Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff

Iron Age Hillfort

Caerau Hillfort, known as Bryngaer Caerau in Welsh, is a large triangular multivallate Iron Age hillfort located on a ridge-top plateau in the western suburbs of Caerau and Ely, Cardiff, Wales. This hillfort, which occupies the western tip of the plateau, is built on a previously occupied Neolithic site, and it is the largest Iron Age site of its kind in south Wales and one of the largest in Great Britain. Within the hillfort, on the north-eastern side, are the remains of the old parish church, St Mary’s, and a small ringwork believed to be a medieval castle site that likely dates back to the same time period as the church.

Spanning an area of 5.1 hectares (13 acres), Caerau Hillfort is the third largest Iron Age hillfort in Glamorgan. It is surrounded by modern housing and the A4232 road. The hillfort was once a stronghold of the powerful Silures tribe who inhabited this region before the Romans arrived.

Excavations conducted for an episode of Channel 4’s Time Team, aired in April 2012, revealed that the occupation of Caerau Hillfort dates back to around 600 BC. Further excavations carried out in 2013-2014 uncovered evidence of early Neolithic occupation, with finds including flint tools and weapons dating back to 3600 BC. Additionally, pottery from the Iron Age and Romano-British periods, as well as a fragment of a Roman pouring vessel (mortarium) from the 1st century AD, have been discovered in an area to the northwest of the southern entrance.

The north and south slopes of the ridge are steep and fortified by three massive ramparts with accompanying ditches, although these are now hidden by trees and scrub. The eastern side of the hillfort appears to have been reduced to two ramparts in the north and one in the south. There are two entrances to the hillfort, one in the middle of the eastern side and one west of the southern corner. The ramparts at the east entrance curve around to command the approach, but there is no corresponding curve at the south entrance. There may have been a third entrance at the north-western apex of the hillfort, but it has been heavily eroded by water from a spring.

The interior of the hillfort, now used as pasture, was cultivated in the past, with traces of rig and furrow agriculture visible on aerial photographs. There are also two earthworks traversing the interior, which may be old field boundaries or remnants of a smaller, earlier hillfort, or even a Neolithic causewayed enclosure.

Visiting Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff

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