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
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Devon (District Authority)
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
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)
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