An Iron Age Hillfort
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"What a fascinating piece of history we have on our doorstep!"
"We have heard stories of grisly battles and the decapitated bodies that were found on the site. And as for poor old King Ethelbert - he also lost his head here! He was bound and beheaded and his body unceremoniously disposed of on the banks of the River Lugg".
WHY IS SUTTON WALLS IMPORTANT?
The scheduled ancient monument of Sutton Walls is 4 miles north of the city of Hereford and is one of the most famous Iron Age Hillforts in Britain. It lies on the River Lugg flood plain between Sutton St. Nicholas and Marden. Since its excavation by Dame Kathleen Kenyon between 1948 and 1951 it has appeared in nearly every book on the early history of Britain. Her excavations revealed evidence of settlement and activity on Sutton Walls from around the 3rd or 2nd century BC in the Iron Age until the 3rd century AD in the Roman period. Her most extraordinary find was a ‘war cemetery’ with twenty-four skeletons, many decapitated, at the west entrance. The Hillfort has traditionally been associated with the palace of 8th century King Offa of Mercia, and linked to the murder of King Ethelbert of the East Angles.
Archaeological investigations over several years in the Lugg flood plain at Sutton and Marden, including a Time Team project in 2000, have revealed evidence of settlement in this area from the Neolithic until the Middle Ages. Sutton Walls has been at the centre of some dramatic and intense power struggles of the Iron Age, Roman and Saxon periods that have helped to shape the history of Herefordshire.
Sadly, the hillfort has suffered over the years and two-thirds of the central area was quarried for sand and gravel in the 1940s and subsequently used for landfill until 1985.
The hillfort has been categorised as “At Risk” on the Historic England, Heritage at Risk register since their records began due to lack of management of the site. It is largely at risk from general deterioration; unmanaged and substantial tree growth and scrub, which damages the below ground archaeology; diminished ground cover which has allowing both the erosion of the sculpted ramparts and an increased number of burrowing animals on the site. This is altering the significance of the monument and urgent action is needed to prevent deterioration and improve the monument’s condition.
With no obvious solutions to complex issues, a detailed professionally produced conservation management plan is required to save and restore this nationally important, but neglected, monument for future generations.