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You are in: Hereford and Worcester > Features > Malvern Hills > The history of British Camp

British Camp from the air

British Camp from the air

The history of British Camp

Paul is the author of The Herefordshire Beacon of King Harold II and the Earls of Hereford and Worcester. It looks at the fascinating history of British Camp, part of the Malvern Hills.

Since my first book on the Herefordshire Beacon and its castle was written in 1998, I have spent a further ten years examining the site and its environs.

The time spent doing this has uncovered much further information about the castle and the supposed hillfort.

British Camp by Neil Dotti

British Camp by Neil Dotti

I advisably say that an examination of the current remains show that this structure has little similarity with the nearby Midsummer Hillfort, which it is supposed to be like in style and design.

Midsummer Hillfort is a traditional hillfort, having a rampart as the main inner defence.

No such structure is to be found at the British Camp on the Herefordshire Beacon.

Instead, there are a series of earthworks belonging to at least four phases, and sporting a castle on top, which itself appears to have at least two phases.

In short, the British Camp is much more complex than previously thought.

The conclusion reached in my book is that British Camp began life as a large ritual earthwork, and was then repeatedly expanded.

It also seems to have been used to control the salt trade to the south of Droitwich, the Saltway being diverted to pass through the site in prehistory.

Prehistoric landscape

The book also looks at the prehistoric landscape of the Malvern Hills, in which the British Camp is set.

British camp in the mist

British camp in the mist

This concludes a new origin for the so-called Red Earl's Dyke as a probable Bronze Age ritual trackway stretching some six miles.

It also suggests a much more prominent role for the Malvern Hills in the life of prehistoric man.

There would seem to be some evidence of the use of local hills in the vicinity, with a rounded shape, for religious purposes.

Certainly the British Camp seems to be set within a ritual landscape.

The castle

Further documentary evidence has been uncovered concerning the castle built on the Herefordshire Beacon.

This shows that a fortress was standing here in 1148, when it was under the control of the Earl of Worcester.

The castle had previously been held by the Bishop of Hereford, which again suggests its pre-conquest foundation by one of the Saxon Earls of Hereford.

The castle appears to have been besieged and possibly changed hands several times in the early 1150's, before a local record states it was destroyed by King Henry II in 1155.

Paul Remfrey's new book consists of 212 A4 pages with 202 figures and photographs explaining both the prehistoric site and the castle. It's called The Herefordshire Beacon of King Harold II and the Earls of Hereford and Worcester (ISBN 1-899376-73-5)

last updated: 20/02/2008 at 15:51
created: 19/02/2008

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You are in: Hereford and Worcester > Features > Malvern Hills > The history of British Camp

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