High Peak Camp


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
The monument is centred on SY 10332 85955.


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

Location Description:
The monument is centred on SY 10332 85955.
East Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The buried remains of part of an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and the earthworks and buried remains of part of an early medieval fortified settlement.

Reasons for Designation

High Peak Camp, a multi-period site encompassing part of an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and part of an early medieval fortified settlement, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

*Rarity: as a rare example of a causewayed enclosure and a very rare example of a fortified settlement built in the C5 to C6; * Period: the Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and early medieval fortified settlement are highly representative of their period; the former being among the first examples of the enclosure of open space in Britain and the latter being one of only a few surviving fortified settlements built in the C5 to C6 associated with high status inhabitants and an international trade network; * Potential: the site will contain further archaeological and environmental deposits, relating to the construction and use of the causewayed enclosure as well as the social and economic activity of the inhabitants of the fortified settlement; * Documentation (archaeological): the significance of the monument is enhanced by well-documented records of previous investigations.


High Peak Camp, as it is traditionally known, is a multi-period site that includes Early Neolithic occupation remains, thought to be a causewayed enclosure, and part of an early medieval fortified settlement.

EARLY NEOLITHIC CAUSEWAYED ENCLOSURE Causewayed enclosures represent the earliest known examples of the enclosure of open space in Britain. They date to the Early Neolithic and were constructed between about 3,800 and 3,500 BC. Causewayed enclosures have been interpreted as gathering places where feasting, crafts and rituals took place. On occasion they were briefly used for defence. Some scholars have seen the creation of these enclosures as an end in itself; a construction project giving a community a common purpose. Most are oval in plan and comprise a single circuit of discontinuous bank and ditch of varying length separated by causeways of intact ground; hence the name. However some examples have two or three concentric circles of earthworks. Most circuits are between 0.4 hectares and 3.0 hectares in internal area. Nearly eighty causewayed enclosures are now known in the British Isles. The majority are found in England south of the River Trent, but a few outliers have been identified in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Cumbria. They are not the only form of Neolithic enclosure: a few with continuous earthworks have proved to be of a similar date. The causewayed enclosure at High Peak is, along with Hembury and Raddon Hill in Devon, among the most south-westerly in England. The finds include gabbroic ware pottery sherds and polished stone axes from Cornwall, as well as a jadeite axe fragment of Alpine origin. These indicate that materials from distant sources were being deposited at the site which is a typical feature of causewayed enclosures.

EARLY MEDIEVAL FORTIFIED SETTLEMENT High Peak Camp also includes the remains of a C5 to C6 fortified settlement. In the period following the withdrawal of the Roman army from Britain (c.AD 410) many existing towns and rural settlements were gradually abandoned whilst some earlier Iron Age defended sites were re-occupied. In the south-west of England the re-use of defended hilltop locations is well attested. For the majority of cases this involved the refurbishment of Iron Age hillforts, such as Cadbury Congresbury and Cadbury Castle, Somerset. Newly created fortified sites are rare. Partial excavation at Tintagel, Cornwall, has shown that the rock-cut ‘Great Ditch’ on the mainland adjacent to the promontory was dug in the post-Roman period. This high-status settlement became a focus for trading links with the Mediterranean, which was unparallelled in size and structural diversity. Bantham Ham, a post-Roman settlement at the mouth of the River Avon, Devon, may also have been fortified. However the complex post-Roman multivallate earthworks at High Peak are unique in south-west England. The find assemblage indicates that it was a high-status settlement, which in common with the above mentioned sites, as well as Trethurgy Round (Cornwall), Dinas Powys (Glamorgan), Longbury Bank (Pembroke) and Whithorn (Dumfries and Galloway), included imported Mediterranean amphorae (storage jars). These finds signify occupation by an elite among the local social hierarchy with access to a wide trade network and exotic commodities such as wine, oil or olives.

INVESTIGATION HISTORY The earliest known investigations of the site were by the local antiquarian Peter Orlando Hutchinson who collected finds, possibly carried out small digs, published a detailed plan in 1842, and also made several paintings and drawings. In 1929 George Carter partially excavated the site recovering what he (mistakenly) claimed to be Iron Age and Roman pottery together with animal bones. The site was again excavated in 1961 and 1964 by Sheila Pollard, who uncovered Early Neolithic occupation remains and the ramparts and ditch of a post-Roman fortified settlement. In 2012 a topographical survey and excavation was undertaken by AC Archaeology, which revealed a further set of earthworks, indicating a multivallate fortification.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS The buried remains of part of an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and the earthworks and buried remains of part of an early medieval fortified settlement. It is situated at the summit of a coastal slope, which falls away steeply on the landward side to the west and meets the cliff edge to the east.

EARLY NEOLITHIC CAUSEWAYED ENCLOSURE The remains of the Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure include a buried ditch at the north of the site. It is approximately 3.9m wide and 1.9m deep and underlies the early medieval bank that runs adjacent to the cliff edge. The ditch is thought to have formed part of the west side of the causewayed enclosure. About 60m to the south-west, towards the centre of the site, are two buried stone-lined Neolithic storage pits. Partial excavation has also identified several post holes, three cooking areas, and finds that include: nearly 1200 lithics such as polished stone axes (including a jadeite axe fragment of Alpine origin), arrowheads, knives, scrapers, piercers and flakes; Early Neolithic pottery sherds from carinated and straight-sided bowls (including gabbroic ware from Cornwall); bone fragments; charred wild food remains and charcoal.

EARLY MEDIEVAL FORTIFIED SETTLEMENT The remains of the early medieval fortified settlement include multivallate earthworks, which originally formed the western side of an enclosure built in the C5 or C6 AD. At the east end of the site, adjacent to the cliff edge, is a bank orientated north-east to south-west. It is about 70.9m long and 14.6m wide at its base, and curves eastwards at each end. The bank has been created by shaping the natural slope of the hilltop. Partial excavation has uncovered evidence that it was originally revetted with stone. Encircling the bank is an external ditch, 3.7m wide and 1.8m deep, which survives largely as a buried feature. Situated at its western edge is a slight escarpment, probably the remains of a counterscarp bank. In the north part of the site is a further bank, about 8m wide and 60m long, which may have been formed by the shaping a natural ridge. It has been suggested that it may mark the remains of an entrance into the enclosure. A second outer ditch survives as a buried feature on the west side of the site, encircling the main enclosure. It is about 4m wide and 1.4m deep. Partial excavation has shown that the fill of the ditch contains the remains of a stone revetment, probably from further earthworks or counterscarp banks lower down the slope. Excavation also identified several post holes outside the ditch. The ground here forms a slight terrace which terminates in an escarpment. The finds from the site have included: a small bronze strip, a Kimmeridge clay spindle whorl, a whetstone, animal bones (mainly sheep and ox), oak charcoal, iron working slag and nearly 150 Mediterranean amphora pottery sherds.

EXCLUSIONS The modern notice board, wooden steps and the concrete Ordnance Survey trig point are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.


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

Legacy System number:
DV 55
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Pollard, S, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society' in Neolithic and Dark Age settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth, Devon, , Vol. 23, (1966), 35-59
Rainbird, P, Taylor, R, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Excavations at the Early Neolithic and Post-Roman Site of High Peak Camp, Otterton, East Devon, , Vol. 71, (2013 (forthcoming)), 25-53
Introduction to Heritage Assets: Causewayed Enclosures, accessed from http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/listing/criteria-for-protection/scheduling-selection-guides/IHAs/


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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