Ancient Monuments

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Blackbury Castle hillfort

A Scheduled Monument in Southleigh, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7252 / 50°43'30"N

Longitude: -3.1525 / 3°9'9"W

OS Eastings: 318745.640099

OS Northings: 92368.989734

OS Grid: SY187923

Mapcode National: GBR PC.4SCV

Mapcode Global: FRA 4785.CN4

Entry Name: Blackbury Castle hillfort

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 22 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013425

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24116

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Southleigh

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Southleigh St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument includes a large Iron Age univallate hillfort known as Blackbury
Castle which straddles an east to west spur leading from the Broad Down
plateau and overlooks valleys formed by tributaries of the River Coly.
The hillfort has a bank and associated outer ditch surrounding an oval
internal area measuring 186m east to west by 90m north to south. The rampart
is composed of an unrevetted flint rubble bank measuring up to 10m wide, 1.8m
high internally and 4.8m high externally. The outer ditch measures up to 12m
wide and 1.1m deep. The entrance to the hillfort lies on the southern side, is
slightly out-turned and originally contained a timber gateway which was
probably bridged. At a later date, a triangular outer defence including two
separate lengths of ditch and rampart were added together with a narrow funnel
shaped entrance passage measuring 50m long and defined on either side by 2.5m
wide and 1m high banks. Gaps in the northern, eastern and western circuit of
the hillfort are considered to represent the result of more recent activity
and are therefore probably not original features. Within the interior of the
fort, are two rectangular building platforms built up against the rampart
face. The eastern structure measures 10.5m long, 7.3m wide and stands up to
0.7m high, whilst the western one is 9m long, 6m wide and 0.4m high. These
features probably represent the site of medieval or post medieval buildings
and may be connected with some of the more recent breaches in the rampart.
The hillfort was partly excavated between 1952 and 1954 by the Devon
Archaeological Society and this work revealed the site of a hut, an associated
palisade, various trenches, a cooking pit, oven, a hoard of slingstones and a
heap of clay. Finds from the excavation included numerous sherds of Iron Age
pottery, 15 lumps of iron slag, over a thousand slingstones, four whetstones,
two spindle whorls, two bronze fragments and four worked flints.
The monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Large univallate hillforts are defined as fortified enclosures of varying
shape, ranging in size between 1ha and 10ha, located on hilltops and
surrounded by a single boundary comprising earthworks of massive proportions.
They date to the Iron Age period, most having been constructed and used
between the fourth century BC and the first century AD, although evidence for
earlier use is present at most sites. The size of the earthworks reflects the
ability of certain social groups to mobilise the labour necessary for works on
such a monumental scale, and their function may have had as much to do with
display as defence. Large univallate hillforts are also seen as centres of
redistribution, both for subsistence products and items produced by craftsmen.
The ramparts are of massive proportions except in locations where steepness of
slope precludes easy access. They can vary between 6m and 20m wide and may
survive to a height of 6m. The ditches can measure between 6m and 13m wide and
between 3m and 5m deep. Access to the interior is generally provided by one or
two entrances which often take the form of long passages formed by inturned
ramparts and originally closed by a gate located towards the inner end of the
passageway. The entrance may be flanked by guardrooms and/or accompanied by
outworks. 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. Large
univallate hillforts are rare with between 50 and 100 examples recorded
nationally. Most are located within southern England where they occur on the
chalklands of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. The western edge of the distribution is
marked by scattered examples in north Somerset and east Devon, while further
examples occur in central and western England and outliers further north.
Within this distribution considerable regional variation is apparent, both in
their size, rampart structure and the presence or absence of individual
components. In view of the rarity of large univallate hillforts and their
importance in understanding the organisation and regional structure of Iron
Age society, all examples with surviving archaeological remains are believed
to be of national importance.

Blackbury Castle hillfort survives well and is known from part excavation
to contain archaeological evidence relating to the occupation of this area
during the Iron Age. The entrance passage together with the associated
triangular enclosure represent an unusual group of earthworks with no precise
recorded parallels.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dyer, J, South England Archaeological Guide, (1973), 55
Grinsell, LV, Discovering Regional Archaeology South Western England, (1970), 22
Grinsell, LV, Discovering Regional Archaeology South Western England, (1970), 21-22
Hawkes, J, The Shell Guide to British Archaeology, (1986), 126
Young, A, Richardson, K M, 'Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings' in Report on the Excavations at Blackbury Castle, , Vol. 5, (1958), 43-67
1:2500, Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Plan SY 1892, (1958)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SY19SE47, (1993)
Devon County Sites and Monuments Register, SY19SE47-01, (1987)
MPP fieldwork by S. Gerrard, (1994)

Source: Historic England

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