Hamdon Hill camp


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

South Somerset (District Authority)
South Somerset (District Authority)
Norton Sub Hamdon
South Somerset (District Authority)
Stoke Sub Hamdon
National Grid Reference:
ST 48296 16427


Multi period archaeological landscape at Ham or Hamdon Hill Camp and Butcher’s Hill.

Reasons for Designation

Large multivallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of between 5ha and 85ha in area, located on hills and defined by two or more lines of concentric earthworks set at intervals of up to 15m. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are generally regarded as centres of permanent occupation, defended in response to increasing warfare, a reflection of the power struggle between competing elites. Earthworks usually consist of a rampart and ditch, although some only have ramparts. Access to the interior is generally provided by two entrances although examples with one and more than two have been noted. These may comprise a single gap in the rampart, inturned or offset ramparts, oblique approaches, guardrooms or outworks. Internal features generally include evidence for intensive occupation, often in the form of oval or circular houses. These display variations in size and are often clustered, for example, along streets. Four- and six-post structures, interpreted as raised granaries, also occur widely while a few sites appear to contain evidence for temples. Other features associated with settlement include platforms, paved areas, pits, gullies, fence lines, hearths and ovens. Additional evidence, in the form of artefacts, suggests that industrial activity such as bronze- and iron-working as well as pottery manufacture occurred on many sites.

