I was really honoured to write, along with my co-author Fiona Gale, a chapter for a recent publication all about Old Oswestry Hillfort.
The book, edited by Tim Mallim and George Nash, is entitled ‘Old Oswestry Hillfort and its Landscape: Ancient Past, Uncertain Future’. Its title is a stark reminder that, for a few years now, Old Oswestry has been under threat of its surroundings being used for housing developments – some proposed within 5 metres of the ancient monument. You can read a little bit more about some of the work done to highlight its importance in one of my old blog posts here: http://idigarchaeology.co.uk/hug-a-hillfort/
Old Oswestry is part of my old stomping ground. Although I grew up in Wales, we were right on the border, and Oswestry was our local market town. The hillfort, and its massive ramparts, can be seen for miles. I still today make a point of taking a glance over at the hugely impressive old site whenever I drive past on the A483 by-pass, as well as visiting on foot when I can.
The monument is exquisite. It has a unique design and was described by Sir Cyril Fox in the 1930s as ‘outstanding work of the Early Iron Age type on the Marches of Wales’. Fiona’s and my chapter in the book, ‘Everybody needs good neighbours: Old Oswestry hillfort in Context’, sits within ‘Part One: Setting the Scene’. It discusses how Old Oswestry sits within its ancient landscape, amongst a huge amount of other hillforts within the vicinity, including many over the (now) border in Wales.
Our contribution’s summary is as follows:
“This paper puts the hillfort of Old Oswestry into its regional Iron Age context. It looks at the archaeological work on hillforts that has taken place in Shropshire and the surrounding areas including north-east Wales and Cheshire where two major heritage lottery funded projects have taken place in recent years.
It draws together information from several rescue excavations that took place in the 1970s and 80s and looks at what is known about the surrounding environment of these sites.
It gathers together information about dating of the surrounding hillforts and how this relates to Old Oswestry. Artefact survival is patchy but information about this is also summarised, in particular metal working which links similar finds between Old Oswestry and other hillforts.
It finally addresses how the hillforts have changed function over the intervening years, but all the while respecting earlier features, and that their use today continues to change but in a way which reinforces their importance in the landscape, and in people’s thoughts.“
The monument itself hasn’t been widely excavated. In 1939-40, W. J. Varley opened a number of trenches but never published his findings. His work on the site was pieced together from notebooks and published in 1996 by Gwilym Hughes, who now heads up Cadw – the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service, almost 60 years after the events took place. However, some of Varley’s trenches have recently been reopened and re-explored by Old Oswestry book editors/authors and archaeologists Tim and George. They will be speaking about the excavations to Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society this month in Shrewsbury.
Old Oswestry Hillfort and its Landscape: Ancient Past, Uncertain Future, which includes my and Fiona’s chapter, can be purchased for the absolute bargain price of £45, or as an ePublication for £16.95 at this link at Archaeopress.
Read Ian Ralston’s review of the book in Current Archaeology here: https://archaeology.co.uk/articles/reviews/books/review-old-oswestry-hillfort-and-its-landscape-ancient-past-uncertain-future.htm