Ancient Monuments

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Hillsborough Promontory Fort

A Scheduled Monument in Ilfracombe, Devon

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Latitude: 51.2102 / 51°12'36"N

Longitude: -4.1022 / 4°6'7"W

OS Eastings: 253256.127573

OS Northings: 147761.468711

OS Grid: SS532477

Mapcode National: GBR KP.40LS

Mapcode Global: VH4M4.VV65

Entry Name: Hillsborough Promontory Fort

Scheduled Date: 1 April 1959

Last Amended: 28 April 2015

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002512

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 414

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Ilfracombe

Built-Up Area: Ilfracombe

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Ilfracombe St Philip and St James

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a promontory fort of Iron Age date which occupies a coastal headland.

Source: Historic England


This Iron Age promontory fort has a commanding position on a natural headland at Hillsborough to the east of Ilfracombe. It is defined by the steep cliffs and slopes of the headland except on its south, landward side where a series of banks cross the neck of the promontory, enclosing a roughly triangular-shaped interior which rises towards the central spine of the promontory.

The enclosure is defined along the neck (south) of the headland, where natural defence is weak, by two artificially-scarped and roughly parallel banks, probably of earth and stone. They survive in some places as low scarps and diverge towards their eastern ends. They are aligned roughly north-west to south-east, following the natural topographic contours of the promontory, and are approximately 265m in length. The ramparts terminate short of the sides of the headland and the eastern end of the lower one has been removed by late-C19 quarrying. A LiDAR survey (2007) produced evidence for a ditch or secondary scarp below the eastern end of the lower rampart. Access to the interior was provided by an inturned entrance which cuts through both the upper and lower ramparts towards their eastern ends. To the south-west of the entrance, a geophysical survey (Substrata, 2012) identified a circular structure which has been interpreted as a possible roundhouse. It measures some 7.8m in diameter and will survive in the form of buried archaeological deposits.

The interior of the fort measures some 360m north to south by 310m west to east at its widest point. No excavation of the interior has been carried out, but three flint tools, now at the Ilfracombe Museum are said to have been recovered from the fort. A geophysical survey of part of the interior in 2011 did not identify any clear archaeological features, but this may be due to the underlying geology, and it is likely that features such as possible structures, ditches, postholes and pits may survive as buried features. A stone chamber, possibly a cist, was discovered in the upper rampart in 1937 and described as constructed of drystone masonry surmounted by a lintel. Although it can no longer be identified on the ground, the remains of a stone slab and possible evidence of slumping may mark its location.

The Victorian shelter at the south-western edge of the site, the one close to the summit, and the ruined shelter to the north, the area of hard-standing for the former tea room, flagpoles, benches, interpretation panels, guide posts, metal railings and concrete posts, and the surfaces of all footpaths and steps are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features, however, is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Hillsborough promontory fort, Ilfracombe, which was constructed during the Iron Age, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: it survives well despite some localised reduction of the earthworks and will retain evidence for the date and method of its construction;
* Potential: the site will contain archaeological evidence which will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the social organisation of the area during the prehistoric period;
* Historic interest: the interest of the fort is enhanced by its adaptation and inclusion within a public amenity area, and it represents an important educational and recreational resource.

Source: Historic England


An Archaeological Gradiometer and Earth Resistance Survey, Land at Hillsborough Promontory Hillfort, Ilfracombe, Devon, Substrata, 2011
Archaeological Walkover Survey and LiDAR study, Hillsborough Promontory Fort, Ilfracombe, Devon by M Beamish, University of Leicester, 2011
Hillsborough Hill Top Enclosure geophysical survey report, Carey Consulting, 2011
Hillsborough Management Plan, Fiona Fyfe Associates and ULAS, 2011

Source: Historic England

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