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Somerset Historic Environment Record

55103

Site Name: Ham Hill Hillfort, south of Stoke sub Hamdon
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Hamdon Hill camp [No:100]
Civil Parish: Montacute, Norton sub Hamdon, Stoke sub Hamdon
Comprises:
PRN 11290Salvage excavation (1991), Ham Hill
PRN 11631Watching Brief (2001), 'The Prince of Wales', Ham Hill
PRN 15144Watching brief (2001), Ham Hill Quarry
PRN 15432Watching brief (2002), Ham Hill
PRN 15575Geophysical survey (2001), Ham Hill
PRN 15813Watching brief (1975), Ham Hill
PRN 15814Crane base, Ham Hill
PRN 16251Viewing platform / tower, Ham Hill
PRN 16252Lower Warren deserted medieval hamlet
PRN 16253Cultivation remains, Ham Hill
PRN 16256Quarrying remains, Ham Hill
PRN 16259Lime kiln, western side of Hamhill, Norton sub Hamdon
PRN 16484Slag, pottery and burnt hamstone findspot
PRN 17877War Memorial, Ham Hill, Stoke Sub Hamdon
PRN 22037Negative watching brief (2004), Ham Hill quarry, Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 27289Excavation (1923), Ham Hill
PRN 27290Human burials, Ham Hill
PRN 27291Roman finds, Ham Hill
PRN 27292Excavation (1923), Ham Hill
PRN 27293Excavation (1925), Ham Hill
PRN 27294Excavation (1929), Ham Hill
PRN 27295Excavation (1926), Ham Hill
PRN 28496Evaluation (2009), Ham Hill hillfort, Montacute
PRN 28624Excavation (2002), Ham Hill, Montacute
PRN 28625Fifth to sixth century button brooch find, Ham Hill, Montacute
PRN 28819Watching brief (1996), Ham Hill
PRN 28820Watching brief (1985), Ham Hill
PRN 28821Watching brief (1996), Richard England Quarry, Ham Hill
PRN 28830Watching brief (1997), Richard England Quarry, Ham Hill
PRN 29358Earthwork survey (1990-97), Ham Hill, Montacute and Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 30438Excavation (2011), Ham Hill Quarry, Montacute
PRN 31610Watching brief (2011), Ham Hill quarry, Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 31738Geophysical survey (2011), Ham Hill, Montacute
PRN 32300Excavation (2012), Ham Hill, Montacute
PRN 32337Excavation (2013), Ham Hill
PRN 44780Watching brief (1999), Richard England Quarry, Ham Hill
PRN 54306Lime kiln, Hamdon Hill, Montacute
PRN 54309Lime kilns, Hamdon Hill, Montacute
PRN 54314Warren, Ham Hill
PRN 55112Roman occupation, Ham Hill, S of Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 55113Medieval occupation, Ham Hill, S of Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 55336ROC observation post and underground monitoring post, Ham Hill
PRN 56899Excavation (1983), Ham Hill, Stoke-sub-Hamdon
PRN 56900Excavation (1994), Ham Hill, Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56906Evaluation (1991), Ham Hill, Stoke-sub-Hamdon
PRN 56907Ham Hill geophysical survey area A (1992), Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56908Ham Hill geophysical survey area B (1992), Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56909Ham Hill geophysical survey area C (1992), Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56910Ham Hill geophysical survey area D (1993, 1995), Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56911Ham Hill geophysical survey area F (1995), Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56913Ham Hill geophysical survey area E (1993), Stoke sub Hamdon
PRN 56939Watching brief (1988), Ham Hill
PRN 56993Excavation (1998), Ham Hill
Grid Ref: ST 48 16 (ST 41 NE)
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Image: Image of HER 55103 - Photo by Somerset County Council (11 November 1976)
  HER 55103 - Photo by Somerset County Council (11 November 1976)

Public access:

As far as we are aware this site is open to the public at certain times. (south east of site forms part of Open Access Land, expires 30/09/06). [Information last updated on 14 May 2003]

