Cranmore 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.

Mid Devon (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SS 95836 11795

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 been made. 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.

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:
Legacy System:


Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SS91SE10, (1993)
Gerrard, H.K., MPP Fieldwork, (1999)


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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