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A few weeks ago, we challenged you to ‘Guess the Hillfort‘ in our annual Summer Quiz. To make things slightly easier, we restricted ourselves to a geographical area no further West than Bristol, no further North or East than Oxford, but stretching down to the South coast. As I write this at the end of May with Whitsun behind us, the sun is blazing through the window, it must be Summer, so here are the answers:
Hillfort 1 – Maiden Castle, Dorset
We’d imagine most readers recognised this one, found southwest of Dorchester. With a history that includes a Neolithic Causewayed Enclosure and farming use in the Bronze Age, the fort was first properly constructed around 600 BC, undergoing significant expansion 150 or so years later. At this time the fort increased in size from 16 acres up to 47 acres – the largest hill fort in Britain. The fort appears to have been abandoned as a habitable area after the Roman invasion in the 1st Century AD although there is some evidence of a later temple building in the 5th Century AD. The site was excavated in the 1930s by Mortimer Wheeler. Further excavations were carried out in 1985-6, under the direction of Niall Sharples.
Hillfort 2 – Battlesbury Camp, Wiltshire
East of Warminster is Battlesbury Hill, surmounted by the Camp. The defenses follow the natural contours of the hill, enclosing some 23.5 acres. Finds of late Iron Age pottery date the fort to the 1st Century BC, though there are earlier Bronze Age barrows to the south and West of the fort.
Hillfort 3 – Badbury Rings, Dorset
Situated 3 miles or so to the northwest of Wimborne Minster, the hill fort has two main phases on construction, the first of 18 acres, the second more than doubling this to 41 acres. As with many Iron Age forts, Bronze Age barrows in the area point to earlier use of the site. The site was excavated as recently as 2004, led by Martin Papworth.
Hillfort 4 – Yarnbury, Wiltshire
A few miles west of Stonehenge on the A303, can be seen the banks and ramparts of Yarnbury hill fort. Some 28.5 acres in size, it was most recently extensively surveyed in 1991. A smaller and earlier banked enclosure of 13 acres, dated to around 300 BC lies inside the main fort which has been dated from finds to around 100 BC. The site was used for the local Winterbourne Stoke sheep fair up until 1916, and the location of many of the pens and folds used are still in evidence today as crop marks, in the right conditions.
Hillfort 5 – Danebury, Hampshire
Situated 2 miles northwest of Stockbridge, Danebury is a ‘type site’ for hill forts and was
extensively excavated by Sir Barry Cunliffe in the 1970′s. The site covers 12 acres, dates from the 6th Century BC and was in use for over 500 years, being abandoned around 100 BC. If you’re considering a visit here, the Museum of the Iron Age, some 5 miles to the north in Andover is well worth visiting first with extensive displays and finds from the site which help enormously with interpretation when you’re on site.
Hillfort 6 – Barbury Castle, Wiltshire
Five miles south of Swindon, and 4 miles northwest of Avebury lies Barbury Castle, one of several hill forts on or near the old Ridgeway track. Dating from around 500 BC, occupation continued into the Roman period, and beyond. Saxon weapons and possible inhumations for the later period have been identified here. The hill fort was used as an anti-aircraft gunnery station in the Second World War, maintaining a possible military use for the site down the ages. There has been no formal excavation,
other that that done by the military in the 1930s.
Hillfort 7 – Uley Bury, Gloucestershire
Uley Bury is a long flat-topped hill, just outside Uley, 5 miles southwest of Stroud. With steep natural slopes on all sides apart from the northern corner, it is an ideal location for a hill fort. At 32 acres, it required over a mile of ramparts to be built on the slopes. There is evidence of occupation from 300 BC to 100 AD, a timescale in common with many other hill forts. Hetty Pegler’s Tump, a Neolithic long barrow re-opened to the public in 2011 after two years of repair works, lies a short distance to the north of
the hill fort.
Hillfort 8 – Hod Hill, Dorset
Hod Hill, near Blandford Forum is another hill fort that departs from the more usual ’rounded’ appearance, being roughly rectangular and enclosing an area of some 54 acres. Radiocarbon dating suggests a date of 500 BC for the main rampart, but this was one of the forts captured by the Roman Vespasian in 43 AD. remains of the subsequent Roman Camp can be see in the northwest corner on the image above. The site was excavated in the 1950s by Sir Ian Richmond.
Hillfort 9 – Figsbury Ring, Wiltshire
3.5 miles northeast of Salisbury, Figsbury Ring is a somewhat enigmatic structure, owing to the presence of an internal ditch, some 30 yards or so inside the main bank. Identified as an Iron Age hillfort by the Cunningtons in the 1920s, this interpretation has been the subject of ongoing debate ever since. Reappraisal in the 1980s of some of the finds from the Cunnington excavations identified Grooved Ware and flint tools, indicating a much earlier Neolithic date for the first use of the site. There are suggestions that Figsbury started out as a Causewayed Enclosure, was later used as a henge monument before finally being transformed into a hill fort defensive site.
Hillfort 10 – Uffington, Oxfordshire
Uffington Castle, a defensive enclosure just to the southwest of the famous white horse, dates back to the early Iron Age (7-800 BC) and encloses an area of just over 8 acres. Excavations have failed to find conclusive evidence for Iron Age buildings, although isolated post holes have been located and finds of pottery and loom weights indicate that some form of occupation took place.
