Tag Archives: Somerset

The Golden Stone of Somerset


Close to the southern border of the county of Somerset stands the largest hillfort in Britain, called Ham Hill or Hamdon Hill, covering an area of 85 hectares. Its earth ramparts and defensive ditches are thought to be largely of the Iron Age, over 2,000 years ago, although there is evidence of fortifications dating to the Late Bronze Age. There are also indications of activity on the hilltop as far back as the Mesolithic period, with Neolithic, Roman and medieval finds as well. In short, the hill has been used throughout prehistory and into the historic era. An annual fair took place here from soon after the Norman conquest in 1066 until well into the 17th century, and there is still a flourishing pub called The Prince of Wales. Indeed, it is the only hillfort in the country to have a pub within the ramparts! Nowadays, much of the hill forms part of a country park, providing pleasant walks and stunning views of the Somerset landscape.

Stukely Print

An early 18th-century print showing the sprawling mass of Ham Hill, with St Michael’s Hill (a) at Montacute on the extreme left


Such a large hill dominated the surrounding countryside, but its influence spread far wider through its main natural resource – the beautiful, honey-gold coloured ‘hamstone’, which has been quarried from the hill and used in buildings throughout the region. The stone was used from at least Roman times, such as for stone coffins at Roman Dorchester in the neighbouring county of Dorset. In more recent times it has been used in buildings right across southern England. Hamstone is a Jurassic limestone, and being easily worked and with such an attractive colour, it has often been used Continue reading