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Name:Berry Castle, Luccombe
ENPHER Monument Number:MSO7896
Type of Record:Monument
Grid Reference:SS 8591 4496
Parish:LUCCOMBE, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET
PORLOCK, WEST SOMERSET, SOMERSET

Summary

Berry Castle is a late Iron Age or early Romano-British rectangular hill-slope enclosure at the top of Honbush Wood, visible as a series of earthworks.

Monument Types

Description

[SS 85924495] Berry Castle (NAT) Camp (NR). (1)

Berry Castle, situated on the slope of a steep and narrow headland at the top of Honbush Wood, is a rectangular enclosure about 40 yards square cut off from the mainland to the south-west by a ditch which is continued at right-angles round the sides of the camp. (2)

A small promontory camp artificially fortified on the west but without any stone bank on the east, owing to the very steep slope on the ground. (3)

Univallate hill-fort of under 3 acres. (4)

An unfinished encampment in a wood 1.5 miles south-west of Porlock is said to have been thrown up in 1052 when Porlock was invaded by Harold, Godwin's son. The entrance is on the south and the upper north trenches are very deep. `Swords and other instruments of war have been found in its area'. [Savage's `south' is actually north-east, his `north' south-west.] (5)

A strong bank and ditch forms three sides of a square on a north-east facing slope. There is no indication that the north-east side which must have contained the entrance, was ever closed by an earthwork. The gap in the south-west side has been caused by the construction of the modern boundary bank. The south-west half of the interior appears to have been levelled as if for a habitation or building site. It is not a hill-fort, but could be an Iron Age hill-slope enclosure although its angularity is unusual. Savage's report is only of face value, yet its situation size and plan suggest the possibility of a medieval origin e.g. a farmstead or hunting lodge. Surveyed at 1/2500. (6)

Higher up the spur, 380 feet south-west of the main earthwork, is a much slighter crossbank, a rampart and ditch running 80 feet north-west form the parish boundary hedgebank. This is presumably a similar outwork to those occurring at other Somerset/Devon hill forts. (7)

Berry Castle, an enclosure probably Iron Age in date, is situated in wood and overgrown with trees and scrub. A single bank and ditch on the north-west and south sides peters out on the steep slope and the east side is undefended. On the south-east side a second outer bank and ditch has been added for a short stretch. The banks are both about 4-5 feet high on the inside and 8-10 feet high from the ditch bottom, and all the banks and ditches are about 21 feet across. The enclosure makes little sense militarily, as it is overlooked by higher ground on the west side which is not strongly defended. (8)

SS 859449, Berry Camp, three sides of a rectangular enclosure, perhaps unfinished, with an outer crossbank 115 netres up the ridge to the south-west. "The earthworks are quite massive and the Ordnance Survey's interpretation of the site as a medieval hunting lodge enclosure (see source 6) seems improbable". There is no sign of an entrance, although its position may have been obscured by the massive field wall, forming the parish boundary, which bisects the site. (9)

Berry Castle is a typical Iron Age hillslope enclosure of massive proportions. An outwork lies 140 paces up the slope above it, the ditch of which was waterlogged when visited by Grinsell 31st May 1969. Savage's statement (source 5) on the discovery of weapons "is of doubtful value". (10)

(SS 85924495) Berry Castle (NAT) Easrthwork (NR) (sic). (11)

Additional Bibliography. (12, 13, 14, 15).

