Bloodgate Hill fort, South Creake

Bloodgate Hill is one of at least six earthwork forts in Norfolk which date to the Iron Age (c. 700 BC–AD 43). Some of these sites (in particular Warham Camp, c. 11km to the north-east) survive as standing monuments today. That at South Creake has been largely flattened by centuries of ploughing, and by demolition in the 19th century. Traces of the fort remain, however, and the site occupies a fine hilltop position with views across the Burn Valley and to the sea to the north.

Two interpretation panels explain the site to visitors. Seven hectares in and around the fort were purchased by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust in 2003 and then taken out of cultivation and sown with grass. Survey work and excavation by the Trust in 2004 revealed much new information about the monument.

Bloodgate Hill air photo Bloodgate Hill reconstructionIron Age forts in NorfolkBloodgate Hill air photopanel at Bloodgate HillGeophysical surveyGeophysics planGeophysics planDitch sectionDitch sectionHaiwarde map

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Access and facilities

Bloodgate Hill lies c. 1km to the south-east of South Creake church, at TF 5848 3353 (Ordnance Survey Explorer map 251). You can find it on the western side of the road to Syderstone, next to the junction with another minor road leading to South Creake village. The site is open to the public at all reasonable times, and there is a small visitors' car park.

There are no toilets or other facilities on site but a pub and other refreshment places may be found in South Creake village. A 'wheelchair friendly' gateway and path are provided to help disabled visitors.

More about Bloodgate Hill

The Iron Age was an era of important and exciting developments, both in the way of life and in the development of the landscape. With the new iron tools and improved farming methods, the population increased and farming expanded onto areas with poorer soils that had not been cultivated before. In the 700 years before the Romans' arrival, the county was transformed. Yet these may also have been turbulent times, with intensifying competition for farmland and other resources. Earthwork fortifications appeared all over Britain, and not just in Norfolk. Iron Age ‘warfare’ was not necessarily like that of more recent times, and may have involved stock raiding and kidnapping and other small scale events. However, the building of forts indicates a heightened sense of competition and threat.

Interpretative oblique plan

Interpretative aerial view looking south-east, showing features recorded by the geophysical survey(Susan White)

Forts such as that at South Creake could have been used as ‘bolt-holes’ and refuges in difficult times. They could also, however, have been important as assembly places, religious and ceremonial arenas and market places. In an era of unrest and community rivalry, it may also have been important for them to look impressive!

Whatever their purpose, their construction involved massive labour, with ditches up to 4m deep and with banks of a similar height inside. Excavation at Warham Camp has shown that wooden palisades and walkways stood on top of the banks there, creating a formidable fortification.

Bloodgate Hill: reconstruction by Sue White

Reconstruction from the air, looking south-east. The imposing earthworks of the west entrance may be seen in the lower lect of the picture (Susan White)

The fort at Bloodgate Hill was almost circular, and was defined by a bank and ditch. The ditch was over 200m in diameter and enclosed an area of 3.5 hectares. The bank that stood immediately inside it had been almost completely flattened (the local vicar recorded the ‘Bank of Burdyke encampment removed and set on land, 1827–28’), but a small excavation in its north-eastern part showed that the ditch had been over 4m deep.

It is interesting that the ditch and bank seem to have been much more imposing on the eastern side of the fort, where there is also evidence for a great entrance with a ‘barbican’-like protective earthwork. Two much less significant openings across the ditch are visible on its opposite western side. Perhaps the eastern side of the fort was intended to look imposing, as much as anything! There are signs that the eastern quarter of the interior was separated from the rest by a pair of rather irregular fences or palisades, recorded during geophysical survey. Perhaps this was a formal or ceremonial arena of some kind, with the other three quarters of the fort interior given over to more ‘everyday’ activities and accessed from the plainer eastern entrances.

Excavation across the outer ditch, 2004

Excavation within the outer fort ditch, 2003 (Peter Wade-Martins)

After the Trust's excavation, fieldwalking and geophysical survey, we can be confident that there was no heavily populated settlement within the fort. Rather, it may have been a special place which was maintained and frequently visited by communities who lived round about. There are indications of pits, and possibly a building of some kind, within the inner ring-ditch. Perhaps this was the residence of an important person or family, or maybe it was used for burial. We cannot tell, since very little excavation has taken place. It is even possible that this inner ring is actually all that remains of a much earlier round barrow (burial mound) dating to the Later Neolithic or the Early Bronze Age (c. 2500–1500 BC), which was carefully built into the Iron Age monument 1000 years later or more. Even after study by the Trust, many important questions about Bloodgate Hill remain unanswered.

Norfolk Heritage Explorer

Find out more about Bloodgate Hill using the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website. http://www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/SingleResult.aspx?uid=MNF1910.


Further reading

Davies, J.A. et al., 1991. The Iron Age Forts of Norfolk, East Anglian Archaeology 54
Davies, J.A., 2009. The Land of Boudica: prehistoric and Roman Norfolk (Norwich: Heritage/Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service)
Hutcheson, N., 2005. ‘Iron Age Norfolk’, in T. Ashwin and A. Davison (eds), An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, 3rd edition (Chichester, Phillimore), 23–4
Penn, K.J., 2006. ‘Excavation and Survey at the Iron Age Fort at Bloodgate Hill, South Creake, 2003’, Norfolk Archaeology XLV, 1–27