The Bradford Hundred in the Iron Age

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Iron Age pottery fragment from Budbury, Bradford

Early Iron Age pottery from Budbury, Bradford on Avon


The pre-Roman Iron Age in Bradford is represented by an enigmatic site on the top of the hill at Budbury. The place-name itself includes the Old English word burh, which was used of a fortified site and suggests that there was a fort there that was recognisable to the Saxons and it may be identified with Wirtgeornesburh, where a battle was  fought 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 now 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. Rectangular buildings inside the wall were also found in the 1969 excavations.

Budbury (Bill Riley)

Excavations at Budbury in 1969. showing a trench across the two ditches of the northern side of the early Iron Age hillfort (photograph by permission of Bill Riley)

Archaeological investigations in 2015 ahead of the Kingston Farm development, Holt Road found a small Iron Age settlement of roughly the same date as that at Budbury, also with a rectangular building.

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

In the century before the Roman invasion and afterwards, the area of the Bradford Hundred lay on the borders of several tribal areas: the Durotriges of Somerset, Dorset and South Wiltshire, the Dobunni of Gloucestershire and the Cotswold Hills, the Belgae of Hampshire and Central and North Wiltshire and the related Belgic tribe called Atrebates of Berkshire. The Belgic tribes were people who had been migrating across the English Channel from modern Northern France and Belgium.

A gold quarter-stater coin that was issued by the Late Iron Age Cantii tribe (in modern Kent) in the middle of the 1st century BC was found in Wingfield parish in 2005.


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