Ancient Monuments

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Ringwork, castle, town banks, site of Saxon town and defences

A Scheduled Monument in Lydford, Devon

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Latitude: 50.6436 / 50°38'37"N

Longitude: -4.1092 / 4°6'33"W

OS Eastings: 250965.07836

OS Northings: 84781.388934

OS Grid: SX509847

Mapcode National: GBR NY.8SCQ

Mapcode Global: FRA 278C.QY0

Entry Name: Ringwork, castle, town banks, site of Saxon town and defences

Scheduled Date: 29 October 1957

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002506

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 392

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Lydford

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Lydford St Petroc

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


Part of an Anglo Saxon burh, ringwork, motte and bailey castle and keep at Lydford.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 5 November 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument which falls into three separate areas is situated on a prominent ridge between the River Lyd and a tributary. The defences of the burh survive as banks to the north, north east and west of the present village of Lydford. The burh called Hlidan, was founded in the 880’s and had an Anglo-Saxon mint. In 997 AD it was attacked by Danish raiders. It was one of the four biggest towns in Devon. At the time of the Domesday Book up to forty houses were destroyed when the ringwork was constructed in the south west corner. The ringwork survives as a well defined semicircular rampart and ditch. The ringwork was superseded by the castle to the north. This survives as a standing square two storied stone tower around which a circular motte and rectangular bailey to the north west were added. The bailey partly overlies the Saxon defences. The motte and bailey survive as prominent earthworks. Excavations revealed the footings of a timber bridge which originally led from the bailey to the keep, which was replaced by a stone causeway in the 18th century. The keep has had at least three separate phases of building, in the 12th, late 13th and 17th to 18th centuries and elements of all these phases are present. The keep became the notorious Stannary Prison from the 13th to 18th centuries and also a Civil War prison when Sir Richard Grenville was the Royalist Governor. By the 1300’s Lydford was declining as an important town because of its isolated location. Excavations by Addyman in the 1960’s confirmed the contemporary layout reflects the Anglo Saxon gridded street system. Also Saxon drains and the boundaries of burghage plots were found to underlie parts of the castle bailey.

Further remains of the burh survive at Lydford but these are not included within the monument because following an earlier assessment it was considered that scheduling was not appropriate.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Anglo-Saxon burhs, are defended urban areas that are characterised by a planned, ordered layout, sometimes including a regular grid of streets. They date mainly from the late ninth century AD, as King Alfred's response to the threat of Danish invasion. Documentary evidence suggests that mints and markets were established in most of the larger centres. Many now lie beneath modern cities or towns, but strong traces of their layout usually survive in the modern street plan. Other contemporary features include water supply and drainage systems, and burgage plot boundaries. They are a comparatively well documented monument class, listed in the Burghal Hidage, a document which dates to the early tenth century AD. They are one of the earliest groups of planned medieval towns in Europe. At Lydford the part of the Saxon burh and its defences survive well despite continuous occupation to the present and will contain archaeological evidence relating to this very important early settlement. This is further reinforced by the presence of two important defensive structures; the ringwork and motte and bailey castle. Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo- Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a stone wall. Both ringworks and later motte and bailey castles are strongholds for military operations. At Lydford, both types survive well.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Gerrard, S, Dartmoor - Landscapes through time, (1997), 59 and 69
Greeves, T, The Archaeology Of Dartmoor From The Air, (1985), Plate 19
Griffith, F, Devon's Past: An Aerial View, (1988), 68-69
PastScape Monument No:- 440670, 440671, 440695 and 1081170

Source: Historic England

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