Iron Age univallate hill fort, Roman building, defended farmstead, cropmarks of attached enclosure.
Defended by a single rampart measuring 9.8ft – 32.8ft wide and standing 4.9ft high. Irregular hexagonal in shape, covering approximately 1.2 ha. South East entrance believed to be the original one as it has a slight external bank on the eastern side which may possibly be the remains of a defensive outwork. The bank once had a sarsen revetment. Ramparts had two phases of construction.
Aerial photography showed cropmarks of a large attached enclosure that extended northwards, possibly late Bronze Age, measuring 492ft by 1,049ft and defended by a broad, single ditch.
Finds include Romano-British and Saxon pottery, worked bone, loom weights, bronze object, animal skull and hobnails, human remains. Masonry remains of a Romano-British building located in the centre of the site.
Originally there were sarsen stones on the rampart. These were taken away during the 17th century to use as building materials for Ashdown House.
The site sits close to the Icknield Way and south of the Ridgeway.
c.1800 BC Early Bronze Age Round Barrow within the environs.
c.800 BC Late Bronze Age ditches.
600 BC-43 AD Early Iron Age: Extensive occupation.
c.500-200 BC Iron Age enclosure.
1st-2nd C c:Romano-British villa-house with 7 rooms constructed – later extended and believed to be a high-status building.
3rd C c: Roman building either destroyed or collapsed.
871 Believed to be the place where the twenty-one-year-old Alfred assembled his Saxon army before defeating the Danes at the Battle of Ashdown.
17th C Stones were taken from the site and used in the building of Ashdown House, Lord Craven’s house.
1806 Traces of a building were noticed inside the rampart.
1819 Mentioned as having just 2 entrances.
1830 Recorded on a map.
1930 Recorded on the OS Map.
1964 Field Investigation.
1970’s Bank measuring 12ft high with a shallow external ditch.
1980-1981 Over 40 sherds of Iron Age pottery found on the site.
1993 Bought by the National Trust.
1993 Field Survey.
1996 Geophysical Survey by Ancient Monuments Laboratory Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
1998 Aerial Photograph.
1998-1999 The remains of the centrally located building were excavated.
1998-2000 Excavated by G. Lock, Ancient Monuments Laboratory Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, Stratascan, Oxford University Department of Extra Mural Studies. Twenty-one trenches opened and reported on as part of the Hillforts of the Ridgeway Project.
1999 Geophysical Survey.
2000 To date: Despite the extensive excavations there is no evidence of post Roman activity on the site.
The site is in a great condition of preservation as it has never been ploughed over.
The Archaeology of Alfred’s Caste – Members Only
The Battle of Ashdown – Members Only
References & Bibliography.
Abels. R. 2013. Alfred the Great: War, Kingship and Culture in Anglo-Saxon England. Routledge.
Burne. A. H. 2005. The Battlefields of England. Pen & Sword.
England – Berkshire: 019′, Ordnance Survey 1:10,560 – Epoch 1 (1883). Available at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/mapsheet.aspx?compid=55107&sheetid=699&ox=0&oy=0&zm=1&czm=10&x=26&y=273 .
Ford. D. N. 2003, King Alfred & Ashdown, available at http://www.berkshirehistory.com/legends/alfred01.html.
Gosden. C. and Lock. G. 2001. Hillforts of the Ridgeway Project: excavations at Alfred’s Castle 2000. South Midlands Archaeology. 31, pp.80-9.
Gosden. C., & Lock. G. 2003, Becoming Roman on the Berkshire Downs: The Evidence from Alfred’s Castle Britannia, Vol. 34 pp. 65-80, Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.
Hill. P. 2008. The Viking Wars of Alfred the Great. Casemate Publishers.
Huntingford. G. 1957. The Scouring of the White Horse. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 87(1), 105-114. doi:10.2307/2843973.
Knight. C. 1840. Berkshire: Including a Full Description of Windsor Castle. C. Knight & Company.
Lewis. S. 1833. A Topographical Dictionary of England…: With Historical and Statistical Descriptions, Volume 1. S. Lewis and Company.
Lock. G. and C. Gosden. 2000. Hillforts of the Ridgeway Project: excavations at Alfred’s Castle 1999. South Midlands Archaeology. 30, pp.82-90.
Lock. G. R. 2003. Using Computers in Archaeology: Towards Virtual Pasts. Psychology Press.
Marren. P. 2006. Battles of the Dark Ages. Pen and Sword.
National Trust. 2020. Alfred’s Castle, Ashdown House. Available at https://heritagerecords.nationaltrust.org.uk/HBSMR/MonRecord.aspx?uid=MNA129140.
Nelson. Clerke. W. 1852. The Battle of Ashdown AD 871. The Archaeological Journal, Volume 9, pp. 320-327.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #26, The Life of King Alfred from AD 849 to AD 887, available from The Online Medieval and Classical Library at http://omacl.org/KingAlfred/part1
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #17, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, available from The Online Medieval and Classical Library at http://omacl.org/Anglo/
‘Parishes: Ashbury’, A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4 (1924), pp. 503-512 available at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=62758&strquery=%22Alfred%27s%20Castle%22
Rosen R. M. 2004, Time and Temporality In The Ancient World. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.