Looking Down the Centuries; since Neolithic Times, a Mysterious Worcestershire Hill Has Formed the Focal Point for Generations of People, Writes Chris Upton

The Birmingham Post (England), August 11, 2011 | Go to article overview

Looking Down the Centuries; since Neolithic Times, a Mysterious Worcestershire Hill Has Formed the Focal Point for Generations of People, Writes Chris Upton


Byline: Chris Upton

Down in the south of Worcestershire, things get a little bit hilly. There's the Cotswold Escarpment, of course, elbowing its way in from Gloucestershire, and the towering summits of the Malvern Hills. There's Clee Hill too, and Clent.

But one hill in particular has a sense of mystery and permanence about it. It's said of Bredon Hill that once you have lived in its shadow, you cannot move anywhere else. It's not that you can't sell your house; more that the hill itself demands that you stay.

I'm not one for ley lines or force fields; I disposed of that set of beliefs back in the 1970s. But if a landscape can have an aura of antiquity, of things long forgotten, then Bredon and its surroundings have it.

Let's put the place on the map to begin with. The southern slopes of Bredon Hill mark the end of Worcestershire, with Tewkesbury to the south of it and Pershore and Evesham to the north. If you prefer more prosaic directions, look left as you head down the M5, just after Strensham services. The hill stands 961ft in its stockinged feet.

Every self-respecting hill needs something on the top of it to mark its rendezvous with heaven. (Imagine Glastonbury Tor without the church tower.) In the case of Bredon they had to wait until the 18th century for a suitable culmination in the square tower of "Parson's Folly". Historians differ as to the exact date when the folly arrived, but agree that it operated more as an eye-catcher than for any practical purpose. Parson's Folly had one useful contribution to make, however. Add its 39ft to the height of the hill, and Bredon is rounded up to a neat 1,000ft. This is either coincidence or something more mystical.

Not that the summit of Bredon Hill was ever truly deserted or unclaimed. The ramparts of an Iron Age hill fort, known as Kemerton Camp, are still to be seen at the top, with the remains of another - Conderton Camp - a little further down on the southern slopes. Archaeological evidence of a Bronze Age "beaker" burial shows that the site was in use much earlier still, perhaps as far back as 2000 BC.

There are, in addition, a number of standing stones scattered across the hill, which were either free-standing structures or the solid remains of collapsed long barrows. The so-called King and Queen stones appear to be the latter, taking the period of human occupation back as far as the Neolithic period, more than 5,000 years ago.

In their efforts to untangle the mysteries of Bredon Hill, the archaeologists have only served to deepen the mystery.

Excavations at Kemerton Camp in the 1930s uncovered, near the entrance to the inner ramparts of the fort, the burial place of some 50 slaughtered men, along with a great number of weapons.

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Looking Down the Centuries; since Neolithic Times, a Mysterious Worcestershire Hill Has Formed the Focal Point for Generations of People, Writes Chris Upton
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