Wandlebury timeline

Phase one: 400 BC


Wandlebury Iron Age hill fort occupies a prominent position below the crest on the south-facing slope of Gog Magog Hill. Although Neolithic and bronze age hill-top occupation is known from finds of pottery and stone artefacts, the form of the settlement is unclear. However, in the 5th century BC one settlement concentrated on what is now the southern third of Varley’s Field, where large groups of storage pits were cut into the chalk bedrock, over an area of at least 150 square metres.

Around 400 BC the first hill fort was constructed, cutting through the earlier settlement, which appears to have continued both outside and inside the rampart. The hill fort consisted of a substantial outer ditch and an inner rampart bank of chalk rubble and soil, enclosing a circular area of about 6 hectares. Archaeological surveys suggest that there was a major entranceway to the east. This display of earthmoving and enclosure signifies both a centralised control of local human resources, and a powerful stronghold following a tradition widely seen across northwestern Europe at this time.


Phase two: 50 BC


In the first century BC a second ditch and bank circuit was dug on the inner side of the first rampart. At the same time, the outer ditch was cleaned out with this material forming a low counterscarp bank around the perimeter. A settlement contemporary with the hill fort appears to have shifted southwards downslope, and other similar circular enclosure sites were constructed nearby at War ditches, Cherry Hinton and Arbury on the north side of Cambridge.

Considerable evidence of Roman occupation has been found within the eastern entranceway of the hill fort and beneath the site of Gog Magog House, but no direct evidence of buildings has ever been found.


Phase three: 1685 to present


From the end of the Roman period, around AD 410, until the 10th century AD, we know very little about the use of the former hill fort. However, documents record that the Anglo Saxons called the site Wendlesbiri and that it was used as an important meeting place of nine administrative districts known as Hundreds.

In about 1685 a racing stable was built inside the old hill fort for King James II. In the 1730s this was acquired by Francis, 2nd Earl of Godolphin, who created a major racing stable, and built a substantial house and garden. During this time the inner rampart and ditch of the hill fort were levelled. So major were these changes that the hill fort is only just recognisable today. As you enjoy the circular walk around the ring, remember that the path leads along a ditch of an Iron Age hill fort which once stood conspicuously on the edge of the hill, surrounded by its own landscape of fields and buildings.

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