Castle Head promontory fort


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020272

Date first listed: 28-Nov-1928

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Apr-2002


Ordnance survey map of Castle Head promontory fort
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Feb-2019 at 07:23:42.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: West Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Dunterton

National Grid Reference: SX 38109 78595

Reasons for Designation

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone- walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. In view of their rarity and their importance in the understanding of the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are considered nationally important.

Despite some disturbance through tree planting, the promontory fort at Castle Head survives comparatively well and will contain both archaeological and environmental information relating to the construction, use and landscape context of this monument. The reuse of the promontory fort as a post-medieval landscape feature, and the physical remains of that reuse, are an unusual association.


This monument includes a promontory fort at Castle Head on an upland spur created by a meander in the River Tamar. The monument survives as a semicircular rampart and ditch to the north and as a ditch above a steep natural scarp to the west and south tapering away to the east. Parts of the ditch have been disturbed by later carriage drives which lead to this prominent location overlooking the river from the nearby Endsleigh House. The monument is best preserved to the north where an impressive rampart up to 10m wide at the base, 3m high externally, 2.2m high internally and an outer ditch up to 5m wide and 1m deep defend a narrow strip of land on the summit of the ridge. On the other sides the natural topography drops steeply away. A ditch is visible to the west and south which measures up to 5m wide and 1m deep, but this tapers away to the east where the natural scarp slope is at its steepest. Parts of the ditch have been disturbed by the subsequent carriage drives which were laid across both the interior of the fort and on its western side; these are level and measure up to 4m wide. The internal area defined by the ramparts, ditches and prevailing steep natural slope measures 100m from south west to north east by 80m north west to south east. Within the enclosed area on its western side is the remains of a summer house lying adjacent to a carriage drive and measuring approximately 3m long by 2m wide and having been terraced into the hillside. At its eastern end this supports the remains of a stone built chimney stack and fireplace. This feature probably dates to the same period as the carriage drives and would have had extensive views across the river. On the south western corner of the outer ditch a stone and rubble bank defines its edge and leads away to the east down the hill. The northern face of this bank forms the edge of the monument in this area. An unfinished enclosure, 570m to the south, and another enclosure some 500m to the south west may be associated with this monument and with the defence of what would have been a strategically important location in the later prehistoric period. The field boundary to the north of the outer ditch is excluded from the scheduling where it falls within the fort's 2m protective margin on this side, although the ground beneath this feature 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: 34290

Legacy System: RSM


Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SX47NE502, (1999)

End of official listing