Introducing the Brigantes

So who were these people living in Page Hall and Grimesthorpe 3000 years ago?

After the Bronze Age came the Iron Age, which began around 2800 years ago, and this is when things get really exciting at Wincobank!

During the British Iron Age the area we now call Sheffield became the southernmost territory of the Pennine tribe called the Brigantes. The Brigantes were Celtic Britons who were here before the Romans, and they controlled the largest section of what we know as Northern England. Their territory (which means their area of land), was often called Brigantia, and it was centred in what is now Yorkshire. It is thought that where the River Don joins with the River Sheaf that this once marked the boundary between the Brigantes and another British tribe, the Corieltauvi, who lived to the south.

So where had they come from?

Traditionally people thought that the Celtic Britons had originally migrated from mainland Europe, however some people also think that they may have come from the north along the Atlantic coastlines during the Bronze Age.

There are no written records of the Brigantes before the Roman conquest of Britain, however, archaeology helps to shine some light on who they were!

Drawing of two Ancient Britons. Image taken from Description of Great Britain and Ireland. Originally published around 1574.

Many of you may have been to Wincobank Hill, but did you know that at the top of that Hill are the remains of an Iron Age Hill fort?

Aerial Photo of Wincobank Hill Fort

This fort is thought to have been built by the Brigantes, and was built nearly 2500 years ago. It occupies an important position high above the River Don. The fort was built to protect the local population, who for most of the time farmed the land peacefully.  There is still the presence of the rampart (which is a defensive wall) and ditch of this fort. Through archaeological excavations on Wincobank Hill we have learnt the size, shape and what the fort was constructed out of – timber and stone. From all these clues found in the excavations archaeologists have dated the fort to around 500BC.

An example of an Iron Age hillfort. © Historic England (illustration by Peter Dunn)

We don’t know if this fort was occupied continually until the Roman invasion, or if it was brought back in to use due to their arrival, but we do have lots more evidence of Iron Age and Romano-British settlements in the Wincobank area, including a number of beehive querns (see the picture below). Beehive querns are stone tools used for hand grinding foods such as grain, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.

The above image is an example of the top half of a beehive quern

A possible Iron Age camp has also been found on the south-east slope of Wincobank Hill, situated above Grimesthorpe Quarry. This is close to the hillfort and also the Roman Ridge. The Roman Ridge is an earthwork, a man made bank of soil, commonly associated with the arrival of the Romans. The earthwork consists of a bank and a ditch and stretches about 27 kilometres in length, from Sheffield to Mexborough, passing along the eastern slope of Wincobank Hill. Despite being called the Roman Ridge the date and what this ridge were used for are still unknown.