Saturday, June 13, 2009

Savage 1988: 8. The Round House Village

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A return, with thanks to Richard Savage and the Crickley Hill Trust, to the second hillfort as described in Richard's 1988 booklet:

"8 The Round House Village 

In the sixth century BC, after an interval which may have been short, a village was established on the site by a community with quite different traditions of housebuilding.  Just inside the entrance stood a great  round house, 15 m in diameter.  It was a type whose successful construction attests the highest standards of carpentry and engineering attained in south Britain at the time, for the peak of its thatched conical roof stood eleven  metres high or more, with no central support.  It was accompanied by a number of smaller round houses.  This village too was provided with four-post granaries.  There is no reason to doubt that the community was broadly the same kind and size as its predecessor.  

Substantial progress was made in rebuilding and strengthening the defences in the vulnerable eastern sector.  The old wall, much of which had slaked to a powdery mortar-like aggregation, had already been patched with lengths of walling hastily built from the rubble of its destruction.  Now it was covered and extended with new stonework, quarried from pits immediately behind it in the interior and from extensions of the old ditch outside it.  The new defence was ambitious; perhaps 5 or 6m high, with a walkway along the top and another platform, whose purpose in defence is not clear, part way down the front.  It may be structural, the result of an attempt to build a high wall Crickley on a broad, firm base, in order to make a visually impressive and bristling series of battlements towards the eastern approaches.  The old entrance was protected by new features: a bastion on either side and a hook-work which compelled the visitor to turn his unshielded right side to the north bastion, and its guards, as he entered.  The construction of a second, outer wall was begun. 

[Photo: the largest round house.  This reconstruction gives it the greatest practicable height; it may have been lower.  Part of the roof is unthatched to show the construction J. Eltham] 

The village was destroyed before the re-fortification could be finished.  Was the work undertaken in response to a threat?  Or was the attack intended to root out an over-mighty power before it became impregnable?  It is unlikely that we shall ever know.  The hill-fort at Leckhampton hill, 3 km away, may have been occupied at the same time as the second hillfort at Crickley, and it, too, was destroyed by burning. 

The destruction of the second hillfort seems to have in place no later than 400 BC, and at present there is nothing to suggest that the hill was occupied again before the Roman conquest, although evidence of later Iron Age occupation may yet be found.  There were burials of the late Iron Age less than 1 km away on Barrow Wake, including that containing the Birdlip mirror and other fine metalwork of the last decades before the Roman conquest, which can now be seen in Gloucester Museum.  We do not know where their occupants had lived.  The stonework of the defences crumbled slowly.  It was still at least partly standing four centuries later, in Roman times. 

[Photo: the final Iron Age wall and illustration: the round house village, c 500BC R. Morgan]"

The photograph on the second page, showing the final Iron Age wall, also appears at page 118 of "Crickley Hill: The Hillforts Defences" (Dixon and the Crickley Hill Trust 1994): from the examination of the full-page photograph there I can identify Anna Collinge and Bernie Dawson silhouetted against the skyline, with, just below them, Paul Noakes, a woman I can't identify, Mike Taylor, and John Parry.  Just out the right, throwing a shape, Dave Southwood.

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