Hilltop enclosures in North Wood, 780m NNW of Old Parsonage Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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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 78706 63481

Reasons for Designation

Hilltop enclosures are defined as sub-rectangular or elongated areas of ground, usually between 10ha and 40ha in size, situated on hilltops or plateaux and surrounded by slight univallate earthworks. They date to between the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth-fifth centuries BC) and are usually interpreted as stock enclosures or sites where agricultural produce was stored. Many examples of hilltop enclosures may have developed into more strongly defended sites later in the Iron Age period and are therefore often difficult to recognise in their original form. The earthworks generally consist of a bank separated from an external ditch by a level berm. Access to the interior was generally provided by two or three entrances which consisted of simple gaps in the rampart. Evidence for internal features is largely dependent on excavation, and to date this has included large areas of sparsely scattered features including post and stakeholes, hearths and pits. Rectangular or square buildings are also evident; these are generally defined by between four and six postholes and are thought to have supported raised granaries. Hilltop enclosures are rare, with between 25 and 30 examples recorded nationally. A greater number may exist but these could have been developed into hillforts later in the Iron Age and could only be confirmed by detailed survey or excavation. The majority of known examples are located in two regions, on the chalk downland of Wessex and Sussex and in the Cotswolds. More scattered examples are found in north-east Oxfordshire and north Northamptonshire. This class of monument has not been recorded outside England. In view of the rarity of hilltop enclosures and their importance in understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

Despite slight damage to their earthworks, the hilltop enclosures in North Wood, 780m NNW of Old Parsonage Farm are well-preserved. Their ramparts, surrounding ditches and interiors contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the enclosures and the landscape in which they were built. The excavated evidence for a Romano-British date from the south western enclosure is of particular importance in an area where few hilltop enclosures have been dated.


This monument includes three Iron Age hilltop enclosures, two at least of which were reused in the Romano-British period, located on the northern edge of a level hilltop, originally overlooking a wide bend in the River Dart. The site has been wooded since at least 1325. The Iron Age enclosure is defined by a rampart, outer ditch and upcast bank. It is aligned from north east to south west with an interior 80m long and 55m wide, tapering towards the east end. The rampart is from 5m to 10m wide and up to 1m high, but does not survive on the north side. The encircling ditch is from 5m to 7m wide and 1.4m deep with an upcast bank on its north and west sides, measuring 5m wide and up to 0.7m high. At the east end the ditch and rampart are broken by an original entrance. A second smaller entrance to the south east with a causeway across the ditch is modern. A roughly ovoid platform within the enclosure towards its north side measures 13m long, 10m wide and up to 1.4m high. Lying 17m to the south is a pair of adjoining ovoid enclosures, aligned north east to south west. A long rampart with traces of an outer ditch continues to the west, returning for a short distance to the north, with an entrance near its end. The western enclosure is trapezoidal in shape, with a rounded south side. Its interior measures 61m long and 44m wide, with a rampart from 4.5m to 9m wide and up to 1m high on its south and east sides. The outer ditch is a similar width and depth with a counterscarp bank 5m wide and up to 0.4m high on the north and west sides. An entrance 5m wide lies in the centre of the southern rampart. Excavations in 1966 on the east side produced hobnails and coarse pottery of the second to third century AD. The sites of these excavations are still visible as slight earthworks. The western enclosure has been partly constructed over the west rampart of the adjoining enclosure, which is therefore earlier. It is of ovoid shape, with an interior measuring 51m long and 40m wide. Its ramparts, outer ditches and upcast bank are of similar dimensions to the western enclosure, with the best surviving ramparts on the south. No entrance is visible. A bank projects from the south eastern corner of this enclosure and continues 78m to the north east, before turning to the north for a further 75m. It survives mainly as a scarp, measuring from 2m to 9m wide and up to 1.5m high, but near its north end, an entrance 8m wide has short sections of inner bank 6m wide and up to 1m high. An outer ditch survives on the east side, 7.5m wide and up to 1.3m deep. Traces of an upcast bank 4.5m wide and 0.4m high survive along the south side. The track surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is 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.

Legacy System number:
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RCHME fieldwork, Sainsbury, I, (1994)


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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