Hillfort 11 – Liddington Castle (Camp), Wiltshire
Liddington Castle or Camp lies just east of Chiseldon, south of Swindon, covers an area of around 7 acres and dates to the Late Bronze/Early Iron Ages, making it one of the earliest hillforts in Britain. Excavation finds suggest Liddington was abandoned early (500 BC?) but possibly re-occupied in Roman times. There was research carried out (with excavation) in the 1970s to try to link Liddington to the fabled Badon Hill of Arthurian myth, but nothing could be conclusively proved.
Hillfort 12 – Old Sarum, Wiltshire
Shame on any hill fort fans who failed to recognise Old Sarum! The outline of the much later church in the northwest is the biggest clue here. The site contains evidence of human habitation as early as 3000 BC, and the site has been inhabited throughout history; Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans all playing their part in the history of the place before it fell out of use in Tudor times and was sold by Henry VIII.
We hope you enjoyed the quiz – how many did you get right? More information on many of the hill forts above can be found in the excellent English Heritage publication ‘The Wessex Hillforts Project‘, available as a free download, which we can heartily recommend for hillforts fans!
All images above were taken from, and copyright of, Google Maps.
Continuing our Bank Holiday Heritage Drive from Andover to Salisbury (ignoring the 200 mile round trip from London!) Yesterday we covered our visits to the Museum of the Iron Age and Bury Hill Camp. We now leave Bury Hill Camp behind, heading southwest toward Danebury…
I’d heard quite a bit about the entrance to Danebury. How ‘labyrinthine’ it is, how imposing, about how so many bodies had been found in the ditches there. But no-one told me about the uphill climb to get there! Ok, it’s probably not that bad for 99% of people, but when you’ve got dodgy knees, it seems a bit of a hike…
The entrance certainly is imposing. ‘Labyrinthine’ may be over-egging it a little these days, seeing how the pathway is neatly gravelled, allowing no opportunity to get lost as it leads you to the interior. But the banks certainly hide what’s inside. Imagining these with wooden palisades, as seen on the museum mock-up earlier, any visitor would be impressed at the implied power and wealth on display.
I elected to climb the provided staircase to the top of the bank for my permabulations, unlike others who had clearly decided to forge their own path, causing erosion in the process. It seems that even at a ‘type’ site such as Danebury, all the information boards, outreach and education just cannot get through to some people. As well as the erosion, I saw a fairly large fire pit within the hill fort, by the outer bank.
Once on top of the bank, the scale of the fortifications became readily apparent. Walking around the inner bank, it felt at times as though I had a drop of 100 feet or more into the middle ditch below, a real test of my vertigo, as the bank is also some 20-30 feet above the inside of the fort in places, with quite steep sides.
An information board at the entrance to the site suggests that there are at least 7 other hillforts intervisible with Danebury, but as the majority of the site is surrounded by trees, it’s difficult to discern which ones they could be. I also found, on preparing this text, that 500m to the northwest are remains of at least three much older (Neolithic) Longbarrows, mostly ploughed out, none now surviving to a height of more than 1 metre. There are other barrows of various dates to the east and south too. I should have researched more before leaving home as I saw nothing of these…
Traversing across the internal space of the fort, there is a definite ‘high spot’ in the ground, now largely covered by trees. The information board on-site tells us that square structures were found during excavation at this high point – “These buildings were presumably the shrines or temples of the community, and as such would be home to a group of druids” !
On this far side away from the enclosure entrance, I noticed a lot of small squarish holes were the ground had been turned over. Although I saw no evidence of droppings (other than from the sheep which were set to graze in the fort), these could have been done by rabbits, foxes or badgers, or may have a more sinister purpose…
But Tempus was Fugit’ing and I still had a lot to do, so made my way back through the neatly clipped exit and set off back down the hill to the car park for the next stage of our journey.
In fact, time was against us from now on. Our next scheduled stop was to have been at Figsbury Ring, but as I’ve been here before, I made an executive decision to skip it and move on.
I had come to Old Sarum, not to see the hill fort and all it contains (there is an admission charge payable, I did not have sufficient time left in the day to make this worthwhile), but to see something both newer and very much older than the hill fort at the same time. For here, in the car park some experimental archaeology is currently taking place which will have a profound effect on millions of people every year. It is here that the designs, materials and techniques for the Neolithic houses which will be erected at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre are being worked upon.
Amazingly, as I entered the car park I spotted two old friends of mine that I’d not seen for some years. They were here with their children for an event within the fort later in the day, which was re-enacting a battle between Britons and Saxons, in which the children could take part (and which they thoroughly enjoyed!)
But the houses were what I’d come to see, and I must apologise here to the English Heritage volunteer, whose explanatory talk I interrupted when I arrived to my friends’ surprise.
There are three houses in total, two are essentially complete, one is still being worked upon. The two shown above are based upon post holes discovered in excavations at Durrington Walls, and the third is conjectured, being of a design that leaves little archaeological trace.
Of the two houses built on the post hole traces, different materials are being used on different parts of the houses to see how easy they are to work, how well they last, how efficent at heat retention etc they are. As you can see on the right above, different grasses and types of straw are being tried, in different laying patterns for the roofs. The house on the left has two different wall structures, one made of water, chalk and straw, the other a more traditional daub mix. Surprisingly, the daub wall has needed more ongoing maintenance and patching as it has dried out. Similar comparisons are undergoing trials on the house on the right.
