Manor Farm, Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire

Hillfort:  OS Grid Reference – TL 0849 5985

Also Known as:

  1. The Camp

Archaeology & History

Wadmore's 1920 groundplan

Wadmore’s 1920 groundplan

This much disturbed Iron Age ‘hillfort’ is effectively a large enclosure of Iron Age origin, much ruined by farming and subsequent landscape alterations through the centuries, with much of it re-fashioned as a medieval moat more than a thousand years after first being built.  Even when the site was visited and described in Mr Wadmore’s (1920) fascinating work he told of the variants in its apparent construction phases:

“This large earthwork is situated on flat level ground, a few yards off the Bedford-Kimbolton Road, at the VIIth milestone out of Bedford.  In shape it is very irregular and presents little to aid one in arriving at an estimate of its original form, except the construction of its defensive lines, which are of two totally different characters and suggest that a comparatively modern manor has been added to an older work.

“The portion which I take to be the older, lies to the south, and is contained on this and the western side, as far as and including the great sweep bending east, by a strong vallum with a parapet and external fosse.

“The modern portion appears to me to commence between the east and west faces where the lines run north, and are purely the remains of a fosse without any indication of a parapet.  The extension of these lines, so far as can be traced, would tend to prove that the work occupied both sides of the road; but such a fact should not prejudice one’s view concerning the work as a whole….”

Section of the earthworks drawn by Wadmore

Section of the earthworks drawn by Wadmore

Adding with a good sense of humility that, “I am quite willing to admit that I may be mistaken, as the matter is entirely speculative.”  But modern archaeological analysis tends to prove that much of Wadmore’s words were correct and the remaining northern section of these earthworks is where the medieval moated section was built.  Roman remains and other period artifacts have also been unearthed in and around the site.

A few hundred yards southwest of the hillfort we find a place called Greenbury Farm.  This place was known in the 14th century as ‘Grymesbury’, which has been taken by some students as relating to the Norse deity, Grim.  However, Mawer & Stenton (1926) point out that in this instance,

“The Grym family had a holding in Bolnhurst in 1302 and bury is here used in the manorial sense. Hence ‘Grym’s Manor.’”


  1. Mawer, A. & Stenton, F.M., The Place-Names of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, Cambridge University Press 1926.
  2. Wadmore, Beauchamp, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire, Bedfordshire Standard: Bedford 1920.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 2016