The Iron Age past of Cadbury Camp

The impressive ramparts of Cadbury Camp. © National Trust

The impressive ramparts of Cadbury Camp.

The gentle grass banks of Cadbury Camp are not a natural feature of the landscape but were created by man and once lived in by ancestors about whom we have only a few clues.

The Camp was built in the late Iron Age, probably by the Dobunni Tribe who lived in the Somerset Area. They dug out ditches and threw back the soil to make high banks for the fortress to protect them from any invading forces. They added a high timber fence on top of the bank and a complicated entrance to make it difficult for anyone to attack.

The tribe chose the ridge for their fort because of its high position giving good views over the land below which would have been boggy marsh.

Living conditions

Families in the tribe lived in simple farms along the ridge looking after their cattle, sheep and pigs, weaving wool into clothes and going back to the fort for protection when under the threat of attack.

Inside the fort there were probably basic round wooden homes, thatched with reeds gathered from nearby marshes. Wooden pens would keep the animals in.

Bronze spear reveals the past

Although the fort was mainly used in the late Iron Age, a bronze spear was discovered here which may mean people were on the site about 1,000 years before the fort was built.

Roman statue

A small stone statue also found on the fort suggests there was a Roman temple here and possibly a settlement long after the hill fort was no longer used.

The statue is an alter stone and shows a local version of Mars, God of war and agriculture, and bringer of healing. The fort probably continued to be used into Anglo Saxon times in the 5th and 6th centuries AD, after the Romans had left the country.

The name Cadbury meant Cada’s fort. Cada was an early Anglo Saxon personal name.