One interesting point with these houses is that although the post arrangements are essentially rectanglar, the houses appear very rounded. This is due to the stresses placed by the weight of the roof causing the walls to ‘bow’ out, something which had not really been considered, or seen in this way before.
The third house is considered to be a possible earlier design, without substansive walls, but a roof that continues to floor level. As with the other house, despite windows the house is remarkable light inside, once your eyes adjust to the lower levels. Again different structuring techniques have been used on this house, as evidenced by the ridges and flat sections of the roof above, and the internal battening seen below.
Although the post hole houses have a series of smaller, internal post holes which have been interpreted as supports for a shelving arrangement, there are no such findings for the simpler buildings. I guess people in grass houses couldn’t stow tomes? (I’ll get me coat…)
But it will be very interesting to see which design elements from these experiments will be used in the final houses to be built at Stonehenge later this year.
Having seen as much as we could, it was time to grab a bite to eat, in the centre of Salisbury (which has extensive Heritage sites of its’ own, enough to fill several days’ visits but outside the remit of the Heritage Journal time period of interest) before heading back to the smoke of London. Whilst we could have driven via Amesbury and Stonehenge, this would have made our return home unfeasibly late, so we took the more direct route, retracing our steps up to Andover and home.
But there’s always next time!
All pictures © Alan S.
Another sunny Bank Holiday, another Heritage Drive!
Although the plan for the day only involved 4 sites in a distance of around 16 miles, the trip was a long one for us, involving a 200 mile round journey to get to those 16 miles, resulting in a trip that took over 12 hours in total and left us exhausted!
So it was that we headed around the M25 and onto the M3 at silly o’clock in the morning. Despite stopping for a relaxing and much needed breakfast, we still arrived a bit earlier than anticipated, and had to wait for the first scheduled stop, the Museum of the Iron Age in Andover, to open.
Museum of the Iron Age
To enter the Danebury exhibit proper, visitors must pass through a mock-up of the entrance at Danebury, as it’s thought to have been, with a timber facing to the rampart by the gate.
“The Central Wessex landscape around Danebury presents one of the densest concentrations of Iron Age sites in Europe, but there is much more besides”
so states the introductory map display at the museum, which is largely devoted to the finds from Danebury hill fort. Indeed, the map is a mass of red lines denoting field systems, settlements, hill forts and other indications of occupation from the Iron Age, all of which make current day Andover look quite insignificant as a population centre!
As you’d expect from a decent museum (and this is very decent, the volunteer staff were extremely friendly and helpful), there are numerous finds on display, with informative interpretation boards at every turn, covering the structure of the hillfort, defenses and armaments, everyday life in the fort – where over 5000 grain storage pits have been found – and death, with several burials and bones on display.
I certainly found the interpretation boards, dioramas and other displays were a great aid to the imagination, and they definitely enhanced my visit to Danebury later in the day.
It seems I’d also timed my visit to coincide with the start of a new ‘Lego Mania Trail‘ initiative, running from Thursday 28 March to Sunday 9 June. Several attractions across Hampshire are displaying scale Lego models of nearby Heritage attractions. Visit all those listed in the time specified and get a stamp on a form, and you can apparently be entered into a prize draw to win an iPad. I can’t speak for the other sites, but the Lego model of Danebury was certainly impressive, and it’s a great way to get the kids involved!
Bury Hill Camp
Just a few minutes drive from the museum, outside the southern environs of Andover (at Grid Ref SU346435) in Upper Clatford was the first site of the day, at Bury Hill. Although the land both inside and outside the hill fort is private, there is a footpath around the perimeter allowing glimpses of the bank and ditch.
The hill fort was constructed in two major stages, the first univallate bank and ditch enclosing 24 acres, and a later bivallate earthwork covering 11 acres on the south east of the earlier fort. Sadly the ditch is very overgrown in places, although a sense of the scale of the place can still be achieved.
Excavation here has revealed the interior of the fort is densely covered with pits, but very little grain or human bone has been recovered. What have been recovered are a number of horse trappings and remains. This suggests that the fort was used as stabling, for stud or training purposes, or maybe even trading of horses. Extensive remains of a settlement have been found a few hundred yards to the southeast of the hill fort, indicating that this place was important, but possibly not in the way that most hill forts are perceived.
Back on the main road, we headed southwest toward Danebury, easily signposted with those brown tourist signs.
to be continued….
All pictures © Alan S.
This year, it’s the turn of hillforts, those large enclosures dating to the Iron Age, often with multiple ditch and bank defenses. We have pictures of twelve hill forts, courtesy of Google Maps, for you to identify. To make things slightly easier, we have restricted ourselves to a geographical area no further West than Bristol, no further North or East than Oxford, but stretching down to the South coast.
So, here are the twelve sites for you to identify, answers in a couple of weeks’ time:
All images taken from, and copyright of, Google Maps.
Last weekend was a Bank Holiday Weekend in the UK, and with the first real view of blue skies of the Summer, it was time to take to the road for another Heritage Drive. The plan this time was to take a circular route from London, up the A1 to Letchworth, across to Cambridge, then heading south again via Saffron Walden and Bishop’s Stortford back to London, taking in various heritage sites en route.
