Erbury Common

Ramparts of Ebury on the Common
Ramparts of Erbury on the Common

Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) leased the Common Pastures for the purpose of aiding the poor of Clare.  Her name is commemorated in the name for the small estate off Westfield: Aragon Court. Her daughter Mary renewed the lease.

The Common Pastures extend westwards to the top of a rising field, marked to the north by the old waterworks.  In the middle are the allotments.  To the east is the Common, bounded to the east by houses along Bridewell Street and to the north by a old drover’s road now known as Sheepgate Lane. This is sometimes marked on old maps as Clare Camp.

What are the ramparts on the Common?  In the middle ages there was a farm, often called Erbury (‘earth-fort’) serving the de Clares in their castle.  While this may have been fenced along the ramparts, the bivallate structure clearly visible on the south and north sides is not typical for a farm.  The Romans were well established in Wixoe and in Long Melford: a road ran along the north of the Stour, connecting to the Via Devana which connected Colchester and Chester.  But the broadly circular ramparts are not typical of Roman forts and settlements.  Perhaps it was Anglo-Saxon.

The best guess however is that it is an Iron Age fortified settlement (not a hill fort as it is not on the highest ground).  Clare was at the northern end of the Trinovantes territory centred on Camulodonum (Colchester): the Catuvellauni ruled to the west, centred on St Albans (Verulamium); the Iceni ruled to the north, centred on Caistor St Edmunds (Venta Icenorum) near Norwich.  Between the first and the second Roman invasions, the Catuvellauni overcame the Trinovantes.  At the same period the Celtic tribes stopped constructing fortifications – they learnt that the Gallic tribes had no defence against Roman military expertise when Julius Caesar overcame Vercingetorix at Alesia.

Wikipedia Clare Suffolk
link to Wikipedia Clare Camp

Without an archaeological excavation, the question remains open.

Wikipedia has an article on Clare Camp.

Book: Suffolk: West, The Buildings of England, Bettley & Pevsner, Yale 2015. ISBN 978 0 300 19655 9, p197

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