Of pre-Saxon sites in the Quarter nothing is known. The region
may have been less sparsely peopled, and more clearance may have
occurred, than used to be thought; but if farms and hamlets existed
they were lost before the advent of maps, or they were taken over
and re-named by later comers. That there were folk in the district
two thousand years ago is confirmed by a relic too large for total
obliteration by ploughing and infilling. This was the ancient earthwork
now called Berry Mound in Solihull Lodge - a half-mile south of
The name is Saxon and was originally 'buhr mont' (fortress hill),
but the work is of Iron Age date, made prior to the Roman conquest.
This 11-acre site, an oval 850 yards perimeter, was not the home
of a few savages, nor a hurriedly-made defensive position, but a
permanent camp which would have taken organised people some generations
to complete. In its heyday the fortress was defended by a high bank
topped by a palisade, with a deep ditch outside it.
On three sides the slight hillock, actually the end-knoll of a
low ridge, was protected by valley marshes. A track led along the
ridge between the Cole, Shaw and Peter Brooks, to a causewayed entrance
on the south side, which was probably guarded by outer banks. Was
the hill-fort a solitary dwelling-site in an otherwise empty area,
perhaps erected by a tribe driven into Arden by pressure from others
more powerful? Or was it the capital of a settled district in which
natural clearings had been utilised for small, family farms? In
the absence of archaeological finds, identifiable prehistoric fields,
and authentic pre-Saxon names, we cannot answer these questions.
Excavation at Berry Mound has revealed little, being confined to
the ditches, since it is in the large central enclosure that evidence
would be found. Other earthworks like that at Swanshurst (see below),
of which even the date and purpose are uncertain, may have a history
of settlement, much earlier than medieval or even Saxon; but this
can only be conjectural.
A few finds of single coins hereabout are all that we have to remind
us of 3.5 centuries of Roman rule. There are no known Roman roads,
though the ridgeways (see below) were probably in use before the
legions came; and who is to say that some other of the Quarter's
lanes do not go back as far? Whether or not the area was well-peopled
in prehistoric times, it undoubtedly had a large animal population
of wolves, bears, wild cattle, sheep, goats, and swine, deer, hares
and rabbits; the air, the trees, and the marshes were full of birds,
and very rill teemed with fish.