Solsbury Hill

Coordinates: 51°24′36″N 2°20′03″W / 51.41000°N 2.33417°W / 51.41000; -2.33417
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Solsbury Hill
Panoramic view on top of the hill
LocationBatheaston in Somerset, England
Coordinates51°24′36″N 2°20′03″W / 51.41000°N 2.33417°W / 51.41000; -2.33417
BuiltIron Age
Governing bodyNational Trust
Official nameSlight univallate hillfort 190m north west of Westleigh
Designated8 October 1956
Reference no.1002481
Solsbury Hill is located in Somerset
Solsbury Hill
Location of Solsbury Hill in Somerset

Little Solsbury Hill (more commonly known as Solsbury Hill) is a small flat-topped hill and the site of an Iron Age hill fort, 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, and gives views of the city of Bath and the surrounding area. It is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

3D view of the digital terrain model

The hill is one of several possible locations of the Battle of Badon and shows the remains of a medieval field system. Part of the hill was quarried in the 19th century. In 1930, it was acquired by the National Trust. The hill was the inspiration of the Peter Gabriel song "Solsbury Hill", recorded in 1977. A small turf labyrinth was cut into the turf by protesters during the widening of the A46 in 1994.[1]


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; 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.[2] The name 'Solsbury' may be derived from the Celtic god Sulis, a deity worshipped at the thermal spring in nearby Bath.[3][4] A geological map by Horace B Woodward in the back of the 1888 Handbook of Bath labels the hill as 'Stilisbury Hill'.


The hill is formed in layers from a variety of sedimentary rocks of Jurassic age. In common with the Cotswold plateau to the north, the summit is formed from rocks ascribed to the Chalfield Oolite Formation. The oolite, together with the Fuller's Earth Formation which underlies it, forms a part of the Great Oolite Group of rocks of Bathonian age. Beneath these are, successively, Bajocian age limestones of the Inferior Oolite Group and sandstones of the Bridport Sand Formation. The last-named unit forms a part of the Lias Group of rocks of Toarcian age. Beneath all of these is the relatively thick Charmouth Mudstone Formation sequence rising from the edge of the valley floor alluvium. All faces of the hill are subject to large areas of landslip.[5]

The 625 feet (191 m) high hill is just over 1 mile (2 km) north of the River Avon.[6]

Hill fort[edit]

Earthworks at Solsbury Hill

Solsbury 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.[7] 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.[8][9] 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.[10][11] This event is probably part of the Belgic invasion of Britain in the early part of the 1st century BC.[12]

The hillfort is protected as a Scheduled Monument.[13]

Later history[edit]

The hill is near the Fosse Way Roman Road as it descends Bannerdown hill into Batheaston on its way to Bath.[14][15][16] Solsbury Hill is a possible location of the Battle of Badon, fought between the Britons (under the legendary King Arthur) and the Saxons c. 496, mentioned by the chroniclers Gildas and Nennius.[17][18] The hilltop also shows the remains of a medieval or post medieval field system.[19][20][21]

The hill also has two disused quarries, one listed on the northwest side on a 1911 map, and another one listed between 1885 and 1900 as an old quarry on the west side.[22] It was acquired by the National Trust in 1930.[23] People protesting against the building of an A46 bypass road[24] cut a small turf maze into the hill,[25] during the construction of the bypass in the mid-1990s.[26] In one day of protests, 11 people, including George Monbiot, were hospitalised as a result of beatings by the security guards.[27][self-published source]


The triangulation pillar on the top of the hill, with the city of Bath in the distance.

The plants and animals that live on Solsbury Hill reflect the habitat provided by grassland overlying the limestone rock beneath. Specialist plants and animals, some of which are rare species, have adapted to the calcareous grassland. Most of the landscape is largely unaffected by agriculture as shown by the yellow meadow ant.[28]

Examples of plant species found include bird's foot trefoil, vetches, greater knapweed, harebells, yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and scabious. It is one of a series of flower-rich habitats that Avon Wildlife Trust are trying to link together.[29] The plants attract a range of insects including: the six-spotted burnet moth, hummingbird hawk-moth[30] and a number of butterflies including chalkhill blues.[31] A small population of common buzzard (Buteo buteo) nest in the area.[32] Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), badger and red fox are seen.[33] Skylarks also nest on the hill.[34]

In popular culture[edit]

Solsbury Hill is the inspiration for an eponymous song, released in 1977 by rock musician Peter Gabriel as his first solo single.[35] A recording of the natural sounds on the hill forms the track "A Quiet Moment" on Gabriel's 2011 album New Blood, which precedes the orchestral version of his song.[36]

