Embury Beacon camp
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1003845
Date first listed: 11-Jul-1938
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Torridge (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SS 21699 19503
Promontory fort known as Embury Beacon.
Reasons for Designation
Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone- walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. They are important for understanding the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period.
Despite coastal erosion at Embury Beacon, the remaining structures and buried deposits associated with the promontory fort will contain important archaeological and environmental information concerning its construction, use, possible adaptive re-use as a beacon and landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 29 October 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument includes a promontory fort known as Embury Beacon situated on a sheer, west facing and sharply eroding cliff overlooking Embury Beach and Broad Bench. The monument survives as two concentric lengths of rampart with ditches and part of a complex entrance enclosing a roughly triangular area. The inner rampart occupies the cliff top and measures up to 42m in length and 2.2m high. Beyond the bank is a partially buried ditch up to 1.5m deep. Approximately 50m to the south lies the outer rampart, up to 180m long, 6.5m wide and 1.2m high with an outer partially buried ditch up to 7m wide and 0.3m deep. To the east is the entrance measuring up to 4m wide. This has a curving barbican bank with an outer ditch measuring up to 7m wide and 1.9m deep but both entrance and barbican terminate abruptly at the cliff edge. Partial excavations during 1972 – 3 revealed the inner rampart to have been of simple construction, whereas the outer rampart had been revetted in stone, many of which had fallen into the outer ditch. They recovered evidence for several postholes, stakeholes and at least two hearths. Finds included flint, a spindlewhorl, 36 slingstones and late Iron Age pottery. Embury Beacon, as the name suggests is the traditional site of a coastal beacon. A mound to the north east was originally thought to be the site of this beacon, or a possible bowl barrow, but the excavations showed it was a part of the entrance works.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: DV 169
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
Books and journals
Griffith, F, Devon's Past: An Aerial View, (1988), 44
PastScape Monument Nos: 32107, 32119 and 32134
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