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Bronze and Iron Age Hillforts in Britain

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  • Bronze and Iron Age Hillforts in Britain

    I was thinking of how forts were used here to initially settle Kentucky. Then I thought well maybe some of these hill forts in Britain weren't defensive but offensive. A large group that wants to dominate a hostile land moves in builds a base then expands outwards to control the land?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillforts_in_Britain

  • #2
    I live in an area dominated by hill forts. One is within a mile of my house, another two are within five miles in different directions, a fourth is across a deep valley and atop a hill that is 100 feet short of classifying as a mountain, although it is about ten miles away I can see it from my back windows - there is a radar station up there now.. It was stormed by the Romans during the Claudian invasion. They are all in line of sight with at least one other and are part of network of other forts that stretches deep into Wales from the West Midlands, Even today one could use them to send a fiery message from Birmingham to the Brecon Beacons. If one plots them on a map they appear to form the line of the boundaries between the Silurae and the Ordovice kingdoms of ancient Britain. They also map surprisingly well onto the stop lines of 1940 drawn up as defences against a German invasion. They clearly run along natural defensive features.
    Last edited by MarkV; 23 Mar 19, 18:56.
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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    • #3
      So fascinating!

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      • #4
        The locations of other forts in the vicinity has been deduced from a combination of the name which often includes an element of Kyre or Caer from the celtic for castle or fort and finds made by antiquarians in the past. Some are even shown on old maps but the development of the heavy plough has meant that they have long since vanished. They appear to have often been located where they could dominate important fords.
        During the second phase of the Claudian invasion Roman tactics appear to have been to work their way up the river valleys, taking the forts one by one and putting their own garrisons in - thus dominating the fords and restricting the ability of tribal raiding parties to move about. A very similar tactic was used by the British in the last phases of the South African War to defeat the Boer mounted commandos. One such fort was located at Newnham Bridge about 12 miles away. We know there was a battle there because the Roman commander Publius Ostorius Scapula who was also the Governor of Britain was carried away afterwards and died but whether from wounds, exhaustion or a combination is not clarified in the account of his death. The Romans then "modernised" the fort and put in their own garrison. When the bridge was built various Roman artefacts were found.

        There is a legend that another battle was fought there after the Romans left, between incoming Saxons and local Silurae led by Prince Arthur and Arthur took the fort. However there is no evidence whatsoever to support this and the first mention I can find is in the early 19th century.

        Once the area was pacified many of the forts appear to have been used as temporary camps for Roman patrols (it was never completely pacified until Henry VIII's time), fire bricks with a Roman legionary number impressed in them were found in the one near me. Unfortunately the current owners of the land completely forbid access and have allowed trees to grow all round so that it can only be seen from the air (in some parts of the world I would suspect the presence of a still) so that further investigation is impossible.

        In 1940/41 the local forts were used by the Auxiliary Patrol, a very secretive organisation intended to be the basis of a British Resistance in the event of a German occupation and arms caches have been uncovered in a number of them.
        Last edited by MarkV; 24 Mar 19, 07:24.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

        Comment


        • #5
          https://www.amazon.com/King-Arthurs-.../dp/1910777811

          Not quite the same period, and more focused on dykes than hillforts, but in a similar vein.

          Jim Storr makes a convincing case for the unknown to line of the Anglo-Saxon conquest, based primarily on an analysis of fortifications and some other educated guess work.

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          • #6
            Itís possible. Jamestown, Virginia was an outpost like that.
            "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

            "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

            Comment


            • #7
              [QUOTE=MarkV;n5105826]The locations of other forts in the vicinity has been deduced from a combination of the name which often includes an element of Kyre or Caer from the celtic for castle or fort and finds made by antiquarians in the past. Some are even shown on old maps but the development of the heavy plough has meant that they have long since vanished. They appear to have often been located where they could dominate important fords.
              During the second phase of the Claudian invasion Roman tactics appear to have been to work their way up the river valleys, taking the forts one by one and putting their own garrisons in - thus dominating the fords and restricting the ability of tribal raiding parties to move about. A very similar tactic was used by the British in the last phases of the South African War to defeat the Boer mounted commandos. One such fort was located at Newnham Bridge about 12 miles away. We know there was a battle there because the Roman commander Publius Ostorius Scapula who was also the Governor of Britain was carried away afterwards and died but whether from wounds, exhaustion or a combination is not clarified in the account of his death. The Romans then "modernised" the fort and put in their own garrison. When the bridge was built various Roman artefacts were found.

              There is a legend that another battle was fought there after the Romans left, between incoming Saxons and local Silurae led by Prince Arthur and Arthur took the fort. However there is no evidence whatsoever to support this and the first mention I can find is in the early 19th century.

