Loughton Camp: The Iron Age Hillfort Hidden In North London

The rolling humps and bumps among the trees are all that remains of an impressive Iron Age hillfort. Photo: WikiMedia Commons

Wherever you go, you can be sure that someone else was there hundreds or thousands of years before you. There are incredible ancient places hiding all around us. Let’s go find them!

Take a wonder among the beech trees of London’s Epping Forest, and you’ll notice that the ground below you undulates. This isn’t natural – these are the ramparts of Loughton Camp – an Iron Age hillfort that just exudes history. Local legend has it that Boudicca used this camp during her infamous rebellion against the Romans in AD 61. Another site close by claims to be the site of the defeat of Boudicca. Although there isn’t any hard evidence to support this claim, we can say for certain that it’s in a very strategic position. This is one of the highest points in the surrounding landscape, and would have made a great place for a lookout against Roman forces.

The site was built around 500BC, long before Boudicca, and archaeology has shown that the camp’s earthworks cover approximately ten acres. To to put that into perspective, that’s about five football pitches.

The outer ditch was dug out to about 3 meters, and would have been dug by hand using bone or wooden tools to scrape the soil – backbreaking work!

Evidence suggests that it formed part of a network of hillforts that marked out the territories of two ancient Briton tribes, the Trinovante and the Catuvelllauni. It may have been used for military purposes, but the general consensus is that it may have been used to corral animals and possibly protect people during times of fighting.

The site was originally excavated by Augustus Pitt-Rivers in 1881 – one of the founding fathers of modern archaeology. It has another claim to fame that Dick Turpin used the camp as a hideout, again, there is no hard evidence of this, however it is certain that Turpin’s gang broke into the home of a Keeper in Epping Forest, so it is likely that they knew the area.

Loughton Camp is a little way off the beaten track in an area of fairly dense forest, but it’s easy enough to get to – just make sure you research your route and keep your wits about you… we wouldn’t want you getting lost in the woods now, would we?

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Harriet Tatton

Written by Harriet Tatton

Harriet is one of DigVentures' community archaeologists. She loves museums, skeletons, and a good cup of Early Grey. Her first dig was at Bennachie, in Aberdeenshire, and since then she's never gone digging without her signature flowery wellies.

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