Turning off the A1M at the Letchworth junction, our journey proper starts with a trip northeast across the ‘Baldock Bowl’, so called by the Norton Community Archaeology Group, who have a long term project running just north of Letchworth on the western side of the bowl, investigating a Class Ia henge with internal post setting and two ditches, amongst evidence of other contemporary monuments. But as we follow the A505 toward Baldock we pass an area which includes another prehistoric monument, the Weston Hill Henge.
Past Baldock, we continue on the A505, which for some of its length follows the line of the Icknield Way ancient track, until just before Royston we see on the horizon to the right the barrow cemetery of Therfield Heath, which we’ve featured here on the Journal before. Royston of course, is named after the glacial erratic stone which features in the centre of the town, close to the entrance to Royston Cave, a possible medieval hide-away or meeting place with some intriguing carvings.
Joining the A10, we next head up toward Cambridge, turning off after the village of Harston, to head toward Hauxton and the Shelfords. Our next scheduled stop is the church at Little Shelford (turn left into Church Lane), where although the church has a web site there is no information whatsoever about the history or structure of the church, which has several old carved stones embedded within the tower, porch and on the southeast wall. It would be interesting to know the history of these stones, but the church was locked on my visit, so I don’t know if an information booklet is available.
Back on the road, we head toward Great Shelford, and the A1301. Our destination is a short distance north east on Granham’s Road. After passing the White House farm, there is a pull-in with a Public Footpath sign. From here we set off on foot toward Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the distance, before following the bridle path round to the left, to Nine Wells nature reserve. This is a small area, with several natural springs, now formed into three separate springheads. In 1614, Cambridge needed a new water supply. Thomas Hobson built a causeway bringing water from the springs at Nine Wells into the city centre. But he had another claim to fame. Thomas Hobson hired out horses, but hirers had to take the horse closest to the door. This led to the expression “Hobson’s Choice” meaning “No choice”!
Continuing on, and turning right onto the A1307, we come to Wandlebury Park on the left by the dual carriageway, the site of an Iron Age Hill Fort, within the Gog-Magog Downs, site of Tom Lethbridge’s now legendary hill figures. The hill fort is now part of a Country Park and popular with families and dog walkers alike. The car park was busting at the seams when we arrived and we did not stop to investigate on this occasion.
Cutting back west past Audley End to head south on the B1383 we passed close by the site of the Ring Hill hill fort, now overgrown and as far as I know, inaccessible on private land. The next village south was Newport, home of the Leper Stone, a prehistoric standing stone more recently used as a receptacle for alms for inhabitants of a nearby leper hospital. Also in the town, near the railway station, is a large puddingstone, possibly one of the sites on the supposed ‘Puddingstone Trail‘.
Nearing the end of of own trail, we pass through Ugley, where another Puddingstone lies at Ugley Green, and Stansted Mountfitchet, site of a replica Norman Castle and Toy Museum – fun for all the family is apparently guaranteed!
And finally to Bishops Stortford, where Wallbury Camp, yet another hillfort in this mostly flat part of the country, lies just to the south of the town on a private estate, hidden by trees.
The variety of heritage on a trip like this just goes to show how much it’s possible to see, from many different periods, on a day trip by car from North London. Why not tell us about your own trips?
Oh, did I mention the helicopter?
The final installment in Sue Brooke’s story of her experiences with Time Team at Caerau Hillfort in Wales. New readers should start at Part 1 or see here for all previous installments and get right up to date.
Lots of emails started flying about that the Time Team programme would start its final run in January 2013. It seemed that the Caerau episode was one of the last series that would be filmed. Lots of excitement among everyone involved and who couldn’t wait to see the programme. Oddly I felt a little bit apprehensive. I wasn’t sure how the area and community would be shown or perceived, whether all the filming with the youngsters would be included, what the overall outcome would be. Anyway on the day it turned out to be difficult as the programme was scheduled to go out whilst I was working. Sod’s Law. No problem really as it was easy to record it. The thing is I just couldn’t wait to see this recording and I wouldn’t be home until about 11.30pm. Luckily there was a telly where I was to be working for the first half hour of the show. We put it on and I watched anxiously. Up pops Tony Robinson and one of the first things he did was pronounce the name Caerau wrongly. I groaned. Then the texts started arriving on my phone!
Overall the programme was really well done. OK, some of the shots, particularly the one of the sign saying ‘no guns’ could have been placed into a better context but having said that, I liked what I saw. The young people were included really well throughout the programme. The episode agreed with my work more or less, in the interpretation of the site. The fact that there were no human remains or shiny swords found would, I hoped, show that this site was interesting only in a people and place historical context rather than from a night-hawk perspective.
One of the best features, for me, were the aerial shots taken from the helicopter. OK, it has to be said that a lot of the texts I got were from people saying they had just seen my house (!) but for me it helped set the site in a brilliantly wider community context within Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Thank the gods for the pause button on the remote control. Luckily they didn’t manage to pick out me waving madly from the garden fence but it was a real shame I couldn’t have gone up in it! I have some aerial images but due to copyright difficulties I can’t share them here. But there is a lovely aerial shot on the CAER Heritage website.
