Signal station


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Located at NGR SX9241095290
Statutory Address:
575m west of Rolleston Farm, Pennsylvania Road, Exeter


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Statutory Address:
575m west of Rolleston Farm, Pennsylvania Road, Exeter

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Located at NGR SX9241095290
Exeter (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


An enclosure interpreted as a Roman signal station.

Reasons for Designation

The Roman signal station, 575m west of Rolleston Farm, Stoke Hill, Exeter is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Survival: despite having previously subject to ploughing, investigations have shown that archaeological features survive as buried deposits and as low earthworks; * Potential: deposits in the infilled ditches, the buried land surface and any sub-surface features will preserve important archaeological information relating to its construction and use, as well as the impact of the Roman occupation on the wider landscape; * Group value: a study of the monument and its relationship to other Roman sites in the area will make a valuable contribution to the understanding of civil and military control during the Roman occupation of Devon; * Documentation: the site is well documented as a result of partial excavation, and the study of aerial photographs and lidar imagery.


The site located 575m west of Rolleston Farm, Stoke Hill, Exeter was first identified on aerial photographs in 1953 which depicted the cropmarks of a roughly circular enclosure within which was a smaller, square enclosure. Subsequent excavations in 1956-1957 (Fox and Ravenshill, 1959) established that the site dated to the Roman period, and it has been identified as a probable signal station since its form is similar to, although larger than, examples known elsewhere in the country. The excavations at the Stoke Hill site did not, however, uncover any evidence such as the stone foundations or post holes of a watchtower, leading to the conclusion that the site may not have been completed or that structural evidence had been removed by ploughing.

Signal stations were rectangular towers of stone or wood situated within ditched and banked enclosures, possibly with a slight timber palisade. They were built by the Roman army for military observation and signalling by means of fire or smoke. They normally formed an element of a wider system of defence and signalling between military sites such as forts and camps and towns. The earliest examples were built between AD 50 and AD 117 for use during the earliest military campaigns of the conquest period. Signal stations of this period took the form of a wooden tower surrounded by a ditch and bank and possibly a slight timber palisade; some were later rebuilt in stone. Signal stations survive as low earthworks, or their below ground remains may be identified on aerial photographs.

In 1971, during the construction of a house (Roman Hill) in the eastern part of the site, further archaeological investigations were carried out on the proposed house site and across the north-east section of the outer enclosure’s ditch and rampart. More recently, in the early C21, the signal station has been studied on lidar images as part of the National Mapping Programme (see Sources).


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the monument includes the slight earthwork and buried remains of an enclosure which has been interpreted as a Roman signal station. It is situated in an elevated position on a prominent ridge which overlooks the valley of the River Exe and has commanding views in all directions.

DESCRIPTION: aerial photographs indicate a roughly circular or sub-octagonal outer enclosure about 105m in diameter within which is an inner enclosure, more or less centrally placed on the crest of the hill. There is little surface evidence of the signal station, largely due to the site having previously been under cultivation, but excavations carried out in the 1950s and in 1970 have confirmed its character and form.

The outer enclosure is delineated by a flattened, V-shaped profile, measuring up to 5m wide and 1.5m deep and an internal rampart. The ditch has become infilled over the years, but is visible as a slight depression on the west side where it is crossed by the driveway to Roman Hill and to the east a headline and path mark its position. The rampart has been spread by ploughing, but was described in 1971 as about 0.15m high and 6m wide. It is visible as a slight scarp to the west and north on lidar images but is less evident on the ground. Evidence uncovered during the mid-C20 excavations indicated that the outer edge of the rampart was defined by roughly-laid stone blocks and that these may be part of a revetment. The inner enclosure is roughly square on plan and measures approximately 37m across. It has straight sides and rounded corners and is defined by a V-shaped ditch, up to 3m wide and 1.5m-1.8m deep and an inner rampart of clay. The ditch is no longer visible at ground level, but it will survive as a buried feature. The 4.5m wide rampart was found to be revetted externally with turf. Evidence was also found for an entrance causeway across the east section of the ditch and for a counterscarp bank of clay and shale. Few finds were recovered from the site, but included several sherds of late C3-C4 pottery and a coin of Carausius (AD287-91).

EXCLUSIONS: the outbuildings at Roman Hill, the surfaces of paths, driveways and the ménage, floodlights and all fencing and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath these features is, however, included.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
DV 349
Legacy System:


Books and journals
'Roman Period, Exeter, Stoke Hill' in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, , Vol. 90, (1958), 226-228
Fox, A, Ravenhill, W, 'Stoke Hill Roman Signal Station' in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, , Vol. 91, (1959), 71-82
Quinnell (nee Miles), H, 'Appendix 1: Excavations at the Stoke Hill Roman signal Station, 1971' in Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society, , Vol. 42, (1984), 28-30


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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