Iron Age Bradford

The pre-Roman Iron Age in Bradford is represented by an enigmatic site on the top of the hill at Budbury. The name itself includes the Old English word burh, which was used of a fortified site and suggests that there was a recognisable fort there in the Saxon period.

At the time when the land at Budbury was threatened with development in the 1940s, local amateur archaeologist Guy Underwood made some excavations, finding ditches and a wall, which he interpreted as a Bronze Age burial mound or as a henge. Further development in the late 1960s provided the need for a professional archaeological investigation in 1969* which found that what Underwood had found was the rounded corner of what was probably an Early Iron Age hillfort. Almost all the supposed fort has been built over, but Early Iron Age pottery fragments turn up over the area. Recently, small excavations carried out in the garden of a  Museum Society member seem to confirm the identification of the fort.

Although only the north-east corner has been seen in excavations, the hillfort seems to have been roughly rectangular with rounded corners, defended by two rock-cut ditches and a dry stone wall on two sides at least; the other two sides are naturally defended by the steep slope above Tory on the south and above Wine Street on the west. Suggestions of buildings inside the wall were also found in the 1969 excavations.

It looks as if there has been a settlement at Bradford on Avon almost continuously from the seventh century BC.


Items found by Wainwright’s 1969 excavations are held by Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.


  • Wiltshire Times article
  • Recent excavations
  • * Wainwright, Geoffrey J. 1970 An Iron Age promontory fort at Budbury, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine, vol. 65, pp. 108-166.

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