Roman Fort, Hod Hill

Record ID:  110539*1 / MNA137879
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: Scheduled Monument
NT Property:  Hod Hill; South West
Civil Parish:  Stourpaine; North Dorset; Dorset
Grid Reference:  ST 855 107
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Summary

Hod Hill is distinctive as it is rare to find the earthworks of a Roman fort within Iron Age defences

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Monument Types

  • FORT (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Description

The Romans captured the fort in 43 or 44AD, swept away part of the earlier settlement and built their own defences in the north-west corner of the Iron Age fort. This makes Hod Hill distinctive as it is rare to find the earthworks of a Roman fort within Iron Age defences.
The defences of the fort comprise a single rampart, fronted by ditches cut in chalk. The outermost ditch is of Punic type, with almost vertical outer face and gently sloping inner face. This invites the attacker into a field of fire formed by a flat platform some 12 meters broad but makes rapid retreat highly difficult. Inside the platform lie the two inner ditches. The first 1.8 meters wide and 1.35 meters deep, with a narrow channel at the bottom; the second 3.3 meters wide and 1.95 meters deep with steep outer scarp. The rampart was built of layers of turf and chalk resting upon a log corduroy and furnished with a vertical back.
The fort had two gates, the east gate ( porta praetoria) was revealed as of timber, carried upon uprights a foot square, packed firmly in large pits and disposed so as to form a double portal recessed between a pair of flanking towers ( PDNHAS, 73 (1951), p.105). The south entrance to the fort had a single wooden tower over the gateway passage, instead of a pair of flanking towers as at the east gate.
The discovery of two varieties of barrack building showed that the fort had been designed for a combined unit of cavalry and infantry, and the duality of command was reflected in the provision of separate commandants' houses for the praefectus equitum and the commandant of the infantry detachment. The barrack buildings were laid out in parallel lines in the usual patttern but modified slightly by the conformity of the south- west angle of the fort with the western rampart of the British oppidum.
There are indications that some of the buildings within the fort, which were constructed of timber, wattle and daub, had perished by fire. The discovery of weapons lying in the sleeper trenches for wooden beams, just as if they had been propped against the barrack walls when the conflagration broke out, suggests that it was not an official act of destruction ( PDNHAS, 74 ( 1952), p.107). It is estimated that the fort was garrisoned by a legionary detachment of some 600 men and by a cavalry unit of around 250 men. Water storage was taken care of by the provision of large rectangular chalk-cut cisterns, one of which was excavated and shown to have been lined with boarding backed by puddled clay. It could have held about 1,900 gallons.
The north-west entrance of the hillfort was found to be a Roman creation, the native rampart having been breached and a single tower of heavy timbers erected over it, of similar plan to the south gate. It was subsequently dismantled ( PDNHAS, 76 (1954), p.95-6).

References

  • SZN3828 - Article in serial: 1952. Excavation of the Roman Fort at Hod Hill, Stourpaine. 74.

  • SZN672 - Article in serial: 1954. The excavations at Hod Hill in 1954. 76.

  • SZN7768 - Article in serial: 1951. Excavation of the Early Iron Age camp and Roman fort at Hod Hill, Stourpaine. 73.

Designations

Other Statuses and References

  • HER/SMR Reference (External): 2052 11B

Associated Events

  • ENA3258 - Archaeological Intervention, British Museum Ian Richmond's Research Excavation 1949-58

Associated Finds

None Recorded

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