Woodbury Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

East Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 03275 87396


Large univallate hillfort with a series of outworks and a cross dyke collectively known as Woodbury Castle.

Reasons for Designation

Large univallate hillforts are fortified enclosures of varying shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions. They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used between the fourth century BC and the first century AD. Outworks are often present to protect the entrances. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a massive scale, and their function may have had as much to do with display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen. Hillforts are important for understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society.

Woodbury Castle survives well despite problems with visitor erosion and weathering and evidence from partial excavations has revealed the longevity and importance of this multi period site. The buried layers and deposits will contain further important archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, and landscape context.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 21 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.

The monument includes a large univallate hillfort with a series of outworks and a cross dyke collectively known as Woodbury Castle, situated in a commanding location on the highest point of Woodbury Common a ridge of heathland that lies between the Exe and Otter valleys. The hillfort survives as a substantially constructed roughly oval enclosure measuring up to 230m long by 120m wide, defined by a rampart up to 16m wide and 3m high. Beyond is a partially buried ditch, a counterscarp bank and outer construction ditch also partially filled. To the west is a second curving rampart with ditch up to 20m wide. To the north is a cross dyke bank up to 11m wide with a partially buried ditch running north-west to south-east, which excavations suggest are contemporary with the main enclosure. The ‘Soldiers’ Well’ has been cut through this outwork in the north western end. Further intermittent smaller banks and ditches continue to the west and south of the main earthwork. Excavations have shown these to be of earlier date than the main hillfort, probably late Bronze Age to early Iron Age. The main enclosure and cross dyke have been cut by a road. This road is recorded in a 13th century charter from Torre Abbey records. To the east of this road and within the interior of the hillfort lies a cottage with outbuildings and a garden.

Partial excavations in 1971 produced details of the rampart construction and evidence of post- built structures in the interior. The main earthwork defences had been preceded by a palisaded enclosure. Pottery dated from the 6th to 4th century BC and a clay oven gave a radiocarbon date of around 20 AD.

Historical events that affected the hillfort included an occupation during the Western Rising (1549) and an occupation by the army 1759-1803. During WW2 an air raid shelter was cut into the rampart beside Woodbury Cottage. Woodbury Castle is also depicted on Donn’s map of 1765.


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

Legacy System number:
DV 61
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument Nos:- 448599, 448619, 448620, 448626, 448627 and 1231713


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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