ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Malmesbury have uncovered evidence of a former ancient settlement.

Last November, North Wiltshire District Council commissioned Nimbus Conservation to undertake a programme of repair and reconstruction of the historic town wall adjoining the site of the former West Gate.

The archaeologists have now excavated a further trench outside the line of the town wall and uncovered a previously unknown, substantial stone-fronted defensive rampart and a deep ditch outside the line of the known town defences.

These apparently date back to the Iron Age and show that the prehistoric hillfort would have had very impressive multiple defences rising above the valley of the River Avon.

The finds add to the discoveries that were recorded late last year that revealed significant new evidence about the nature of the town's defensive walls and the origins of Malmesbury itself.

When the collapsing stone of the wall was removed substantial clay deposits almost three metres high were found. Archaeologists identified these as the upper rampart of the Iron Age hill fort on which Malmesbury was later built.

Pottery from the Middle Iron Age period dating to the 5th-3rd centuries BC was also recovered, providing a firm date for the construction of the first phase of the ramparts.