Bloodgate Hill Fort

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This is the site of a destroyed Iron Age hillfort and is one of only six prehistoric earthwork forts in Norfolk. Aerial photographs and geophysical investigations have established the layout of the fort, which comprises of a single banked and ditched enclosure with a large central ring ditch. Excavations in 2003 revealed that the hillfort ditch had been re-cut some time after its initial construction.

Bloodgate Hill Fort

Bloodgate Hill is one of at least six earthwork forts in Norfolk which date to the Iron Age (c. 700 BC–AD 43). Some of these sites survive as standing monuments today, the one at South Creake having been largely flattened by centuries of ploughing, and by demolition in the 19th century. Traces of the fort remain, however, and the site occupies a fine hilltop position with views across the Burn Valley and of the sea to the north.

Two interpretation panels explain the site. Seven hectares in and around the fort were purchased by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust in 2003 and then taken out of cultivation and sown with grass. Survey work and excavation by the Trust in 2004 revealed much new information about the monument.

The Iron Age was an era of important and exciting developments, both in the way of life and in the development of the landscape. With the new iron tools and improved farming methods, the population increased and farming expanded onto areas with poorer soils that had not been cultivated before. In the 700 years before the Romans' arrival, the county was transformed. Yet these may also have been turbulent times, with intensifying competition for farmland and other resources. Earthwork fortifications appeared all over Britain, and not just in Norfolk. Iron Age ‘warfare’ was not necessarily like that of more recent times, and may have involved stock raiding and kidnapping and other small scale events. However, the building of forts indicates a heightened sense of competition and threat.

Forts such as that at South Creake could have been used as ‘bolt-holes’ and refuges in difficult times. They could also, however, have been important as assembly places, religious and ceremonial arenas and market places. In an era of unrest and community rivalry, it may also have been important for them to look impressive. Whatever their purpose, their construction involved massive labour, with ditches up to 4m deep and with banks of a similar height inside. Excavation at Warham Camp has shown that wooden palisades and walkways stood on top of the banks there, creating a formidable fortification.

The fort at Bloodgate Hill was almost circular, and was defined by a bank and ditch. The ditch was over 200m in diameter and enclosed an area of 3.5 hectares. The bank that stood immediately inside it had been almost completely flattened, but a small excavation in its north-eastern part showed that the ditch had been over 4m deep. It is interesting that the ditch and bank seem to have been much more imposing on the eastern side of the fort, where there is also evidence for a great entrance with a ‘barbican’-like protective earthwork. Two much less significant openings across the ditch are visible on its opposite western side. Perhaps the eastern side of the fort was intended to look imposing. There are signs that the eastern quarter of the interior was separated from the rest by a pair of rather irregular fences or palisades, recorded during geophysical survey. Perhaps this was a formal or ceremonial arena of some kind, with the other three quarters of the fort interior given over to more ‘everyday’ activities and accessed from the plainer eastern entrances.

After the Trust's excavation, fieldwalking and geophysical survey, we can be confident that there was no heavily populated settlement within the fort. Rather, it may have been a special place that was maintained and frequently visited by communities who lived round about. There are indications of pits, and possibly a building of some kind, within the inner ring-ditch. Perhaps this was the residence of an important person or family, or maybe it was used for burial. It is even possible that this inner ring is actually all that remains of a much earlier round barrow (burial mound) dating to the Later Neolithic or the Early Bronze Age (c. 2500–1500 BC), which was carefully built into the Iron Age monument 1000 years later or more. Even after study by the Trust, many important questions about Bloodgate Hill remain unanswered.

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Bloodgate Hill Fort, NR21 9LZ, Norfolk
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Nearby Attractions
Attraction 1:
Church of St Mary, South Creake
0.62 Miles Away
In the Anglo-Catholic tradition of the Church of England it dates mainly from the 15th century, although the Chancel is of 13th century construction. The nave roof is single hammer beam with painted angels supporting arched braces.
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Attraction 2:
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, North Creake
1.49 Miles Away
St Mary's church is a large medieval building. The church dates to the 14th century, a time when Norfolk 's economy was booming thanks to the wool trade, and the wealthy merchants poured money into their local parish churches.
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Attraction 3:
The Church of St. Mary, Syderstone
1.99 Miles Away
St Mary’s has seen Queen Mary, Elizabeth I and Charles I as Patrons, and time and history have left their mark over nearly 1,000 years. Once the church had two side aisles, and possibly a central tower, whereas today it has a round tower.
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Attraction 4:
Church of All Saints, Waterden
2.14 Miles Away
The tiny church of All Saints, Waterden is isolated even in rural context of Norfolk churches. The village of Waterden disappeared in late mediaeval times leaving the building alone in the fields accompanied only by its Rectory. Parts date from Norman times with evidence of alterations over centuries. No Power supply.
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Attraction 5:
Church of All Saints, Burnham Thorpe
3.97 Miles Away
Late Victorian restored from original C14 building in which Horatio Nelson's parents (his father was the rector) are buried. Nelson was baptised in its medieval font. Many naval references, including: altar, lectern and rood made from HMS Victory; battle ensigns from HMS Nelson and Indomitable the latter flown at the Battle of Jutland; bust of Nelson in the chancel.
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