At January’s meeting we were treated to a most interesting exposition of a piece of Tavistock’s prehistory by our local heritage consultant, Andrew Thompson. It was revealed by the Tavistock Trendle Archaeological Project which is sponsored by Mount Kelly, Tavistock Museum and Tavistock Forward.
The Trendle is an earthwork of banks and ditches to be found in the grounds of Mount Kelly and beyond Old Exeter Road. It covers about 2.5 acres and can only be recognised now by the rise and fall of the land in the field. Old maps show more precisely where it is situated.
The current archaeological investigation cannot dig as the site has been granted Scheduled Monument status. In the past a dig had identified a bank built of stones but little now remains of what they found. Modern geophysical techniques such as resistivity and magnetometry have given a good insight into the monument.
It consists of a central circular bank and ditch with parallel banks and ditches to each side. It is thought that it could be a fortification as the central part could only be approached with difficulty. It would be only a small hill fort perhaps protecting a farm or a storage facility for essential items such as salt. It may only be an ediface intended to show off the status of the owner.
Originally it was thought that it was built by the Romans but various features place it firmly in the Iron Age, (400 BC to c.45 AD).
Andrew did not let us know all of his secrets about The Trendle right away. First he steeped us in the culture of the Iron Age. He gave us information about large dominant hill forts such as Maiden Castle in Dorset and showed us that there were lots of small hill forts dotted around the Southwest. Strangely there is no evidence of Iron Age hill forts on Dartmoor itself although there is evidence of land use on Dartmoor during the Bronze Age, eg at Grimspound for instance. Much of the population must have left the moor before the beginning of the Iron Age.
Our soil is very acidic and will have corroded away most organic and iron objects by now but we were shown pictures of a small hill fort in Sussex in a chalk area called “The Trundle” which still had many of its original features surviving and also some Iron Age artefacts.
The hour session passed by without us noticing and by the end we were all budding archaeologists. Well done, Andrew!