British Iron Age

The British Iron Age is a conventional name used in the archaeology of Great Britain, referring to the prehistoric and protohistoric phases of the Iron Age culture of the main island and the smaller islands, typically excluding prehistoric Ireland, which had an independent Iron Age culture of its own.[1] The parallel phase of Irish archaeology is termed the Irish Iron Age.[2] The Iron Age is not an archaeological horizon of common artefacts, but is rather a locally diverse cultural phase.

The British Iron Age lasted in theory from the first significant use of iron for tools and weapons in Britain to the Romanisation of the southern half of the island. The Romanised culture is termed Roman Britain and is considered to supplant the British Iron Age. The Irish Iron Age was ended by the rise of Christianity.

The tribes living in Britain during this time are often popularly considered to be part of a broadly Celtic culture, but in recent years this has been disputed. At a minimum, "Celtic" is a linguistic term without an implication of a lasting cultural unity connecting Gaul with the British Isles throughout the Iron Age. The Brythonic languages spoken in Britain at this time, as well as others including the Goidelic and Gaulish languages of neighbouring Ireland and Gaul respectively, certainly belong to the group known as Celtic languages. However it cannot be assumed that particular cultural features found in one Celtic-speaking culture can be extrapolated to the others.[3]

Iron Age
Bronze Age

Ancient Near East (1200–550 BC)

Bronze Age collapse (1200–1150 BC)
Anatolia, Caucasus, Levant


Aegean (1190–700 BC)
Italy (1100–700 BC)
Balkans (1100 BC – AD 150)
Eastern Europe (900–650 BC)
Central Europe (800–50 BC)
Great Britain (800 BC – AD 100)
Northern Europe (500 BC – AD 800)

South Asia (1200–200 BC)

East Asia (500 BC – AD 300)

Iron metallurgy in Africa

Iron Age metallurgy
Ancient iron production

Ancient history
Mediterranean, Greater Persia, South Asia, China
Greek, Roman, Chinese, Medieval


At present over 100 large-scale excavations of Iron Age sites have taken place,[4] dating from the 8th century BC to the 1st century AD, and overlapping into the Bronze Age in the 8th century BC.[5] Hundreds of radiocarbon dates have been acquired and have been calibrated on four different curves, the most precise being based on tree ring sequences.

The following scheme summarises a comparative chart presented in a 2005 book by Barry Cunliffe,[6] but British artefacts were much later in adopting Continental styles such as the La Tène style of Celtic art:

Earliest Iron Age 800–600 BC Parallel to Hallstatt C on the continent
Early Iron Age 600–400 BC Hallstat D and half of La Tène I
Middle Iron Age 400–100 BC The rest of La Tène I, all of II and half of III
Late Iron Age 100–50 BC The rest of La Tène III
Latest Iron Age 50 BC – AD 100

The end of the Iron Age extends into the very early Roman Empire under the theory that Romanisation required some time to take effect. In parts of Britain that were not Romanised, such as Scotland, the period is extended a little longer, say to the 5th century. The geographer closest to AD 100 is perhaps Ptolemy. Pliny and Strabo are a bit older (and therefore a bit more contemporary), but Ptolemy gives the most detail (and the least theory).

Archaeological evidence

Aerial photograph of Maiden Castle, 1935
Maiden Castle, Dorset is one of the largest hill forts in Europe.[7][8] Photograph taken in 1935 by Major George Allen (1891–1940).

Attempts to understand the human behaviour of the period have traditionally focused on the geographic position of the islands and their landscape, along with the channels of influence coming from continental Europe.

During the later Bronze Age there are indications of new ideas influencing land use and settlement. Extensive field systems, now called Celtic fields, were being set out and settlements were becoming more permanent and focused on better exploitation of the land. The central organisation to undertake this had been present since the Neolithic period but it was now targeted at economic and social goals, such as taming the landscape rather than the building of large ceremonial structures like Stonehenge. Long ditches, some many miles in length, were dug with enclosures placed at their ends. These are thought to indicate territorial borders and a desire to increase control over wide areas.

By the 8th century BC, there is increasing evidence of Great Britain becoming closely tied to continental Europe, especially in Britain's South and East. New weapon types appeared with clear parallels to those on the continent such as the Carp's tongue sword, complex examples of which are found all over Atlantic Europe. Phoenician traders probably began visiting Great Britain in search of minerals around this time, bringing with them goods from the Mediterranean. At the same time, Northern European artefact types reached Eastern Great Britain in large quantities from across the North Sea.

Defensive structures dating from this time are often impressive, for example the brochs of Northern Scotland and the hill forts that dotted the rest of the islands. Some of the most well-known hill forts include Maiden Castle, Dorset, Cadbury Castle, Somerset and Danebury, Hampshire. Hill forts first appeared in Wessex in the Late Bronze Age, but only become common in the period between 550 and 400 BC. The earliest were of a simple univallate form, and often connected with earlier enclosures attached to the long ditch systems. Few hill forts have been substantially excavated in the modern era, Danebury being a notable exception, with 49% of its total surface area studied. However, it appears that these "forts" were also used for domestic purposes, with examples of food storage, industry and occupation being found within their earthworks. On the other hand, they may have been only occupied intermittently as it is difficult to reconcile permanently occupied hill forts with the lowland farmsteads and their roundhouses found during the 20th century, such as at Little Woodbury and Rispain Camp. Many hill forts are not in fact "forts" at all, and demonstrate little or no evidence of occupation.

