History Ham Hill has a long and fascinating past.
It was prehistoric man who first recognised the advantages of settling on top of this raised outcrop. Little of these pioneers has survived the intervening four thousand years, but just enough has remained to let us know that they were here.
Artefacts such as flint tools, slingstones, quern stones and pottery that they let behind are on show at the Ham Hill Ranger’s Centre (phone ahead on 01935 823617 to see if a member of staff will be able to show you around). Most of the important artefacts found on Ham Hill are held at the County Museum of Taunton.
The hill was settled permanently and intensively in the Iron Age (about 700BC). Roundhouses were built, fields created and the settlement flourished. Trading links were wide and the 200 acre hill fort testifies to the power it commanded in the South West.
Huge treeless ramparts (large slopes and ditches), with wooden palisade fences on the top and hamstone slopes were built over hundreds of years during the Iron Age to deter possible invaders from enemy tribes. Ham Hill proved to be a resilient and productive settlement right up to the Roman occupation of Britain. Some time in the first century AD Ham Hill succumbed to Vespasian’s Roman invaders.
Since then, Ham Hill has proved to be of great importance to any number of settlers, principally as a source of stone. There are the remains of a medieval village in Witcombe Valley, and the modern village of Stoke sub Hamdon itself has a history that stretches back over a thousand years.
Quarrying on the site really took off in the Victorian era, when huge quantities of Hamstone were removed from the hill. Even the Houses of Parliament are fronted with Hamstone. During this time Ham Hill became a major centre for worker’s rights movements. An annual worker’s fair was organised by George Mitchell, and in 1873 some 20,000 farm labourers from the area flocked to the Hill to hear from local politicians and demand a fair working wage. Quarrying continues at Ham Hill to this day, with two quarrying firms in operation.
A recent archaeological study by Cambridge University uncovered some very interesting artefacts and specimens from this time, including human remains. Their findings are changing the way we understand Iron Age and Roman life at Ham Hill. There is more information about these digs on display outside the Ranger’s Office.
Due to its historic importance, Ham Hill is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and on NO account should any excavations be undertaken or metal detectors used. Doing so is an offence.
Find out more about Ham Hills history