Details:

Possibly the largest hillfort in the country, covering the whole of Ham (or Hamdon) Hill. 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. {1}

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. {2}

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. {3}

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. {4}

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. {13}

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. {14}

See PRN 16253 for details of cultivation of hill slopes and PRN 16256 for details of post medieval quarrying activities. {15}

Bronze Age metal-work found, some apparently from LBA burial group. {17}

Mesolithic artefacts found in the area. {18}

Quarrying revealed structural remains in 1975. {20}

The site appears in good condition under stable grass cover. Some areas of scrub are being cleared to return them to grass. Some of the eastern areas are regularly ploughed. {21}

Survey and analysis of the hillfort and its immediate environs by the Exeter Office of the RCHME has continued, with Geophysical Surveys of Bradford being commissioned to undertake further geophysical survey of the hillfort's interior. Two fields, centred at ST 482166 and ST 486163, on the northern and southern sides respectively of the road from Stoke Sub Hamdon to Odcombe, have been examined. The survey has revealed a profusion of features of more than one period they include pits, small enclosures, rectangular fields and trackways. Areas of possible industrial activity were also identified. {23}

References:

1 Description - Record of Scheduled Monuments (English Heritage). Record ID: Somerset 100
2 Detailed records - Morris, EL. Later prehistoric pottery from Ham Hill. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  131 (1987), 27-47
3 Description - Adkins, L and Adkins, R. Ham Hill, Somerset - Project Synopsis.  Unpublished Lesley and Roy Adkins report (1992) Location: HER files.
4 Mention - Leech, RH. Air reconnaissance over Somerset - some recent results. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  122 (1978), 57-78 [page 71]
5 Aerial photographs - WAT OAP ST4816.1.1-3. Cropmarks at southern end. Location: HER collections.
6 Aerial photographs - West Air Photography OAP BL1554.7. Location: Unknown or non-existent.
7 Aerial photographs - DAP NH12-14. (1989) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
8 Aerial photographs - DAP RO11-14. (1990) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
9 Aerial photographs - DAP YT18-22. (1995) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
10 Aerial photographs - CUCAP FK49. (13/8/1950) Location: HER file. HER digital source: 9268.
11 Aerial photographs - CUCAP ANN 29. (28/4/1966) Location: HER file. HER digital source: 35864.
12 Detailed records - Faulkner, DP. Ham Hill, Conflicts in Management.  (1997) MA coursework, University of Bristol. Location: HER files.
13 Detailed records - Needham, SP, Cowell, M and Hoard, H. A technological study of the Ham Hill stone moulds. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  132 (1988), 15-21 [page 15-21]
14 Survey report - Dunn, C. Ham Hill, Somerset.  Unpublished Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England report (1997) with plans. Report location: HER files under PRN 29358.
15 Verbal communication - Nicholas, M [Matthew]. Somerset County Council, Heritage Service (28/05/2003). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
16 Mention - Walter, R. Hamdon Hill. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  4 (1853), 78-90
17 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 41 NE 62 (1979) Location: HER files.
18 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 41 NE 54 (1978) Location: HER files.
19 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 41 NE 12 (1978) Location: HER files.
20 Mention - Iron Age fort falls to road scheme. The Guardian  (11/11/1975)
21 Site visit report - Graham, A [Alan]. English Heritage Field Monument Warden. (16/10/1997) Report location: HER files
22 Museum accession number - OXFPR 2003.119.1 - .13. Stored at Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford (13 oval marble beads).
23 Description - Dunn, CJ. Ham Hill, Montacute. In Webster, CJ and Croft, RA. Somerset Archaeology 1995. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  139 (1995), 151-177 at 154.
24 Description - Anon. Hamdon Hill, Somerset: The Extent of Quarrying Remains from the late Nineteenth Century.  Unpublished Jefferson Consulting Limited report (2012) Location: HER file.

Record created in October 1992

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