Panoramic view on top of the hill
|Location||Batheaston in Somerset, England|
Little Solsbury Hill (more commonly known as Solsbury Hill) is a small flat-topped hill and the site of an Iron Age hill fort. It is located above the village of Batheaston in Somerset, England. The hill rises to 625 feet (191 m) above the River Avon which is just over 1 mile (2 km) to the south. It is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It gives impressive views of the city of Bath and the surrounding area. The hill was immortalised in 1977 by Peter Gabriel in his song 'Solsbury Hill'.
It is sometimes misspelled as Salisbury, or Solisbury, perhaps because of confusion with Salisbury Plain (a plateau in southern England), or the city of Salisbury. Salisbury and Solsbury can be difficult to distinguish in speech, as Salisbury is often pronounced "Saulsbury" and sometimes the "a" in "Salisbury" is pronounced as an "o", and the "i" is elided, making the pronunciations of the two words practically identical. The name Solsbury may be derived from the Celtic god Sulis, a deity worshipped at the thermal spring in nearby Bath.
History and archaeology
Hill forts developed in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age, roughly the start of the first millennium BC. The reason for their emergence in Britain, and their purpose, has been a subject of debate. It has been argued that they could have been military sites constructed in response to invasion from continental Europe, sites built by invaders, or a military reaction to social tensions caused by an increasing population and consequent pressure on agriculture. The dominant view since the 1960s has been that the increasing use of iron led to social changes in Britain. Deposits of iron ore were located in different places to the tin and copper ore necessary to make bronze, and as a result trading patterns shifted and the old elites lost their economic and social status. Power passed into the hands of a new group of people. Archaeologist Barry Cunliffe believes that population increase still played a role and has stated "[the forts] provided defensive possibilities for the community at those times when the stress [of an increasing population] burst out into open warfare. But I wouldn't see them as having been built because there was a state of war. They would be functional as defensive strongholds when there were tensions and undoubtedly some of them were attacked and destroyed, but this was not the only, or even the most significant, factor in their construction".
The hill was an Iron Age hill fort occupied between 300 BC and 100 BC, comprising a triangular area enclosed by a single univallate rampart, faced inside and out with well-built dry stone walls and infilled with rubble. The rampart was 20 feet (6 m) wide and the outer face was at least 12 feet (4 m) high. The top of the hill was cleared down to the bedrock, then substantial huts were built with wattle and daub on a timber-frame. After a period of occupation, some of the huts were burnt down, the rampart was overthrown, and the site was abandoned, never to be reoccupied. This event is probably part of the Belgic invasion of Britain in the early part of the 1st century BC.
Solsbury Hill is a possible location of the Battle of Mount Badon, fought between the Britons (under the legendary King Arthur) and the Saxons c. 496, mentioned by the chroniclers Gildas and Nennius.
The hill also has two disused quarries, one quarry listed on the North West side on an 1911 map, and another one listed as an old quarry on the West side in 1885–1900.
The slopes are a classic example of limestone grassland reflecting the underlying geology of the area. This limestone habitat supports a wide range of specialist plants and animals, including some rare species.
Most of the landscape is largely unaffected by agriculture as shown by the Yellow meadow ant. Examples of plant species found include: Bird's Foot Trefoil, vetches, Greater Knapweed, Bee Pyramidal orchids, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Ramsons (Allium ursinum). The plants attract a range of insects including: the Six-spotted Burnet Moth and a number of butterflies including Chalkhill Blues.
A recording of the natural sounds on Solsbury Hill forms the track "A Quiet Moment" on Peter Gabriel's 2011 album New Blood, which precedes the orchestral version of his song.
The Warlord Chronicles, a historical fiction trilogy of books, places the site of Mount Badon at Solsbury Hill.
- "Solsbury Hill". National Monuments Record. English Heritage. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- Scott, Shane (1995). The hidden places of Somerset. Aldermaston: Travel Publishing Ltd. p. 16. ISBN 1-902007-01-8.
- Payne, Andrew; Corney, Mark; Cunliffe, Barry (2007), The Wessex Hillforts Project: Extensive Survey of Hillfort Interiors in Central Southern England, English Heritage, p. 1, ISBN 978-1-873592-85-4
- Sharples, Niall M (1991), English Heritage Book of Maiden Castle, London: B. T. Batsford, pp. 71–72, ISBN 0-7134-6083-0
- Time Team: Swords, skulls and strongholds, Channel 4, 19 May 2008, retrieved 16 September 2009
- Baker, Mick. "The Site of the Battle of Badon: The Case for Bath". Post-Roman Britain. The History Files. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- "Ordnance Survey 1:10560 County Series 2nd edition (c.1900) Sheet 08 Subsheet 14". somerset.gov.uk. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "Bath Skyline". National Trust. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- "Scrub Clearance at Solsbury Hill, Batheaston at Solsbury Hill". British Trust Conservation Volunteers. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- Fisher, Graham. "Upper Swainswick — Little Solsbury Hill — Charmy Down". Walking World. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- "Rural Fringe: North of Bath". Environment and Planning. Bath and North east Somerset. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
- "Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel". Songfacts. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
- "‘New Blood' CD Album".
- "GreyElf walks a turf maze atop the hill". Waymarking. Retrieved 23 October 2011.