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aerial cherbury camp

Cherbury Camp

Cherbury Camp is an Iron Age fort 1 mile north of Charney Bassett and within the current parish boundary. A public footpath from the village leads to and around the fort,  although there is no public access to within the fort itself.

The fortification was protected by three ditches and embankments, a stream and a marsh. It had an entrance on its Eastern flank. It is larger than than its better known counterpart, Uffington Castle, on the Ridgeway. The location may seem odd compared with the many hill forts however, it was strategically placed at the narrowest neck of land between the River Thames and the River Ock. In structure and unusual siting, it resembles nearby Hardwell Castle.

Legend has it that the local inhabitants of Uffington Castle came to raid Cherbury Camp, where King Canute and his invading army were encamped. However, a young shepherd boy spotted them and blew his horn as a warning to the Danes. They are said to have consequently won the subsequent battle, which took place at the crossroads half-way between Charney Bassett and Buckland. The area became known as Gainfield as a result. The shepherd boy was granted all the land within the sound of his horn, around Pusey, as a reward for his vigilance.

However true or otherwise this local legend may be, the horn, known as the Pusey Horn, is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was also once an inn in Charney Bassett, called the Horn Inn. It was closed during the Second World War.

Another Legend is that it was here, at a Danish encampment within the old fort, that King Alfred disguised himself as a harpist or minstrel so that he could enter the camp and learn of their plans.

An archaeological excavation was carried out at Cherbury camp in the late 1930s. It is recorded as an interim report (a final report was never produced) in Oxoniensia, Volume 5 V (1940), The Excavation of Cherbury Camp, 1939. By J. S. P. Bradford, page 13+; or [click here to download a copy].  It contains several interesting pictures of the dig. Two photos can be seen in better quality on the Oxford University website here.

A geophysics survey was conducted in 2007 [click to download] .

Further detail and references are given by Historic England which gives a summary description of the site as:

Iron Age multivallate hillfort containing cropmarks of a hut circle and pits. Well preserved although the outer Limestone blocks are visible in all the ramparts, but more numerous and conspicuous in the inner. Excavations in 1939 revealed a cobbled entrance way. Iron Age pottery and gold coin, an Early Medieval brooch, Neolithic flint axe and a Bronze Age arrowheads have been recovered from the site. Although the excavation suggests that the hillfort existed in the Iron Age, the nature of Early Iron Age occupation remains uncertain.

Some information and comparison with other iron age forts is given in THE THAMES VALLEY PROJECT A REPORT FOR THE NATIONAL MAPPING PROGRAMME Victoria E.P. Fenner with assistance from Carolyn A. Dyer.

Council for British Archaeology Group 9: South Midlands archaeology newsletter

R Hingley 13, 1983 Pages123 & 125


Charney Bassett: Cherbury Camp and "Open Settlement" (contours at 25 feet intervals)
Charney Bassett: Cherbury Camp and “Open Settlement” (contours at 25 feet intervals)