Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

EN3399: Hambledon Hill  

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HER:  Dorset MDO3713

NMR:  ST 81 SW 10 (206234)

SM:  1002677

NGR:  ST84511270

X:  384506  Y:  112716  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

Contour hillfort located on the N of three chalk spurs of Hambledon Hill facing NW and overlooking the fertile Greensand soils of the Vale of Shroton and the grassland of the Blackmore Vale. Part of Hambeldon Hill compex of earthworks with late Neolithic causewayed enclosure immediately to SE. Very steep surrounding slopes except to latter on SE where level to moderate. Site sinuously follows the contours of the spur SE-NW, measuring c. 914m overall from N-S, by 305m, with external area c. 28ha, and internal area c. 12.5ha. Much of interior sloping. Phased construction. Site falls into three sections, N, central and S, partly as result of two cross banks in interior and changes in alignment of ramparts. Defined by two ramparts around circuit, with external ditches and further scraping below outer ditch for most of length. Impressively uses very steep surrounding slopes for effect as although interior crest of rampart rarely more than 1.2m internally, it measures to 21m externally on the scarp. Quarry area inside inner rampart now a terrace. At SE end where slopes gentler, banks and ditches cut off the spur at most vulnerable point. Inner bank to 9m above ditch bottom. Counterscarp to outer bank, beyond which are massive outworks of two banks and ditches finally cutting off the spur. Three entrances. Simple gap on N largely destroyed by a quarry, sited on very steep slope. That on SW sited on local rise in ground level, inturned ramparts dipping away from it on either side, and approached from E along shoulder of the slope within hornwork 76m long. Third entrance, on SE, not situated on the neck of spur, but some distance to N where faces into steep combe. Consists of simple gap through inturned ramparts and integrated with SE outworks. Attempts to strengthen defences involved moving the approach nearer to the shoulder of the slope and eventually on to a ledge below the shoulder. Excavations by R. Mercer between 1974-86, mainly focussing on Neolithic features. Multi-phases of construction. Now thought that earliest hillfort probably on N and central thirds of the spur, with possible entrance at N end. This subsequently extended to incorporate S-most third of the spur, with two gates, to E and W. Subsequently the SE corner/gateway further elaborated and extended. Evidence of dense occupation. Traces of 365 certain and possible house platforms, later ridge and furrow. possibly masking other sites. Also trackways, large platform, perhaps for non-domestic use, and possible pond. Iron Age, Romano-British and Roman finds. On 1st Ed. OS map (1887).

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -247328  Y:  6606031  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -2.221788  Latitude:  50.913636  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  England

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Dorset

Historic County:   Dorset

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Child Okeford

Condition

Fine well-preserved, since 2015 National Trust site and National Nature Reserve.

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Good upland grass. SSSI.

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Outstanding contour hillfort located on the N of three chalk spurs of Hambledon Hill facing NW and overlooking the fertile Greensand soils of the Vale of Shroton and the grassland of the Blackmore Vale. Part of Hambeldon Hill compex of earthworks with late Neolithic causewayed enclosure immediately to SE at ST81SW 17. Very steep surrounding slopes except to latter on SE where level to moderate. Site sinuously follows the contours of the spur SE-NW. Site between 140m and 190m ASL.

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  Spur

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  190.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  Parish/Townland

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Iwerne Courtney or Shroton

Dating Evidence

Late Bronze Age/Iron Age multi-phase site. Early Iron Age pottery. Romano-British and earlier material, including pottery, quern fragments and sling-stones. Roman articles including iron saws, bronze fibulae, knives and several coins of Constantine.

Reliability:  B - Medium

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
800BC - 400BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Late Neolithic causewayed enclosure immediately to SE.

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Parts possibly modified during Civil War, particularly in relation to the events of 4th August 1645, when local "clubmen" unsuccessfully defended hillfort against Cromwell's forces.

Artefactual:  Early Iron Age pottery. Romano-British and earlier material.
Morphology/Earthwork/Typology:  Late Bronze Age/Iron Age multi-phase site.

Investigations

In Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica (1665-1693). On 1st Ed. OS map (1887). Excavation E. Cunnington 1894. RCHME survey 1959, 1996, ref. no. 1079113. Excavations by R. Mercer between 1974-86, mainly focussing on Neolithic features. Visited by Hillfort Study Group 1966, 2016.

