Oliver's Fort and the Bloody Ditch – Wiltshire, England - Atlas Obscura

Wiltshire, England

Oliver's Fort and the Bloody Ditch

This ancient fort overlooks the site of a disastrous retreat from the English Civil War.  

Roundway Hill in Wiltshire has excellent views of the local countryside and the fort is full of Iron Age archaeological history. But the site also offers a taste of more recent politics and warfare, in a place known as the Bloody Ditch found on the northern side of the hill fort.

During the English Civil War, supporters of Parliamentary rule clashed with supporters of the monarchy. The Battle of Roundway Down on July 13, 1643 proved a resounding victory for the Royalists over the Parliamentarians. Under the leadership of Sir William Waller, the Parliamentarian flank attempted to flee towards the hilltop fort, but they were pursued by the Royalist Cavalry led by Sir John Byron. The fleeing Parliamentarians were forced to gallop over a 300-foot (91 m) precipice at the edge of Roundway Down. So many died at the foot of these hills that the area became known as the Bloody Ditch.

As a result of its association with the Civil War, the hill fort became known as Oliver’s Castle—even though Oliver Cromwell was not present at the battle of Roundway.

Know Before You Go

From Roundway village there is a road leading northward towards the Devizes White Horse (a chalk horse carved into the hillside). On the road up to this horse there is a fork in the road. Take the left fork to get close to Oliver's Castle, take the right fork to get to the start point for the battle of Roundway Down.

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