Iron Age promontory fort known as Oldaport Camp


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Iron Age promontory fort known as Oldaport Camp
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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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 63232 49300

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 damage to the ramparts, and hedge removal, the Iron Age promontory fort known as Oldaport Camp is well-preserved and is known from geophysical and earthwork survey to contain archaeological information relating to its construction and occupation. There is a possibility that parts of the site were refortified in the post-Roman period.


This monument includes a large univallate hillfort, occupying a promontory which projects into the estuary of the River Erme. It commands a high and prominent location with wide local views. The monument survives as a long tapering enclosure, aligned north east to south west, with an interior measuring up to 200m wide by 910m long, although the north east end narrows to a maximum of 105m wide. The ramparts of the main enclosure survive as earthworks towards the south west end of the promontory, but elsewhere have largely been reduced. Their outer face varies between 3m and 5.5m wide, falling up to 5m on the north into the former tidal creek, and between 3m and 5m on the south side, where an outer ditch survives as a terrace about 12m wide. The ramparts preserve traces of a coursed stone revetment, bonded with clay. Fragments of this are evident on the north side near a natural spring which lies within the rampart and also at the south western tip of the promontory. They survive an average of 0.5m high and are towards the top of the rampart. At the south west end of the site, a narrow hornwork defends the north side of a steep hollow way, which entered the fort from the beach beside the river. This hornwork utilises part of the natural river cliff and projects about 21m from the rampart. It is between 1.3m and 2m wide and rises about 1.5m from the hollow way, falling about 2.5m on its north side. The former beach level to the north of this gateway was covered in the 19th century by a causeway, carrying a carriage drive which ran down the east bank of the Erme estuary from Flete House to Erme Mouth. The causeway is not included in the scheduling. At the north east end of the site, the northern rampart leaves the creek side, climbing steeply to a narrower enclosure on level ground. The nature of the rampart changes here. Where it angles up the hillside, it survives about 3m wide, rising 1m from the interior and falling about 2.5m to an outer ditch. The rampart is fronted by a coursed stone wall of clay bonded rubble, about 2m high. The outer ditch is 15m wide by 0.3m deep. Around the eastern end of the fort there was formerly a walled enclosure which may be evidence of refortification in the post-Roman period and perhaps the presence of a medieval castle. This is known from 19th century sketches and descriptions and had earth ramparts fronted by a mortared stone wall. Two towers are recorded at the north western and south corners of this enclosure, where a 19th century sketch shows arched gateways, the southern of which was defended by a sub-circular stone tower. The base of this survives as a mortared stone foundation. Earthworks mark the sites of both gates and earthworks of a possible rampart and ditch, facing west lie between the two. A further two possible round towers were found on this rampart line during a geophysical survey in 1991. Fragments of a mortared stone wall facing the southern rampart continue to be visible for at least 100m west of the southern gateway. Part of the wall fronting the eastern rampart survives for a distance of 35m. It stands between 1m and 2.7m high and is 1.3m thick, backed by an earth rampart about 5m thick by 2m high. A disturbance in its centre, where the rampart is lower, is associated with a hole in the wall 2.6m wide and a spread of rubble to the east. This may be the site of a gate or a tower. A berm outside this wall is 13m across, fronted by an unfinished ditch 11m wide by 2.5m deep, with an outer glacis 7m side by 0.8m high. The ditch stops halfway across the hilltop and cuts two parallel banks, the inner of which is 12m thick by 0.6m high and the outer 10m thick by 0.4m high. A further line of defence lies about 55m to the north east. This has a rampart between 3m and 10m thick and 0.4m to 0.7m high, fronted by a ditch whose course is now followed by a metalled lane. This is about 12m wide by 2.5m deep. A small ruined 19th century building on the northern shoreline at the south west end of the site is dug into the rampart and is included in the scheduling. The modern road surfaces and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them in 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.

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MPP fieldwork by R Waterhouse, (1999)
Rainbird, P, Oldaport, 1991, Undergraduate thesis
Rainbird, P, Oldaport, 1991, Undergraduate thesis


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.

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