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.
Despite some reduction in the heights of the western and eastern ramparts
through cultivation and the partial cutting of relatively small areas for the
construction of buildings, Cranmore Castle survives well. The circuit of the
defences is almost complete and much has remained preserved within the
existing and somewhat massive field boundaries. Cranmore Castle will contain
archaeological information relating to its construction and subsequent use as
well as environmental evidence concerning the local area during the time of
the hillfort's occupation.
This monument includes a large univallate hillfort situated on a prominent
ridge with commanding views over the town of Tiverton, overlooking the
confluence of the Rivers Lowman and Exe, and the valley of a further tributary
to the River Exe.
The monument survives as a large elliptical enclosure, encircling the hill and
is defined by ramparts on all sides. The defences appear to augment the
existing topography, and as a result there is no apparent outer ditch. The
original entrance lies on the western side. The interior contains several
steep slopes most especially towards the south west on the southern side of
the enclosure. The interior has been cut by two small quarries.
To the north the rampart sits above a steep natural scarp slope and measures
up to 3m high externally, and is integrated within a field boundary. To the
west the rampart measures up to 10m wide and 1.2m high and is not contained
within an extant field boundary; there is a 7m wide gap within the rampart
which probably represents the original entrance. The slope, although less
steep than to the north, is still sharp. The rampart resumes to the south of
the entrance, being up to 2.5m high externally. At the hillfort's south
western corner, the rampart is again integrated into the existing field
boundary and on this side is fairly massive and sits above a near vertical
slope. On the southern side a 3.2m wide access track cuts through the rampart
at which point it survives up to 3.2m high and 11m wide. In the south eastern
corner the buildings of Castle Barn have cut through the earthwork, and this
area is therefore not included in the scheduling. However, to the east it
resumes again with a rampart measuring up to 25m wide and 2.5m high. The
rampart continues immediately behind Cranmore Cottage where it has been
partially cut to enable the building to be constructed.
In 1649 there was an engagement at Cranmore Castle where insurgents were
defeated by the Royalist troops. In 1930 there was an inconclusive
archaeological excavation. On the slopes below the hillfort chance finds of a
Bronze Age blade and coins dating to the Iron Age and Saxon period have also
The garden features, fishpond and driveways relating to Cranmore Cottage, and
which are immediately adjacent to the rampart, the fences and field boundaries
which lie within the enclosure, and those stock proof fences, tracks and
access roads to properties which cross the enclosed area are all excluded from
the scheduling, as are all agricultural buildings and gateposts, although the
ground beneath all these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.