Iron Age cliff castle known as Bolt Tail Camp
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019323
Date first listed: 30-Aug-1922
Date of most recent amendment: 09-Feb-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: South Hams (District Authority)
Parish: South Huish
National Grid Reference: SX 67075 39639
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Cliff castles are coastal promontories adapted as enclosures and fortified on
the landward side by the construction of one or more ramparts accompanied by
ditches. On the seaward side the precipitous cliffs of the promontory provided
a natural defence, only rarely reinforced by man-made features. Cliff castles
date to the Iron Age, most being constructed and used between the second
century BC and the first century AD, although some were reused in the medieval
period. They are usually interpreted as high status defensive enclosures,
related to the broadly contemporary classes of hillfort.
The inner area enclosed at cliff castles varies with the size and shape of the
promontory; they are generally in the range 0.5ha to 3ha, but a few much
larger examples are known, enclosing up to 52ha. The area of many cliff
castles will have been reduced by subsequent coastal erosion. The ramparts are
of earth and rubble, occasionally with a drystone revetment wall along their
outer face. Ditches may be rock- or earth-cut depending on the depth of the
subsoil. The number and arrangement of ramparts and ditches varies
considerably and may include outworks enclosing large areas beyond the
promontory and annexes defining discrete enclosures against the landward side
of the defences. Multiple ramparts may be close spaced or may include a broad
gap between concentric ramparts defining inner and outer enclosures. Entrance
gaps through the defences are usually single and often staggered where they
pass through multiple ramparts.
Internal features, where visible, include circular or sub-rectangular levelled
platforms for stone or timber houses, generally behind the inner bank or
sheltered by the promontory hill. Where excavated, cliff castles have been
found to contain post holes and stakeholes, hearths, pits and gullies
associated with the house platforms, together with spreads of occupation
debris including, as evidence for trade and industrial activity, imported
pottery and iron working slag. Cliff castles are largely distributed along the
more indented coastline of western Britain; in England they are generally
restricted to the coasts of north Devon and Cornwall. Around sixty cliff
castles are recorded nationally, of which forty are located around the Cornish
Cliff castles contribute to our understanding of how society and the landscape
was organised during the Iron Age and illustrate the influence of landscape
features on the chosen locations for prestigious settlement, trade and
industry. All cliff castles with significant surviving archaeological remains
are considered worthy of preservation.
Despite some limited coastal erosion, Bolt Tail Camp is well-preserved. It is the only cliff castle known in South Devon and will retain information relating to its construction and use. Stratified deposits are likely to survive in the ditches and within the ramparts, while the gateway with its inturned rampart terminals may preserve traces of the gate structure. Two boundary works projecting outside the rampart are a rare feature.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
This monument includes a cliff castle located on a high rocky headland above
the English Channel. There are dramatic views in all directions for many
miles. A narrow but deep dry valley lies immediately east of the fort, making
it a very prominent feature in the local landscape.
The monument survives as a large rampart, cutting off the headland and
enclosing an area which is a maximum of 300m long by 350m wide. The rampart
is 260m long, but was originally longer, the sea having washed away its
terminals. It slopes from 61m above sea level at its south end, down to 22m at
its north end. A bank of earth and stones forms the rampart, which is about
11m wide. It rises between 0.7m and 2m from the interior and falls between 3m
and 5m to the outer ditch. An intermittent random drystone wall about 1.5m
high revets the front of the rampart, but is probably of 19th century date,
although fragments of an earlier revetment of coursed rubble are visible high
on its outer face. The outer ditch is about 8m wide by between 0.4m and 0.7m
deep. About halfway along, the rampart curves to the east around and over a
natural outcrop of rock. Where this is cut by the ditch, it is 2m wide and
0.7m deep with a post-medieval field wall running along its east side.
Immediately to the south, the only original entrance in the rampart has
inturned flanking horns. These are short and composed of earth and stones.
They are between 6m and 8m wide, rapidly tailing off in height from the outer
rampart which rises up to 2m from the interior at this point. Outside the
rampart towards the north end of the valley to its east is a second very large
ditch, between 15m and 34m from the outer edge of the main rampart. It is 30m
wide by about 5m deep at its north end, and 23m wide by about 2m deep at is
south end. It is likely that this was a natural valley, made more abrupt by
building up its sides. Its southern half survives as a buried feature.
The south end of the rampart is heavily disturbed by surface erosion and cliff
falls, but an earthwork bank about 8m wide by 2m high continues along the
cliff edge 60m to the south east before heading ENE for a further 150m. An
outer ditch on its north side is represented by a narrow terrace up to 4m
wide. From the north end of the rampart, a second boundary work projects to
the east. This has a bank 4m wide, rising 0.4m on its south side and falling
from 1m to 2.5m to a ditch 4m wide and up to 1m deep. An upcast bank is 0.6m
high and 1.5m wide. The rampart runs along the cliff edge before climbing the
coastal slope to the east. At a point 150m east of the fort rampart, it
levels out and terminates. At this point it is strengthened by an outer ditch
which now survives as a terrace 4m wide and about 70m long. A second rampart
begins here, immediately south of the first, continuing for 150m along the
hillside to the south east. Here it survives as a terrace 2m wide, falling
2.5m to a ditch 1.5m wide and up to 0.3m deep. An upcast bank is 1m wide and
falls a further 1.5m to the natural hillside. The rampart survives for a
further 120m forming the rear boundary of gardens on the south side of Inner
Hope village, but owing to its poor survival, this section is not included in
the scheduling. Other features may be hidden under the bracken and scrub
woodland which covers parts of the site.
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: 33761
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Wall, J, The Victoria History of the County, (1906), 578
SMR fieldwork, (1996)
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