Caesar's Camp, London,
With a bonus article on Wheathampstead's Devil's Dyke Hertfordshire.
Caesar's Camp Hillfort, is a quite unique example of a hillfort, that sits there, looking like a pretty normal design of a hillfort, but in the middle of Wimbledon Common, and the mega city of London. So a wonderful contradiction there, of a lost settlement in one of the busiest cities in the world.
Caesar's Camp, London, Wimbledon,
Here is my bullet point check list on this site.
The hillfort I am talking of here, is the one on Wimbledon Common
* The fort itself covers 11 acres, which is about 4 and half hectares. This quite circular site sits in this recreational park land, very denuded. A developer did slight the monument in the 19th Century but he was stopped in his tracks from doing more, so the site remains to a extent. In parts it is almost like a hillfort that has been ran over by a steam roller, on this quite flat area, you can see on lots of websites, I have just collected some facts on the site, and put it here.
* The above picture has a public domain status, and the caption,
Walter Winans on the Running Deer Range, Wimbledon Common
oil on canvas
68.6 x 114.3 cm
signed b.l: Thos. Blinks
So it is the general area of the common in that time, so not maybe the hillfort, but then again it may be, I just wanted a public domain picture of the area.
* Wimbledon Common is a open area of parks in Wimbledon, which is in southwest London. Of course most famous as the home of the famous tennis tournament, and of the famous 1988 FA Cup winners. It has 3 areas: Wimbledon Common, Putney Heath, and Putney Lower Common, that are organised by Wimbledon and Putney Commons holding 460 hectares. The Putney Lower Common is afar from the Wimbledon Common by a min of 1.6 kilometres. I myself have been to the great Wimbledon tennis tournaments, to watch a few games, in the early round, and as people were joking about the Wombles, we stopped off here for a few minutes walk on the way back.
* London was not a highly populated area relatively for South East England in the Iron Age, there were large areas left relatively unsettled, to marshes and such, some even wonder if the finds at Battersea and Waterloo near the Thames, Iron Age finds, found there was actually deposited to honour the Gods, as is a big theory of Lincolnshire's deposits.
* There are some Iron Age sites here, but major population centres near here were more so St Albans to the north, and the Downs to the south. The Romans really got London started and it grew from there, suffering some setbacks, but by the Middle Ages it was a mainstay of a major West European centre, and the major city in England, then the UK as a whole.
* For south part of Wimbledon common, the area utilised by Royal Wimbledon Golf Club, also possessing a footpath through it's middle are, remains of a Iron Age hill fort called since the nineteenth century, Caesar's Camp.
* Like a lot of London, this area was once a area of villages and farmland, it was the building of the railway in the 1830s that saw the environment soon become the urban sprawl, gardens, and roads it is today.
* The period fort was likely used in the sixth to fourth century BC. Though a small amount of proof claims the base was assaulted by Roman forces, likely , not by Caesars forces, but a century or so later during the conquest of south eastern Britain ordered by Emperor Claudius. Furthermore the theory is it was captured by Roman Legio II Augusta, under the command of Vespasian during their strike west in AD 44.
* Interestingly the site was likely settled or occupied as long ago as Bronze Age times, but tragically the nearby barrows were destroyed on purpose by John Erle-Drax in the 1870s.
* Mildly confusingly there are a number of other Caesar's Camps.
Caesar's Camp near Sandy, in Bedfordshire. This site is locally known as the Sandy hills, or the lookout.
Caesar's Camp in Bracknell Forest, Berkshire, it is 2400 years old, and covers a very impressive 7 hectares, among South Eastern England's biggest. The site itself has had this name for a very long time. It was established between 500 and 300 BC. It was likely led by the Catuvellauni in the 1st Century AD. It's use ended it seems when Rome arrived. It was common for Medieval or post Medieval people to assume a site was Roman, or even Saxon before they assumed it was ancient British, which is fair enough as they were the biggest known players, it was only later proven they were pre Roman.
Caesar's Camp, Rushmoor and Waverley, on the border between Hampshire, and Surrey. It likely began in the Bronze Age, then again maybe the Iron Age. It is a large fort again at 10.5 hectares. Fascinatingly it uses marshland as kind of defences where ramparts are less needed, so there are gaps there.
Caesar's Camp was also the name of a a fort on the Holwood House grounds, a country house in London's Borough of Bromley. Most of it has been absolutely denuded.
Caesar's Camp, is also a name now not used for Bat's Castle, in Carhampton south south west of Dunster, Somerset.
Caesar's Camp, in Scholes' Coppice, in South Yorkshire, by the Roman Rig, in Rotherham. Only about a half hecatre or just a acre in size.
There was also a battle of Caesar's Camp in France in 1793, near Marquion. Plus as I say in my European hillforts page, there is a site in Switzerland called Julius Caesar's Camp by some locals, which was a Iron Age site, sitting on Mont Terri Castle. Then also a site in Belgium called Caestert, that was a Celtic oppidum.
Back to London.
* Other hillforts in London we know, of include Loughton Camp Iron Age Fort, Ambresbury Banks – Iron Age Fort, Grim’s Ditch, and Uphall Camp (Iron Age Fort), on top of the 2 I mentioned above.
