Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, iron became The New Bronze.
And common wisdom has it that this changed everything.
It changed the balance of power. Iron was in different places to tin and copper, and the power of some men waned and others grew relentlessly because they were in the right place at the right time.
Trading patterns shifted. The old élites lost their status; and there was an explosion in the building of hill forts.
From 700 BC to 43AD they boomed. A flat high tabletop would be surrounded by incredible feats of early engineering, defensive earthworks which would enable a stable community animals, crops and all- to exist in some kind of stability.
There are around 2,000 hill forts scattered around Britain, and one of them is just outside my back yard. From Google Earth you can see it: a great settlement marked out in the shape of an enormous oak leaf. It was home to a village, just half a mile from the Roman Road from Londinium to Silchester, then Calleva Attrebatum. And slowly its star waned and it has lain silent. It did have a cottage at the far end in the 19th century, but that has now long since been demolished.
And then, there was one crazy Summer reprise in 1978.
Windsor, in the seventies, was home to a series of free festivals. They were organised by members of London communes : hippies to you and I.
Bands of considerable repute would turn up, and people would flock to hear them. Free. From what I can gather there was some loose organisation: food tents for the hungry, generators for the band. The first festival attracted 800 people: but by 1973 crowds were at the 8000 mark.
And still they came.
By the 1978 festival, police seemed to have one agenda: to move the oiks out of Windsor. They had a 72 hour camping injunction in place throughout the Windsor area.
Everyone congregated on The Long Walk outside Windsor Castle and police simply shooed them off. They gave them directions out of the borough: straight to the iron age fort at the edge of the forest.
And they came.
You can read a slightly psychedelic report of the event here. Everyone trailed through the forest and, contrary to police predictions, turned up at the oak-leaf for action.
David B, proprietor of The Free Festivals archive, has a hastily typed piece of A4 paper from that day on his site. It reads:
“Hi, All ya people welcome to Windsor Free Festival.
“Some people have gone to suss out a generator. Water can be got from the bogs but you need a hose as a bucket won’t fit under the tap. Plenty of dead wood around so no need to cut down live wood.
“The police are not letting cars up onto the site. Has anyone got any dope as the people in the yellow tent are desperate for some. The Forestry Commission are going to take car numbers of people on site so take your number plates off. Free food kitchen at middle slope.”
One festival goer commented that the fort made a natural amphitheatre. Once again, there were people living out an existence on the tabletop.
Alas, when the musicians arrived the police had prepared a welcome. They blocked the site so that no heavy machinery could pass. A few bands made it up the hill but the campers were largely left to enjoy each other’s company.
After three days people began to drift away, and the hill fort was silent once more. These days it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and a nationally designated ancient monument, so building on it is banned.
I wonder if people will ever live there again?