              Once the area was pacified many of the forts appear to have been used as temporary camps for Roman patrols (it was never completely pacified until Henry VIII's time), fire bricks with a Roman legionary number impressed in them were found in the one near me. Unfortunately the current owners of the land completely forbid access and have allowed trees to grow all round so that it can only be seen from the air (in some parts of the world I would suspect the presence of a still) so that further investigation is impossible.

              In 1940/41 the local forts were used by the Auxiliary Patrol, a very secretive organisation intended to be the basis of a British Resistance in the event of a German occupation and arms caches have been uncovered in a number of them.[/QUOTE]


              Hopefully, the local twelve year olds haven't been blowing themselves up after uncovering caches of smith guns- or northover projectiles....

              even more hopefully, no one cached Beaverettes for tykes to uncover....

              Last edited by marktwain; 24 Mar 19, 15:11.
              The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

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              • #8
                There was a hill fort on the hill above the village where I grew up. It had spectacular views of the surrounding area and controlled what became the old whiskey smugglers road through the hills. Later a proper medieval castle (only a single tower left standing) was built down in the valley protecting the later road through to the Highlands.
                "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                • #9
                  [QUOTE=marktwain;n5105886]
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                  The locations of other forts in the vicinity has been deduced from a combination of the name which often includes an element of Kyre or Caer from the celtic for castle or fort and finds made by antiquarians in the past. Some are even shown on old maps but the development of the heavy plough has meant that they have long since vanished. They appear to have often been located where they could dominate important fords.
                  During the second phase of the Claudian invasion Roman tactics appear to have been to work their way up the river valleys, taking the forts one by one and putting their own garrisons in - thus dominating the fords and restricting the ability of tribal raiding parties to move about. A very similar tactic was used by the British in the last phases of the South African War to defeat the Boer mounted commandos. One such fort was located at Newnham Bridge about 12 miles away. We know there was a battle there because the Roman commander Publius Ostorius Scapula who was also the Governor of Britain was carried away afterwards and died but whether from wounds, exhaustion or a combination is not clarified in the account of his death. The Romans then "modernised" the fort and put in their own garrison. When the bridge was built various Roman artefacts were found.

                  There is a legend that another battle was fought there after the Romans left, between incoming Saxons and local Silurae led by Prince Arthur and Arthur took the fort. However there is no evidence whatsoever to support this and the first mention I can find is in the early 19th century.

                  Once the area was pacified many of the forts appear to have been used as temporary camps for Roman patrols (it was never completely pacified until Henry VIII's time), fire bricks with a Roman legionary number impressed in them were found in the one near me. Unfortunately the current owners of the land completely forbid access and have allowed trees to grow all round so that it can only be seen from the air (in some parts of the world I would suspect the presence of a still) so that further investigation is impossible.

                  In 1940/41 the local forts were used by the Auxiliary Patrol, a very secretive organisation intended to be the basis of a British Resistance in the event of a German occupation and arms caches have been uncovered in a number of them.[/QUOTE]


                  Hopefully, the local twelve year olds haven't been blowing themselves up after uncovering caches of smith guns- or northover projectiles....

                  even more hopefully, no one cached Beaverettes for tykes to uncover....

                  No whilst the Auxiliaries cover story was that they were part of the Home Guard they had more potent equipment - better suited for assassination and sabotage. When it became clear that an invasion was not on the cards many of them transferred into offensive units - SOE, SAS and SBS to name but three. Their local training sites are still used by the SAS at Hereford and .'copters practising insertions in the wood about a mile behind my house are a familiar sight.

                  That said concrete bases for Blacker Bombard spigot mortars can still be found along the River Teme which was I think the most northern stop line. The diagram you show was for the mobile version which was actually used by Indian Army units in the Western Desert where it did kill Italian and German tanks
                  Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                  Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    [QUOTE=MarkV;n5105908]
                    Originally posted by marktwain View Post

                    No whilst the Auxiliaries cover story was that they were part of the Home Guard they had more potent equipment - better suited for assassination and sabotage. When it became clear that an invasion was not on the cards many of them transferred into offensive units - SOE, SAS and SBS to name but three. Their local training sites are still used by the SAS at Hereford and .'copters practising insertions in the wood about a mile behind my house are a familiar sight.

                    That said concrete bases for Blacker Bombard spigot mortars can still be found along the River Teme which was I think the most northern stop line. The diagram you show was for the mobile version which was actually used by Indian Army units in the Western Desert where it did kill Italian and German tanks
                    The Blacker Bombard, ,I believe, was the inspiration for the Naval Hedgehog contact charge launcher, which contributed greatly to devastating the Uboats in 1943-44.

                    Anyhow, I glad to see that the local twelve year olds will only be digging up weapons of assignation and sabotage instead of the really harmful stuff.....
                    The trout who swims against the current gets the most oxygen..