The development of hill forts may have occurred due to greater tensions that arose between the better structured and more populous social groups. Alternatively, there are suggestions that, in the latter phases of the Iron Age, these structures simply indicate a greater accumulation of wealth and a higher standard of living, although any such shift is invisible in the archaeological record for the Middle Iron Age, when hill forts come into their own. In this regard, they may have served as wider centres used for markets and social contact. Either way, during the Roman occupation the evidence suggests that, as defensive structures, they proved to be of little use against concerted Roman attack. Suetonius comments that Vespasian captured more than twenty "towns" during a campaign in the West Country in 43 AD, and there is some evidence of violence from the hill forts of Hod Hill and Maiden Castle in Dorset from this period. Some hill forts continued as settlements for the newly conquered Britons. Some were also reused by later cultures, such as the Saxons, in the early Medieval period.

The people of Iron Age Britain

Celtic movement from the continent

The Roman historian Tacitus suggested that the Britons were descended from people who had arrived from the continent, comparing the Caledonians (in modern-day Scotland) to their Germanic neighbours; the Silures of Southern Wales to Iberian settlers; and the inhabitants of Southeast Britannia to Gaulish tribes.[9] This migrationist view long informed later views of the origins of the British Iron Age and the making of the modern nations. Linguistic evidence inferred from the surviving Celtic languages in Northern and Western Great Britain at first appeared to support this idea, and the changes in material culture which archaeologists observed during later prehistory were routinely ascribed to a new wave of invaders.

From the early 20th century, this "invasionist" scenario was juxtaposed to a diffusionist view. By the 1960s, this latter model seemed to have gained mainstream support,[10] but, in turn, it came under attack in the 1970s.

There was certainly a large migration of people from Central Europe westwards during the early Iron Age. The question whether these movements should be described as "invasions", or as "migrations", or as mostly "diffusion" is largely a semantic one.

Examples of events that could be labelled "invasions" include the arrival in Southern Britain of the Belgae from the end of the 2nd century BC, as described in Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War. Such sudden events may be invisible in the archaeological record. In this case, it depends on the interpretation of Aylesford-Swarling pottery.[11] Regardless of the "invasionist" vs. "diffusionist" debate, it is beyond dispute that exchanges with the continent were a defining aspect of the British Iron Age.[12] According to Julius Caesar, the Britons further inland than the Belgae believed that they were indigenous.[13]


Population estimates vary but the number of people in Iron Age Great Britain could have been three or four million by the first century BC, with most concentrated densely in the agricultural lands of the South. Settlement density and a land shortage may have contributed to rising tensions during the period. The average life expectancy at birth would have been around 25, but at the age of five it would have been around 30. These figures would be slightly lower for women, and slightly higher for men throughout the Middle Iron Age in most areas, on account of the high mortality rate of young women during childbirth; however, the average age for the two sexes would be roughly equal for the Late Iron Age. This interpretation depends on the view that warfare and social strife increased in the Late Iron Age, which seems to be fairly well attested in the archaeological record, for Southern Britain at least.

Early in the Iron Age, the widespread Wessex pottery of Southern Britain, such as the type style from All Cannings Cross, may suggest a consolidated socio-economic group in the region. However, by 600 BC this appears to have broken down into differing sub-groups with their own pottery styles.[14] Between c. 400 and 100 BC there is evidence of emerging regional identities and a significant population increase.[15]

Ptolemy's Albion

Claudius Ptolemy described Britain at the beginning of Roman rule but incorporated material from earlier sources.[16] Although the name "Pretanic Isles" had been known since the voyage of Pytheas and "Britannia" was in use by Strabo and Pliny, Ptolemy used the earlier "Albion", known to have been used as early as the Massaliote Periplus.

Iron Age beliefs in Britain

The Romans described a variety of deities worshipped by the people of Northwestern Europe. Barry Cunliffe perceives a division between one group of gods relating to masculinity, the sky and individual tribes and a second group of goddesses relating to associations with fertility, the earth and a universality that transcended tribal differences. Wells and springs had female, divine links exemplified by the goddess Sulis worshipped at Bath. In Tacitus' Agricola (2.21), he notes the similarity between both religious and ritual practices of the pre-Roman British and the Gauls.[17]

Religious practices revolved around offerings and sacrifices, sometimes human but more often involving the ritual slaughter of animals or the deposition of metalwork, especially war booty. Weapons and horse trappings have been found in the bog at Llyn Cerrig Bach on Anglesey and are interpreted as votive offerings cast into a lake. Numerous weapons have also been recovered from rivers, especially the Thames, but also the Trent and Tyne. Some buried hoards of jewellery are interpreted as gifts to the earth gods.

Disused grain storage pits and the ends of ditches have also produced what appear to be deliberately placed deposits, including a preference for burials of horses, dogs and ravens. The bodies were often mutilated and some human finds at the bottom of pits, such as those found at Danebury, may have had a ritual aspect.

