Further evidence for Iron Age occupation close to Ludgershall Castle

In March and April of 2021 Cotswold Archaeology undertook another excavation in the vicinity of Ludgershall Castle in Wiltshire, this time for Lovell and EDP, on behalf of Homes England, and Wiltshire Council. The results from this investigation indicate that occupation of the site occurred during the Middle Iron Age and Roman periods.

An aerial photograph showing CA's excavation of 2019 and 2021 in the vicinity of Ludgershall Castle
Middle Iron age grain storage pit during excavation
Middle Iron Age grain storage pit during excavation

The site, which is about 600m south-west of Ludgershall Castle, contained the remains of fourteen storage pits, further clusters of pits, some drip gullies and a trackway. The pits, which are believed to date to the Middle Iron Age, were probably grain storage pits and were found to contain pottery, animal bone, loom-weights and a copper object.  Some of the storage pits were up to 2.3m in depth and were capable of holding large amounts of grain, much larger then would be required for a single household. The number, size and scale of these pits suggests that a relatively large Middle Iron Age settlement once lay close to the site. The drip gullies may have been the remains of an Iron Age roundhouse, roughly 10m in diameter, but no dating evidence was recovered directly from these. The drip gullies were truncated by the two parallel ditches, roughly 5m apart, from a later trackway  that crossed the site during the Roman period.

Remains of possible bowl from Roman trackway
Remains of possible bowl from Roman trackway

A previous investigation by Cotswold Archaeology in November 2019 at Castle Farm revealed a Late Iron Age defensive ditch just west of the medieval outer earthworks of Ludgershall Castle. This was the first direct evidence found to indicate that Ludgershall Castle had originated as a prehistoric hillfort or defended settlement. The ‘hillfort hypothesis’ had been suggested earlier, as Ludgershall occupied an unfilled ‘gap’ in the general distribution of hillforts in this part of the country, and from the presence of ‘Celtic’ field systems visible on aerial photographs of the fields around Ludgershall. While not an especially prominent location for a hillfort, the village does occupy a low plateau which may have been attractive for early settlement.

Detailed plans of CA's excavations at Ludgershall Castle

The evidence from both of our recent excavations supports the hypothesis that there was an Iron Age hillfort and/or large settlement at Ludgershall, and that Iron Age occupation in this part of Wiltshire was more complex than previously thought.

Craig Jones & Ray Kennedy

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