All Around The Wrekin

The Hillfort

The Origins of the Settlement

the-wrekin-from-rushton

The Wrekin is a scheduled ancient monument with a human history that dates back beyond the Iron Age to 1000BC, when roundhouses appear to have been constructed on the hill for the first time. Archaeological evidence suggests that a small cluster of these buildings were burnt down in about 450BC, an act that may have led to the construction of the first defences on the hill at a similar date. The earthen mounds of two the entrances to the hillfort (Hell Gate and Heaven Gate) and the remains of their associated guard rooms are still visible on the north-east side of the hill top, with further remnants of other entrances surviving around the south-west of the structure.

The Cornovii

The main phase of occupation appears to have been in the 400 years leading up to the Roman Invasion, when The Wrekin may have been the principal hillfort of the Celtic Cornovii tribe, whose kingdom stretched from The Wirral to South Shropshire. It is likely that the tribe derived much of its wealth from agriculture and evidence suggests that most of the population of the Cornovii kingdom resided in farmsteads scattered across the Severn Valley rather than being confined to the hill itself. It could be that The Cornovii viewed their hillforts as an indication to others of tribal status and The Wrekin may only have been occupied seasonally or at times of great danger for the tribe. The hillforts of the Cornovii probably had a number of uses and some also served as cattle stockades, while others appear to have had a religious function.

Romanisation

hell-gate

The Wrekin’s tenure as a functioning hillfort appears to have ended in the Spring of AD 47, when Legio XIV Gemina of the Roman Army reached the area, during their attempt to invade the entirety of Great Britain. In the 1990s, a used Roman javelin head of the kind used in frontal assaults on hillforts was discovered in Heaven’s Gate, but this find is not necessarily evidence of a pitch battle with the Cornovii. The attack on The Wrekin may have been a symbolic display of Roman military power and the tribe could have viewed the Roman invasion as a potential trading opportunity and a source of greater security. It is likely the former population of the hillfort migrated to the Roman fortress at Wroxeter, which later became known as Viroconium-Cornoviorum (Viroconium of the Cornovii) a name that may have been transferred from The Wrekin hillfort itself. The town was founded around 90 AD on the site of the fortress, after the Roman Army had left for their new base at Deva (Chester). As a consequence, military control of the area effectively ceased and the Cornovii were left to administer their affairs again.