Discuss some of the factors which may have influenced the location of Bronze/Iron/Anglo-Saxon settlements.

The majority of factors which influenced the location of villages, from all periods, were natural features. The priorities of the early villagers were simple; food, water and defence. Without those, all of the other benefits of a site were meaningless.
A nearby guaranteed water supply was essential. Water is needed throughout the year, and is difficult to transport over distance. Most lowland British villages were located along the spring line at the foot of a chalk or limestone escarpment. This also fulfilled another desirable. But a balance is required. The village must be close enough to the river to enable supply of water, but not within flood reach. Sites above flood level, or on terraces were chosen.
Food supply was the next priority. Ideally, both arable and pastoral farming could take place within a short distance of the village, e.g. on the scarps and vales of south east England. A secure agricultural base could provide a surplus of food which would allow people to work in areas other than farming.

The next priority was that of defence. Without sophisticated construction machines, the defences of a site had to be aided by location. The type of defences varied throughout the ages, and as more labour and better tools became available, the reliance upon Nature decreased. The earliest settlements relied upon location. Durham was built within an incised meander loop, giving a river on three sides, and a mound in the meander centre. The other method of locational defence was to build upon high ground, with a good all round view. These hill top sites were good for defence, but may have found water supply quite difficult. The augmentation of natural defensive methods is a common feature. Jericho, built c.8350 BC grew from a farming village in to a 4 hectare town. Its defences included a substantial stone wall with ditch, guarded by towers. This idea of a walled defence was incorporated in to many Anglo Saxon and Medieval villages.

The principal location factors were supplemented by some of the following. It is very rare to have an ‘ideal’ site, with every factor provided for. Relief was important. It is far easier to construct a village on a gently sloping valley floor than on a cliff face. Slopes can provide shelter, and aspect is an important factor. Generally, in Britain, north facing slopes are harder to farm than south facing ones, since south facing slopes are protected from the cold northerly winds and receive maximum insolation. It is also far easier if building materials are to be found close at hand. Building in a forest clearing is a useful way of providing building materials, but the farming tends to be poor. As well as a local supply of building materials, the proximity of a fuel supply is useful. Fuel to build fires for cooking purposes, for warmth and comfort at night, and to ward off any predatory animals is a necessary tool. The most common source was firewood.

Of secondary importance is the existence of a route centre, nodal point or confluence point. Settlements which are located in such points, e.g. Khartoum at the confluence of the White Nile and Blue Nile, Paris at the confluence of several valleys, develop a secondary function as market centres and meeting points. They are also more likely to become centres of regional importance because of their centrality. Bridging points also meet much the same criteria. Settlements where the river can be forded naturally develop as nodal points, and hence as market centres. Local resources may have influenced the locations of settlements, though in many cases the settlement was there long before the resource was widely used.