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      [QUOTE=marktwain;n5106116]
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                      The Blacker Bombard, ,I believe, was the inspiration for the Naval Hedgehog contact charge launcher, which contributed greatly to devastating the Uboats in 1943-44.

                      .
                      Before then it contributed to the PIAT which did for many Panzers and helped win the odd VC. The Canadians became experts with it.

                      Sadly today I think 12 year olds can find the material necessary for assassination and sabotage in kitchen drawers and garden sheds
                      Last edited by MarkV; 25 Mar 19, 13:36.
                      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by American87 View Post
                        Itís possible. Jamestown, Virginia was an outpost like that.
                        Yeah I don't think you always have to think of a secure place as defensive.

                        Earthworks on some of the hill forts are just so amazing. Don't look like the defensive structures raised by farmers but a lot of focused military energy. All done with oral orders no written order evidence? Stonehenge is fascinating, who knew what to do, when and where?

                        I guess I would be most interested in the per-Celtic. Weren't a lot of the tribes mentioned fairly new to Britain that's why Caesar invaded because they were so closely allied to the continent tribes?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by OttoHarkaman View Post

                          Yeah I don't think you always have to think of a secure place as defensive.

                          Earthworks on some of the hill forts are just so amazing. Don't look like the defensive structures raised by farmers but a lot of focused military energy. All done with oral orders no written order evidence? Stonehenge is fascinating, who knew what to do, when and where?

                          I guess I would be most interested in the per-Celtic. Weren't a lot of the tribes mentioned fairly new to Britain that's why Caesar invaded because they were so closely allied to the continent tribes?
                          Yes, that's what I've read. The Druid connection was strong as well; Britain was actually a holy land of sorts for that religion.

                          Some historians think Rome was originally an outpost of that sort. The idea is that the Latins chose the seven hills as an outpost, and that the settlement gradually became a town, city, Roma.
                          Of course, that's just one theory, but it's plausible.
                          "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                          "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by OttoHarkaman View Post

                            Yeah I don't think you always have to think of a secure place as defensive.

                            Earthworks on some of the hill forts are just so amazing. Don't look like the defensive structures raised by farmers but a lot of focused military energy. All done with oral orders no written order evidence? Stonehenge is fascinating, who knew what to do, when and where?

                            I guess I would be most interested in the per-Celtic. Weren't a lot of the tribes mentioned fairly new to Britain that's why Caesar invaded because they were so closely allied to the continent tribes?
                            According to the Romans writing was forbidden under the Druids. This allowed them to maintain a monopoly of knowledge and hence power. But in most ancient societies even where writing existed the overwhelming bulk of the population would be illiterate. Education was for the elite - the work force wouldn't be able to read.

                            Caesar didn't so much invade as conduct a major raid and then talk up what he had done. It all added to his prestige back in Rome which may have been the real motive. He never got out of the South East and after extracting promises of tribute he withdrew back to Gaul. The real Roman Conquest came much later under the Emperor Claudius by which time the tribes in the South had long been in contact with their relatives in Romanised Gaul and the elites had adopted Roman lifestyles and were a bit of a push over. The hard fighting came further North and in the West where Romanising influences had not penetrated. The number and closeness of small forts in the area where I live would suggest that inter clan raiding etc must have been common before the Romans arrived. Even though the tribes united under Caractacus to fight the Romans, when things fell apart and Caractacus resorted to guerilla warfare one of them sold him out to the Romans. The Ordovice never really made peace and were constantly rebelling until the Romans lost patience and massacred most of them.

                            There is evidence that the larger forts were not built all at once but evolved and grew over many generations. The big one on Clee Hill across the valley from me is reckoned to have been a provincial capital of the Silurae kingdom but may well have originally started by a different people.
                            Last edited by MarkV; 26 Mar 19, 07:15.
                            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                              I live in an area dominated by hill forts. One is within a mile of my house, another two are within five miles in different directions, a fourth is across a deep valley and atop a hill that is 100 feet short of classifying as a mountain, although it is about ten miles away I can see it from my back windows - there is a radar station up there now.. It was stormed by the Romans during the Claudian invasion. They are all in line of sight with at least one other and are part of network of other forts that stretches deep into Wales from the West Midlands. . . .
                              Going on memory -- so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong -- but I recall you once saying that you live in Yorkshire. That's on the east coast of England. Are you saying that this chain of pre-Roman hill forts stretched clear across England, over the Pennine Mountains, across many bodies of water, valleys, ravines, and other topographical features, to cover England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea? What you're describing would constitute a significant public works project in any era, but in pre-Roman Britain, it's frankly mind-boggling.
                              I was married for two ******* years! Hell would be like Club Med! - Sam Kinison

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