I had seen the important ‘finds’ as they had come out of the ground but was surprised that a lot of others weren’t included. Perhaps there is scope for another programme. Perhaps they simply wanted to focus on the Iron Age rather than how the site was used following that. I’ve ‘seen’ this programme about five times since it aired but I haven’t actually ‘watched’ it yet, if you know what I mean. I get so distracted with the various elements of it that I haven’t yet been able to grasp the whole story, as Time Team tells it. In case you’re wondering, I actually did appear, for about 30 seconds but it was the back of my head, luckily!
The upshot of all this has been that it has enabled the CAER Heritage Project to move on quickly and professionally. Olly has written a booklet to accompany both the project and the TT episode which was launched at The Senedd in Cardiff (the main public building for the National Assembly of Wales), with various political party members attending. The local press picked up the story again and the display of work undertaken by the local schools has been on the road, so to speak, visiting St. Fagans Museum of Welsh Life, The Senedd and the Cardiff Story Museum. More funding has been secured so much more work can be carried out. The importance of the site has been highlighted which, hopefully, will protect it further.
So from my very serious misgivings about the total madness of letting Time Team dig it up there has been lots of positives. The field itself recovered well from the trenches dug and the vehicles churning it up, and as promised by CADW they did not dig it all up. Overall those lovely lumps and bumps remain intact. So that’s another good thing! There has been increased interest locally and even from other people who lived here once and moved away. I’ve chatted to lots of interested and interesting people who all have had another story to add to my collection. I’ve run out of the launch booklets, such has been the interest. Primary schools have contacted me asking for talks and more information on linking in with the work the CAER Project is doing. One little girl’s mum rang me to say her daughter marched into school telling her teachers that I was her friend (her mum refused to allow her to say aunty!) and that I knew everything about the Celts and had even been on the telly. I’ll be visiting there shortly to talk to the kids about it all.
So, the final opinion of the Time Team professionals was that this area, with its commanding views and good strategic position was probably very important in the area that would become modern Cardiff. They actually named it Capital Hill. All really good telly stuff.
The thing is, and this is really important to both me and my ever changing research, I don’t agree with that. But, that’s another story.
Very many thanks to Sue for putting this story together for us! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as we did. There’s a lot more information about Caerau and the surrounding district on Sue’s own blog.
OS Reference ST13377498
CADW SAM Number GM 018
National Public Record Number 94517
For those who may wish to visit then please note that there are various access points. However, the safest access to the hillfort site is via Church Road, Caerau, Cardiff.
For sat nav purposes use the postcode CF5 5LQ
Vehicles may not access the lane without prior consent of the landowner. The lane access gate is kept locked. It is however possible to walk up the hill but access is very steep and may be quite risky when wet. Visitors are asked to take care when in the grounds of the church due to the age and nature of the cemetery in the churchyard of the remains of St. Marys Church. Always remember that the area is a Scheduled Ancient Monument so may not be interfered with in any way.
It was a while before anything more was heard. Meetings were being held quietly at the school and things were being kept beautifully secret. I worried that these kids who had worked so hard up at the church site would just be pushed to one side when the ‘big-guns’ arrived. This was not the case as the programme incident room was to be based at the school, the helicopter would be taking off from there for the famous aerial views and the strategic meetings would be based there at lunch times.
Then the text came through to tell me the date and time that the whole thing would start. OK, here we go. It was April, it was cold and, guess what, it was wet! I arrived at the school the day before the filming was due to start for the briefing and to be issued with my access-all-areas blue TT wristband. Goodo – that’s me most definitely in. OK, yes, I admit I took some covert photos of the Time Team vehicles. Well, you do, don’t you? These are as much stars of the show as the famous names.
Now, remember that this is a hillfort. There is now a lane there that helps access when the gate is unlocked. However, in the rain it gets full of mud and becomes dangerous. It was the intention of those who built this to keep uninvited visitors out. Perhaps I had a lot more in common with my Caerau ancestors than anyone had previously considered! But here I am – waterproofs, boots and blue wristband. There is a security guard on the gate. I kind of saunter up, acting all cool with my arm extended to show my wristband when the security guard asks me to move to one side to allow a vehicle to pass. It was Tony Robinson.
I walked up the hill. It takes a good few minutes, depending on how fit you are. It’s steep and it bends. As I walked around the final corner towards the church there it was. A mess. A huge mess. The rain had continued overnight. The vehicles had accessed the field through the gate where the security men now stood. The access to this rarely opened gate was now one large churned up, heavy, thick, muddy puddle. I really could have wept.
There was a white marquee over near the old church. There were people all over the place. Geophysics people were wandering around, people with cameras were walking about and a small crowd had gathered. Then more vehicles started to arrive regularly, depositing even more people on to the site. It was hard to understand what on earth was going on. My first words were along the lines of – ‘oh, what have you done to my field’. Perhaps they were a little more colourful than that. No, let’s be honest, a LOT more colourful, so probably best not repeated here.
There are TT rules that participants in the programme must agree to. You may only enter the site if you have the appropriate wristband. You must not wander around the field. You must not get in the way of filming. You must always keep an eye out for cameras, just in case you inadvertently get in the way. You must be prepared to wait. And wait. And then probably wait some more.
The really nice thing, for me, is that CADW have rules too. One of them is seemingly ‘though shalt not churn up Sue’s field.’ Two lady CADW Inspectors appeared – in hi-vis jackets and welly’s, wearing beautifully official ID badges. They made them sort it all out. They kept the closest eye on what was going on. They had to be consulted at all stages. I loved these two – they were absolutely bloody marvellous!