* Miss spellings associated could be, Wimbledon Commen, and Wimbeldon Common. Caesar's Sald camp, Caesar's Salad Camp. Caesar's salad, Caesarean Camp, Kaisaer's Camp, Caesar'rs Kamp, Caesar Augustus Camp, Tsar's Camp, Seazer's camp, Tzar's Camp, Tsarina Camp, Ceasar's Camp, Caesars camp, Caaesar Camp, Caesar camp, Cesar's camp, is also a miss spelling. This site is the one that could be usually termed as Caesar's Camp, London, even though there is a competitor even for that title. I am not sure if anybody calls it the hillfort in London, the hillfort in West London, the hillfort in South London, or Wimbledon Hillfort, or even London's hillfort. Ironically there is also a part of North London in Enfield, called Forty hill, so kind of hillfort the wrong way round. It was more something about being a ,marsh though. Also Seven Oaks a area of London now, and it's oak trees in North London may have been named after some ancient trees around in Roman and Celtic times surviving to more recent times. In that, some wonder if the trees may have been significant to old Druidic faiths in Celtic times. As they seem to have honoured trees in some ways as part of the faith, but more so their gods, and such. Plus London itself in late Iron Age times, was more a land of less people, more just rural villages, and marshes, and the Thames. With the downs to the South often more a area for people, or St Albans and it's oppidum, or proto town, more the centres of population. Some even wonder if some of the finds like the Battersea Shield, and such like, were placed in the Thames as votive offerings, though the old fashioned views, that these items were lost in battles, or washed down to their and such seem as possible to be correct. So this fort is truly a great reminder of the greatness that London is today, of all that has been created, but also a thing to visualise, that lost rural landscape, that is now so built over. Some may lament that, but most would like me, just see it as a amazing comparison. 2 worlds 2 millennia apart in 1 sight.
* You may say Caesar's Camp is the greatest hillfort in London, well Caesar said he would rather be first in a village than second in Rome, so a fitting position for what could be London's most significant hillfort.
Wheathampstead's Devil's Dyke. Hertfordshire.
Devil's Dyke, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire.
So another site I have visited is near St Albans and also a bit further south from Luton, and 20 or so minutes drive from Junction 9 at the M1, at the English town of Wheathampstead. So I drove there, after one of my trips south and so I could say I have visited a Iron Age site in that area.
So I got through the B roads, of towns and tree lined fields, and landed via my sat nav at a road called Caesar's Road, and a road called Dyke Hill Road.
There was a lane on the edge of Wheathampstead in one of the estates, of nice looking houses. This lane had little room for parking, but I found a place by the lane, with space for a couple of cars parked straight on and a cycle thing for bikes to be fastened to. Anyhow, I saw a info board, describing how the dyke was said by middle 20th Century Archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler to be the site of the battle between the brave British Cassivellaunus and Caesar's attacks, though many say there is no evidence for this, it seems a reasonable conjecture to me. Anyhoo, that was 54BC.
Anyway this stretch of dyke, starts as the beginning of 2 banks, and a small entrance to the gap between, and within 10 metres becomes a deep dyke, that is 30 metres wide, and 12 metres deep between the 2 imposing banks. On one side of the dyke is the town, and the other side, farm fields, of farmhouses, green grass, trees and rises and falls. Then on the other side are the estates and beginnings of what as you head further into the town, would be what urban Americans in the 1940s would call a Quaint English town with pubs and things like that. Annoyingly for my love of continuity the fields side, is where the Belgae oppidum, was, the houses are on the area outside it. So I was imagining the box rectangle shape of the old settlement was where the village is today, and the fields were the fields in those olden days, but actually it is the other way around, the houses are where the fields were, and the fields where the Iron Age houses were. I mean I prefer continuity, like how some great sites of today were yesterday and the like, and some transport routes were, and ports as well also with such like there. Well maybe I could invent a theory called mirror continuity. Like how for some past eras, some places today which have more people in valley floors, than in the slightly higher hills today, had the reverse, to a extent, though its not something I have examined, and I prefer just imagining continuity as it is easier for me to visualise, even though its misleading sometimes.
Anyhoo, this site, the Hertfordshire Devil's Dyke, (There are a few dykes in England named in dishonour after that force, from Scotland to England), stretches 460 metres long, but is felt to be just a small part of a greater complex. It is felt the Slad, to the south, another ditch I did not actually see, were part of a area that was a 46 hectare oppidum. So a site of thousands of Britons, that most experts claim was actually of the Catuvellauni, from just before the Romans. It was part of the beginning of the tiny mild level urbanisation of Britons just before Rome came and conquered Southern Britain.
On my trip I walked along the muddy ditch, looking at the imposing sides covered in trees, taking a while at one point to cross a very muddy bit that would be tough for any attacker, stuck down here, and once reaching the end, had a look at the fields beyond to the left, and the houses to the right on the other side, having to remember that in the past the roundhouses, or whatever they had would have been on the opposite side, and the fields, where the houses are, in those days. But still it kinds of fits the feel, as houses by ditch you see. Some of the area sits on a rise, but nobody would call this site a hillfort, even though to extent it has hillfort elements of being on a rise, having ditches and such. It seems most of the dykes and ramparts must have gone as of ploughing. But this happily remains and is protected.
Also on my walk I walked along the path on the bank on the houses side.
I being a bit daft at times also tried walking up the bank a couple of times, and of course in such a muddy, leaf strewn angle, it was a disaster waiting to happen, so I slipped, and was lucky to escape with just muddy jeans, and a remarkably unstrained arm. So I was another victim of the ramparts defences, but a fun site. I then drove off after cleaning up as I could.
Anyhow the reason they call them devil's dykes may have some significance, of folklore and such but its spurious for me to guess, but thats another I can tick off as a visited site.
I have been to St Albans, but did not see any of the Iron Age sites, but of course a major site of the Catuvellauni was Verlamion, or Verlamio, by modern St Albans, which became a major oppidum of South East England in the time of the Ancient Britons, which when the Romans conquered the area carried on being a major town and city under those.
The picture below is my photo of the site, from at the bottom of the ditch, with the banks on either side.
The site is 8 miles from Luton, and 5 from St Albans proper and 8 from the M1.