Caesar's texts tell us that the priests of Britain were Druids, a religious elite with considerable holy and secular powers. Great Britain appears to have been the seat of the Druidic religion and Tacitus' account of the later raid on Anglesey led by Suetonius Paulinus gives some indication of its nature. No archaeological evidence survives of Druidry, although a number of burials made with ritual trappings and found in Kent may suggest a religious character to the subjects.

Overall, the traditional view is that religion was practiced in natural settings in the open air. Gildas mentions "those diabolical idols of my country, which almost surpassed in number those of Egypt, and of which we still see some mouldering away within or without the deserted temples, with stiff and deformed features as was customary." However, several sites interpreted as Iron Age shrines seem to contradict this view which may derive from Victorian and later Celtic romanticism. Sites such as at Hayling Island in Hampshire and that found during construction work at Heathrow airport are interpreted as purpose-built shrines. The Hayling Island example was a circular wooden building set within a rectangular precinct and was rebuilt in stone as a Romano-British temple in the 1st century AD to the same plan. The Heathrow temple was a small cella surrounded by a ring of postholes thought to have formed an ambulatory which is very similar to Romano-Celtic temples found elsewhere in Europe. A rectangular structure at Danebury and a sequence of six-poster structures overlooking calf burials and culminating in a trench-founded rectangular structure at Cadbury Castle, Somerset, have been similarly interpreted. An example at Sigwells, overlooking Cadbury Castle, was associated with metalwork and whole and partial animal burials to its east.[18] However, evidence of an open-air shrine was found at Hallaton, Leicestershire. Here, a collection of objects known as the Hallaton Treasure were buried in a ditch in the early 1st century AD. The only structural evidence was a wooden palisade built in the ditch.[19]

Death in Iron Age Great Britain seems to have produced different behaviours in different regions. Cremation was a common method of disposing of the dead, although the chariot burials and other inhumations of the Arras culture of East Yorkshire, and the cist burials of Cornwall, demonstrate that it was not ubiquitous. In Dorset the Durotriges seem to have had small inhumation cemeteries, sometimes with high status grave goods.[20] In fact, the general dearth of excavated Iron Age burials makes drawing conclusions difficult. Excarnation has been suggested as a reason for the lack of burial evidence with the remains of the dead being dispersed either naturally or through human agency.

Economy of Iron Age Britain

Trade links developed in the Bronze Age and beforehand provided Great Britain with numerous examples of continental craftsmanship. Swords especially were imported, copied and often improved upon by the natives. Early in the period, Hallstatt slashing swords and daggers were a significant import although, by the mid 6th century, the volume of goods arriving seems to have declined, possibly due to more profitable trade centres appearing in the Mediterranean. La Tène culture items (usually associated with the Celts) appeared in later centuries and, again, these were adopted and adapted with alacrity by the locals.

There also appears to have been a collapse in the bronze trade during the early Iron Age, which can be viewed in three ways:

  1. Steady transition: the development of iron parallel to a diminishing bronze system.
  2. Rapid abandonment; iron undermines bronze and takes over its social function.
  3. Bronze crisis: severe reduction in the supply of bronze allows the iron to replace it.

With regard to animal husbandry, cattle represented a significant investment in pre-Roman Britain as they could be used as a source of portable wealth, as well as providing useful domestic by-products such as milk, cheese and leather. In the later Iron Age, an apparent shift is visible, revealing a change in dominance from cattle rearing to that of sheep. Economically, sheep are significantly less labour-intensive, requiring fewer people per animal.

Whilst cattle and sheep dominate the osteo-archaeological record, evidence for pig, ox, dog and, rarely, chicken is widely represented. There is generally an absence from environmental remains of hunted game and wild species as well as fresh and sea water species, even in coastal communities.

A key commodity of the Iron Age was salt, used for preservation and the supplementation of diet. Whilst difficult to find archaeologically, some evidence does exist. Salterns, in which sea water was boiled to produce salt, are prevalent in the East Anglia fenlands. Additionally, Morris notes that some salt trading networks spanned over 75 km.

Representing an important political and economic medium, the vast number of Iron Age coins found in Great Britain are of great archaeological value.[21][22] Some, such as gold staters, were imported from mainland Europe. Others, such as the cast bronze (potin) coins of Southeast England, are clearly influenced by Roman originals. The British tribal kings also adopted the continental habit of putting their names on the coins they had minted, with such examples as Tasciovanus from Verulamium and Cunobelinos from Camulodunum identifying regional differentiation. Hoards of Iron Age coins include the Silsden Hoard in West Yorkshire found in 1998. A large collection of coins, known as the Hallaton Treasure, was found at a Late Iron Age shrine near Hallaton, Leicestershire in 2000 and consisted of 5294 coins, mostly attributed to the Corieltavi tribe. These were buried in 14 separate hoards over several decades in the early 1st century AD.[23]

The expansion of the economy throughout the period, but especially in the later Iron Age, is in large part a reflection of key changes in the expression of social and economic status.


Trade in the Early and Middle Iron Age

The Early Iron Age saw a substantial number of goods belonging to the Hallstatt culture imported from the continent, and these came to have a major effect on Middle Iron Age native art.