The whole thing was the oddest thing to be a part of. Being a long term fan of the programmes meant I had invited these people into my living room and listened to what they had to say on most Sundays. I’d watched them and re-watched them. I’d met one of them and I’d read most of the books they had written. Yes, yes, I even have the Mick Aston look-alike scarf. It was therefore quite a shock to see Paul Blinkhorn drive his BMW bike up the hill (very carefully and only once, I have to say). He wandered over to the gate and was immediately stopped by security officers who had no idea who he was. What? It was actually far more entertaining to stay near the gate than it was to be ducking out of camera line on the field itself. And, I have to say these security guys were very kind to the two ladies (I was one) who they nicknamed the Ninja Nanna’s. It’s a long story so don’t ask.
Now, if you were on the field you may have a microphone thrust in front of your face. On this was attached a small screen. If you were really alert you realised that this was actually filming you. Oh, oh! Come on now, you probably all have HD large screen tellies. Can you actually say, hand on heart that you would want your image appearing in this way, particularly us ladies – without the benefit of hair, make-up and costume stylists? Of course not – well not unless you are a glamorous BGT finalist. I’m not. I kept my hood up and my head down.
As the days went on it kind of became excitable celebrity spotting. Well, for me anyway. The young people from the local schools were brought up to the hill. Activities were being run via the CAER Heritage Project and, I have to say, these kids behaved impeccably. They were patient, they were polite and they were very well behaved, as were, Francis Pryor, John Gater, Paul Blinkhorn and the lovely Matt Williams. I investigated a shovel throwing earth out of a ditch to find Matt on the end of it. That lovely bloke talked to me for an hour about the area and listened to my ramblings.
But of course, I knew that Phil Harding was in my field somewhere. My Time Team hero.
Phil Harding reminds me of someone who I would describe as a man of the soil. He knows how to dig, he does the digging himself and he generally knows what he’s on about. He has learnt this by getting his boots dirty – no short cuts – just gets in the dirt and works away. A bit like I myself had to learn in understanding how to interpret the site really. Then word was coming through that Phil had found evidence of houses. Well, of course he has! Oddly enough this was just over my garden fence. I got very excited at this but didn’t want to pop up on camera or worse, get in his way.
The security guy on the gate said I was to go with him. So I did. As I approached I could see the hat, the jacket, the hair and, of course, the legendary tool box. There was Phil, in a trench with what looked to me like post holes. I stood there nodding and mute. I had so many questions to ask, so much input to give on MY field and MY thoughts on how life developed here. I could not think of one single intelligent comment to make. Not a single word. Oh dear.
But he had found evidence of roundhouses. I was right. People had lived up on that hill behind my garden fence, at least during the Iron Age, probably before.
Of course, even TT heroes have to eat. So off we went to the school for lunch. Teresa Condick had arranged for food for our group to be brought in each day. We sat there eating whilst all around us, in my old school gym, were all the people I recognised from TT. It was completely bizarre. They talked about grown up things such as geophysics, glaciers, finds, post holes and round houses. I could not believe it. I went to make some tea and was stood alongside telly people, such as Tim Taylor, in his soaking wet, muddy socks. The school had insisted that these muddy boots had been left outside. Good for the school – rules is rules!
Of course, I have a life. I have to work. So off the hill I came and, after a quick change into my uniform off to work I went. During the course of my work I met Katharine. I told her about the hill and the TT filming such was my excitement. I issued her with a very stern ‘I shall HAVE to kill you if you tell’ threat. Then she said ’oh, I’ll just have a look at my maps’. Katharine Harry loves cartography. She understands topography. I told her about the area and she went away and she came back with historic maps I had not previously seen. She sat with me and she explained. She gave me copies. She changed the focus of my work. Katharine – you are a real star, thank you.
They came for three days. They dug holes, they made a real mess and then they went away. Oh, did I mention the helicopter?
To be concluded…
Situated a couple of miles or so ESE of St Columb Major in Cornwall, Castle an Dinas is an Iron Age hillfort, considered by many to be one of the most important hillforts in the southwest of Britain. It dates from around the 3rd to 2nd century BCE and consists of three ditch and rampart concentric rings, 850 feet above sea level. Within the central enclosed area are the remains of two Bronze Age round barrows. During the early 1960s it was excavated by a team led by Dr. Bernard Wailes of the University of Pennsylvania during two seasons of excavation.
Traditionally, Castle an Dinas was the hunting lodge (hunting seat) of King Arthur, from which he rode in the Tregoss Moor hunt. The earliest written record was made by William of Worcester during his visit to Cornwall in 1478 when he noted that legend says that the fort was the place where Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall and husband of King Arthur’s mother, died.
In March 1646, during the English Civil War, Royalist troops camped for two nights within the rings of the fort and held a Council of War where it was decided that they would surrender to the Parliamentarians.
