1. Hambledon Hill is one of a chain of hill forts that extended from the port at Hengistbury. It seems likely there was a major trade route to/from there that extended north to Dudsbury Camp, Badbury Rings, Spetisbury Rings, Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill.
Contour Hillfort. Hambledon is a superb example of a contour hillfort with the defences aligned with the natural gradients of its location.
Hambledon Hill Hillfort
Notes: Located to the east of Child Okeford the site is not sign-posted but relatively easy to find on the same road (Duck Street) as Hod Hill. There is a small lay-by with sufficient parking space for a few cars. The walk to the summit is fairly steep and suitably robust footwear is recommended.
High Ground. One end of the hillfort is (surprisingly) overlooked by higher ground which perhaps supports the argument that impressive, multi-ditch sites such as Hambledon Hill were a statement of status rather than defence.
Built more than 2000 years ago, Hambledon Hill was a key settlement of the Durotriges tribe who dominated Dorset. One of a chain of forts extended north from the Iron Age port at Hengistbury Head, it would have prospered from trade with the Mediterranean. The site later saw a skirmish - the Battle of Hambledon Hill - during the English Civil War.
HISTORY OF HAMBLEDON HILL
Hambledon Hill was occupied no later than the Neolithic period (around 4000 BC to 2500 BC) with archaeological examination suggesting agricultural activity and construction of a number of enclosures linked by a causeway. The discovery of Neolithic human remains, where the victims were slain by arrows, has been cited as evidence to suggest the site was a 'frontier zone' of the period. Whilst this can’t be substantiated, it is certain that the Dorset chalk escarpment in which Hambledon is found, was a site of good arable land and plentiful resources from the River Stour. It was, without doubt, prime territory in a subsistence based society.
The remains of the hillfort we see today dates from the Iron Age. It is a superb example of a so-called contour fort - where the defences literally follow the contours of the terrain - and the site would certainly have evolved over its long occupation. Originally a univallate (single ditch/rampart) site, its defences were eventually upgraded into an impressive multivallate ditch system. As with other such hillforts, debate continues to rage as to whether such elaborate defences were primarily for protection or whether they were first and foremost a statement of status. Either way the ramparts would have originally been topped by a timber palisade whilst Edward Cunnington's archaeological investigations of 1897 found evidence of wooden gates barring the entrances to the site. Accommodation within the fort would have taken the form of round houses with a number having been identified close to the fort's access points. It is probable the fort had a street layout although the density of buildings compared to agricultural/grazing space is currently not known.
By the late Iron Age Hambledon Hill was an important site. By this stage it was occupied by members of the Durotriges tribe whose domain included all of Dorset including other prominent hillforts such as Hod Hill and Maiden Castle. Situated near the River Stour, Hambledon Hill was one of a chain of hillforts extended inland from the Iron Age promontory fort at Hengistbury Head. By around 100 BC, this was one of the most important trading posts in Britain with evidence being found of commerce with Mediterranean countries including Italy and Spain. This amassed the Durotriges tribe substantial wealth - evidenced by their gold coins - but the campaigns of Julius Caesar in Gaul (France) between 58 BC and 50 BC saw a vast reduction in this lucrative trade.
When Hambledon Hill went out of use is not clear nor is its importance within the wider Durotriges tribe - was Hambledon, Hod Hill or Maiden Castle their primary site or is such a concept simply not applicable to society at that time? Whichever was the case, the site seemingly reduced in prominence during the first century BC due to the reductions in foreign trade and increasing focus on nearby Hod Hill. Certainly by the time of the Roman invasion of AD 43, which saw the Second Augustan Legion (Legio II Augusta) sweep through the South West, it was Hod Hill that bore the brunt of their attack.
Aside from use for grazing livestock, little use seems to have been made of Hambledon hill after the first century BC. However in August 1645 it was the site a minor skirmish dubbed the 'Battle of Hambledon Hill'. In the general turbulence and upheaval of the English Civil War, which saw the armies of both sides plunder resources from their localities, vigilante groups known as the Clubmen (a name derived from their limited weaponry) had started to form to protect their lands. By the Summer of 1645, with Royalist fortunes waning following Naseby, Parliament's New Model Army was advancing into the South West and the force increasingly found itself at odds with local Clubmen. The early frictions had been resolved by diplomacy but, in August 1645, a detachment of Dragoons under Oliver Cromwell encountered a force of around 4,000 Clubmen at Hambledon Hill under the leadership of Richard Newman and Reverend Thomas Bravel. The situation quickly deteriorated into a fight but the ill-disciplined and disorganised Clubmen were no match for the professional and experienced soldiers of the army. When a force of Dragoons skirted round Hambledon Hill and attacked the Clubmen from the rear, they fled many rolling down the steep banks of the hillfort. Hundreds were rounded up and briefly imprisoned in St Mary’s Church, Shroton.
Today Hambledon Hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a National Nature Reserve (NNR). To ensure continued public access, it was purchased by the National Trust in August 2014.