Iron Age Hut Groups

Open settlement is characteristic of the lowlands of eastern England — evidence of timber roundhouses, two- and four-post structures and storage pits are visible as cropmarks and soilmarks across the region. Well-preserved examples of unenclosed Iron Age hut circles, hut groups and field systems abound on unimproved heathland and hillslopes in north-west and south-west Wales and on some of the Pembrokeshire islands. These small undefended farmsteads have survived over the millennia as a result of their building material — stone — and as a result of the abandonment of the upland landscape to pastoral agriculture or heath. Many more must have occupied the lowlands of Wales, the evidence of their timber construction largely erased by continuous agriculture and land use. The length of occupation of a roundhouse may not have been great, with those on the fertile lowlands being rebuilt on or near the original site; and those on the upland slopes and terraces perhaps being abandoned and the settlement relocated when the soil had been exhausted.

Associated field systems sometimes survive, comprising small irregular fields defined by low earth and stone banks or tumbled walls and lynchets. Small clearance cairns are often contained within them. These field systems may have their origins in the Bronze Age; certainly, the open village-sized settlements of lowland eastern England do not appear to have associated fixed boundaries and they have been compared to the 'wandering settlements' of the same date in northern Europe.

The geographical position of Wales influenced the nature of its Iron Age settlement. The Marches, dominated by large hillforts, shared a tribal culture with the Cotswolds and the chalk downs of Wessex and Sussex. The coastal regions, isolated from the mainland by the Cambrian mountains, were predominantly occupied by small defended homesteads. However, the picture is not so clear cut as the isolation was not complete. Significant multivallate hillforts are located on the coasts of Wales (such as Pen Dinas in Ceredigion and Moel Trigarn in Pembrokeshire), while small defended enclosures with evidence of four-post structures, often interpreted as granaries, are found inland (such as Collfryn in Montgomeryshire). Alongside the outstanding evidence of Romano-British rural and civic settlement in south eastern Wales and compared to the relatively homogeneous settlement records of other areas of Britain, the well-preserved and varied Iron Age settlement record of Wales is not only rewarding to visit but of enormous archaeological potential.

Locations of Iron Age Hut Groupss in Roman Britain