From 1916 to 1957 it was the site of Cornwall’s largest wolfram mine. Many of the old buildings and workings have now been removed, following work by the current owners, Cornwall Heritage Trust, in 2008-2010, details of which can be found in a report lodged with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS)
“The History of Cornwall: From the Earliest Records and Traditions, to the Present Time, Volume 1” by Fortescue Hitchins and Samuel Drew (1824), gives the following description of the hillfort, ascribed to a ‘Mr Hals’:
In this parish stands Castell-an-Danis, alias Castell-an-Dynes, Castell-an-Denis, synonymous words; i. e. is the Men’s Castle, or is the Castle of Men; otherwise Castell-an-Dunes, Castell-an-Dunis; that is to say, is the castle, fenced fort, or fortress, or is the fort or fortress castle. It consists of about six acres of ground, within three circles or intrenchments, upon the top of a pyramidical hill, built of turf and unwrought rough stones, after the British manner, without lime, comparatively a hedge ; each of these circles or ramparts rising about eight feet above each other towards the centre of the castle, which consists of about an acre and half of land, in the midst whereof appear the ruins of some old dilapidated houses. Near which is a flat vallum, pit, or tank, wherein rain or cloud water that falls, abides, more or less in quantity as it falls, one half of the year. Which I suppose supplied the soldiers’ occasions, as no fountain, spring, or river water, is within a thousand paces thereof. There are two gates or portals leading to this fort, the one on the east, the other on the west side thereof, which on a stony causey, now covered with grass, conduct you up and down the hill towards Trekyning; that is to say, the king, prince, or ruler’s town.
On a recent visit, sheep and their lambs were grazing on the site, this is apparently quite usual – on a previous visit goats were also present. A couple of ponies were also present near the carpark.
On approaching the hill fort from the car park, the inclination (excuse the pun) is to head straight up the rampart – it appears as if a footpath has been cut for this purpose, but this is actually erosion of the rampart. An apparently ‘invisible’ sign directs visitors to the left, toward the original entrance at the southwest and away from the erosion, but as can be seen, it appears few people notice the sign!
Entering the central area from the SW, the remains of the barrows are to the right, and ahead to the left. On the far side is a boggy area, the pond or vallum described by Hals in the quote above. Also ahead to the left is an observation plaque set on stone. This points out various landmarks in all directions, very useful and interesting on a clear day, less so on a misty/foggy one! The plaque is placed upon an ancient stone with an interesting story:
“Anne, the daughter John Pollard, of this parish [St. Columb], and Loveday, the daughter of Thomas Rosebere, of the parish of Enoder, were buried on the 23rd day of June, 1671, who were both barbarously murdered the day before in the house of Capt’n Peter Pollard on the bridge, by one John the son of Humphrey and Cicely Trehembern, of this parish, about 11 of the clock in the forenoon upon a market day.”
The following tradition is given in connection with the above: “A bloodhound was obtained and set upon the trail, which it followed up a narrow lane, to the east of the union-house, named Tremen’s-lane; at the head, the hound made in an oblique direction towards the town, and in a narrow alley, known as Wreford’s-row, it came upon the murderer in his father’s house, and licked his boots, which were covered in blood.”
The sentence on Tremen was “that he be confined in an iron cage on the Castle Downs, 2 miles from St. Columb, and starved to death.” While in confinement he was visited by a country woman on her way home from market. The prisoner begged earnestly for something to eat; the woman informed him that she had nothing in the shape of food but a pound of candles; this being given him, he ate them in a ravenous manner. It’s a saying here, in reference to a scapegrace, that he is a regular Tremen.
Richard Cornish. St. Columb.
The stone is supposedly the one upon which the cage was set, and where John Tremen met his death.
OS Grid Ref SW945623.
From the A30 Westbound, take the B3274 through Victoria – this is the old A30 road. Continue along, under the old iron railway bridge until the road bends right and drops under the new A30. Just under a mile past the A30 bridge is a signposted track to the right. this leads direct to a small carpark behind a farm house. The fort is a 5 minute walk from the carpark.
From the East, take the A39 to the St Columb junction. Take the exit from the Roundabout signposted Castle an Dinas. The farm trackway is about 2 miles from the roundabout.
A signpost points the way to the Carpark and hill fort from both directions. There is an interpetation sign and map of the site in the carpark.
Here’s the latest installment of Heritage Action member Sue Brooke’s story concerning Caerau Hillfort in Wales. New readers should start at Part 1 or see here for all previous installments and get right up to date.
To say I was not a happy bunny was probably an understatement. I know I had formed the most ridiculous attachment to the area and had kind of allowed it to become emotionally mine, and it could even be said I was guarding it jealously. But that’s not the point.
The CAER Heritage Project had allowed for work to be done locally that I could never have achieved. My local history website couldn’t compare with the all singing, all dancing one that Cardiff University was able to build professionally and maintain properly and regularly. I knew this.
But do you know what; Time Team is just three days. They come in, they make a few ditches, smile at the cameras, drink some local beer and then put it all together for one programme. Then it’s gone. Done. Over with. This area was important and very few people knew about it. It was, for me personally in my work, as much about the ‘people’ as it was about the ‘place’. I didn’t want it to have been laying there for all these hundreds of years just to be flashed up on the telly for an hour and then left at the mercy of whoever walked through the field gates next.
Then we met again. People were going on about how good it would be for the community. How good it would be to show the area in such a positive light. How brilliant it would be in taking the CAER Heritage Project further – gaining more funding, doing more good things, teaching more people more skills. The work being done could be linked in to other areas locally with heritage trails, the local kids could have the work included in their curriculum and gain so much from it. Worse, everyone but me was very excited about it.
