Medieval settlement, site of quadrangular castle and relict garden between Ilton Farm and Ilton Castle Farm


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.

South Hams (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 72409 40303, SX 72677 40467

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the extensive south-west Peninsula sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area climatically, culturally and physically distinct from the rest of England. It includes varying terrains, from the granite uplands, through rolling dissected plateaux to fertile clay lowlands in the east. Nucleated settlements are present, notably in the Devon Lowlands and throughout the South Hams. Many of these originated as small towns, whilst a high proportion may be late foundations. Excluding only the moorland masses, the sub-Province is characterised by medium and high densities of dispersed settlements; indeed, some of the former industrial areas had densities as high as any in the country.

Despite some damage to its earthworks, the medieval settlement between Ilton Farm and Ilton Castle Farm is well-preserved and will retain important features relating to the development and use of the site. Stratified archaeological deposits are likely to survive in the terraces, banks, hollow ways and building platforms of the site and will be of importance to the future understanding of the monument. Quadrangular castles are fortified residences, dating from the late 13th to 15th century, with most examples belonging to the 14th century. They were constructed with high stone walls and towers, enclosing domestic quarters of high status. The earthwork remains of the quadrangular castle at Ilton, licenced in 1335, are of importance in an area where few such sites exist. Stratified archaeological deposits are likely to survive, and will be significant in understanding this and other similar sites. The placing of ponds to the south of the castle, forming a mock moat, and the location of a terraced formal garden around the castle, make this an unusual survival.


The monument, which falls into two areas of protection divided by a road, includes relict earthworks of a deserted medieval settlement, a quadrangular medieval castle, a surrounding garden of post-medieval date and two fishponds. It lies on both sides of a shallow valley, which drains into the Kingsbridge estuary, 850m to the east. The settlement, which lies in the western part of the monument, is in two parts. The western part lies in a field at the head of the valley, south of Ilton Farm, where the gently sloping ground around two springs contains earthworks of at least 13 small rectangular buildings. These are partly terraced into the hillside and partly raised on low platforms. They measure from 7m to 10m long, from 3.5m to 7m wide, and are terraced or raised up to 1m high. The eastern part lies on the north side of the valley, east of Ilton Farm, where several earthwork platforms are arranged along the slope. At least three sites of small rectangular buildings survive among them, with a hollow way towards the west, which runs south towards a small cob threshing barn on the opposite side of the stream. The hollow way measures 28m long, 5m wide and 1m deep. Cultivation terraces along the north and south sides of the monument measure up to 2.5m high and from 5m to 10m wide. Several 18th century watermeadow leats cut across the earthworks, with a rectangular pond serving one of them; this measures 22m long and 10m wide. A medieval quadrangular castle was licenced to Sir John de Cheverston in 1335 and stood on a terrace towards the eastern end of the monument. The terrace measures 30m from east to west and 25m from north to south. A description, made when the castle walls were demolished in 1780, states that it was sub-rectangular with square towers at the corners. Slight earthworks show the positions of the towers and parchmarks confirm its location. Earthwork terraces of an extensive formal garden climb the valley side to the east, west and north of the castle. There are two lines of terraces, lying side by side. To the west are six narrow terraces, measuring 20m wide and from 0.7m to 1.2m high, followed by four terraces of varying width, the largest and lowest measuring 32m wide and 25m long, immediately west of the castle site. The second terrace continues across the rear of the castle, 105m to the end of the site, and measures 14m wide and up to 2m high. The upper terrace is 8m wide, up to 1.5m high, and continues for 125m, the full length of the gardens. It has a short double stepped terrace at its west end, 33m long and 0.8m high. Traces of post-medieval hedgebanks cross the site in various places. South of the castle and the west end of the garden, are the sites of two large sub-rectangular fish ponds, the western of which measures 42m long by 28m wide and 0.5m deep. A large heavy earthwork dam at its east end is 8m wide, falling 2.5m to the site of the second pond, which is now buried beneath modern farm buildings and a farmyard. It measures approximately 22m long and 25m wide with the remains of a low dam at its west end, 6m wide and surviving up to 0.5m high. The two ponds were used as an ornamental lake, creating the impression of a moat in front of the castle. The modern farm buildings and road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. Also excluded is the water main running north-south across the monument as well as the land immediately above and to either side. The ground beneath is, however, included in the scheduling.

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
Prideaux Fox, S , Kingsbridge Estuary, (1864)
Copeland, G W, Transactions of the Plymouth Institute, (1949)
MPP fieldwork by R Waterhouse, Waterhouse, R, (2000)


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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