Hill fort’s true purpose to be uncovered

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Archaeologists hope a survey will uncover the true role an Iron Age hill fort played in the history of North Devon. 

An archaeological survey begins this week to try to gather more
information about Ilfracombe’s Iron Age hill fort [Credit: This is
Devon]

The Hillsborough settlement in Ilfracombe has long intrigued historians, but its function remains unknown. Now, the survey can go ahead after volunteers cleared the area of overgrowth. 

Councillor Rodney Cann, North Devon District Council’s executive member for environment, said: “This important site is a gateway to an Iron Age hill fort, with double earth banks around it. What we don’t know however, is whether this was constructed for defence reasons, or whether it was purely a status symbol for the local chieftain. Therefore, we hope this latest work will help us piece together the thinking behind it and give us a profile of how it was used.” 

The survey work which began on Monday is part of a heritage project involving North Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Biosphere Service and North Devon Council. The work is funded by the Rural Development Programme for England as part of the Unlocking the Coastal Heritage project linked to the South West Coast Path. 

Project officer Dave Edgcombe said: “The geophysical survey will involve equipment such as that seen on Channel 4’s Time Team. As well as measuring the depth of the ditches and the height of the original banks, we’ll be looking for evidence of post holes, where the main structure, such as gates, may have once stood. We’ll also be looking for a magnetic imprint on some of the rocks, which will help us date the time period of the site.” 

The work will be led by local archaeologist Ross Dean, with members of the Hillsborough Volunteer Group being invited to help towards the end of the surveying. The work is expected to take two weeks to complete. The results will be released later in the year. 

Source: This is Devon [October 12, 2011]