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Hamdon Hill



Details of hillfort on Pastscape

[ST 483164] Hillfort [GT] (1)
A multivallate Iron Age hillfort on Hamdon Hill more generally known as Ham Hill, encloses an area of 210 acres and has a 3 mile perimeter. Due to extensive quarrying of the Ham stone since Roman times the entrances are difficult to determine, but a turning in of the banks at the north-west and south-east of the fort, probably indicate them. Numerous finds, most of which have come from the over-burden during quarrying operations, and also from excavations in the north-western sector by H. St. George Gray in 1923-5 and 1929 testify to occupation of the area at least from Neolithic times. The most intensive occupation of the hill-fort appears to have been in the 1st cent. B.C. and during the first 60-70 years A.D. This is attested by numerous finds including a late - probably Belgic - pit burial; pottery sherds of Halstatt form (IA 'A'); bowls of Glastonbury type (IA, 'B' or 'AB'); bead-rim vessels and other forms of south-western type dating towards the time of the Claudian conquest; a bronze bulls-head of Celtic type (possibly an ornamental chariot fitting); chariot horn caps; iron tyres of wheels; bridle-bits and nosebands. Iron currency bars have been found, also silvered bronze coins of the Durotriges. In 1930 excavations revealed a closely grouped area of dwelling and storage pits of pre-Roman date. There is also considerable evidence of further occupation of Hamdon Hill during the Roman period, including a villa situated in the east part of the fort (ST 41 NE 8). Miscellaneous finds include a Saxon shield boss of iron, and a 14th cent. jug spout and bronze spur. The majority of the finds are in Taunton Museum, primarily in the Walter and Norris collections. (2-4)
Ham Hill is a bivallate contour following hillfort but in the S.W. corner it becomes trivallate. It is well preserved on all but the W. side where random quarrying makes it difficult to identify the ramparts. Two entrances can be positively identified; in the S.E. corner and on the E. side of the northern spur. Published survey (1/2500) revised. (5)
No change; survey of 10.1.67 correct. (6) Traces of an Iron Age settlement have been identified within the northern spur of the hillfort by Gray's excavations during the 1920s (7-9) and from artefacts recovered over a period of time during quarrying and a watching brief (10). It was originally thought that only the northern spur was occupied, and was separately fortified from the rest of the hillfort which was used as a cattle pound. Excavations carried out in 1983, identified pits containing daub, grain and probable second century BC pottery within the southwestern area of the hillfort. These excavations have shown that parts of the interior were devoid of structures, and that there was settlement beyond the area of the northern spur. (10-13) Burials have been identified on Ham Hill (ST 41 NE 70) including one with weapons and chariot fittings (ST 41 NE 71). Iron currency bars have also been recovered (ST 41 NE 72). For details of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Roman occupation see child records. (compiler - J Lancley) ST483164. Ham Hill consists of a plateau of shelly limestone with a spur projecting from its north-western corner. The sides of the plateau and spur are steep and their upper edges are followed closely by the hillfort defences. The defences at the northern and southern edges of the plateau have marked angles in their courses where major geological faults are encountered and negotiated. The total length of the inner circuit of the defences is 4.9km.
The form and number of defensive elements is fairly uniform throughout. The upper part of the hillside has been scarped to produce a steep inner rampart face. Generally the top of the inner rampart lacks a bank, or at least one of any significance, the major exception being the north-western spur where a prominent bank is present on the northern and eastern sides. The foot of the inner rampart is followed by a ditch which in places, especially where the natural slope is very steep, becomes a ledge or terrace. Beyond the ditch there is a second rampart represented by a bank. Where there is a terrace instead of a ditch the outer bank is replaced by a steep, outward facing scarp. Exceptions to this general pattern occur on the western side of the plateau and near the north-eastern corner of the spur. In these areas the defences are strengthened by an additional line of earthworks which comprise a ditch or ledge at the base of the second rampart beyond which is a third rampart consisting of either a bank or a steep, outward facing scarp.
The defences are broken by a number of entrances most of which are not original features; it is possible that the gap through the eastern defences on the north-western spur was created by the Roman army. There appear to have been two early entrances, one on the south-east near Batemoor Barn and the other at the head of the combe separating the spur from the plateau on the north-west - this last probable entrance has been totally destroyed by quarrying.
Geophysical survey of the interior has shown that the plateau area was extensively used in the past. Evidence for trackways, enclosures, fields, ring ditches, pits and areas of intensive occupation and industrial activity has been found (for reports see General Archive Materials below - UID/s 1005361, 1005362 and 1058425). Some of the fields are also visible as cropmarks on air photographs. A number of these sites appear to be related to the Roman villa whose principal range of buildings has also been revealed by geophysical survey in the eastern part of the hillfort. On the north-western spur a circlar depression and rectangular enclosure may relate to the use of this part of the hill for a fair during the medieval and post medieval period. South of these sites are the remains of four possible prehistoric round houses. The principal sites within the interior have been given individual NMR numbers and separately described (14). (15)
Chance Posted by Chance
11th April 2016ce

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