A sub-rectangular enclosure located on rising fround to the west of the river Itchen at a point where it was forded in Roman times and probably also by a prehistoric routeway. The Roman town partially overlaps the east side of this Iron Age enclosure, extending further downhill. Excavation of the western and south-eastern defences was undertaken between 1964 and 1971 by M.Biddle as part of a programmme of ‘rescue excavations’. Opinion has been divided concerning the occupation date: J. Collis (1978) advances a Middle Iron Age date for the occupation, B. Cunliffe (2005) considers Winchester an enclosed valley-side oppidum characteristic of the move away from hillforts in the first century BC.

The enclosure is defended to at least three sides by a single V-shaped ditch and dump-constructed rampart (Cunlife 2005). A linear anomaly or ‘scarp’ underlying the Roman city to the west of the known extension of the southern enclosure ditch, is interpreted as the possible line of its continuation to the east (Biddle 1970, 1971). The rampart is 1.7km long, 7.25m wide and 4.25m deep. Four entrances have been identified (Beaumont Jones 1997).

Excavations undertaken between 1964 and 1971 under the overall direction of M.Biddle, explored the earthworks progressively, beginning with work on the western defences, a location known as Oram’s Arbour, and gradually establishing the line and the date of the southern defence underlying the Roman city up to the possible entrance located apparently mid-way along this ditch line.

The vicinity of Winchester is not presumed a focus for Early Neolithic occupation, although evidence does emerge of Late Neolithic occupation beginning about 2000 BC and continuing into the Later Bronze Age. St Catherine’s Hill, the hillfort immediately opposite on the east side of the river, was investigated by C.F.C. Hawkes in the 1920s (Hawkes et al. 1930, 1976). It was occupied in the Early and Middle Iron Ages, and may have been a precursor of the Oram's Arbour enclosure.

M. Biddle in his Final Interim Report (1971), proposed a construction date of mid to late first century BC for the ‘Oram’s Arbour’ enclosure, but Collis (1978) and Whinney (1994) maintains a middle Iron Age date for the settlement. B. Cunliffe proposes that extensive settlement of the valley side began in the second to first century BC; occupation within the enclosure was probably continuous, but by the first half of the first century AD the nucleus had moved further down towards the river (Cunliffe 2005, 173-4). Beaumont James (1997) notes that settlement of the Early to Mid Iron Age occupation has been identified in and around Oram’s Arbour, and dates the construction of the enclosure to the Middle Iron Age (c.300 to 100 BC), with a mid-late Iron Age occupation concentrated to the east of the enclosure where roundhouses have been identified and an occupation sequence excavated. The enclosure had ceased to function by the end of the Iron Age (Whinney 1994) and large-scale levelling of the earthwork occurred in the mid 1st century AD, presumably connected with the development of the Romano British town of Venta Belgarum, now modern Winchester.

It is supposed that the Late Iron Age settlers in this region are incomers from Gaul and are identified as Atrebates. The name given by the romans to the Romano British town is Venta Belgarum, believed to mean ‘market place of the Belgae’.


Nom usuel : Winchester

Commune : Winchester

Lieu-dit : Oram's Arbour

Nom antique : Venta Belgarum

Département : Hampshire

Région : South East

Pays : Royaume-Uni

Civitas : -


Superficie : 20 ha

Topographie :  Enceinte de plaine

Nb de phases du rempart : -

Nb de portes connues : 4

Nb de portes fouillées : -

Architecture de rempart : 

1 - Talus massif 


Zone d'habitat


Habitat rural | Voie


Chronologie relative :  -

Occupation du site : 
Bronze ancien-moyen
Bronze final (Bz. D, Ha A-B)-Hallstatt ancien (Ha C)
La Tène ancienne (LT B)-La Tène moyenne (LT C)
La Tène finale (LT D)
Antiquité tardive
Époque moderne
Époque contemporaine

Chronologie absolue : -


Beaumont James T., Winchester, B.T. Batsford/English Heritage, London, 1997.
Biddle M., Excavations at Winchester, 1964. Third Interim Report, Antiquaries Journal, 45, 1965, 230-264.
Biddle M., Excavations at Winchester, 1969. Eighth Interim Report, Antiquaries Journal, 50, 1970, 277-326.
Biddle M., Excavations at Winchester, 1971. Tenth and Final Interim Report : Part I, Antiquaries Journal, 55, 1975, 96-126.
Biddle M., Excavations at Winchester, 1971. Tenth and Final Interim Report : Part II, Antiquaries Journal, 55, 1975, 295-337.
Collis J.R., Defended sites of the Late La Tène in Central and Western Europe, (British Archaeological Reports, Intl. Ser. 2), Oxford, 1976.
Collis J.R., Winchester Excavations 1949 - 1960. Vol. II: Excavations in the Suburbs and Western Part of the Town, Winchester, 1978.
Cunliffe B., Winchester Excavations 1949 - 1960, Winchester, 1964.
Harding D.W., Hillforts: Later Prehistoric Earthworks in Britain and Ireland, Academic Press, London - New York - San Francisco, 1976.
Hawkes C.F.C., St.Catherine’s Hill, Winchester : The report of 1930 Re-assessed, in Harding D.W. (Ed.) 1976.
Hawkes C.F.C., Myres J.N.L., Stevens C.G., St. Catherine’s Hill, Winchester, Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, Winchester, 1930.

Qualmann H.E., Rees H, Scobie G.D., Whinney, R, Oram's Arbour the Iron Age enclosure at Winchester : volume 1 : Investigations 1950-1999, (Winchester Museums Service and English Heritage), 2004.
Qualmann K.E., Roman Winchester, in Greep S. (ed.), Roman towns: The Wheeler Inheritance, (CBA Research Report 93), York, 1993, 66-77.
Whinney R., Oram's Arbour: the middle Iron Age enclosure at Winchester, in A.P. Fitzpatrick and E.L. Morris (eds), The Iron Age in Wessex: Recent Work, 1994, 86-91.


L'oppidum de Winchester est accessible au public : c'est un espace vert au coeur d'un quartier résidentiel. Il ne reste aucun vestige de visible, les derniers ayant été détruits par la construction d'une voie ferrée à la fin du XIXe. Le site compte plusieurs propriétaires. Il n'est pas classé Monument Historique, mais est protégé en tant qu'espace naturel et il est soumis à la protection des vestiges archéologiques en milieu urbain.

Les dernières fouilles de la zone de l'oppidum furent réalisées conjointement par le musée et l'université de Winchester en 2001 et 2002. Les résultats sont en cours d'étude.
Quelques rares objets sont exposés au musée de Winchester, notamment lors d'expositions temporaires.
Internet :

(Camille Daval – ArchéoMédia, avril 2008)



Pip Stephenson / Colin Haselgrove