Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

EN3595: Hod Hill  

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HER:  Dorset MDO4809

NMR:  ST 81 SE 20 (206122)

SM:  1002678

NGR:  ST85651066

X:  385670  Y:  110648  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

Large multivallate, partial contour hillort located at summit of Hod Hill above very steep wooded slopes to bend of River Stour to W and steep slopes elsewhere. Interior slopes to W. Site rectangular in plan with area c. 22ha. Defined by two massive ramparts with outer counterscarp bank on N, E. and S and single, slighter, rampart and ditch with counterscarp bank on W above the very steep slopes to river. On N and E banks 43m to 46m across overall, with main inner rampart to 9m high above ditch bottom. On S, where external slope less steep, defences to 55m across, with main rampart c. 11m high. On N natural shelf above steep fall and, possibly unfinished, disturbed NW outwork extends to dominate this shelf at widest point, but it ends 50m short of the fairly sharp natural shoulder of the slope. On S and E slopes of hill remains of strip lynchets and later ploughing. Evidence of gang working in the line. Two Iron Age entrances; an inturned entrance with massive hornwork, 67m long, channelling approach, at NE corner known as Steepleton Gate and a marked inturned entrance on SW with extra line of rampart and ditch. Three later entrances. Hanford Gate at NW angle and Ashfield Gate in mid E side Roman insertions. Home Gate on SE medieval or later; the lane leading to it from Stourpaine village named 'Hod Drove' on Tithe Map of 1841. Notable large quarry hollows around circuit except along most of W and small part S. Series of excavations from 1830's through to 2001. Those W.A. Boyd Dawkins 1899 and Sir Ian Richmond 1951-58 showed three phases with the massive and impressive inner rampart of box construction the earliest, with bank to 4.5m high and outer ditch over 12m wide and 6m deep. A final phases of prehistoric construction seemingly in response to the Roman invasion, when the large Dorset Durotrigan hillforts referred to by Suetonious, including Hod Hill, were taken one by one, the defences appearing to have been hurriedly strengthened. Significant Roman fort constructed in NW corner utilising the hillfort ramparts and seems to have appeared very early in Vespasian's annexation of the region. Encloses c. 4.5ha and of earth with timber buildings and housing mixed garrison of legionaries and auxiliaries. Evidence of c. 250 Iron Age hut sites in unploughed area of hillfort interior, virtually all round structures and many c. 9m across with SE entrance, some with annexes and yards, mounds, boundary banks and scarps. Huts excavated by Richmond yielded Iron Age pottery, hoards of slingstones, horse trappings, iron sickles and currency bars, with postholes, palisade trenches and pits with burials. Many pits over site as whole, c. 1.5m deep, covering 2.4ha. Working platforms. Grassland interior and banks. Well-preserved National Trust site. On 1st Ed. OS map (1887).

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -245476  Y:  6602754  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -2.205149  Latitude:  50.89507  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  England

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Dorset

Historic County:   Dorset

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Hanford

Condition

Well-preserved National Trust site. Part ploughed interior. On Heritage at Risk Register (2015).

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Rough pasture. Wooded slopes on W and part-wooded on E. SSSI.

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

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Massive and commanding, multivallate, partial contour hillort located at summit of Hod Hill above very steep wooded slopes to bend of River Stour to W and steep slopes elsewhere.

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:  Hill top

Aspect

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

Elevation

Altitude:  144.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  Parish/Townland

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Stourpaine

Dating Evidence

Many dateable finds, including pottery, from through Iron Age to Roman period. Significant Roman fort in NW corner utilising the hillfort defences, seems to have appeared very early in Vespasian's annexation of the region, and therefore could be said to be a refortification/reoccupation rather than just post hillfort activity. Ballista bolts found over enclosure. On the evidence of coins and pottery Roman occupation Claudian, but short (43-51 AD).

Reliability:  B - Medium

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

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Artefactual:  Many dateable finds from Iron Age through to Roman period.

Investigations

In Aubrey's Monumenta Britannica (1665-1693). Excavation H. Durden 1830's. Lane leading to Home Gate from Stourpaine village named 'Hod Drove' on Tithe Map of 1841. On 1st Ed. OS map (1887). Excavation W.A. Boyd-Dawkins c. 1899. Excavation J.W. Brailsford 1949. Excavation I.A. Richmond 1951-58. Small trench excavation National Trust 2001. Geophysical survey by D. Visited by Hillfort Study Group 1966, 2016.

1st Identified Written Reference (1665-1693):  Aubrey’s Monumenta Britannica.
Excavation (1830s):  H.Durden.
1st Identified Map Depiction (1841):  Tithe Map.
Excavation (c.1899):  Excavation W.A. Boyd-Dawkins.
Excavation (1949):  J. Brailsford.
Excavation (1951-58):  I.A. Richmond.
Other (1966):  Visit by the Hillfort Study Group
Excavation (2001):  National Trust.
Geophysical Survey (2005-6):  D.Stewart.
Other (2016):  Visit by the Hillfort Study Group

Interior Features

Evidence of c. 250 hut sites, virtually all round structures and many c. 9m across with SE entrance, some with annexes and yards, mounds, boundary banks and scarps. Aerial photographs show roadways. Unexcavated mounds possible refuse heaps or unused chalk from pits. Huts excavated by Richmond yielded Iron Age pottery, hoards of slingstones, horse trappings, iron sickles and currency bars, with postholes, palisade trenches and pits. Many pits to 1.5m deep covering 2.4ha in at least two phases. Other finds included bone weaving comb and decorated spindle whorl, pan, bucket and tankard handles and 40 Durotrigian and possibly Durotrigian gold and silver coins. Chance find of iron production slag. Geophysical survey across hillfort interior by Dave Stewart, a student from Bournemouth University. No details.

