From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present
Wandlebury Ring
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Age
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Hillfort
Cambridge
52° 9′ 29″ N, 0° 11′ 5″ E
TL4943053382
-
400BC
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  • History
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Wandlebury Ring is an Ironage hillfort located on Wandlebury Hill in the Gog Magog Downs close to Cambridge in Cambridgeshire.

In the 5th century BC, Wandlebury Hill was occupied. A settlement was found in Varley’s Field which included large groups of storage pits that were cut into the chalk bedrock, over an area of at least 150 square metres.

The first phase of Wandlebury Hillfort was built around 400 BC, cutting through the earlier settlement, which appears to have continued both outside and inside the rampart. The hill fort consisted of a substantial outer ditch and an inner rampart bank of chalk rubble and soil, enclosing a large circular area of about 6 hectare with the main entrance way to the east.

The fort fell into disrepair and was abandoned for a period, but was again refortified early in the 1st century AD. The ditch was widened, the rampart was reconstructed and a counterscarp bank built. A new inner v-shaped ditch and rampart were also constructed at this time. Other similar circular hillforts were constructed nearby at War Ditches in Cherry Hinton and at Arbury on the north side of Cambridge.

The interior was intensively occupied. Hut foundations and storage pits have been found, as well as fragments of human skeletons. There was evidence of some occupation during the Roman period, probably from the 2nd century AD, but no structures of this period were found.

From the end of the Roman period, around AD 410, until the 10th century AD, little is known about the use of the hill fort. Documents from the Anglo Saxon period state that the site was called Wendlesbiri and that it was used as an important meeting place of nine administrative districts known as Hundreds.

In 1685, a racing stable was built inside the old hill fort for King James II. In the 1730s this was acquired by Francis, 2nd Earl of Godolphin, who created a major racing stable. He also built a large house and garden, destroying the inner rampart and ditch of the hillfort.

In the 18th century Wandlebury was used to breed racehorses including the famous Godolphin Arabian, one of the three Arabian stallions who were brought to this country in the early eighteenth Century and founded the bloodlines of modern Thoroughbreds.

The house was demolished in 1956 but the monumental stable block remains, now used for accommodation and as headquarters office of Cambridge Past Present Future. The grave of the Godolphin Barb horse, which died in 1753, is located under the archway.

Two human skeletons were found in December 1966 by workmen using a bulldozer to extend the area of the cricket pitch. Five further skeletons were revealed in January 1976 when high winds uprooted trees just outside the fort. No artifacts were found with the skeletons, but they are thought to be from the Ironage.

The tail of a crashed World War II Wellington Bomber was visible wedged high in a beech tree within the estate, until it was dislodged by strong winds in the early 1990s.