5. Iron Age

c700 BC to 43 AD

Iron Age roundhouses

Iron Age roundhouses

At this time, people used iron to make tools and weapons, and belonged to large tribal groups. Surreys tribe was called the Atrebates. They were very successful farmers and made wonderful artworks.  The climate was very much the same as today, so that farms and villages spread right across the countryside, and the population grew quite large.

People lived in large round timber houses; outside were big pits where they stored grain for seed, small above-ground granaries, and animal pens for cattle and sheep. They also kept dogs, cats, pigs, small horses, and Indian jungle fowl we call them chickens! They grew lots of crops such as barley, spelt and bread wheat, beans, peas, flax, and rye. They used honey to sweeten foods, and made cheese and butter.  They had a very healthy diet!

Coinage was introduced in the Iron Age.  Image: Brian Wood

Coinage was introduced in the Iron Age.
Image: Brian Wood

The tribal groups were ruled over by powerful leaders. Hill forts were built; these were large high places, well defended with massive earth banks and ditches, and provided a safe haven during times of trouble, as well as showing other tribes how rich and important they were. You can see some of these in Surrey like Holmbury Hill and St. Anns Hill.  People built temples to the gods, where they made offerings of food, ornaments and coins. At Farley Heath you can see the outline of the temple laid out on the ground.

People also mined iron ore, trading it for goods around the country. Iron ore was more plentiful than copper and tin, especially in the Greensand hills, and it was used to make lots of different tools and weapons, cart fittings and horse harness.

At this time people wove on a frame with clay loom-weights to make large pieces of brightly coloured and patterned cloth for clothes and blankets. They carved combs, shuttles and needles from bone and antler. They adopted the fast potter’s wheel, making beautiful pots, such as beakers, cups, dishes and flagons. They exported wheat, cattle and metal to Europe. It is likely that this industrial success and wealth attracted the Romans to Britain.

Iron Age Surrey

  • St Anns Hill rises abruptly from the valley, near Chertsey. The hillfort at the summit of the hill would have dominated and controlled settlement in the region.
St Anne's Hill, Chertsey  Image: SCAU

St Anne’s Hill, Chertsey
Image: SCAU

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