Mount Batten: prehistoric and Romano-British settlement


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 48760 53196

Reasons for Designation

Excavation has demonstrated that Mount Batten is one of only a small number of major prehistoric ports of trade known from Britain, the only comparable site known on the south coast being Hengistbury Head in Hampshire. The high quality of occupation evidence, including fine wares, and bronzes (some of which were produced locally but copying Mediterranean styles) suggests continental trade and influence during the Late Bronze Age. Later, in the Late Iron Age, the presence of Armorican and British coins suggests Iron Age contact between the local tribal group and the south English tribal groups of the Durotriges and the Dobunni and through them to the peoples of Armorica. Despite the effects of quarrying, 17th century burials, and modern disturbances, the surviving midden of Late Bronze Age to Late Iron Age date and the overlying Romano-British occupation deposits are known to preserve a wealth of archaeological and ecological material. This material will provide important information on the social and economic life of a prosperous manufacturing and entrepreneurial prehistoric community with foreign links which survived into the Roman period at which point it probably became assimilated into the Roman world. Excavations have removed only a small percentage of the surviving midden deposits, the true extent of which are known from archaeological survey.


The monument includes an extensive midden deposit of later Bronze Age to Iron Age date, Roman occupation deposits, and burials of the 17th century, located close to the shore of Clovelly Bay on the eastern side of the limestone promontory of Mount Batten which projects into the upper eastern reaches of Plymouth Sound and the Cattewater. The Mount Batten headland has been identified by Professor Cunliffe as a major port and commercial trading centre during the late prehistoric period which survived as a coastal port into Roman times. A series of excavations and evaluations over the years has revealed an area of deposits associated with settlement and indicating a continuity in the use of the site from the Late Bronze Age into the Romano-British period. The character of the deposits is that of a midden formed of a stratified sequence of layers of refuse in which were found animal bones and significant quantities of marine mollusc shells, as well as pottery sherds and metalwork representative of the Late Bronze Age period. A collection of Celtic coins of the first part of the first century BC was also recovered although the Late Iron Age occupation is less precisely defined in the upper levels of the midden. The latest prehistoric deposits were further sealed by turf and soil accumulated during a period of Roman occupation which extended at least into the early third century AD. A number of burials from a 17th century cemetery have been recorded across the site and cutting into the midden. The depth of the archaeologically significant deposit has been shown to be approximately 0.8m, of which between 0.35m-0.5m might be properly described as midden material. The midden, where it has survived quarrying, mining for iron, and the construction of buildings associated with its use as an RAF base, has been closely defined by excavation and evaluation and has been shown to cover an area of approximately 3,600sqm lying below modern ground surfaces. Excluded from the scheduling are all modern walls, tarmac, concrete aprons, road, pavement, and other surfaces, the make-up for modern surfaces, lamp posts, railings, and modern steps, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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Books and journals
Hawkes, J, Cotton, J, Mount Batten, Plymouth:Archaeological Field Evaluation: Hanger 3, (1996)
Hawkes, J, Cotton, J, Mount Batten, Plymouth:Archaeological Field Evaluation: Hanger 3, (1996)
Cunliffe, B, 'OUCA Monograph' in Mount Batten, Plymouth: A Prehistoric and Roman Port, (1988)
Cunliffe, B, 'OUCA Monograph' in Mount Batten, Plymouth: A Prehistoric and Roman Port, (1988)
Gaskell Brown, C, Hugo, T E, 'Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society' in Prehistoric and Romano-British Finds from Mount Batten, Devon, , Vol. 41, (1983), 69-74
Sellwood, L, 'Oxford Journal of Archaeology' in The Mount Batten Celtic Coins, , Vol. 2(2), (1983), 199-211
Spence Bate, C, 'Archaeologia' in On the discovery of a Romano-British cemetery near Plymouth, , Vol. 40.2, (1871), 500-10
Worth, R N, 'Report of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Crouched internments at Mount Batten, , Vol. 23, (1891), 119-24
Hawkes, J and Cotton, J, Mount Batten, Plymouth: Archaeological Field Evaluation: Zone D, (1995)
Hawkes, J and Cotton, J, Mount Batten, Plymouth: Archaeological Field Evaluation: Zone D, (1995)
Hawkes, J, Archaeological evaluation on Stamford Hill, (1997)
Richards, J C, Mount Batten UDC Archaeological Survey, (1993)


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.

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