Badbury Rings was a substantial hillfort protected by three large ramparts and located on a major trade route that extended to the contemporary port at Hengistbury. Little is known about its history but it went out of use in the first century AD when the population moved into a planned town at Shapwick.
The hillfort at Badbury Rings was constructed around a chalk knoll standing 90 metres above sea-level. It was a multivallate site with three lines of ramparts occupying an area of almost 50 acres. The defences of the fort invariably evolved over an extended period of time and there is evidence of at least two different phases of construction with the inner two ramparts being built first. Entrances into the fort were located on both the east and west sides with the ramparts being inturned to enhance the defences of these vulnerable access points whilst a narrow barbican provided further protection to the western gate. The fort has yet to be extensively excavated and accordingly the date it was first founded is a matter of conjecture but the presence of Bronze Age (2500 BC to 800 BC) barrows suggests it may have been in use during that time period. So far archaeological finds have been limited to the late Iron Age.
Badbury Rings occupied a strategic position in close proximity to a number of important communication routes. First and foremost it was located just two miles from the River Stour, a key artery for trade and travel. Furthermore it is probable that two Roman roads which converged in vicinity of the hillfort were built over tracks that had been in used for many centuries before the invasion and were probably part of a trade route that extended from a contemporary port at Hengistbury. Badbury was just one fortification in a series of such settlements that extended from that port and included Dudsbury Camp, Spetisbury Rings, Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill.
The Romans invaded Britain in AD 43 and in the immediate aftermath the Second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta), under the command of the future emperor Vespasian, was tasked with pacification of South West England. The Legion established a temporary base to the south of the River Stour near modern day Wimborne Minister and from there mounted operations against Badbury Rings and Spettisbury Rings. Whether Badbury was physically assaulted or not is unknown but Badbury was de-populated during the Roman period with its residents moving to occupy a lowland position at nearby Shapwick (Vindocladia). Whether this happened by force, as at Maiden Castle, or was simply the local population embracing the concept and benefits of Roman town living is unknown. However, there is some evidence to suggest the Romans cut a new entrance into the fort on the western side perhaps to render the site undefendable. Two Roman roads were built passing adjacent to the now abandoned fort with at least one - the Dorchester (Durnovaria) to Salisbury (Sorviodunum) road - probably following the line of an earlier track for it linked together the hillforts at those locations (Old Sarum and Maiden Castle). The other road ran between Poole Harbour and Bath (Aquaesuis) which may have partially followed the line of the ancient trading route with the port at Hengistbury. No fort was established at Badbury Rings although a Roman military outpost was established at nearby Lake Farm, on the banks of the River Stour, and in the late third century this was replaced by a military outpost within Vindocladia town itself.
It is uncertain if Badbury Rings was ever re-occupied after the Romans withdrew from England in the late fourth/early fifth centuries. However, in AD 899 it was used as a muster ground for an army raised by Æthelwold - son of Æthelred, King of Wessex - who opposed the succession of Alfred the Great's son, Edward the Elder. Æthelwold failed to muster enough support and then fled into the Viking controlled north. Another army mustered at the site in 1645 when it was used as a base by Clubmen, a force of local vigilantes who sought to protect their lands from plunder by Royalist or Parliamentary armies. Unlike Hambledon Hill, where another such group were forcibly ejected by Oliver Cromwell, there is no record of the army storming Badbury Rings.
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Badbury Rings forms part of the National Trust's Kingston Lacey estate and can either be visited separately or via a walk from that site. The remains of the hillfort are hugely impressive with the three ramparts still standing to a good height.
Ramparts and Entrance. The inner two ramparts were built first with the outer rampart being part of a second phase of construction. Note the inturned entrance on the second rampart.
Hillfort. Badbury Rings was built upon a chalk knoll that stands 90 metres above sea-level.
Bronze Age Barrow. There are a number of Bronze Age barrows in immediate proximity to Badbury Rings which suggests the site was in use at this time.
National Trust. The hillfort is owned by the National Trust.
Badbury Rings is found off the B3082 Blandford Road between Tarrant Keyneston and Kingston Lacey. The site is owned by the National Trust and forms part of the Kingston Lacy estate. The turning is sign-posted and there is a dedicated car park on-site.
Badbury Rings Hillfort