swords and spears) have been found there. Pots made from local clay and identified from the Iron Age have also been found there.

Was Burdrop once a Hill Fort?

Leslie Baily – an ex-scholar of Sibford School and local Sibford Historian, suggested that the primitive hill-village of Burdrop, standing high above the surrounding countryside may have been an outpost for Madmarston’s full defences affording good visibility providing early warning against any tribal invaders or missionaries visiting pagan Burdrop. A ‘burh’ was described as a hill-top defended place and, with the asset of a stream at its foot, the hill village commanded views of the east-west trackways reaching as far as Broadway Tower on the main Cotswold Ridge. A hilltop settlement comprised huge earthwork circuits of banks and ditches.

An old barn in a forest
Celtic Roundhouse at Sibford School. Photograph by Colin Lamb.

The ditches ran around the extensive high banks in a circular fashion and these acted as a maze to confuse attacking enemies. Its circle of dwelling huts, known as roundhouses, provided sleeping accommodation and shelter from the elements. Other outbuildings were used for cooking, food storage and animal shelter. The settlement was totally enclosed by a ring of stakes. The whole stockade would have provided safety for its people from wild animals roaming the forests. The cultivated land lay outside the perimeter of the settlement in the valleys below. Trade and ceremonies may have been shared with Madmarston and might even have reflected the same focus as the ceremonial functions celebrated at the nearby Rollright Stones found on the Jurassic Way West.

Maureen Hicks