Ancient Monuments

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Membury Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Membury, Devon

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Latitude: 50.8208 / 50°49'14"N

Longitude: -3.0196 / 3°1'10"W

OS Eastings: 328276.818545

OS Northings: 102858.666431

OS Grid: ST282028

Mapcode National: GBR M4.XQTC

Mapcode Global: FRA 46KX.PG6

Entry Name: Membury Castle

Scheduled Date: 26 June 1924

Last Amended: 23 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017951

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29645

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Membury

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Membury

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


The monument includes a prehistoric slight univallate hillfort known as
Membury Castle, located on the southern end of a narrow steep sided ridge-
backed hill situated between the River Yarty and the River Axe. The defences
enclose a narrow oblong area of about 1.3ha which has three main entrances one
of which may be of much later date and one of which is modern. The defensive
circuit may at one time have been provided with a ditch on at least two sides,
although this is no longer visible. The elongated interior of the monument is
about 225m in length north-south with a maximum width of 60m east-west.
Quarries dug internally to provide soil for the rampart are clearly visible
along the inside of the western bank and elsewhere on the circuit. This has
had the effect of creating a raised and domed area towards the centre of the
hillfort most particularly noticeable in the northern part of its interior.
The earth/stone rampart was recorded by Sir Cyril Fox as being steep with
chert facing. On its western side this rampart survives 5.8m wide with an
angled outer slope littered with chert blocks; internally the bank is near
vertical and 2m high. Whilst the bank of the rampart continues on all sides,
on the east it is lower and has largely been incorporated into a later
hedge bank. The steeper natural defences on this side suggest that the
effectiveness of the bank may have been supplemented by the scarping of the
natural hillside rather than the raising of a substantial rampart.
A possible original entrance exists at the south west corner where the
southern rampart terminal projects forward and outwards to provide a gap about
3m wide. Another entrance is located on the north eastern side which, if
contemporary with the monument's construction, has been much altered with
small enclosures placed just within the rampart perhaps during an episode of
utilising the monument for stock enclosure and control in more recent times; a
remnant of the partially levelled rampart can still be seen following its
original course where these works have taken place. The only level approach
was from the north where an entrance might have been expected but here the
rampart carries across the ridge at right angles to it with no apparent break
other than a gap of clearly modern origin.
All fencing and fence posts and gates and gate posts, are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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

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 Devon they comprise one of
the major classes of hillfort. In other areas where the distribution is
relatively dense, for example, Wessex, Sussex, the Cotswolds and the
Chilterns, hillforts belonging to a number of different classes occur within
the same region. Examples are also recorded in eastern England, the Welsh
Marches, central and southern England. In view of the rarity of slight
univallate hillforts and their importance in understanding the transition
between Bronze Age and Iron Age communities, all examples which survive
comparatively well and have potential for the recovery of further
archaeological remains are believed to be of national importance.

The hillfort of Membury Castle survives well in a commanding position, taking
advantage of the sites natural defensive qualities. The monument will contain
archaeological information relating to the construction and use of the site as
well as its surrounding landscape.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908), 201
Davidson, J, British and Roman remains near Axminster, (1833)
Fox, A, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon, (1996), 41-42
Hogg, A H A, Hillforts of Britain, (1975), 247
Fox, C, 'Proceedings of the Somerset Arch. and Natural History Society' in , , Vol. 95, (1950), 21-22
Hogg, A H A, 'British Archaeological Reports' in British Hillforts: An Index, , Vol. 62, (1979), 199
Wall, J C, 'A History of the County of Devon (Victoria County History)' in Ancient Earthworks, , Vol. I, (1906), 583

Source: Historic England

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