Silbury Hill

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameSilbury Hill
Alternative NamesSelburie
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishAvebury

Late Neolithic flat-topped conical mound which stands to a height of some 37m above an encircling quarry ditch. The summit has seen several later episodes of disturbance, including some form of revetment of late Saxon date (late Saxon or early Norman potsherds were found, as was a coin of circa 1010).

Gatehouse Comments

The most recent excavations, on the summit, in the summer of 2007, found a massive post hole - possibly for a watch tower - dated to the C11. Jim Leary, the field archaeologist responsible tentatively associated this work with the Saxon-Danish wars and with the battle of East Kennet of 1006 recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Atkinson's discovery of a late Saxon palisade on the hill summit, confirmed by Leary's new excavations, show that the early C11 Saxon's were capable and willing to build mound based fortifications, at least to supervise the strategically important Roman road (Now the A4). The Norman motte was not a novel form of building for the Saxons although it was probably used by the Normans in an entirely novel way, as a symbol of personal dominion, rather than a feature of community defence. There seems to be no evidence of a fortification on Silbury after the Conquest.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSU100685
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  • Leary, Jim and Field, David, 2010, The Story of Silbury Hill (English Heritage)
  • Endacott, Alan and Kelleher, Susan (eds), 2004, Heritage Unlocked; Guide to free sites in Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire (London: English Heritage) p. 85-7
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 100
  • Whittle, A., 1997, Sacred Mound, Holy Rings. Silbury Hill Hill and the West Kennet Palisade Enclosures: A Later Neolithic Complex in North Wiltshire (Oxford: Oxbow) p. 22
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 278 (slight)
  • Caroline Malone, 1989, English Heritage book of Avebury p. 95-104
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 502 (possible)
  • Atkinson, R.J.C., 1978, 'Silbury Hill' in Sutcliffe, R. (ed), Chronicle: Essays from Ten Years of Television Archaeology (London: BBC) p. 170
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 357
  • Pugh, R.B. and Crittall, Elizabeth (ed), 1957, VCH Wiltshire Vol. 1 Part 1 p. 36


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 500
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 81 online copy


  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 93 p. 112 online copy
  • Atkinson, R.J.C., 1970, 'Sibury Hill 1969-70' Antiquity Vol. 44 p. 313-14
  • Downman, E.A. and Goddard, E.H., 1919, 'Plans of Wiltshire Earthworks' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 40 p. 352 online copy
  • 1914, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 69 p. 135-7


  • Silbury Hill Digital Archive
  • Linford. P.K., Payne, A.W., Linford, N.T. and Martin, L., 2009, Silbury Hill, Wiltshire: Report on Geophysical Surveys, 2005-2008 (English Heritage Research Department report no. 105)
  • Locke, Bill (Executive Producer), 2007, Silbury: the Heart of the Hill (Lion Television/All3Media for BBC4 Television) - TV programme first televised 21 October 2007
  • 1969, BBC Chronicle television programme, presented by Magnus Magnusson, of R. Atkinsion's excavation. online copy