Ham Hill Hillfort, S of Stoke sub Hamdon, Somerset
Ham Hill hillfort. The site consists of a roughly oblong plateau 800m N-S and 950m E-W with a spur running northwards from the NW corner. This measures 550m N-S and is 360m wide at the north and 180m wide where it joins the main hill. The main area is surrounded by a bank in places which survives up to 2m high. Surrounding the whole is a ditch 2.5-3.5m wide with a counterscarp beyond. Below this another, silted, ditch is visible in places. The northern spur is more heavily defended by 2 banks with ditches the outer bank is up to 12m above the ditch and the inner up to 4.5m high. The inner bank survives only along the N and E sides. There is no evidence that the two areas were ever separated but this area has been greatly disturbed by quarrying.
There is evidence for occupation from the mesolithic and neolithic in the form of flintwork and the quantity of neolithic material may indicate a substantial settlement. In the bronze age there is artefactual evidence from the 2nd millennium onwards increasing in quantity until the 7th century BC. Pottery and metalwork has been recovered and it is possible that the first enclosure of the hilltop took place at this date. The pottery evidence seems to indicate occupation throughout the iron age.
The occupation seems to have been concentrated in the northern spur but is known to spread over the whole area. Roman material has been found on the site and is detailed under PRN 55112. The later periods are detailed under PRN 55113. Many of the finds have been discovered during the quarrying that took place from the Roman period onward which has also removed much of the evidence, particularly from the northern end of the site.
Cropmarks have been seen on several occasions which probably relate to the iron-age or Roman use of the site: eg three rectangular enclosures at ST485165.
Two fragments of mould for casting socketed bronze axes were examined with limited results. The typology of the axes showed that both moulds dated to the Llyn Fawr phase but that they were not a pair. Analysis of the surface of the moulds was inconclusive as to the composition of the original axes.
It has been suggested that the location of the site would have enabled the late Iron Age Durotrigan tribe access to the Bristol Channel. The site is also located between the divide of the highland zone of western Britain with pastoral based economy and the lowland zone of central and eastern Britain with an emphasis agrarian regimes.
In many places the hill fort defences at Ham Hill were produced by the terracing and cutting back of the natural slope of the hill. Detailed analysis of the defences has suggested that originally they were associated with two original entrances whose locations at Batemoor Barn and at the head of the combe separating the north western spur from the main plateau were determined by topographical considerations. The topography provided a natural route from the south-east, along a ridge and onto the main plateau at Batemoor Barn. This route was probably utilised long before the hill fort was constructed, and was still functioning during the 18th century when Ham Hill was traversed by the Exeter to London coach road (see PRN 16470 for milestone possibly associated with this route).
The north-western spur may have been the focus for a primary hill fort, with the main plateau containing an unenclosed settlement. The incorporation of the main plateau would have bought control and regulation of all traffic, providing a glimpse into some of the mechanisms that allowed Ham Hill to become such an important site in later prehistory.
Bronze Age metal-work found, some apparently from LBA burial group.
Mesolithic artefacts found in the area.
Quarrying revealed structural remains in 1975.
OS map reference: ST 4820 1609. Nearest town/village: Stoke sub Hamdon.
Data kindly supplied by the Somerset Historic Environment Record.
Record created in October 1992
© Copyright Somerset County Council 2007