A project to carry out an archaeological study of an Iron Age hillfort in Letchworth will get underway later this year following a successful bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The £1m bid, led by the Chiltern Conservation Board and supported by the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and other local partners, will allow the team to carry out further exploration work to learn more about life in Letchworth more than 2,500 years ago.
Early studies indicate that the location, close to Fearnhill School, was once home to a small community of up to 100 people who lived in roundhouses. The team hopes to find out more about the lives they led at this site.
“This is fantastic news for our community and for anyone with an interest in history.” said Elizabeth Towler, Environment and Landscape Manager at the Foundation. “The site is on the Historic England At Risk Register so being able to preserve it and transform it into a site of historic importance is great news for all the partners involved.
“This will also be great for users of the Greenway, as the work will add a fascinating point of interest along the route.”
The project will take place over four years with partners working together, including North Herts District Council (NHDC), Historic England and Herts County Council. Suggested improvements to the site include interpretation boards, low fencing to direct visitors and a management plan, with a big emphasis on involving the local community and schools in learning more about it.
Heritage Access Officer for NHDC, Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews said: “We are hoping to improve signage at the site so that local people and visitors will better appreciate what they can see and what is buried beneath their feet. We are also looking forward to carrying out some small scale excavation works on part of the monument, involving pupils and staff from Fearnhill School, whose grounds include part of the hillfort. The project will also improve the appearance of the site, especially enhancing the wild flower meadow on its southern part.”
Annette Venters, People and Society Officer at the Chilterns Conservation Board, commented: “We are absolutely delighted to secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for this exciting project. We look forward to working with our partners to discover more about the ancient landscapes and Iron Age hillforts of the Chilterns, including the Wilbury Hillfort, and to inspire local people and families to get involved. The project will bring the Iron Age to life and help us conserve these special places for the long-term.”
The site at Wilbury is one of several sites across the Chilterns that are being preserved by the Chiltern Conversation Board. To find out more about their work, visit chilternsaonb.org/conservation-board or keep an eye on the Foundation’s website and social media for further updates about the Wilbury site.
Image: A dig close to the site in 1961. Courtesy North Hertfordshire Museum