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Little Camp Hill, Lydney

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Lydney.
In the historic county of Gloucestershire.
Modern Authority of Gloucestershire.
1974 county of Gloucestershire.
Medieval County of Gloucestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO61740245
Latitude 51.71947° Longitude -2.55523°

Little Camp Hill, Lydney has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Previously interpreted as a motte and bailey castle, the tower keep castle on Little Camp Hill at Lydney survives well in an impressive setting on a hilltop. The castle benefits from a depth of soil cover, which provides additional protection for the archaeological remains. Despite partial excavation in 1929-30, the monument survives well and retains much potential for the study of the history and development of the castle, and for the study of environmental evidence relating to the castle and the wider landscape. In addition there is the opportunity for investigation into the use of the site prior to the construction of the castle. It is sometimes the case that tower keep castles have been constructed within Romano-British sites as at Porchester and Pevensey, and with a Romano-British temple complex only 250m away to the north west, there is the possibility of a relationship between the two sites.
The monument includes a tower keep castle situated on a hilltop above the floodplain of the River Severn. Natural steep slopes 15m to 20m high have been utilised as defensive barriers on the north, south and west sides. On the east side the ground slopes more gently, and fortifications are at their strongest here. The castle has a keep and inner bailey with an outer bailey to its east. The keep is now a raised area in the north east quadrant of the inner bailey and stands up to 1.5m high. The stones of the keep protrude from the area which is now covered with soil. Just to the south of the keep is a gap in the defences about 2m wide which marks the entrance to the inner bailey. The level ground of the inner bailey forms an irregular 30m square with turf banks 2m high surrounding it. On its east side, separating it from the outer bailey, is a ditch 2m wide and 0.5m deep. The outer bailey forms a rough triangle, with its base to the north and apex to the south, measuring 30m east-west and 40m north-south. The outer bailey is protected by a bank and ditch on its north side where the bank is about 1m high and the ditch 2m wide and 0.5m deep. Elsewhere the outer bailey is protected by the natural slope of the hill. Excavation by D A Casey in 1929 showed that the earth bank around the inner bailey consists of fallen rubble which covers the remains of walls and towers. Despite some stone robbing the castle was found to be complete in plan including the rectangular keep which measured 30ft by 23ft 6in (9.2m by 7.2m) inside, and 57ft by 50ft (17.4m by 15.3m) at the base outside. A gate tower was found at the entrance and another tower at the south west angle of the castle walls. In the inner bailey, where the curtain wall joins the keep, a small annex had been added later, and an oven alongside the annex. To the south of the oven a circular depression was found which proved to be an iron extraction pit contemporary with the castle, or possibly earlier. The pit was not completely excavated by Casey, but excavation was stopped at 7ft (2.2m) where pottery of the same type as other pottery from the site was found. There is no documentary evidence for the date of the castle's construction, but Casey, considering the type and construction, dated it to between 1100 and 1189 AD. Although there is no direct record of the ownership of the castle, in the Domesday Survey it is recorded that William Fitz Osbern, Earl of Hereford, made a manor at Lydney. Casey considers that this manor almost certainly included Little Camp Hill. After 1075 Lydney reverted to the Crown. In 1201 there was a dispute between the bishop of Winchester and Walern of Newburgh, Earl of Warwick, over land held by the Earl at Lydney. Casey interprets this to have been Lydney manor including the site of the castle. The Romano-British temple complex 250m to the north west is the subject of a separate scheduling. (Scheduling Report)

Excavations in 1930 located a supposed Norman castle, with inner and outer courts and a rectangular keep. The inner court is surrounded by a wall, while the outer court has a rock cut ditch and bank on one side and the natural slope of the hill on the other. Scarps around the edge of the hill are visible as earthworks on aerial photographs but it is unclear if they relate to the Medieval castle. (PastScape)

On a hill top within a deer park and clearly an impressive country house designed with hunting, rather than defence, foremost in the mind of the builder. Maybe within an earlier enclosure but suggesting a similarity between the sort of Roman/British enclosure likely to be found in this area and the massive masonry Saxon Shore forts of Portchester and Pevensey (as the scheduling report does) is highly misleading.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling        
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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