Trade in the Late Iron Age

From the late 2nd century BC onwards South-central Britain was indirectly linked into Roman trading networks via Brittany and the Atlantic seaways to southwest France.[24] Hengistbury Head in Dorset was the most important trading site and large quantities of Italian wine amphorae have been found there.[24] These Atlantic trade networks were heavily disrupted following Julius Caesar's conquest of Brittany in the 50s BC.[25] This fact may support a supposition that the Celts of Britain had an economic interest in supporting their Gallic brethren in their resistance to Roman occupation.

In Southeast Britain, meanwhile, extensive contact with the ‘Belgic’ tribes of Northern France is evidenced by large numbers of imported Gallo-Belgic gold coins between the mid-2nd century BC and Caesar's conquest of Gaul in the 50s BC.[26] These coins probably did not principally move through trade. In the past, the emigration of Belgic peoples to Southeast Britain has been cited as an explanation for their appearance in that region. However, recent work suggests that their presence in Southeast Britain may have occurred due to a kind of political and social patronage that was paid by the North French groups in exchange for obtaining aid from their British counterparts in their warfare with the Romans on the Continent.[27]

After Caesar's conquest of Gaul, a thriving trade developed between Southeast Britain and the near Continent. This is archaeologically evidenced through imports of wine and olive oil amphorae and mass-produced Gallo-Belgic pottery.[28] Strabo, writing in the early 1st century AD, lists ivory chains and necklaces, amber gems, glass vessels, and other petty wares, as articles imported to Britain, whilst he recorded the island's exports as grain, cattle, gold, silver, iron, hides, slaves and hunting dogs.[29] This trade probably thrived as a result of political links and client kingship relationships that developed between groups in Southeast Britain and the Roman world.[30]

The end of Iron Age Britain

Historically speaking, the Iron Age in Southern Great Britain ended with the Roman invasion. Although the assimiliation of Briton culture was far from instantaneous, some relatively quick change is evident archaeologically. For example, the Romano-Celtic shrine in Hayling Island, Hampshire was constructed in the AD 60s–70s,[31] whilst Agricola was still campaigning in Northern Britain (mostly in what is now Scotland), and on top of an Iron Age ritual site. Rectilinear stone structures, indicative of a change in housing to the Roman style are visible from the mid to late 1st century AD at Brixworth and Quinton.[32]

In areas where Roman rule was not strong or was non-existent, Iron Age beliefs and practices remained, but not without at least marginal levels of Roman, or Romano-British influence. The survival of place names, such as Camulodunum (Colchester), and which derive from the native language, is evidence of this.

