Llanmelin Wood Hillfort

Iron Age Hillfort

Llanmelin Wood Hillfort is a large Iron Age hillfort, located high above the Bristol Channel. Its size suggests that it was a centre of great importance, and may have served as a tribal centre for the Silures.

A 150BC defended site of considerable strength near Caerwent, Llanmelin Wood has been the subject of much debate by historians. Llanmelin may well have been home to inhabitants who moved down to nearby Caerwent, established in around AD 75–80.  Caerwent (Venta Silurum) was the ‘market town of the Silures’, a native tribe who became Romanised following the conquest of Britain. It may be no coincidence that Llanmelin seems to have been abandoned in around AD 75.

Historians who argue that it was the Silures’ capital suggest that its size, strategic location, its nearness to Caerwent and its apparent demise at the time of the Roman conquest point toward this.
Now surrounded by woodland, this large hillfort boasts impressive defences, with multiple banks and ditches.

Excavations in the 1930s suggest that the fort originated in the 3rd century BC as a small enclosure surrounded by a single bank and ditch. The hillfort as seen today is likely to have been occupied in later Iron Age times.

The narrow trenches of those early excavations are still partly visible today. In cutting through the inner bank the drystone outerface (revetment) was exposed. Within the interior, excavation was limited.

As well as Iron Age finds – pottery, metalwork and bone refuse – Roman pottery was found. The Roman finds may indicate the use of the fort as a farming settlement following Roman conquest.

Excavations at the entrance exposed the postholes of different phases of gateway.

The third phase of development began around 50BC the entrance was remodelled and strengthened, which suggests an increased threat of attack.

Timber platforms and palisades were built on top of the banks. The annexes were added at this phase as well, possibly for the corralling of animals, as there are no signs of human occupation. It is believed the fort was abandoned about AD75.

On the eastern side and seemingly tucked on to the fort defences is a series of rectangular enclosures. Archaeologists suggest they were possibly used for stock coralling.

No entrances are visible today. However, the archaeological trenching (excavations) located medieval rectangular stone buildings whose walls are still visible despite the undergrowth.

Excavations found scant evidence of settlement inside the ramparts, but bones found showed that domestic animals and red deer were present.

This site is managed by Cadw.

Directions to Llanmelin Wood Hillfort: Take minor road north from A48 at Caerwent. First fork right, continue for 1km. Take the track at the end of the wood to reach the forts. Park in the layby at the foot of the hill and proceed along the track towards the wood at the top right of the hill, proceeding along the field edge along the woodland ride to the fort, which is cleared of trees.

Sites near Llanmelin Wood Hillfort