Ancient Monuments

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Hembury Castle

A Scheduled Monument in West Buckfastleigh, Devon

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Latitude: 50.502 / 50°30'7"N

Longitude: -3.7974 / 3°47'50"W

OS Eastings: 272625.478466

OS Northings: 68450.398431

OS Grid: SX726684

Mapcode National: GBR QF.PVJY

Mapcode Global: FRA 27YQ.SG7

Entry Name: Hembury Castle

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1928

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003859

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 141

County: Devon

Civil Parish: West Buckfastleigh

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Buckfastleigh

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


Slight univallate hillfort and a motte and bailey castle, called Hembury Castle.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 28 October 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 containing a motte and bailey castle situated on Hembury Hill the watershed between the Holy Brook and the River Dart. The hillfort survives as an elliptical enclosure measuring 250m long by 170m wide internally defined by a rampart, partially buried ditch and counterscarp bank. Within the hillfort is a motte and bailey castle. It survives as a circular mound up to 30m in diameter and approximately 6m high with a central depression, surrounded by a partially buried outer ditch. An elliptical platform up to 18m long by 10m wide lies to the south east of the motte and is though to represent a small inner bailey, with the hillfort being reused as the outer bailey. Hembury Castle appears on Donn’s map of 1765. A tradition tells of the castle being defended by women who welcomed their enemies then proceeded to stab them overnight.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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). 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. Slight univallate hillforts are important for understanding the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities.

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte and bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. They are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries. Hembury Castle is unusual because it contains both types of monument one superimposed on the other. It indicates the strategic importance of the location throughout both the prehistoric and historic periods. Hembury Castle survives comparatively well and will contain important archaeological end environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, adaptive reuse and landscape context over an extensive period.

Source: Historic England


PastScape Monument No:- 444810, 444811, 444802 and 444797

Source: Historic England

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