I asked questions about what would happen up at the site. Some references were made in relation to Alan Melton, leader of Fenland District Council, and his comments about ‘bunny huggers’. I liked that – I own five real live bunnies – but I wasn’t standing in the way of development, I was questioning the need to dig up a scheduled ancient monument for a TV show. When I asked about finding human remains it was pointed out to me that there had been a group of people campaigning for the return of human remains at various sites. I liked that too – I have been a follower of Arthur at Stonehenge myself for some time and I actually agreed with the principal that these people should have been allowed to lie in their final resting place and most definitely not end up as a museum exhibit – such as The Red Lady of Paviland exhibited in the National Museum of Wales. What about the vulnerability of the site? How could that all be kept secure, especially whilst the digging was taking place? What would happen to any finds? More questions, some answers.
I didn’t give in. Contrary to some comments made, I didn’t sell out. I just had no real option but to kind of agree to it going ahead – it would have anyway, the landowner was the one who had the final say, obviously. But I did have the option of making sure I was there.
So amidst all the excitement of being on the telly there was one party pooper. Me. Having said all that, there was still that nice man Jon from CADW who didn’t appear overly excited at all. Well, if he was he managed to keep a lid on it. So, once all the interim arrangements were made and everyone was sworn to secrecy the meeting ended.
On my way out I spoke quietly with Jon from CADW and said something like ‘you won’t let them dig it all up will you’. A one word answer, spoken directly into my eyes was good enough for me. ‘No’.
So, it seems, Time Team are coming….
As ever, the story continues next time, stay tuned folks!…
We’re now past the half-way point in Heritage Action member Sue Brooke’s story concerning Caerau Hillfort in Wales. New readers should start at Part 1 or put Caerau in our search box to see previous installments and get up to date.
So, off to Cardiff University I go – clutching the latest draft of my very precious research. I was meeting Oliver Davies in the café of one of the many buildings on the campus in the centre of Cardiff. Olly talked in depth about a project that the University were looking at starting in the area. He knew of the hillfort area and thought it may be good to link in with the work we had been doing at the school and at the church. It was a case of you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.
This was a brilliant idea. The project was just what was needed to work with the young people in the area and to help with understanding exactly what we had tucked away here in Caerau. So, we met again to discuss this with the others involved and it was agreed to go ahead. The CAER (Caerau And Ely Rediscovering) Heritage Project was born. So, from the initial dining room table discussions this project was now becoming something properly formalised and, more importantly, funded. For more information on the project, see the project website.
We met regularly at Glyn Derw High School and various activities were now taking place with properly trained archaeologists and geophysicists all becoming involved. Artists worked with the young people from three local comprehensive schools up at the site and professionals worked with adults, increasing their skills. Something called Time banking was introduced which meant that locals who volunteered at events could collect Time Credits in exchange for their time. These Time Credits could actually be used as a kind of currency – being spent at various venues or used to pay for certain trips. The communities of Ely and Caerau were all involved and it was going really well.
I received telephone calls from the local press – I answered many questions, gave my opinion as ‘local historian’ and generally talked about the church area to anyone who may have been interested. I had even been photographed up at the site when special features had been run in our local paper on the area. One of the most unflattering photos of me, ever taken, was up at the church site one grey rainy morning. This actually caused much hilarity amongst friends and work colleagues, particularly as for some reason the media deemed it fit to mention my age. How rude!
Then at one meeting at the school there were quite a few new faces present. Not that unusual really as often people came along to meetings to discuss specific things. For example members from St. Fagans Museum of Welsh Life or someone from Glamorgan Records Office would often attend to update on a specific issue. However the words Time and Team were now being mentioned. Together and in one sentence. Apparently Time Team had been in touch with Cardiff University looking for a Welsh site to excavate. Someone thought the Caerau site may be suitable.
From previous discussion it’s probably been possible to pick up on the fact that this triangular shaped field over my garden fence was of real importance to me. It may have been full of poo and biting insects but for the last seven years or so it had been my field. No-one else had shown the slightest interest in it except me and Mr B and, occasionally a very reluctant Brooke the dog. I had enough research under my belt to know that this was where the early Caerau people had lived and possibly died. I had spent the last few years researching, photographing, walking and referencing an ever changing and ever expanding document to show my findings and explain how I had come to them. The place held its own secrets that I had yet only been able to guess at. It was a physical place that would be no more if it was dug up and carted off in boxes to some backroom in a museum.
I had absolutely no expectations that there would be any Staffordshire Hoard type discoveries to be made but I thought there may be some evidence of how the people lived up there and, even perhaps why they chose to live there. If it was defensive who were they defending themselves from? Did the Romans live there? Why was the church built at the top of such a steep and inaccessible area?
If word got out about this place would it be dug up at the dead of night and carried off in wheelbarrows, appearing on eBay sometime soon? Would the whole place end up as an area of square box houses with commanding views across Cardiff? What happened if they found human remains?
Of course, being Mrs Angry from Caerau means that at such awkward moments, everyone turns and looks at you. Especially Mr B, who had mentioned this before, only to receive a resounding NO in reply to his question, I think he did actually hold his breath.
Shall we just say that, at this point, I probably mentioned I had serious misgivings.
Follow the story in the next installment, coming soon…