Own Your Own Piece of Ancient History - Buy an Iron Age Hillfort!
Incredible as that may sound, it’s no less than the truth. What’s on offer for a guide price of £100,000 ($138,000) is a freehold on Hembury Fort Cross, a multivallate Iron Age hillfort with 38.8 acres (0.16 km2) of woodland thrown in, in the English county of Devon. A ‘multivallate’ hillfort is a well-defended settlement atop a hill with multiple lines of defensive earthwork banks.
Quoting Savills, the real estate firm that has put this striking Devon property on the market, County Life magazine calls hillforts “the most striking of all archaeological monuments in England.” Most of them were built between 900 and 100 BC, a time when Britain was inhabited by several tribes, each with its own territory. There are 1,224 hillforts in Britain, some of which were built during the Bronze Age though most came up in the Iron Age. Around 200 BC many hillforts fell out of use.
Digital terrain model of the British Iron Age hillfort at Hembury. (Rouven Meidlinger / CC BY-SA 4.0)
Neolithic Enclosure, Iron Age Hillfort and Roman Army Camp!
Located 4 miles (6.5 km) from Honiton, Devon, Hembury Fort Cross belies its age and survives in very good shape. The hillfort itself is built at the site of a far older Neolithic causewayed enclosure dating back between 7,000 and 11,000 years. A causewayed enclosure is a kind of large earthwork common to the early Neolithic period in Europe. Rather than settlements, these prehistoric monuments enclosed by 1 to 4 concentric ditches with an internal bank, are thought to have been visited occasionally by their builders.
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Environmental archaeology provides indication for Europe being heavily wooded in that period. The enclosures were probably rare clearings in the forest that were used by the builders for social and economic activities and exchanges. Human and animal bones deposited at regular intervals in the ditches along the edges of the clearings probably had a ritualistic function.
Ranging from being a Neolithic monument to an Iron Age hillfort, Hembury Fort Cross later went on to be occupied by the Roman army in the 1st century AD. The archaeological and historical significance of the site therefore cannot be overstated. It has earned it a Historic England listing which, according to County Life, states that it’s in “exceptionally good condition” with a “well defined circuit of defenses.”
The Iron Age hillfort property is home to stunning woodlands. (savills)
Natural Beauty at Hembury Iron Age Hillfort
Not only that, its location on a heathland promontory at the southern end of a 240-meter-high (787 ft) ridge within the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is spectacular. There are some beautiful woodland walks through an area that is a diverse habitat for plants and wildlife. Thus, the property has considerable value from the scenic, ecological and conservation perspective as well.
South West Farmer informs us that the entire site has been under Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship Scheme since 2014. The scheme funds extensive capital works, which “together with an ongoing management plan… has transformed the fort, as well as the biodiversity and landscape value of the site as a whole.”
The views from the Hembury Iron Age hillfort are stunning. (savills)
Penny Dart, who is doing the marketing of Hembury Fort Cross for Savills’ Exeter office, is quoted by Market Screener as explaining that “it is incredibly rare for a site of such importance to reach the open market. A significant heritage asset, the landscape is also rich in ecological and environmental value. From the open heathland ridge, which offers outstanding views over Dartmoor and the south coast, mature woodland slopes away, providing fascinating woodland hikes and a diverse habitat for interesting flora and fauna. It is a fascinating opportunity.”
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So, if you happen to have £100,000 sitting in your bank, what better than to use it to make this incredibly valuable investment. Buy yourself a slice of antiquity and revisit three periods in human history. Not only will you have a well-preserved Iron Age hillfort to boast of, but also remains of an even more hoary past to explore and perhaps some artifacts of Roman times to chance upon. And you couldn’t choose more scenic surroundings to do it in.
Top image: The Hembury Iron Age Hillfort which has come on the market in Devon, England. Source: savills
By Sahir Pandey