Hampden Danes Camp

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameHampden Danes Camp
Alternative NamesHampden Park
Historic CountryBuckinghamshire
Modern AuthorityBuckinghamshire
1974 AuthorityBuckinghamshire
Civil ParishGreat and Little Hampden

Dane's Camp is a very well preserved example of an early medieval motte castle. The mound will retain buried evidence for the structures which stood on the summit, and the silts within the surrounding ditch will contain both artefacts and environmental evidence relating to the limited period of occupation. The old ground surface buried beneath the mound is particularly significant as it may retain evidence of former land use, which will have been degraded elsewhere by more recent cultivation. The strategic position of the castle provides an illustration of the methods by which control of the area was established in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest.

The motte castle known as Dane's Camp lies to the north of the village of Great Hampden and some 400m south of Hampden House.

The castle occupies a commanding position overlooking lower ground to the north west and the former line of the Grim's Ditch, now overlain by the St Mary Magdalen's Church and the grounds of Hampden House. The monument includes a large, steep-sided circular mound (or motte), approximately 20m in diameter and 2.5m high, surmounted by a level platform measuring 10m across. The motte is surrounded by a dry ditch, averaging 4m in width and 1m deep, which is broken by narrow causeways to the north west and south east. The north western causeway merges with a slight ramp ascending the motte, and is thought to be the original entrance. The second causeway, with no ramp evident, is considered to be a later addition, perhaps reflecting the mound's later use as an ornamental feature within the grounds of Hampden House. The motte would originally have supported a tower, probably built in timber. A small depression in the centre of the platform marks the location of a limited excavation in 1855, which consisted of a single, narrow shaft

Additional defence may have been provided by a palisade surrounding the ditch and a gate controlling the entrance.

The motte is thought to have been a temporary fortification, serving as a base for operations of limited duration in the early stages of the Norman Conquest. Place-name evidence from the surrounding field and adjacent copse suggests that a windmill may later have stood upon the mound. This is not, however, corroborated by physical evidence, and the buried remains of the original tower's foundations are expected to survive largely undisturbed. (Scheduling Report)

Mound in park of Hampden House, sometimes described as motte, sometimes as mill mound. One of the three mounds mentioned in PastScape NMRN 344295. Excavated in 1855 by B Burgess in 1855, when he had a hole about three yards square by twelve feet deep dug in the centre of the mound. This only yielded several pieces of tile below the turf and a further piece at a depth of about seven feet. Burgess discounts the theory that this mound had been constructed for a windmill (PastScape–ref. Burgess, 1858).

Gatehouse Comments

Renn wrote that has cropmark of small bailey, but this is not seen by other observers. Although the view from Hampden House is somewhat obscured by the parish church this mound is orientated directly in front of the house and, Gatehouse feels, the position is more consistent with prospect mound then with motte, However, the identical size of this mound with the two nearby mounds on Grim's ditch, suggest this was a mill mound. The medieval manorial centre, based on the location of the parish church, is most likely under the site of Hampden House, which is C14 although now mainly C18 Gothic Revival. There was a medieval deer park and this leave a final possibility that this mound, and possible the others, were associated with viewing deer hunts. Because the site is scheduled as a motte This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSP847020
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 35
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 27
  • RCHME, 1912, An inventory of the historical monuments in Buckinghamshire Vol. 1 (south) p. 163-4 online copy


  • Dyer, J.F., 1961, 'Barrows of the Chilterns' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 116 p. 7, 16 online copy
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12
  • Crawford, O.G.S., 1931, Antiquity Vol. 5 p. 168
  • Burgess, B., 1858, 'Earth-Works at Hampden and Little Kimble' Records of Buckinghamshire Vol. 1 p. 138-9 online copy