Sweyns Camp Swanscombe

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are no visible remains

NameSweyns Camp Swanscombe
Alternative NamesSvinescamp
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishSwanscombe And Greenhithe

Sweyn's Camp, earthwork in Swanscombe Park. Known by this name since 1890 and probably formerly called 'the Folly'. A circular earthwork evidently a motte, almost certainly Norman. There is no indication of a bailey. Some nine pits, to the north of the camp, which are regular in form are probably the sites of dwellings. Pits V & VI were partly excavated to the undisturbed clay. Fragments of a C15 costrel were found in pit V with some fragments of iron. In 1928 the earthworks were destroyed. (PastScape ref. Hogg)

Sweyn's Camp. Antiquaries have told of Swanscombe as the landing-place of Sweyn, King of Denmark, and associated this small fortress with his encampment. Though we know of no evidence to disprove this association, save that no work in England known to be of Danish origin is similar, we would assign its construction to a later period. It is, however, likely that there is some foundation for the tradition that Sweyn landed and wintered his navy at Swanscombe; the valley below the fortress and north-east, protected by the hills, had in those days sufficient water to accommodate the light-draught war vessels of the Danes, whilst the entry in the Domesday Book affords supporting evidence by writing ' Swinescamp ' as the name of the place. Sweyn's Camp is almost circular in form, 60 by 54 ft., defended by a rampart with an outer fosse, the rampart doubtless once much higher than it now is, and the fosse correspondingly deeper. The spot selected for the construction of the fortress is on a tongue of land about 225 ft. above sea-level, projecting from the hill ground, which extends to the south and south-west for some miles ; it commands the north generally, including the river Thames and the south coast of Essex. The entrenchments and their immediate neighbourhood being thickly covered with trees and underwood, it is difficult to make a perfect survey, but the accompanying plan is approximately correct. (VCH)

Gatehouse Comments

Completely destroyed by quarrying. The VCH survey, for which a plan is recorded, is reasonable but far from a perfect recording. Despite being lost generally accepted as a ringwork castle. However, a similarity with St Mary Cray Hockenden has been noted and this 'ringwork' has been now suggested as a millstead. The Sweyn's camp site would not be inconsistent with a windmill site and the late medieval pottery finds are more in line with a windmill than a ringwork. Careful critical examination of Tithe maps etc may be illuminating but it is likely that the true nature of this site will never be known.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ603735
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  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Kent (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 75
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 237
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 318
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 410-11 (plan) online copy


  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Hogg, A.H.A., 1929, 'Sweyn's Camp Swanscombe' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 41 p. 13-18 online copy