Water Source

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

Surface

Evidence of c. 250 hut sites, virtually all round structures. Many pits over site to 1.5m deep covering 2.4ha and in at least two phases. Substantial quarry hollows around most of circuit except along most of W and small part S. Working platforms. Unexcavated mounds possible refuse heaps or unused chalk from pits.

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

Excavation

Huts excavated by Richmond showed postholes, palisade trenches and pits with burials.

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

Geophysics

Geophysical survey across hillfort interior by Dave Stewart, a student from Bournemouth University. No details.

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

Finds

Huts excavated by Richmond yielded Iron Age pottery, hoards of slingstones, horse trappings, iron sickles and currency bars, with postholes, palisade trenches and pits. Many pits to 1.5m deep covering 2.4ha in at least two phases. Other finds included bone weaving comb and decorated spindle whorl, pan, bucket and tankard handles and 40 Durotrigian and possibly Durotrigian gold and silver coins. Chance find of iron production slag. Burials in pits.

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

Aerial

Evidence of c. 250 roundhouse structures and roadways.

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

Entrances

Two Iron Age entrances; an inturned entrance with massive hornwork, 67m long, channelling approach, at NE corner known as Steepleton Gate and marked inturned entrance on SW with extra line of rampart outwork and ditch. Three later entrances. Hanford Gate at NW angle and Ashfield Gate in mid E side Roman insertions. Home Gate on SE medieval or later; the lane leading to it from Stourpaine village named 'Hod Drove' on Tithe Map of 1841.

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  5:  Home Gate on SE medieval or later.

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  4:  Two Iron Age and two Roman gates.

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (Northeast):  In-turned:  Also with massive hornwork 67m long. Known as Steepleton Gate.
Entrance 1 (Northeast):  Hornwork:  Massive hornwork.
Entrance 2 (Southwest):  In-turned:  With extra line of rampart and ditch.
Entrance 2 (Southwest):  Outworks:  Extra line of rampart outwork and ditch.
Entrance 3 (Northwest):  Simple Gap:  Hanford Gate. Roman.
Entrance 4 (East):  Simple Gap:  Ashfield Gate. Roman.

Enclosing Works

Multiple ramparts have a defensive line of three banks with ditches to N and parts of S, with double line on E. To W, where slopes very steep to River Stour, a single set appeared sufficient, although it is possible that they were unfinished. Massive and impressive inner rampart the earliest, with bank to 4.5m high and outer ditch over 12m wide and 6m deep. Evidence of gang working in the way the line was set out.

Enclosed Area 1:  22.0ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  22.0ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  Excavations show at least three phases beginning with box rampart.

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

Number of Ramparts:  3

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  3
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  3

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

Chalk banks. NW outwork possibly unfinished.

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

Excavated Evidence

Narrow water pipe trench dug through SW entrance by National Trust 2001 revealed stratigraphy on exterior and through entrance. Interior ploughed down to chalk bedrock with only four postholes noted cutting chalk with no diagnostic finds. Collapse of flint nodules down the exterior slope from SW gateway showed collapse of flint revetment at the entrance. Palisade trenches.

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:  ✓  Evidence of gang working in the way the line was set out..

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  3:  Up to three ditches.

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

(12) Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies

PART 2 Page(s)263-5

AP (J K St Joseph AR 75)

( 6) Aerial photograph

( 7) Field Investigators Comments

( 9) General reference

(14) General reference

( 4) Society for Promotion of Roman Studies The journal of Roman studies

F1 NVQ 08-JAN-62

( 2) The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London

(13) Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies

( 8) General reference

( 5) Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society

(11) General reference

( 3) General reference

Boyd Dawkins, W.A. 1900. The exploration of Hod Hill near Blandford, Dorset, in 1897, Arch J, 57, 52-68.

Brailsford, J.W. 1949. Interim Report on Preliminary Excavations at Hod Hill, Proc Dorset Natur Hist Archaeol Soc, 71, 41-50.

Hod Hill 1 1962 (J Brailsford)

Wessex from the Air. 1928. 36-41 (Crawford & Keiller)

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

BAR 62 British Hill-Forts: An Index. 1979. 205 (AHA Hogg)

Papworth, M. 2001. Hod Hill, Stourpaine, Proc Dorset Natur Hist Archaeol Soc, 123,125.

RCHME 1970. An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset, Vol 3, pt 2, Central Dorset, 263-65, London: RCHME.

(10) Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England) 1970 An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Dorset. Volume three : central Dorset [in two parts]

I A Richmond 40-47, 1950-57

Richmond, I.A. 1951. Excavation of the Early Iron Age camp and Roman fort at Hod Hill, Stourpaine, Proc Dorset Natur Hist Archaeol Soc, 73, 105.

Hod Hill 2 1968 (I Richmond)

Richmond, I.A. 1968. Hod Hill Vol 2. Excavations carried out between 1951 and 1958 for the Trustees of the British Museum, London: British Museum.

The Place-Names of Roman Britain. 1979. 344 (A L F Rivet & C Smith)

Stewart, D. 2005. A Geophysical Survey at Hod Hill, Stourpaine, Dorset. Supplementary Study. University of Bournemouth.

Stewart D. 2006 A GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY AT HOD HILL, STOURPAINE, DORSET. National Trust.

57, 1900 Page(s)52-68

23, 1957 Page(s)222-3

15, 1984 Page(s)77-84

17, 1986 Page(s)60, 65, 66

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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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