See also


  1. ^ Cunliffe (2005) page 27.
  2. ^ Raftery, Barry (2005). "Iron-age Ireland". In O Croinin, Daibhi (ed.). Prehistoric and Early Ireland: Volume I. Oxford University Press. pp. 134–181. ISBN 978-0-19-821737-4.
  3. ^ Fitzpatrick (1996) page 242: "It is clear, then, that there is no intrinsic 'Celtic' European unity and that the idea of 'Celtic' Iron Age Europe has developed in an almost ad hoc fashion. When examined critically the central idea – of being 'Celtic' – may also be seen to be weakly formulated ...."
  4. ^ Cunliffe (2005) page 20.
  5. ^ Cunliffe (2005) page 32.
  6. ^ Cunliffe (2005) page 652. The dates are the mid-points of Cunliffe's transitional lines. His earliest and latest possibilities have been used for the end points. In the text 750 BC is his summary date for the beginning.
  7. ^ "Maiden Castle". English Heritage. Retrieved 2009-05-31
  8. ^ Historic England. "Maiden Castle (451864)". PastScape. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
  9. ^ Tacitus, Agricola 11: "Their physical characteristics are various and this is suggestive... overall however it seems reasonable to believe that the Gauls occupied this island lying so near to them." (Habitus corporum varii atque ex eo argumenta. [...] In universum tamen aestimanti Gallos vicinam insulam occupasse credibile est.)
  10. ^ e.g. Grahame Clarg (1966)
  11. ^ Cunliffe (2010) page 116.
  12. ^ Cunliffe (2005): "As usual the ball has been swung too far..."
  13. ^ Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico V.12: "The interior part of Britain is inhabited by those who claim to be indigenous on the strength of an oral tradition." (Britanniae pars interior ab eis incolitur quos natos in insula ipsi memoria proditum dicunt...)
  14. ^ Cunliffe (2010), page 120
  15. ^ Cunliffe (2010), page 598: "Growth of population was one of the factors which led to the crystallizing out of well-defined social hierarchies accompanied, especially in the centre south, by a degree of territoriality."
  16. ^ Geography, Book II, Chapter II, on Albion.
  17. ^ Tacitus, Agricola, translated by Mattingly, H. (revised edition),1979, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,
  18. ^ Tabor, Richard (2008). Cadbury Castle: A hillfort and landscapes. Stroud: The History Press. pp. 130–142. ISBN 978-0-7524-4715-5.
  19. ^ Score, Vicki (2006). "Rituals, hoards and helmets: a ceremonial meeting place of the Corieltavi" in Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol 80, pp. 197-207..
  20. ^ Russell, M. (2019). "The girl with the chariot medallion: a well-furnished, Late Iron Age Durotrigian burial from Langton Herring, Dorset". Archaeological Journal. 176. doi:10.1080/00665983.2019.1573551.
  21. ^ The Oxford Celtic Coin Index Archived 2011-05-16 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ The Oxford Celtic Coin Index Archived 2012-06-29 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Leins, Ian (2007). "Coins in context and votive deposition in Iron Age Southeast Leicestershire" in The British Numismatic Journal, Vol 77, pp. 22-48.
  24. ^ a b Cunliffe, B. W. 1988. Greeks, Romans and Barbarians. London; Cunliffe, B. W. 2005. Iron Age Communities in Britain (fourth edition). London: Routledge; Cunliffe, B. W. 2009. ‘Looking forward: maritime contacts in the first millennium BC’, in Clark, P. (ed.), Bronze Age Connections: Cultural Contact in Prehistoric Europe. Oxford: Oxbow; Cunliffe, B. W. and de Jersey, P. 1997. Armorica and Britain: Cross-Channel Relationships in the Late First Millennium BC, Oxford.
  25. ^ Cunliffe, B. W. 1988. Greeks, Romans and Barbarians. London; Cunliffe, B. W. 2005. Iron Age Communities in Britain (fourth edition). London: Routledge; Cunliffe, B. W. 2009. ‘Looking forward: maritime contacts in the first millennium BC’, in Clark, P. (ed.), Bronze Age Connections: Cultural Contact in Prehistoric Europe. Oxford: Oxbow; Cunliffe, B. W. and de Jersey, P. 1997. Armorica and Britain: Cross-Channel Relationships in the Late First Millennium BC. Oxford.
  26. ^ Sills, J. 2003. Gaulish and Early British Coinage. London: Spink; Cunliffe, B. W. 2005. Iron Age Communities in Britain (fourth edition). London: Routledge; Creighton, J. 2000. Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  27. ^ Sills, J. 2003. Gaulish and Early British Coinage. London: Spink; Cunliffe, B. W. 2009. ‘Looking forward: maritime contacts in the first millennium BC’, in Clark, P. (ed.), Bronze Age Connections: Cultural Contact in Prehistoric Europe. Oxford: Oxbow.
  28. ^; Morris, F. M. 2010. North Sea and Channel Connectivity during the Late Iron Age and Roman Period (175/150 BC – AD 409). Oxford: Archaeopress.
  29. ^ Strabo. Geography. IV.5.2-3.
  30. ^ Creighton, J. 2000. Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Morris, F. M. 2010. North Sea and Channel Connectivity during the Late Iron Age and Roman Period (175/150 BC – AD 409). Oxford: Archaeopress.
  31. ^ Smith, A., 2001, The Differential Use Of Constructed Sacred Space In Southern Britain, from the Late Iron Age to the 4th Century AD BAR British Series 318, Oxford: Archaeopress
  32. ^ De la Bedoyere, G., 1991, Buildings of Roman Britain, Tempus: Stroud


  • Cunliffe, Barry W. (2005). Iron Age Communities in Britain, Fourth Edition: An Account of England, Scotland and Wales from the Seventh Century BC Until the Roman Conquest. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-34779-3.
  • Fitzpatrick, Andrew P (1996). "'Celtic' Iron Age Europe: the theoretical basis". In Graves-Brown, Paul; Jones, Siân; Gamble, Clive (eds.). Cultural Identity and Archaeology: The Construction of European Communities. Routledge. pp. 238–255. ISBN 978-0-415-10676-4.
  • Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age. Chessington, Surrey, UK: Ordnance Survey. 1962.
  • Rhys, J. (1904). Celtic Britain: Third Edition Revised. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Downloadable Google Books.

Further reading

  • Collis, J.R., 2003, The Celts, origins, myths, inventions Stroud: Tempus
  • Haselgrove, C., 2001, Iron Age Britain in its European Setting, in Collis, J.R. (ed) Settlement and Society in Iron Age Europe, Sheffield: Sheffield Archaeological Monograph 11, pp37–73
  • Haselgrove, C. and Moore, T., 2007, The later Iron Age in Britain and beyond, Oxford: Oxbow
  • Pryor, F., 2003, Britain, BC; life in Britain and Ireland before the Romans, London: Harper Collins, chapters 11-12
  • Hill, J.D., 1995, Ritual and Rubbish in the Iron Age of Wessex BAR British Series 242

External links

Bircher Common

Bircher Common is an area of lowland heath in the county of Herefordshire, 6 miles (10 km) north of Leominster. The main features are Croft Castle and Croft Ambrey, a British Iron Age hill fort, both of which are owned by the National Trust

Briton (disambiguation)

Britons, or the British people, are nationals or natives of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Briton or Britons may also refer to:


Celtic Britons or Britons or Ancient Britons, Celtic people who inhabited Great Britain from the British Iron Age into the Middle Ages

William Briton or Breton (died 1356), Breton Franciscan theologian

Briton Hadden (1898-1929), co-founder and first editor of Time magazine

Briton Hammon, 18th century slave in British North America who wrote an autobiography published in 1760

Briton Rivière (1840-1920), British painterOther uses:

HMS Briton, various Royal Navy ships

PS Briton, a paddle steamer launched in 1862

Briton Motor Company, a car manufacturer (1909-1919 and 1922-1929) based in Wolverhampton, England

The Britons, an English antisemitic organization

Britons, nickname of the Albion College sports teams

Kaptain Briton, a Marvel Comics alternate version of Captain Britain

Burton Fleming

Burton Fleming is a village and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It lies close to the border with North Yorkshire. The village is situated approximately 7 miles (11 km) north-west of Bridlington and 6 miles (10 km) south of Filey.

