Described by one archaeologist as the unluckiest hill fort in Wiltshire, the Iron Age past of Budbury in Bradford on Avon remains to this day shrouded in mystery.

Local historians have been trying to unlock Budbury’s secrets ever since eminent archaeologist GJ Wainwright uncovered evidence of a substantial hill fort in the area, which is now developed into housing, dating back to as early as 600BC.

Wainwright believed he was on the verge of uncovering a burial mound, so the discovery of the hill fort, thought to cover up to six acres of land, came as a complete surprise.

From Monday, Bradford on Avon Museum will host a three-week long exhibition charting the history of Budbury, which will include 16,000 pieces of Iron Age pottery, as well as needles made out of bone and bronze fingerings, discovered during Wainwright’s excavation on loan from the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

To coincide with the exhibition, two excavations will be carried out from July 20 - one in the grounds of Budbury Manor, where it is hoped to find evidence of the hill fort’s outer ditch, and the second in the Wine Street area.

Mr Canham, 66, who was Wiltshire’s county archaeologist for 30 years, is behind the exhibition and the excavations.

He said many people living in the Budbury area have no idea what lies beneath their homes and hopes the excavations will throw some light on the mystery.

He said: “It’s not a big archaeological dig but it will confirm if there is Iron Age evidence in that area. It will be small pieces of work, two test trenches, to see what is in the ground.

“You can dig a trench and have nothing in it, but if something does come out of the ground that helps with the story about the Roman, Medieval or Iron Age Budbury we will bring the message back here, and put items on display.

“I have spoken to people in Budbury and they are fascinated.

“We also want to appeal to people if they have bits and pieces coming up in their gardens we would like to know. I think bit by bit we need to put the story together.”

Talking about the probable reason for a hill fort being located at Budbury, Mr Canham said: “The county people have this reputation of being pretty war like. There are about 50 hill forts in the county and they are very, very defensive and have several banks and ditches and few entrances.

“I think a lot of it was showing off and power. It’s tribal rivalry.”

The Budbury exhibition will start at Bradford Museum, above the town’s library in Bridge Street, on Monday and will run until August 2.

An Iron Age event for children will be held from 10am until 4pm on Saturday, featuring Iron Age expert Matt Russell, as well as weapons, metal and clothing from the era and the chance to get an Iron Age tattoo.

Meanwhile Mr Canham will put on a talk, entitled 2,000 Years of Budbury, on Thursday, July 16.