Ham Hill is a hillfort in Somerset: probably the largest in Britain. The site was occupied during the mesolithic and neolithic periods, and then by the Durotriges tribe. The outer ramparts on Ham Hill form a three mile long defensive perimeter around one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Britain. The interior has been quarried since Roman times for its honey-coloured Hamstone giving it a peculiar lumpy topography.

Prehistoric Ham Hill

Archaeological finds, which date the original occupation to the 7th century BC, include bronze-work, chariot parts, iron currency bars, gold and silver coins, cremations and burials. A Glastonbury type pot has also been recovered. Neolithic flint and stone axes, leaf arrowheads and pottery sherds have been found in and around Ham Hill, prompting suggestions that a major hilltop settlement may have existed. This would have probably have been a Neolithic enclosure, however, no Neolithic earthworks or other features have yet been recognized, and while it is possible to speculate that the hill may have acted as a focus for a whole range of activities, equally the recorded finds need attest no more than intermittent use of the hill over several centuries.

Iron Age Ham Hill

Ham Hill was a 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). Some of the banks are up to 12 meters high. Most of the perimeter is a double bank and ditch (multivallate). 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. The southern part consists of a rectangle that runs roughly 800 meters by 1,000 meter. There is also a northern spur, approximately 600 meters by 400 meters, that gives the barrier structure the form of an irregular L.

The major entrance is found to the south-east, in line with the road that is there today. Another entrance is located to the north-east, connecting to a track that runs from the Church of St Mary the Virgin at East Stoke in Stoke-sub-Hamdon.

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.

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


Sites near Ham Hill Iron Age Fort