Worlebury Camp

Iron Age Hillfort

Worlebury Camp, a hillfort from the Iron Age located on the north-western side of Weston-super-Mare, was known to early archaeologists and is mentioned in Collinson’s History and Antiquities of the County of Somerset, published in 1791 (Carpenter, 2018). The hillfort has undergone numerous archaeological excavations, including those led by the Reverend Warre in 1851, as well as by Charles Dymond and the Reverend Henry Tomkins in the 1880s. The discovery of human bones with evidence of severe injuries and some indications of burning at the hillfort led to the interpretation that the site was the result of a massacre. However, a more recent interpretation (Bowden, 2019) suggests that the injuries on the skeletons may not have been inflicted at the hillfort and may not have been the result of a single conflict, based on the presence of similar skeletons with evidence of wounds at other hillforts in southern Britain.

To the east of the hillfort, two linear earthworks were mapped by C19 antiquarians, but their date and purpose have been debated. Dymond (1902, see Sources) suggests that they defined a cattle enclosure or represented additional hillfort defenses. However, Moore (2006, see Sources) notes differences in orientation between the hillfort and the linear earthworks, indicating that they may pre-date the hillfort. An excavation across one of the ditches (Fitzpatrick and Pirie, 1987) demonstrated that it was backfilled before the late Roman period but did not uncover the purpose of the earthworks.

Iron Age burials, potentially contemporary with the hillfort, have been found along the southern slopes of Worlebury Hill, mainly during the late C19 and C20. Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts have also been discovered, suggesting pre-Iron Age activity. Romano-British finds, including a small coin hoard dating from around AD 450, suggest that the area may have continued to be an active site after the Iron Age. Calamine was extracted from Worlebury Hill intermittently from the C16 to the C19, and the site was planted with trees in the 1820s. It was recorded as a plantation on the tithe map of 1837, and many trees within the hillfort have recently been cleared.

More recent archaeological investigations of the hillfort and its surroundings include a condition survey, a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) survey, and an analytical earthwork survey in the early C21, which have all contributed to our understanding of the site.

Sites near Worlebury Camp