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HEN GAER

Site Details



NPRN 92249

Map Reference SN68SW

Grid Reference SN633844

Unitary (Local) Authority Ceredigion

Old County Cardiganshire

Community Tirymynach

Type of Site HILLFORT

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Iron Age

Site Description NAR SN68SW1

Hen Gaer is described both by Frank Wright in 1914 (Aberystwyth Studies 2, 53, Fig 4) and Ieuan Hughes in 1926 (TCAS 4, 42, Fig 42). It has had different names in the past, which have included Broncastellan and Caer Shon.

Hen Gaer is a strong and imposing fortress, commanding panoramic views over the lowland basins north of the Rheidol, north to Caer Pwll Glas and beyond to the Dyfi Estuary. The fort is of massive construction. Carefully laid stone blocks of original rampart walling can be seen exposed on the northeast side. The rampart measures about 12m wide overall and still stands in places to a height of 3-4m (Hogg and Davies, Cardiganshire County History 1994, 264), with an outer rock-cut ditch (best visible on the northeast). The original main entrance appears to lie on the west side, and has a circular mound outside resembling a Roman titulum, which Hogg and Davies (1994, 264), says 'seems likely to be merely spoil from cutting a modern gap'. It is impossible to be certain without excavation, but the apparent authenticity of the gap in the rampart as a gateway suggests it could be an original defensive feature. As such it would be unique in Ceredigion, and probably in Wales.

Hen Gaer is unusual in that part of the rampart encloses a considerable hillslope to the south, avoiding a more level summit position to the north, which must have made the construction of houses in the southern part very difficult. One possible explanation of this non-utilitarian siting is that the fort had a role to command the ridge, but also to exert a degree of influence over, and to remain highly visible from, the restricted lowland basin at the confluence of the Afon Stewi and Silo to the south.

A small excavation was undertaken at Hen Gaer in 1967 to sample `' the east and inner side of the defensive bank..' (reported in Ceredigion Volume 5, Number 4 (1967), page 443). The work was carried out by the Archaeological Section of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society and comprised a new survey, completed by early summer, then an excavation which was carried out intermittently, and with `few regular attenders' [sic] into the autumn. The report notes that `The original contours of the hill and the quarry ditch have now been revealed'. The work was infilled and did not re-start in 1968 due to the foot and mouth outbreak. The 1967 note promises a report by Mr J Wyn Evans `'at a later date' but there is no record of this, or indeed the whereabouts of the remainder of the excavation archive.

A dramatic reconstruction drawing of Hen Gaer by Dylan Roberts (RCAHMW) was apparently prepared for Chris Houlder's 1974 Wales: An Archaeological Guide, but never actually published. It incorrectly shows the ramparts to be of simple earthen construction (without the well-built retaining wall), but is otherwise an excellent impression of the site as originally built.

T Driver. 15th Sept 2004, updated 14th November 2006

Winter aerial reconnaissance on 7th Feb 2012 identified a low earthwork enclosure to the west of the fort (NPRN 419103).
T. Driver, RCAHMW, 2013

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