Banjo enclosures

A banjo enclosure comprises a central circular area, usually less than 0.6ha in extent, bounded on all sides by a ditch and outer bank with a single entrance approached by double parallel ditches defining a trackway, hence creating a banjo shape. A paddock may be attached to the central enclosure or the trackway, and in some cases the whole complex is enclosed within a compound. Banjo enclosures are mostly recognized as cropmarks or soilmarks from aerial photographs, although a few are known as earthworks.


Recent studies of banjo enclosures suggests that most, if not all, were settlement sites with elaborate entrances. Most excavated sites appear to have been constructed during the middle Iron Age period, between about 400 and 100 BC and some may have continued in use during the late Iron Age down to the Roman conquest. Banjo enclosures are usually found on hill slopes and valley sides, although not on steeply sloping ground. Often, the trackways lead up slope towards the central enclosure. Banjo enclosures occur as isolated sites, as pairs, and occasionally as a group of three.


Banjo enclosures appear to be very common in some areas of Hampshire, Dorset, and Wiltshire. More recently, a number have been recorded in the upper Thames Valley and the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Banjo enclosures do not appear to be very common outside these counties, although isolated examples have been recorded in Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Sussex, Somerset, Cambridgeshire and Cumbria. The only possible example in Buckinghamshire was suggested by aerial photographs at Lake End Road West at Dorney, but was not identified in subsequent excavation.