Monday, October 20, 2008

Ladle Hill, Hampshire, an unfinished hillfort. The external ditch is clearly visible with the dumps of soil ready for building the rampart lying in the interior. To the right is a discbarrow. (Cambridge University)

Careful study of two unfinished forts, Ladle Hill (Hants) and Elworthy (Somerset), has enabled us to follow the construction of typical plateau forts (plate 45). At first a shallow marking-out ditch was cut around the perimeter of the fort, some 3 m. (3.3 yd) wide and 0.5 m. (0.55 yd) deep, with a low bank on the inside composed almost entirely of the removed turf. Thus an area of about 3.3 ha. (8 acres) was enclosed. The next stage involved about a dozen groups of people who began to deepen parts of the ditch, piling the excavated chalk into dumps well inside the earthwork. Harder chalk from the bottom of the ditch was used to build the front of the rampart. More people were employed in cutting hundreds of timbers to strengthen the rampart. These were set up in two parallel rows about 3 m. (3.3 yd) apart around the inner edge of the ditch. Cross-timbers laced the two rows together and close-set cladding posts faced the outside of the structure. The gap between the front and back rows of posts was filled with turf and chalk to form a solid defence and to support a rampart walk. Extra care was needed in the construction of the entrances, especially if they were to incorporate guard chambers and sentry walks over the top.

It has been estimated that a medium-sized hillfort of some 9 ha. (22 acres) (e.g. Ravensburgh Castle, Herts) required at least 1,190 large timber posts and a further 17,850 thinner lacing and cladding posts. Not only does this indicate a vast amount of forest clearance, probably not surpassed until Elizabethan times, but thousands of man-hours employed in carpentry and earthmoving activities.


John said...

This hillfort appears to show evidence of the strong community values present in those times for such a long term site development as this. I am studying architecture and am continually amazed at each cultures built response to the specific hazards and natural challenges present at each site. Thank you for your work and keep it up.
John Keenan-Mudrick
Washougal Washington USA

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