Burton Fleming was earlier known as North Burton.According to the 2011 UK census, Burton Fleming parish had a population of 430, an increase on the 2001 UK census figure of 363.The village is noted for the house where Queen Henrietta Maria was sent into hiding during the English Civil War. A significant British Iron Age cemetery—Burton Fleming archaeological site—consisting of 64 barrows forming part of the Arras Culture of the East Riding of Yorkshire was excavated here in the 1970s.The village Grade II* listed Anglican church is dedicated to St Cuthbert. Dating from the 12th century, it previously had a Norman aisle to its nave; the aisle arcades are now evident as part of the exterior wall. The church retains a Norman south doorway and west tower.

The Gypsey Race flows through the village and through other neighbouring villages such as Wold Newton. In 2012 the village suffered serious flooding from the Gypsey Race.Burton Fleming has a public house, the Burton Arms, and a butcher's shop.

In March 2017, the village declared itself "hedgehog friendly".

Bury Ditches

Bury Ditches is a British Iron Age hill fort between Clun and Bishop's Castle in the Shropshire Hills of central England.

Caer Caradoc

Caer Caradoc (Welsh – Caer Caradog, the fort of Caradog) is a hill in the English county of Shropshire. It overlooks the town of Church Stretton and the village of All Stretton and offers panoramic views to the north towards the Wrekin, east to Wenlock Edge, and west over the nearby Long Mynd. On a clear day it is possible to see the hills of north-east Wales to the north, the high-rise buildings of Birmingham to the east, Worcester Beacon in the Malvern Hills to the south-east, and Hay Bluff in the Black Mountains and the peaks of the Brecon Beacons, to the south. Caer Caradoc is hill G/WB-006 in Summits on the Air. It is not to be confused with another hillfort of the same name 1 km west of Chapel Lawn near Bucknell.

Caer Caradoc rises sharply and steeply up out of the narrow valley in which the town of Church Stretton is situated, known as the Stretton Gap. It is the highest point on a high, narrow, northeast–southwest "whaleback ridge", sometimes called a hogsback ridge. The Wrekin is a very similarly shaped hill and on the same alignment, some 10 miles (16 km) to the north-east. Caer Caradoc may be fairly easily climbed from Church Stretton town but the ascent/descent is steep; a more gentle climb is from the village of Cardington, which lies two miles (3 km) to the east. A good way of climbing Caer Caradoc is to do a linear walk from along the aforementioned ridge, including the nearby summits of Ragleth Hill and the Lawley to gain the best perspective on each. Otherwise, the ascent of the hill and return journey is a walk of some 7 miles (11 km), starting from the town.

The hill is volcanic in origin, like the Wrekin and other hills, formed of narrow ridges of resistant Pre-Cambrian rock thrust upwards by movements deep down along the Church Stretton fault. This fault runs from Staffordshire to South Wales and can be seen on Ordnance Survey maps as a line of springs on this hill.

The summit is crowned by an Ancient British Iron Age or late Bronze Age hill fort. It is this which the hill is named after – Caer Caradog in Welsh meaning Caradog's fort. Local legend has it that this was the site of the Battle of Caer Caradoc, the last stand of Caractacus against the Roman legions during the Roman conquest of Britain, and that after the battle he hid in the cave near its summit. Others say his last stand was in the locality but that this was one of his fortresses.

Celtic Britons

The Britons, also known as Celtic Britons or Ancient Britons, were Celtic people who inhabited Great Britain from the British Iron Age into the Middle Ages, at which point their culture and language diverged into the modern Welsh, Cornish and Bretons (among others). They spoke the Common Brittonic language, the ancestor to the modern Brittonic languages.The traditional view that the Celtic Britons originally migrated from the continent, mostly across the English Channel, with their languages, culture and genes in the Iron Age has been considerably undermined in recent decades by the contention of many scholars that Celtic languages had instead spread north along the Atlantic seaboard during the Bronze Age, and the results of genetic studies, which show a large continuity between Iron Age and older British populations, suggesting trans-cultural diffusion was also very important in the introduction of the Celtic languages.

The earliest evidence for the Britons and their language in historical sources dates to the Iron Age. After the Roman conquest of Britain in the 1st century, a Romano-British culture emerged, and Latin and British Vulgar Latin coexisted with Brittonic. During and after the Roman era, the Britons lived throughout Britain. Their relationship with the Picts, who lived north of the Firth of Forth, has been the subject of much discussion, though most scholars now accept that the Pictish language was related to Common Brittonic, rather than a separate Celtic language.With the beginning of Anglo-Saxon settlement and Gaelic Scots in the 5th and 6th centuries, the culture and language of the Britons fragmented, and much of their territory was gradually taken over by the Anglo-Saxons and Scots Gaels. The extent to which this cultural and linguistic change was accompanied by wholesale changes in the population is still a matter of discussion. During this period some Britons migrated to mainland Europe and established significant colonies in Brittany (now part of France), the Channel Islands as well as Britonia in modern Galicia, Spain. By the beginning of the 11th century, remaining Brittonic Celtic-speaking populations had split into distinct groups: the Welsh in Wales, the Cornish in Cornwall, the Bretons in Brittany, the Cumbric speaking people of the Hen Ogledd ("Old North") in southern Scotland and northern England, and the remnants of the Pictish people in the north of Scotland. Common Brittonic developed into the distinct Brittonic languages: Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish and Breton.

