Monument record 0632100000 - Taplow Hillfort


Remains of Bronze Age to Iron Age hillfort found during excavations at Taplow Court.

Protected Status/Designation

  • Planning Notification Area: Prehistoric hillfort, Saxon burial mound, site of Medieval parish church, 18th and 19th century park and gardens at Taplow Court


Type and Period (2)

  • HILLFORT (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 1000 BC to 401 BC)
  • MULTIVALLATE HILLFORT (Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age - 1000 BC to 401 BC)


In advance of the construction of a new Chanting Hall, an archaeological evaluation was carried out in 1998 by Wessex Archaeology. North of the Victorian building, the evaluation found Mesolithic flint work, a late Bronze Age feature, and three large ditches (B4).
Oxford Archaeology were subsequently commissioned to undertake an area excavation in 1999. A ditch nearly 9m wide was revealed, running the full length of the site and tapering to an entrance at the northern end. The ditch had an eroded U-shaped profile with burnt flint, and charcoal tipped in from the western side. Finds included sherds of prehistoric pottery, Roman sherds and Saxon pottery and a double headed spiral pin in the upper fills. A series of burnt out tree holes which were at first thought to be part of the layout of the manorial garden, were later interpreted as the remains of a timber framework built on top of an earlier defensive ditch on top which has been deposited up to 1m of gravel. The new ditch has a v-shaped profile and was up to 2.6m wide. A part of a Late Bronze Age bi-partite bowl came from the lower fill. Analysis of silt within the ditch gave a date of 900 to 605 BC and indicates a period of disuse. A further parallel line of postholes flanking a palisade tench was found and behind this a futher line of postholes filled with dark occupation soil. Much of the upper soils have been removed during 20th centry building, but an area of better preservation was found to the west from. Finds from the dark soil included a late Bronze Age cylindrical loomweight, a saddle quern and much later Bronze Age and early Iron Age pottery. From an arc of postholes came a bronze bracelet of Ewart Park type dated to the 10th century. An interim interpretation pending the final report suggest three phases of hilltop enclosure; the first marked by a fence line and a palisade, the second by a V-profiled ditch and the last by a U-profiled timber laced rampart. The watching brief to the east of the main side located another large ditch 7m wide and 1.2m deep - posibly part of an enlargement of the defences. Earthwork previously noted by OS surveyors as part of a hillfort and then as lynchets seem to give further indication of the extent of the enclosure. The Victorian County History notes in connection with the demolition of nearby St Nicholas Church that 'it was discovered that the foundations passed over a ditch which, with its accompanying rampart, showed that the position had been fortified in early times the church being built at the east end while the mound occupied the centre of the enclosure' (B1).
Oxford Archaeology carried out further trial trenching in April 2005 in order to inform decisions about the location of a proposed accomodation block in the second phase of development. The northernmost trench found further evidence for the hillfort in the form of a large Late Bronze Age defensive ditch and pit, both of which had been cut by a shallow ditch in the early or middle Saxon period. A possible Saxon tree-throw hole was also recorded. Finds included Bronze Age to Saxo-Norman pottery, flint, stone, animal bone and charred plant remains. See report for detail (B2).
In the Late Bronze Age, a hilltop enclosure or hillfort, was constructed on the site. Evidence for this hillfort, probably first established in the 11th century cal BC, consisted of a complex sequence of palisades, a ditch and dump rampart, as well as activity within the hillfort, extending into the 9th century cal BC.
Following a hiatus in activity represented by a standstill deposit in the upper part of the ditch, a second hillfort ditch was constructed on the hilltop in the Iron Age, probably in the 5th century cal BC. A third and even larger V-profiled ditch was found outside the second ditch, but unfortunately the date of construction of this outer ditch is unclear and thus the development and form of the hillfort remains uncertain. The inner ditch was associated with a timber-laced rampart which was destroyed in places by fire. The remains of the charred timbers within the rampart have revealed some details of its construction.
The abandoned hillfort was re-occupied in the early Saxon period, probably late in the 6th century cal AD or early in the 7th, at roughly the same time as the rich burial was made in the nearby Taplow Mound. No evidence for reconstruction of the hillfort was found but considerable quantities of domestic material were deposited within the surviving Iron Age hillfort ditches. Amongst the domestic debris were indications of the presence of individuals of high status. In particular, a sherd probably from an eastern Mediterranean amphora was found. A fragmentary early Saxon inhumation associated with a knife was found in the entrance to the hillfort.
Possibly in situ Mesolithic or early Neolithic flint was found in a small number of tree-throw holes and a small assemblage containing sherds of Collared Urn and worked flint was found in a group of intercut hollows. There were also indications from a very small number of sherds and other finds for activity on the site in the Middle Bronze Age, but no features belonged to that phase. Resistivity survey undertaken to the north of the excavation did not reveal any clear evidence for the continuation of the hillfort ditches as there was a lot of disturbance from a tennis court, water pipes and footpaths (B3).
Plots of Marlow Archaeological Society resistivity survey undertaken in 2005 (B5).

Sources (8)

  • ---SBC20136 Photograph: Sandy Kidd (BCC). 1999. Photographs taken during Oxford Archaeology's Open Day at Taplow Hill Fort. 35mm. Print. 3in x 5in.
  • ---SBC20137 Photograph: Sandy Kidd. 1999. Colour and B/W photograhs taken of Oxford Archaeology's area excavation of Taplow Hillfort. 35mm. 3in x 5in.
  • <1>SBC20135 Article in serial: Tim Allen & Hugo Lamdin-Whymark. 2001. 'The Taplow Hillfort', in Current Archaeology 175. 175.
  • <2>SBC22435 Unpublished document: Oxford Archaeology. 2005. Taplow Court (Phase 2), Taplow: Archaeological Evaluation Report.
  • <3>SBC22946 Unpublished document: Oxford Archaeology. 2007. Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire: Draft Publication Report. pp 187-8.
  • <4>SBC22947 Unpublished document: Wessex Archaeology. 1998. Taplow Court, Taplow: Archaeologuical Evaluation.
  • <5>SBC22540 Unpublished document: Marlow Archaeological Society. 2005. Taplow Court: Fieldwork Record Drawings - Survey & Resistivity October 2005.
  • <6>SBC23605 Bibliographic reference: Tim Allen, Chris Hayden & Hugo Lamdin-Whymark. 2009. From Bronze Age Enclosure to Anglo-Saxon Settlement: Archaeological Excavations at Taplow Hillfort.


Grid reference SU 90661 82373 (point)
Civil Parish TAPLOW, South Bucks, Buckinghamshire

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (4)

  • Event - Intervention: Area excavation of hillfort at Taplow Court (EBC16343)
  • Event - Intervention: Evaluation trial trenching (Ref: TAPC 05) (EBC16605)
  • Event - Intervention: Evaluation trial trenching at Taplow Court (EBC16342)
  • Event - Survey: Geophysical survey (Ref: 877) (EBC17204)

Record last edited

Jan 31 2024 9:11AM

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