Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Cow Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Exmoor, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.1227 / 51°7'21"N

Longitude: -3.724 / 3°43'26"W

OS Eastings: 279443.175173

OS Northings: 137351.536624

OS Grid: SS794373

Mapcode National: GBR L6.9DDZ

Mapcode Global: VH5KD.D1MN

Entry Name: Cow Castle

Scheduled Date: 20 May 1963

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002955

English Heritage Legacy ID: SO 341

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Exmoor

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


Slight univallate hillfort called Cow Castle.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17 August 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 includes a slight univallate hillfort situated on the summit of a prominent knoll which lies in the broad steep sided valley of the River Barle at its confluence with White Water. The hillfort survives as an enclosure of approximately 1.2ha internally defined by a flat topped rampart bank of up to 2m high externally with an external berm of 4.5m wide and a quarry ditch of up to 7m wide on the inner side of the rampart for most of its circuit. On the south side the rampart has a stone built revetted outer face which is a coursed wall of up to 0.8m high where best preserved. The entrance is to the east. The ramparts are higher at this point with noticeably raised terminals producing a distinct passage. On the southern terminal is an upright stone of up to 0.6m high. The remains of at least four building platforms have been identified in the interior.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Exmoor is the most easterly of the three main upland areas in the south western peninsula of England. In contrast to the others, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, there has been no history of antiquarian research and little excavation of its monuments. However, detailed survey work by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England has confirmed a comparable richness of archaeological remains, with evidence of human exploitation and occupation from the Mesolithic period to the present day. Many of the field monuments surviving on Exmoor date from the later prehistoric period. Examples include burial mounds (`barrows'), standing stones, stone alignments and stone settings. Slight univallate hillforts are defined as enclosures of various shapes, generally between 1ha and 10ha in size, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth - fifth centuries BC), the majority being used for 150 to 200 years prior to their abandonment or reconstruction. Slight univallate hillforts have generally been interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, while access to the interior is usually provided by two entrances comprising either simple gaps in the earthwork or an inturned rampart. Postholes revealed by excavation indicate the occasional presence of portal gateways while more elaborate features like overlapping ramparts and outworks are limited to only a few examples. Internal features included timber or stone round houses; large storage pits and hearths; scattered postholes, stakeholes and gullies; and square or rectangular buildings supported by four to six posts, often represented by postholes, and interpreted as raised granaries. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally. Although on a national scale the number is low, in neighbouring Devon they comprise one of the major classes of hillfort. Slight univallate hillforts are rare and are important for understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities. The slight univallate hillfort called Cow Castle occupies a particularly strategic position commanding a valley and its structure represents an adaptation to the topographical location. It survives well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, longevity, strategic importance, trade, agricultural practices, social organisation, territorial significance, domestic arrangements and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England


PastScape Monument No:-34989

Source: Historic England

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