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Sidbury Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Sidmouth, Devon

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.715 / 50°42'53"N

Longitude: -3.2358 / 3°14'8"W

OS Eastings: 312849.552986

OS Northings: 91319.966839

OS Grid: SY128913

Mapcode National: GBR P8.VFSR

Mapcode Global: FRA 4736.3U2

Entry Name: Sidbury Castle

Scheduled Date: 7 February 1950

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018849

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29658

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Sidmouth

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Sidbury with Sidford

Church of England Diocese: Exeter

Details

The monument includes a prehistoric large univallate hillfort known as Sidbury
Castle occupying a high elevated position on a steep-sided hill at the end of
a Greensand spur just west of the River Sid. It has a defended area of about
4ha with a single elongated passageway entrance to the north west.
The hillfort is aligned approximately north west to south east and takes
the form of a long narrow pear-shaped enclosure with the wider part at the
south east. It is about 500m long with a maximum width of 100m. The defences
include a single rampart, ditch, and counterscarp bank enclosing a flat
interior which falls away only when in proximity to the rampart where a
soil quarry seems likely to have existed. The earth rampart, which is 1.2m
high and nearly vertical on the inside, follows the contours of the hill and
utilises the steep break of slope on all sides; it varies in height between
4.4m and 9.6m on its outer slope. The rampart is fronted by a ditch which is
on average 2.9m wide and 1m deep. This ditch is in turn fronted by a
counterscarp bank of about 1m in height which merges with the natural
hill-side on its outer slope. The narrow elongated entrance is formed by a
twin extension of the ramparts at the north western end producing a bottleneck
passageway some 100m long which has a sunken appearance. A scarped platform
which overlooks the hill-slope to the west would appear to have provided
additional cover for the western approaches to the passageway. At least one
hoard of sling stones has been recovered from the monument in the 19th
century.

Some banking which forms an enclosure within the monument in its south eastern
corner is almost certainly post-medieval in origin and occasional breaks in
the rampart on the eastern and southern sides are considered to be of
comparatively recent date. The depressions caused by two ponds located in the
interior may still be seen; neither pond is thought to be contemporary with
the use of the site as a hillfort and both may be of post-medieval date.

All fencing, fence posts, gates and gate posts are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.

The hillfort of Sidbury Castle survives well in a commanding position with
most of its circuit of defences intact and with an exceptionally well
preserved passageway entrance. It is one of only very few sizeable hillforts
known from west of the River Axe. It will contain archaeological information
relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its
inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Fox, A, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon, (1996), 51-52
Bradley, R, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Stock Raising and the Origins of the Hillfort on the South Downs, , Vol. 51, (1971), 20-21
Hutchinson, P O, 'Transactions of the Devonshire Association' in Hill Fortresses, Slingstones And Other Antiquities in SE Devon, , Vol. 2, (1868), 376
Wall, J C, 'A History of the County of Devon (Victoria County History)' in Ancient Earthworks, , Vol. I, (1906), 587
Other
Fletcher, M J, Ordnance Survey Survey, (1975)

Source: Historic England

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