The Warlord Chronicles, a historical fiction trilogy of books, places the site of Mount Badon at Solsbury Hill.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Focus on Little Solsbury Hillfort". The Heritage Journal. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  2. ^ Bowles, W.L. (1828). Hermes britannicus: A Dissertation on the Celtic Deity Teutates, the Mercurius of Caesar, in Further proof and corroboration of the origin and designation of the great temple at abury in Wiltshire. J.B. Nichols and Son. p. 126.
  3. ^ William Page, ed. (1906). "Romano-British Somerset: Part 2, Bath". A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 1. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  4. ^ Vile, Nigel (16 February 2012). "Hill is still in tune with the city's Celtic goddess". Bath Chronicle. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  5. ^ British Geological Survey 2011 Bath, England and Wales sheet 265 Bedrock & Superficial Deposits, 1:50,000 (Keyworth, Nottingham: British Geological Survey)
  6. ^ Scott, Shane (1995). The Hidden Places of Somerset. Aldermaston: Travel Publishing Ltd. p. 16. ISBN 1-902007-01-8.
  7. ^ Historic England. "Slight Univallate Hillfort 190m North West of Westleigh (1002481)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  8. ^ Dowden, W.A. "Little Solsbury Hill Camp. Report on Excavations of 1955 and 1956" (PDF). Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society. 18 (1): 18–29.
  9. ^ Dowden, W.A. "Little Solsbury Hill Camp. Report on Excavations of 1958" (PDF). Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society. 9 (3): 177–182.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Solsbury Hill (203323)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  11. ^ Tratman, E.K. "Little Solsbury Hill Camp" (PDF). Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  12. ^ Ciceran, Marissa. "General History of Hillforts". Istrianet. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Slight univallate hillfort 190m north west of Westleigh, Batheaston - 1002481 | Historic England". Retrieved 23 March 2022.
  14. ^ Codrington, Thomas (1903). Roman Roads in Britain. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
  15. ^ Castleden, Rodney (2003). King Arthur: The Truth Behind the Legend. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 9781134373765.
  16. ^ Oswin, John; Buettner, Rick. "Little Solsbury Hill Camp Geophysical Survey Batheaston, Somerset 2012" (PDF). Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  17. ^ Baker, Mick. "The Site of the Battle of Badon: The Case for Bath". Post-Roman Britain. The History Files. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  18. ^ Reno, Frank D. (1996). The Historic King Arthur: Authenticating the Celtic Hero of Post-Roman Britain. McFarland. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7864-3025-3.
  19. ^ Oswin, John; Buettner, Rick. "Geophysics on Solsbury Hill" (PDF). Bath and Camerton Archeological Society. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  20. ^ "Medieval fields (?) with markers Little Solsbury" (PDF). Bath and North East Somerset Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  21. ^ "Bath and North East Somerset: Local Plan: Strategic Land Availability Assessment: Report of Findings (November,2013): Appendix 1b: Bath Green Belt" (PDF). Bath and North East Somerset Council. p. 24. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Ordnance Survey 1:10560 County Series 2nd edition (c.1900) Sheet 08 Subsheet 14". Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Acquisitions Up to December 2011". National Trust. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  24. ^ Arbib, Adrian (2010). Solsbury Hill: Chronicle of a Road Protest. Oxford: Bardwell Press. ISBN 978-1-905622-20-7.
  25. ^ "English Turf Labyrinths". Labyrinthos. Archived from the original on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  26. ^ "Focus on Little Solsbury Hillfort". The Heritage Journal. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  27. ^ "About George Monbiot". George Monbiot. 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  28. ^ "Hill is still in tune with the city's Celtic goddess". Bath Chronicle. 16 February 2012. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  29. ^ "A Living Landscape: The Bigger Picture" (PDF). South West Wildlife Trusts. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  30. ^ "Latest sightings". Somerset Moth Group. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  31. ^ "Species groups with records for 'LITTLE SOLSBURY HILL'". NBN Gateway. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  32. ^ Fisher, Graham. "Upper Swainswick — Little Solsbury Hill — Charmy Down". Walking World. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  33. ^ "Batheaston SHLAA site BES 1 – Hawkers Yard" (PDF). Bath and North East Somerset Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  34. ^ "Rural Fringe: North of Bath". Environment and Planning. Bath and North east Somerset. Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2011.
  35. ^ "Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel". Songfacts. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  36. ^ "Hear Peter Gabriel's new album 'New Blood'". New Musical Express. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  37. ^ Cornwell, Bernard (2011). Warlord Chronicles. Penguin UK. ISBN 978-0-241-96002-8.