Cholesbury Camp

Cholesbury Camp is a large and well-preserved Iron Age hill fort on the northern edge of the village of Cholesbury in Buckinghamshire, England. It is roughly oval-shaped and covers an area, including ramparts, of 15 acres (6.1 ha), and measures approximately 310 m (1,020 ft) north-east to south-west by 230 m (750 ft) north-west to south-east. The interior is a fairly level plateau which has been in agricultural use since the medieval period. The hill fort is now a scheduled ancient monument.

The fort is of the multivallate type, in other words having two or more lines of concentric earthworks. Most examples of such forts were built and used during the British Iron Age period between the 6th century BC and the Roman invasion of Britain in the 1st century AD. The period of Cholesbury Camp's construction is unclear, but it has been suggested that it may lie between the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, during the middle to late iron age. It was previously, though erroneously, attributed to the Danes and until the early 20th century was known locally as "The Danish Camp" and incorrectly recorded as such on maps. It has also been suggested that it may have been constructed on the same site as an earlier, Bronze Age defensive structure.The fort is located in the Chiltern Hills at an altitude of over 190 m (620 ft). The porosity of the ground in the area severely limited the availability of surface water, essential for livestock, and therefore precluded year-round settlement adjacent to most of the upland pastures. However, there are two aquifer-fed water sources: Holy (or Holly) and Bury Ponds. The constancy of this supply, over many hundreds of years, is cited as being crucial to the decision as to where to site the hill fort and for the early establishment of the isolated community at Cholesbury.

Croft Ambrey

Croft Ambrey is a British Iron Age hill fort in northern Herefordshire, 10 kilometres (6 mi) north of Leominster close to the present day county border with South Shropshire.

Danes Graves

Danes Graves is an archaeological site in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It forms part of the Arras Culture of inhumation and chariot burial prevalent in the region during the British Iron Age. It is a prehistoric cemetery site situated in Danesdale - a dry river valley with gravel and chalk deposits. The site is north of Driffield near the village of Kilham.

Herefordshire Beacon

The Herefordshire Beacon is one of the hills of the Malvern Hills. The name Malvern of the nearby town is probably derived from the Welsh moel fryn or "bare hill".

It is 1,109 feet (338 m) high, although the Victorian era inscription at the foot of the hill puts its height at 1,145 feet (349 m). It is surrounded by a British Iron Age hill fort earthwork known as British Camp.

The boundary between Herefordshire and Worcestershire is about 100 metres (330 ft) east of the summit. It is called the Shire Ditch and it is thought to have been built over a law. It was built in two phases and the Citadel on top is known to be medieval, as a castle or a hunting lodge but it was only occupied for a very short amount of time so it is more symbolic. It was thought to be originally built as a ritual site but it also had something to do with the salt industry at the time.

Hillforts in Britain

Hillforts in Britain refers to the various hillforts within the island of Great Britain. Although the earliest such constructs fitting this description come from the Neolithic British Isles, with a few also dating to later Bronze Age Britain, British hillforts were primarily constructed during the British Iron Age. Some of these were apparently abandoned in the southern areas that were a part of Roman Britain, although at the same time, those areas of northern Britain that remained free from Roman occupation saw an increase in their construction. Some hillforts were reused in the Early Middle Ages, and in some rarer cases, into the Later Medieval period as well. By the early modern period, these had essentially all been abandoned, with many being excavated by archaeologists in the nineteenth century onward.

There are around 3,300 structures that can be classed as hillforts or similar "defended enclosures" within Britain. Most of these are clustered in certain regions: south and south-west England, the west coast of Wales and Scotland, the Welsh Marches and the Scottish border hills. British hillforts varied in size, with the majority covering an area of less than 1 ha (3 acres), but with most others ranging from this up to around 12 ha (30 acres) in size. In certain rare cases, they were bigger, with a few examples being over 80 ha (200 acres) in size.Various archaeologists operating in Britain have criticised the use of the term "hillfort" both because of its perceived connection to fortifications and warfare and because not all such sites were actually located on hills. Leslie Alcock believed that the term "enclosed places" was more accurate, whilst J. Forde-Johnston commented on his preference for "defensive enclosures".

Insular Celts

The Insular Celts are the speakers of the Insular Celtic languages, which comprise all the living Celtic languages as well as their precursors, but the term is mostly used in reference to the peoples of the British Iron Age prior to the Roman conquest, and their contemporaries in Ireland.

