Promontory fort on Seaton Down


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017776

Date first listed: 03-Dec-1951

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1998


Ordnance survey map of Promontory fort on Seaton Down
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1017776 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 19-Dec-2018 at 01:17:52.


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

County: Devon

District: East Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Seaton

National Grid Reference: SY 23440 91882


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. 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 broadly contemporary with other types of hillfort. 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. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally important.

The defended spur at Seaton Down is an example of an inland promontory fort where the natural defensive qualities of the site have been utilised to their maximum effect with the result that only one side of the fort required an artificial defence. The interior of the monument has a number of terraced platforms indicating likely occupation activity while the fort will contain further information relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a promontory fort of probable Iron Age date on a north facing spur which overlooks Holyford Brook on the west side of the River Axe near Seaton. The fort made use of the steep natural defences on three sides of the spur with the defensive circuit completed by a cross-spur rampart and ditch. Together the defences enclose a `D'-shaped area of approximately 6ha. A shorter bank and ditch lay behind the southern defences further into the interior. The monument survives as a combination of both distinct and slight earthworks recorded during field observations. The cross-spur rampart which provides the outer defence on the southern side extends for about 200m east-west across the neck of the spur on the only level approach from the south. It survives to a height of between 0.7m and 1m and is about 3.8m wide. It is fronted on its outer southern side by a ditch which is about 6.5m wide and 1m deep. At both ends the rampart and ditch fade out and the defences on the remainder of the circuit are completed by a naturally occurring break of slope. The original entrance through the rampart has not been located with confidence although it may have been sited where a gap exists about one third of the way along the rampart from its western terminal. A bank and ditch lie in the interior of the fort at a distance of about 150m behind the main rampart on a north west-south east alignment; the bank is 40m long with a maximum height of about 0.6m. It has a ditch on the southern side now infilled but visible as a depression about 6m wide. Both the main outer rampart and the inner bank contain flint nodules in their matrix. The relatively flat enclosed area of nearly 300m by 200m possesses some terraced platforms which suggest that the defended interior was utilised either for habitation or cultivation. Excluded from the scheduling are all fencing, gates, and gate posts, 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.

Legacy System number: 29641

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Griffith, F M, Seaton Parish Worksheet, (1983)
Hutchinson, P O, Hutchinson Diaries, (1865)
Parkinson, M, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in The Axe Estuary and its Marshes, , Vol. 20, (1985), 117
Wall, J C, 'A History of the County of Devon (Victoria County History)' in Ancient Earthworks, , Vol. I, (1906), 625

End of official listing