1st Identified Written Reference (1665-1693):  
1st Identified Map Depiction (1887):  OS map.
Excavation (1894):  E. Cunnington.
Earthwork Survey (1959, 1996):  RCHME surveys.
Other (1966):  Visit by the Hillfort Study Group
Excavation (1974-1986):  Excavations R. Mercer between 1974-86, mainly fiocussing on Neolithic features.
Other (2016):  Visit by the Hillfort Study Group

Interior Features

Evidence of dense occupation. Traces of 365 certain and possible house platforms, later ridge and furrow. possibly masking other sites. Also trackways, large platform, perhaps for non-domestic use, and possible pond. BEAD, BROOCH, VESSEL, WEAVING COMB.

Water Source

Possible dewpond in interior.

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

Evidence of dense occupation. Traces of 365 certain and possible house platforms c. 4.6m to 13.7m across, later ridge and furrow. possibly masking other sites. Also trackways, large platform, perhaps for non-domestic use, and possible pond. Quarry area inside inner rampart now a terrace.

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

Excavations by R. Mercer between 1974-86, mainly focussing on Neolithic features.

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

Early Iron Age pottery. Romano-British and earlier material, including pottery, quern fragments and sling-stones. Roman articles including iron saws, bronze fibulae, knives and several coins of Constantine.

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

Three entrances, simple gap N largely destroyed by a quarry, sited on very steep slope. That on SW sited on local rise in ground level, inturned ramparts dipping away from it on either side, and approached from E along shoulder of the slope within hornwork 76m long. Third entrance, on SE, not situated on the neck of spur, but some distance to N where faces into steep coombe. Consists of simple gap through inturned ramparts and integrated with SE outworks. Attempts to strengthen defences involved moving the approach nearer to the shoulder of the slope and eventually on to a ledge below the shoulder.

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (North):  Simple Gap:  On very steep slope. Largely destroyed by quarry.
Entrance 2 (Southwest):  In-turned:  Inturned ramparts dipping away from it on either side,
Entrance 2 (Southwest):  Hornwork:  Hornwork 76m long.
Entrance 3 (Southeast):  In-turned:  Consists of simple gap through inturned ramparts and integrated with SE outworks.
Entrance 3 (Southeast):  Outworks:  Consists of simple gap through inturned ramparts and integrated with SE outworks.

Enclosing Works

Defined by two ramparts around circuit, with external ditches and further scraping below outer ditch for most of length. Impressively uses very steep surrounding slopes for effect as although interior crest of rampart rarely more than 1.2m internally, it measures to 21m externally on the scarp. Quarry area inside inner rampart now a terrace. At SE end where slopes gentler, banks and ditches cut off the spur at most vulnerable point. Inner bank to 9m above ditch bottom. Counterscarp to outer bank, beyond which are massive outworks of two banks and ditches finally cutting off the spur.

Enclosed Area 1:  12.5ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  12.5ha.

Total Footprint Area:  28.0ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  Multi-phases of construction. Now thought that earliest hillfort probably on N and central thirds of the spur, with possible entrance at N end. This subsequently extended to incorporate S-most third of the spur, with two gates, to E and W.. Subsequently the SE corner/gateway further elaborated and extended.

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  2

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

Counterscarp to outer bank at SE end.

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

Excavations by R. Mercer between 1974-86, mainly focussing on Neolithic features.

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  2

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Anderson, M. 2015. Nature's fortress, National Trust Magazine, Summer 2015, 62-5.

Brown, I. 2009. Beacons in the landscape. The hillforts of England and Wales, Oxford: Windgather Press/Oxbow Books.

Cunnington, E. 1895. Hambledon Hill, Dorset, Proc Dorset Nat Hist Antiq Fld Clb, 16, 156-57.

Farrar, R.A.H. 1959. Archaeological Fieldwork in Dorset in 1951, Proc Dorset Natur Hist Archaeol Soc, 81, 108.

Gale, J. 2003. Prehistoric Dorset, Stroud: Tempus Publishing.

Mercer, R. and Healy, F. 2008. Hambledon Hill, Dorset, England: excavation and survey of a Neolithic monument complex and its surrounding landscape. Swindon: English Heritage.

Oswald, A. 1997. A new survey of Hambledon Hill. RCHME.

Oswald, A., Dyer, C. and Barber, M. 2001. The creation of monuments. Neolithic causewayed enclosures in the British Isles, London: English Heritage.

RCHME 1970. An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset, Vol 3, Central Dorset, London: RCHME.

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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