Large multivallate hillforts are rare with around 50 examples recorded nationally. These occur mostly in two concentrations, in Wessex and the Welsh Marches, although scattered examples occur elsewhere. They are a rare monument class and important for understanding the nature of social organisation within the Iron Age period. Romano-British villas were extensive rural estates with groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally industrial buildings at their focal point. The term "villa" is now commonly used to describe either the estate or the buildings themselves. The buildings usually include a well-appointed dwelling house, the design of which varies considerably according to the needs, taste and prosperity of the occupier. Most of the houses were partly or wholly stone-built, many with a timber-framed superstructure on masonry footings. Roofs were generally tiled and the house could feature tiled or mosaic floors, under-floor heating, wall plaster, glazed windows and cellars. Many had integral or separate suites of heated baths. The house was usually accompanied by a range of buildings providing accommodation for farm labourers, workshops and storage for agricultural produce. These were arranged around or alongside a courtyard and were surrounded by a complex of paddocks, pens, yards and features such as vegetable plots, granaries, threshing floors, wells and hearths, all approached by tracks leading from the surrounding fields. Villa buildings were constructed throughout the period of Roman occupation, from the first to the fourth centuries AD. They are usually complex structures occupied over several hundred years and continually remodelled to fit changing circumstances. They could serve a wide variety of uses alongside agricultural activities, including administrative, recreational and craft functions, and this is reflected in the considerable diversity in their plan. The least elaborate villas served as simple farmhouses whilst, for the most complex, the term "palace" is not inappropriate. Villa owners tended to be drawn from a limited elite section of Romano-British society. Although some villas belonged to immigrant Roman officials or entrepreneurs, the majority seem to have been in the hands of wealthy natives with a more-or-less Romanised lifestyle, and some were built directly on the sites of Iron Age farmsteads. Roman villa buildings are widespread, with between 400 and 1000 examples recorded nationally. Roman villas provide a valuable index of the rate, extent and degree to which native British society became Romanised, as well as indicating the sources of inspiration behind changes of taste and custom. In addition, they serve to illustrate the agrarian and economic history of the Roman province, allowing comparisons over wide areas both within and beyond Britain. The multi period archaeological landscape at Ham or Hamdon Hill and Butcher’s Hill is extremely important since it includes far more than the Iron Age and Romano British deposits, as this impressive plateau was clearly the source of occupation, agricultural, territorial commercial and industrial activity far beyond these periods and continued as an important trading centre into the medieval period with fairs and markets. Therefore, its archaeological potential cannot be overemphasised.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 27 July 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes a multi period archaeological landscape situated on the prominent plateau formed by Ham or Hamdon Hill and Butcher’s Hill. The multi period landscape includes settlement, defensive, military, agrarian and industrial sites of early prehistoric through to the post medieval period and particularly features a large multivallate hillfort and a minor Romano British Villa. The hillfort forms the main basis for the scheduling and it occupies the entire summit of a roughly rectangular plateau measuring up to 950m long by 800m wide with a spur at the north west corner which is up to 550m long by 360m wide. The hillfort is basically defined by up to two concentric ramparts with outer ditches which survive differentially because of subsequent quarrying and because they originally augmented the natural steep slopes of the hillside. The defences of the north western spur are generally much stronger and more clearly defined which has lead to the interpretation of this area as the principal fort or an inner stronghold. It is thought the location of the hillfort marks the dividing point of the highland zone to the west with the more pastoral lowland zone to the centre and east of England and was vitally important for trade. Control of this plateau is believed to have given the Iron Age Durotrigan tribe direct trading access with the Bristol Channel. However, numerous partial excavations, geophysical surveys, chance finds and aerial photographic evidence have revealed a much more ancient and complex history. The earliest finds are Palaeolithic waste flints discovered in an excavation of 1983. The Mesolithic period is represented by flint and chert microliths and although the exact location is unknown there was clearly Neolithic settlement indicated by the large range of flint and stone implements including axes, arrowheads, scrapers, borers and cores which have been found throughout quarrying activities and various archaeological excavations including those of the 1920s which suggest such a settlement was concentrated on the northern side of the plateau. The same is inferred for the Bronze Age because of the large number of finds associated with this period. These have included Late Bronze Age inhumations with associated grave goods and flint implements, pottery, copper alloy tools, axe moulds and other evidence of metal working. A 19th century chance find of Iron Age sword shaped currency bars, the hillfort, crop marks on aerial photographs and geophysical evidence for trackways, field systems, pits and settlements throughout the plateau attest to both Iron Age and Romano British settlement and agriculture. The Iron Age occupation of the hillfort continued into the late 1st century when it was terminated by the Roman conquest of the South West. During the 2nd century a minor villa was constructed within the interior and finds have included coins thought to have been minted locally. Partial excavations in 1907 and 1912 revealed a ‘corridor’ style villa with stone built walls, fragments of tesserae flooring and roof tiles in a range of three buildings linked by short sections of wall. Further geophysical work in 1992 and 1994 revealed further courtyard walls and a complex of other archaeological features including field systems, pits, ditches, track-ways and a double ditched enclosure. The villa and its associated structures are preserved as buried features, layers and deposits. During the medieval period hollow ways, ridge and furrow and strip lynchets, particularly to the south western side of the plateau attest to continuing use of the area for agricultural purposes. In the north west the Beauchamp family established a warren in 1248. 1000 rabbits were stolen according to documentary evidence in 1339 and by the 15th century this warren was no longer in use. A whole village and chapel were also thought to have been located in this area and documented to 1535 which have since been lost through quarrying except for one surviving wall of the chapel. A series of perforated stones (removed from the hill in the 19th century) also once marked the site of a medieval fair ground. During the 17th century a folly was built on the inner rampart of the hillfort and survives as a circular stony embankment of up to 1m high. It is thought to have been a tower. At least two limekilns are known to have been built within quarries one no longer survives but the other has a Hamstone façade with brick lining to the flue and hearth and is thought to date to the 20th century. On the north west side of the plateau during the Second World War was a lookout post although the building with its underground bunker has since been removed. Within the hillfort is a war memorial which is Listed Grade II.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
SO 100
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:-1043336, 193271, 1043483, 1043375, 1043300, 1043362, 1088476, 975058, 1043305, 1043310, 193155, 193164, 1088115, 1086825, 193273, 1087271, 1087779, 1088010, 1088013 and 1087214


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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