According to older theories, the Insular Celtic languages spread throughout the islands in the course of the insular Iron Age. But this is now doubted by most scholars, who see the languages as already present, and possibly dominant, in the Bronze Age. At some point the languages split into the two major groups, Goidelic in Ireland and Brittonic in Great Britain, corresponding to the population groups of the Goidels (Gaels) on one hand and the Britons and the Picts on the other. The extent to which these peoples ever formed a distinct ethnic group remains unclear. While there are early records of the Continental Celtic languages, allowing a comparatively confident reconstruction of Proto-Celtic, Insular Celtic languages become attested in connected texts only at the end of the Dark Ages, from around the 7th century AD, by which time they had become mutually incomprehensible.

Mellor hill fort

Mellor hill fort is a prehistoric site in North West England, that dates from the British Iron Age—about 800 BC to 100 AD. Situated on a hill in Mellor, Greater Manchester, on the western edge of the Peak District, the hill fort overlooks the Cheshire Plain. Although the settlement was founded during the Iron Age, evidence exists of activity on the site as far back as 8,000 BC; during the Bronze Age the hill may have been an area where funerary practices were performed. Artefacts such as a Bronze Age amber necklace indicate the site was high status and that its residents took part in long-distance trade. The settlement was occupied into the Roman period. After the site was abandoned, probably in the 4th century, it was forgotten until its rediscovery in the 1990s.

Peter Reynolds (archaeologist)

Peter John Reynolds (6 November 1939 – 26 September 2001) was a British archaeologist known for his research in experimental archaeology and the British Iron Age and for being recruited as the first director of Butser Ancient Farm, a working replica of an Iron Age farmstead in Hampshire.


Petham is a rural village and civil parish in the North Downs, five miles south of Canterbury in Kent, South East England.

The village church is All Saints, Petham and is Grade I listed. It was built in the 13th century but suffered from a fire in 1922 and had to be reconstructed. The village hall was rebuilt in the early 21st century next to Marble pond on relatively low meadows deemed unsuitable for housing and insurance.

Petham has rolling hills within its bounds, including ancient forested slopes and thatched medieval and Tudor period cottages.

It now incorporates Swarling to the north, which had "33.5" households in the Domesday Book, and is one of the type sites for British Iron Age Aylesford-Swarling pottery. The excavation, by J. P. Bushe-Fox, to publication took place in 1921-1925.


The Picts were a confederation of peoples who lived in what is today eastern and northern Scotland during the Late British Iron Age and Early Medieval periods. Where they lived and what their culture was like can be inferred from early medieval texts and Pictish stones. Their Latin name, Picti, appears in written records from Late Antiquity to the 10th century. They lived to the north of the rivers Forth and Clyde. Early medieval sources report the existence of a distinct Pictish language, which today is believed to have been an Insular Celtic language, closely related to the Brittonic spoken by the Britons who lived to the south.

Picts are assumed to have been the descendants of the Caledonii and other Iron Age tribes that were mentioned by Roman historians or on the world map of Ptolemy. Pictland, also called Pictavia by some sources, achieved a large degree of political unity in the late 7th and early 8th centuries through the expanding kingdom of Fortriu, the Iron Age Verturiones. By 900, the resulting Pictish over-kingdom had merged with the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata to form the Kingdom of Alba (Scotland); and by the 13th century Alba had expanded to include the formerly Brittonic kingdom of Strathclyde, Northumbrian Lothian, Galloway and the Western Isles.

Pictish society was typical of many Iron Age societies in northern Europe, having "wide connections and parallels" with neighbouring groups. Archaeology gives some impression of the society of the Picts. While very little in the way of Pictish writing has survived, Pictish history since the late 6th century is known from a variety of sources, including Bede's Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, saints' lives such as that of Columba by Adomnán, and various Irish annals.


Selworthy is a small village and civil parish 5 kilometres (3 mi) from Minehead in Somerset, England. It is located in the National Trust's Holnicote Estate on the northern fringes of Exmoor. The parish includes the hamlets of Bossington, Tivington, Lynch, Brandish Street and Allerford.

At 308 metres (1,010 ft) Selworthy Beacon, rising above the village, is one of the highest points on Exmoor. Its height defines as one of the 'marilyns" in England. Near the summit are a series of cairns, thought to be the remains of round barrows, and the British Iron Age Bury Castle.Bossington is separated from Porlock Bay by a shingle beach, through which flows the River Horner, forming part of the Porlock Ridge and Saltmarsh Site of Special Scientific Interest. In the 1990s rising sea levels created salt marshes, and lagoons developed in the area behind the boulder bank. The village is on the South West Coast Path.

Silsden Hoard

The Silsden Hoard is an assemblage containing 27 gold coins of late British Iron Age date and a Roman iron finger ring.

Wickham Market Hoard

The Wickham Market Hoard is a hoard of 840 Iron Age gold staters found in a field at Dallinghoo near Wickham Market, Suffolk, England in March 2008 by car mechanic, Michael Dark using a metal detector. After excavation of the site, a total of 825 coins were found, and by the time the hoard was declared treasure trove, 840 coins had been discovered. The coins date from 40 BC to 15 AD.

The hoard was described as "the largest hoard of British Iron Age gold coins to be studied in its entirety", and was also significant in providing "a lot of new information about the Iron Age, and particularly East Anglia in the late Iron Age". It was the largest hoard of staters to be found since the Whaddon Chase Iron Age hoard in 1849.

In June 2011, the hoard was purchased by Ipswich Museum for the sum of £316,000.


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