In describing the ancient earthworks of Huntingdonshire the classification suggested by the Congress of Archaeological Societies will be adopted, which is as follows:
Fortresses partly inaccessible, by reason of precipices, cliffs or water, additionally defended by artificial banks or walls.
Fortresses on hill-tops with artificial defences following the natural line of the hill; or, through usually on high ground, less dependent on natural slopes for protection.
Rectangular or other simple enclosures, including forts and towns of the Romano-British period.
Forts consisting only of a mount with encircling ditch or fosse.
Fortified mounts, either wholly or partly artificial, with traces of an attached court or bailey, or of two or more such courts.
Homestead moats, such as abound in some lowland districts, consisting of simple enclosures formed into artificial islands by water moats.
Enclosures, mostly rectangular, partaking of the form of F, but protected by stronger defensive works, ramparted and fossed, and in some instances provided with outworks.
Ancient village sites protected by walls, ramparts or fosses.
Defensive or other works which fall under none of the above headings.
Huntingdonshire is a low-lying county, and in ancient times nearly the whole of it was thickly wooded, while a small part was fenland; neither of these conditions was suited to the early settlement of man, and it is therefore not surprising that the county possesses no example of the first two classes of earthworks. By the time of the Roman occupation the county had become, to some extent, inhabited by a settled population, and was traversed by numerous roads or ways. Several places are claimed as the sites of Roman Settlements, and two of them, Durobrivae, in the north, and Eynesbury, towards the south, still possess earthworks which come within Class C.
The earthworks at Kimbolton forms the only example of Class D in the county, while of Class E there is the fine site of Huntingdon Castle, the smaller castles at Wood Walton and Ramsey, a curious miniature castle at Sapley, and a late earthwork of this class at Cretingsbury.
Homestead moats, Class F, abound, and many of them are very fine examples, while others are of unusual shape. It is difficult in many cases to draw the line between the two Classes F and G. This is particularly the case in the Fen district and in the low meadow lands by the sides of the rivers, where the water courses form the natural boundaries, and where the necessity for protecting the homestead and its surrounding land from floods usually dictated a raised bank on one side, or sometimes on both sides of the stream. These banks in flood time were liable to be used as footpaths, or, if wide enough, as roads; and it is sometimes difficult to decide whether the road or the flood-bank was the main object of the earthwork. With the exception, however, of those cases where a fairly complete enclosure can be identified, it will be considered that flood-banks do not come within the scope of this work. There are several instances in the county where buildings and sites were enclosed first within an inner moat, and, secondly, at some little distance, by an outer moat which almost, if not completely, surrounded the site and formed an outer defence; an interesting example of this being at Sawtry Abbey. It is, perhaps, more convenient to include all these earthworks in Class F, and to ignore Class G.
Class H is represented by some curious earthworks at Colne.
There are three interesting earthworks which must be placed, very reluctantly, in Class X –viz., Earith Bulwark, Horsey Hill, and Weybridge. The first two are very fine examples of Cromwellian forts; the last if probably only a domestic earthwork of late date, but it is curious and occupies a most interesting site, and it can hardly be placed in any of the other classes.
It may be well to say a few words about the accompanying plans. It must often have been noticed how misleading the ordinary plan is, long hachures close together seeming to indicate a high hill, whereas they frequently represent a gentle slope. In the plans here given an attempt has been made to indicate the degree of the slope by varying the intensity of the hachures; the length of the hachure, of course, gives the length of the slope, and the closer they are together the steeper is the rise.