Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Military History and Warfare: Castles: Uffington Castle

This week I will be examining a completely different type of castle. Although described as a castle, Uffington is really an ancient hill-fort. Located two miles south of the village of Uffington in Oxfordshire, England, archaeologists have traced the earthworks to the late Bronze/early Iron age.

The castle we see today is an eight-acre double walled hillfort in roughly the shape of a pentagon. There is a north-west facing entrance protected by the curing outwards of the bank along both sides and around the ditch. The information board in the car park helpfully told me that the fort’s early use was as a religious site or meeting point. It was later occupied by the Romans and Saxons. Although we are unlikely to ever discover who originally occupied the site, the coins of the Dobunni tribe have been found in the area. Large amounts of pottery and animal bones have also been excavated, leading archaeologists to suggest that the castle was more of a spiritual centre than defensive structure. This is supported by the presence of ‘The White Horse’. A large chalk monument cut into the side of the hill. Strangely, ‘The White Horse’ can only be fully viewed from the air.

The hillfort commanded excellent views of the surrounding countryside. A perfect place to construct a castle.

Originally the steep ramparts (which would have been 3 metres deeper than they now appear) would have been bare white chalk with a surrounding timber fence.

A view of the White Horse (Click to enlarge).

Uffington castle is a good example of a defensive construction that served a purpose beyond that of providing a local stronghold in an area.

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