Shipton Gorge Parish Council

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Shipton Hill and Hammiton Hill

Shipton_HillShipton Hill, north of the village itself, is an important landmark that is visible from almost everywhere in the parish. It is 588 feet in height and is a steep sided mass of upper greensand chert, isolated by landslips which have left it surrounded on all sides by an irregular tumbled surface of Fuller s Earth clay. There are some lovely footpaths that take you up to and around the hill but none actually to the summit. The land at the top is private property and there are often livestock grazing on the hill.

Hammiton Hill is similar but smaller at just 394 feet high.   It is a less dominant feature in the village but just below the hill is the only substantial wood in the parish. There is a round barrow on the top of the hill and footpaths that provide access to the hill and the wood. Walkers are reminded when walking to either hill, to treat the land with respect and to follow the Countryside Code at all times.

Neither hill is man-made but records show that Shipton Hill is likely to have been the site of an ancient village. The flint arrowheads that have frequently been found in the vicinity substantiate this.

View from Shipton Hill towards the sea

The following information comes from a number of reference books where the hills are mentioned and which can be found in Bridport Library.

Ancient Dorset, The Celtic, Roman, Saxon and Danish Antiquities of the County

By Charles Warne, F.S.A. published in 1872:

Shipton Hill The natural configuration of this hill renders it a very singular object from many distant points of view, giving it the resemblance of the hull of a ship inverted; from which circumstance it was considered by some antiquaries of the last century to be a €œShip Barrow"  a fancy, for I can call it no better, on which was wasted much ingenuity in attempting to establish it on a substantial basis.

Perfectly isolated, this hill rises to a considerable height, with such abruptness that I had much difficulty in leading my horse to its summit by the only practicable path. This at length accomplished, it was found to be ovate in form, and about four acres in extent, with its weakest side scarped the simplest method of fortifying such a hill; and by which a fosse and vallum were easily constructed. But so great are its natural advantages that little assistance from art was required, and that little rendered it an impregnable fortress. The ascent to this ancient citadel was made by a diagonal path on the north-east side.

The area is intersected by a fence, on the West side of which there is a slight elevation, perhaps a barrow, yet not clearly defined. On the East side are the remains of a small quadrangular earth-work, with its banks slightly raised, but its antiquity seems doubtful.

At the base of the hill, in a field on its north-east side, there are many irregular disturbances of the soil, and so strongly marked as to indicate apparently the site of an ancient British village.

Turning southward, the eye looks down, at no great distance, upon a comparatively small eminence called Hamel-Dun or Hammer-Dun (now Hammiton Hill); on closer inspection it appears to have had some artificial treatment of its sides; if so, it may be reasonably regarded as an out-post to the hill-fort; a tumulus stands within its area.

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume One

by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in 1952:

Earthwork on Shipton Hill (565 ft. above O.D.), ¾ m. N.E. of the church, forms an enclosure of about ¾ acre. The hill-top has been artificially steepened on the N. and S. sides and the two ends form natural ramped causeways leading up to the summit. At the base of the hill on both the N. and S. sides is a ditch with outer rampart of no great strength, and at the present time, for part of their length, both have almost disappeared. Both the ditch and rampart stop short of the E. and W. ends of the hill.

Between the base of the mound and the outer ditch at the eastern half of the S. side is a berm, but it seems probable that it is merely a natural outcrop of rock. The two pathways leading up the slope on the N. and S. are probably modern. On the top of the enclosure near the middle is a cross hedge-bank which appears to have been formed along the eastern scarp of a ditch to an earlier bank, traces of which can be seen immediately E. of the existing hedge-bank. Near the middle of the enclosure is a circular mound, of about 28 ft. diameter and 14in. high.

Beyond the rampart on the N. side, and to a much lesser degree on the S. also, are a series of rough terraces. They would seem to be a natural formation though their surfaces in one or two places show signs of disturbance. Warne (see above) mentions the disturbed nature of the N. E. part of the field immediately to the N.E of this camp and suggests the possibility of its being a Celtic village. This disturbance is still visible but is quite indeterminate.

Below is a rather nice line drawing from this book.



Geology of the Country around Bridport and Yeovil

By Wilson, Welch, Robbie and Green

Produced by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research 1958:

Shipton and Hammiton hills outliers are of interest owing to their peculiar mode of formation. Shipton Hill, the more striking, has the appearance of an upturned boat. The summit is a plateau 220 yd long and 50 yd broad, sloping gently north-east. On all sides this plateau is bounded by very steep cliffs of Foxmould sand which extend down to the 500 ft contour. At the base of the cliff a broad gently sloping plateau slopes down to the 400 ft contour. The hill is a residual core of a once large Greensand mass which has slipped and foundered along more or less concentric belts, the steep cliffs being slip scarps. The broad basal plateau is the actual slipped material.

Hammiton Hill is of similar formation though the slipping has not reduced the central core to the same extent as at Shipton Hill. A small pit 100 yd N.E. of the summit showed Chert Beds and Exogyra Sandstone, while Foxmould sands are visible in most of the steep scarp faces.