FFRIDD FALDWYN HILLFORT
Ffridd Faldwyn is one of the largest hillforts in Wales. Like similar sites, it developed over an extended period of time and was substantially expanded during the Iron Age ultimately becoming a multivallate site which probably served as a regional centre for the Ordovices tribe. In September 1644 Royalist forces mustered within its earthworks prior to the Battle of Montgomery.
Ffridd Faldwyn is a prominent hill overlooking the Severn valley with steep natural scarping on the north, east and west sides. It was occupied no later than the Neolithic period (around 4000 BC to 2500 BC) and use was made of the site during the Bronze Age (2500 BC to 800 BC). However, it was during the Iron Age (800 BC to AD 43) that the site was developed into a hillfort by the Ordovices tribe who occupied much of central Wales at that time.
The earliest iteration of the hillfort was a three-acre enclosure protected by twin earth banks, each topped with a timber palisade. This was later expanded to the north and south with the rampart rebuilt using timber-framed, earth filled boxes. Later in the Iron Age, the fort underwent another expansion - this time on a massive scale. A new timber-framed rampart was built on the lower ground below the existing defences. This completely surrounded the earlier fortification creating an Inner and Outer enclosure. The former contained a series of large buildings, interpreted as granaries, and perhaps also hosted the high status buildings. The Outer enclosure seems to have been the site of the main settlement as it hosted a number of round huts each containing hearths and evidence of domestic occupation. A further D-shaped enclosure, on the south-west side, served as the equivalent of a barbican and protected the entrance into the fort. The site enclosed an area of around fifteen acres.
It is unlikely that Ffridd Faldwyn was constructed primarily for protection as the site's strong defensive position is undermined by not having a potable fresh water source (other than rainwater). Accordingly it is more likely the fort was built as a status symbol designed to reflect the power and prestige of the Ordovices tribe. It was located towards the eastern extremity of their territory and probably hosted regular visits from the neighbouring Cornovii and Dobvnni tribes. The site was also well connected as it was in proximity to the Rivers Severn and Camlad, important waterways that provided the primary means of movement throughout pre-industrial Wales, and also overlooked a major overland route. Furthermore the site is visible for miles around and would have served as a mustering point for travellers and traders alike.
It is unclear when the hillfort went out of use but may have coincided with the arrival of the Romans, who established nearby Forden Gaer Fort (Levobrinta), in the latter half of the first century AD. Thereafter the site was used for grazing animals and was not refortified as the medieval Montgomery Castle was built on the lower ground to the east. The old hillfort was occupied by Royalist forces in the opening stages of the Battle of Montgomery on 18 September 1644.
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Ffridd Faldwyn is a good example of an Iron Age contour hillfort albeit large portions are now heavily wooded.
Fridd Faldwyn Hillfort. The multivallate fort occupies the summit of Ffridd Faldwyn enclosing an area of around fifteen acres. Much of the site is wooded but the ditches and ramparts survive.
Fridd Faldwyn Hillfort. The easiest approach to the hillfort was from the south and accordingly this included the entrance.
Dominant Position. The hillfort stands higher than nearby Montgomery Castle but was far enough away (400 metres) to not present any defensive issues at the time the medieval castle was built. By the seventeenth century the development of artillery had changed everything and, in the civil war, Royalist forces occupied the hillfort during their siege of the castle.
View. The hillfort offers commanding views over the area including the Rivers Severn and Camlad. The Montgomery (1644) battlefield is on the right hand side of the picture.
Montgomery Fortifications. Due to its proximity to the rivers Severn and Camlad plus its commanding position over important overland routes, Montgomery has been fortified for thousands of years. The earliest site was Ffridd Faldwyn Hillfort. The Romans built Forden Gaer Fort in the first century AD but positioned it in direct proximity to the River Severn for logistical reasons. Offa’s Dyke was constructed through the site in the mid eighth century. The Normans established Hen Doman circa-1071 and then Montgomery Castle in 1223.
Entrance. The entrance was on the south side and was augmented by a substantial D-shaped earthwork. that served as a barbican.
Ffridd Faldwyn Hillfort is located to the west of Montgomery. Visitors can combine their visit with a trip to Montgomery Castle which is found on an unnamed road accessed off Arthur Street. There is a dedicated car park. The hillfort is accessed from a public right of way further west along the same road.
Car Parking Option (Castle)
Ffridd Faldwyn Hillfort