Sidbury Castle


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.

East Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SY 12804 91350

Reasons for Designation

Large univallate hillforts are defined as 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, although evidence for earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on such a monumental 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. The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by outworks. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Large univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north. Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The hillfort of Sidbury Castle survives well in a commanding position with most of its circuit of defences intact and with an exceptionally well preserved passageway entrance. It is one of only very few sizeable hillforts known from west of the River Axe. It will contain archaeological information relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.


The monument includes a prehistoric large univallate hillfort known as Sidbury Castle occupying a high elevated position on a steep-sided hill at the end of a Greensand spur just west of the River Sid. It has a defended area of about 4ha with a single elongated passageway entrance to the north west. The hillfort is aligned approximately north west to south east and takes the form of a long narrow pear-shaped enclosure with the wider part at the south east. It is about 500m long with a maximum width of 100m. The defences include a single rampart, ditch, and counterscarp bank enclosing a flat interior which falls away only when in proximity to the rampart where a soil quarry seems likely to have existed. The earth rampart, which is 1.2m high and nearly vertical on the inside, follows the contours of the hill and utilises the steep break of slope on all sides; it varies in height between 4.4m and 9.6m on its outer slope. The rampart is fronted by a ditch which is on average 2.9m wide and 1m deep. This ditch is in turn fronted by a counterscarp bank of about 1m in height which merges with the natural hill-side on its outer slope. The narrow elongated entrance is formed by a twin extension of the ramparts at the north western end producing a bottleneck passageway some 100m long which has a sunken appearance. A scarped platform which overlooks the hill-slope to the west would appear to have provided additional cover for the western approaches to the passageway. At least one hoard of sling stones has been recovered from the monument in the 19th century.

Some banking which forms an enclosure within the monument in its south eastern corner is almost certainly post-medieval in origin and occasional breaks in the rampart on the eastern and southern sides are considered to be of comparatively recent date. The depressions caused by two ponds located in the interior may still be seen; neither pond is thought to be contemporary with the use of the site as a hillfort and both may be of post-medieval date.

All fencing, fence posts, gates and gate posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Fox, A, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon, (1996), 51-52
Bradley, R, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Stock Raising and the Origins of the Hillfort on the South Downs, , Vol. 51, (1971), 20-21
Hutchinson, P O, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Hill Fortresses, Slingstones And Other Antiquities in SE Devon, , Vol. 2, (1868), 376
Wall, J C, 'A History of the County of Devon (Victoria County History)' in Ancient Earthworks, , Vol. I, (1906), 587
Fletcher, M J, Ordnance Survey Survey, (1975)


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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