EBK Activity Sheets



The Castles of the Dark Ages
  • Hillforts are what they sound like: forts built on hills. Many can be seen around the countryside today.
  • They cover large areas of land and are surrounded by big earth banks and ditches. The banks originally had strong wooden walls on top, but they have rotted away. Click here to see a picture taken from an aeroplane. 
  • The hillforts were built by the chiefs of British tribes before the Romans came to Britain. Some of them were built over 1,000 years before the Dark Ages.
  • The Romans moved all the people who lived in hillforts into new towns. No-one lived there anymore; but, after the Romans left, the towns became unpopular.
  • Some British kings and lords returned to live in the hillforts. They rebuilt the fortifications (walls, ditches and gateways) to keep out Saxon attacks.
  • Inside each fort, they might build a great hall to live in, smaller houses for servants, kitchens, workshops and lots of granaries (small houses for storing grain from which to make bread).
  • Archaeologists have dug up many good examples: South Cadbury & Glastonbury Tor in Somerset, Tintagel in Cornwall, Dinas Emrys, Degannwy & Dinorben in North Wales and Dinas Powys in South Wales
  • Ordinary people, who did jobs for the lord, might also live in small houses nearby, similar to those on British farms.
  • Some lords did not have any nearby hillforts they could live in. So they built new but smaller versions. They surrounded their great hall by small earth banks which formed little forts. A good example is Castle Dore in Cornwall.
  • In the 9th century, the Saxons also refortified some Hillforts. They turned them into Burghs.


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