Ham Hill

Iron Age Hillfort and Roman Fort

Durotriges Tribal Centre

This L-shaped hillfort is immense, with a circumference of 3 miles (4.8km) its double bank and ditches enclose an area of 210 acres (85ha). There are additional external defences on the north-east and the south-west, and inturned entrances on the south-east and north-east. There is a triangular annexe on the north side and a rectangular one on the south. Finds from the site include Bronze-Age artefacts, iron currency bars, gold and silver coins, cremations, burials, chariot parts, and a war cemetary dating to the initial Roman advance through the area. Much Roman military equipment has been found on the site, and it is fairly safe to assume that Ham Hill should be numbered among the twenty “towns” destroyed by a young emperor Vespasian during his days as legionary legate of Legio II Augusta in the Roman invasion army of Claudius. The fort would have been captured sometime around 45AD (ish). The fort has suffered in more recent times from quarrying, its honey-coloured limestone being much prized as building material in this part of the world.

Two hoards of metalwork were recovered from within the enclosure during the 19th century. Including various bronze-work, chariot fittings, and the iron rim of a wheel, all of which would indicate a deposition during the late Iron-Age.

Roman Fort

The Iron-Age hillfort,  was probably re-used by the Roman army to site a permanent fortification within the territories of the Durotriges tribe. The site has yielded a number of finely-crafted pieces of Roman military equipment mostly identified as legionary in origin, also pieces of a scale-mail cuirass with possible auxiliary connotations. The quantity of and quaility of the finds coupled with the sites dominance over a large part of the surrounding countryside makes it very likely that a Roman fort once existed here, with parallels perhaps at Hod Hill in Dorset and Brandon Camp in Worcestershire. There are no inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for the Ham Hill fort, although a Roman milestone or honorific pillar has been uncovered beside the Fosse Way just to the west (vide infra).

Even though there are no physical remains in the form of typical V-shaped defensive ditches or rectangular groups of post-holes or foundation trenches of an identifiable Roman building to prove the presence of a fort, their absence is easily explained when you consider that any fort here would have been occupied for only a short space of time during the initial Claudian campaigns before the scene of action was removed to Wales and Northern Britain, and once the decision to abandon the fort had been made, its defences were probably levelled by the Romans prior to departure to prevent its possible re-use by any local dissident forces left to their rear.

RIB2229 - Milestone of Flavius Severus

For the Emperor Flavius Valerius Severus Pius Felix, most noble Caesar.
IMP FL VAL
SEVERO PI
O FEL NOB
CAES
Flavius Severus was Caesar 1 May 305-25 July 306.

References for Ham Hill

  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • Roman Britain by Peter Salway (Oxford 1981) p.93;
  • The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993);

Map References for Ham Hill

NGRef: ST4816 OSMap: LR193

Roman Roads near Ham Hill

Fosse Way: NE (5) to Ilchester Fosse Way: WSW (23) to Whitley Castle (Whitley Castle, Northumberland) Fosse Way: WSW (23) to Mvridvnvm