Maiden Castle in Dorset is one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe – the size of 50 football pitches. Its huge multiple ramparts, mostly built in the 1st century BC, once protected hundreds of residents. When it was first built, the gleaming white chalk ramparts would have towered over the surrounding landscape.
Excavations here have revealed much about Maiden Castle’s history, such as a Neolithic enclosure from about 3500 BC and a Roman temple built in the 4th century AD. The archaeologists also found evidence of a late Iron Age cemetery, where many of those buried had suffered horrific injuries.English Heritage
Maiden Castle is the largest hillfort in England extending 45 acres, and lies about 2 miles to the south of Dorchester town centre. The hillfort was first occupied in around 3000 BC, and contains a complex arrangement of ramparts and ditches.
Maiden comes from the Celtic ‘Mai Dun’, meaning ‘great hill’, and this great hill can be seen today with the huge earth walls rising up to 6 metres high. In the Neolithic period a barrow some 540m long was constructed east to west across the site. Maiden Castle was a bustling town populated by the Durotriges Tribe.
In AD43, the Romans attacked the inhabitants of the town and a hard battle was fought focussed towards the eastern entrance. As you walk around the hillfort today, you might imagine how the Romans under Vespasian, must have found it very difficult overcome the steep array of ditches before defeating the inhabitants
In around the 4th century, a Roman temple was built, the foundations of which are still visible today in the north east sector of the fort. Maiden Castle is maintained by English Heritage and open all year round and free to the public.