Berry Castle, at SS 8592 4495, is situated on a shelf part way down a steep 1 in 5 slope which runs for some 400 metres between two coombes 250 metres apart in a roughlysouth-west to north-east direction, i.e. from high ground in the south west. The shelf is barely 70 metres wide and extends for about 60 metres to the north east as a 1 in 15 slope before reverting to 1 in 5. It is now in an area of old oak coppice. Facing the steep upward slope to the south west is a massive bank 35 metres long with an outer ditch and a central gap of 7 metres at which point it is traversed by a parish boundary bank which effectively bisects the earthwork. To the south east of this bank the rampart is about 7 metres wide, and 1.7 metres high internally; the ditch is 6 metres wide and 2 metres deep, with a flat bottom 2 metres wide. To the north east side of the parish boundary bank there is the central gap and rampart and ditch of similar width but much weaker, the bank averaging only 0.6 metres high and the ditch 1.1 metres deep. At each end, the earthwork makes a right angled turn to the north east, that on the northern side ending after 30 metres, and that on the southern side ending after 10 metres. Thus, most of the south side and all of the north east defence is provided only by natural slopes. The ramparts seem to be constructed solely of earth and shillet with no signs of revetting. The 7 metres gap probably incorporated the original entrance. Whybrow(7) suggests that it was of overlapping type but it is difficult to see any evidence for this. For 3 metres the ditch has been infilled with stone rubble to form a causeway which has also been used as a basis for the boundary bank, resting on the southern side though a bump in the bank indicates that the rampart at least went as far as this. The interior of the enclosure shows no signs of structures or platforms but there is the impression of levelling near the south west side as noted by Palmer (6). In general the enclosure can be placed in the Iron Age/Romano-British hillslope category. The outwork, first noted by Whybrow, is at SS 8575 4484, 150 metres to the south west up the slope, and 7 metres from the north side of the parish bank. It extends for 25 metres at an angle of 45 degrees to the hillslope, as a weak ditch and bank. The rushy flat-bottomed ditch is 4.5 metres wide and 0.6 metres deep, the bank on the lower side is of similar width, barely 0.2 metres above the ditch but 1 metre high on the north where material is spread down the slope. Whybrow's plan shows it at right angles to the slope, with a short continuation south of the parish boundary bank. There is, however, no trace of this or of any dip or bump on the hedgerow to suggest a former continuation. The outwork may be associated with the enclosure but does little to augment the defence of a settlement, secluded and already difficult of access. It is arguable as to whether either or both are unfinished. (16)

Generally as described by source (16). The site was surveyed at 1:1000 scale in April 1997, as part of the RCHME Exmoor Project. A full report, plan and land use/management overlay have been deposited in the NMR. The only significant addition is that the outwork continues further southwards than originally thought, covering a length of some 105 metres. (17)

Three sides of an rectangular enclosure with high steep banks and a deep outer ditch which on the south and south sides is up to 2 metres deep. A stone faced, beech topped boundary bank runs through the centre of the site marking the parish boundary. Probably medieval. (24)

Short length of ditch seen on aerial photographs to south of the camp. (25)

The site lies astride the Porlock-Luccombe boundary wall which runs south-west to north-east. The enclosure is 35 metres in diameter with a single bank and ditch which peters out on the steep east side. The banks and ditches are circa 6 metres across. The Outwork just over 100 metres on slope to the west, with marked banking and ditches running north-west to south-east. (27)

The Scheduled Monument Condition Survey of 2009 records the enclosure as in poor condition and at high risk due to severe damage by bracken. (29)

Vegetation clearance was undertaken as part of the 2007/8 monument management scheme, however further clearance work was necessary under the 2008/9 scheme. (30)

Sources and Further Reading

[1]SEM7220 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map. 1:10560.
[2]SMO5358 - Monograph: Page, W. (editor). 1911. The Victoria History of the County of Somerset. Archibald Constable and Company, Limited (London). 2. Bothamley, C. H. Vol . 2; P. 479.
[3]SSO1204 - Article in serial: Gray, H.St.G. 1928. The Porlock stone circle, Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 74. P. 73.
[4]SMO5622 - Monograph: Ordnance Survey. 1962. Ordnance Survey Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age. Ordnance Survey. P. 45.
[5]SSO1909 - Monograph: Savage, J.. 1830. A History of the Hundred of Carhampton. P. 91-92.
[6]SMO5103 - Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comments. F1 Palmer, J. W. 24/06/1965.
[7]SSO2097 - Article in serial: Whybrow, C. 1967. Some multivallate hillforts on Exmoor and in North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploratio. 25. P. 9-11.
[8]SMO4073 - Scheduling record: Scheduled Monument Notification . DOE (IAM) Record Form 24/01/1977.
[9]SSO825 - Article in serial: Burrow, I.. 1981. Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in the First to Eighth Centuries AD. British Archaeological Reports. 91. P. 261.
[10]SMO4578 - Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. P. 79 and 85.
[11]SSO1444 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. 1:10,000 SS84SE.
[12]SSO1046 - Monograph: Dobson, D.P.. 1931. The Archaeology of Somerset. P. 206.
[13]SSO820 - Monograph: Burrow, E.J.. 1924. Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset. P. 62.
[14]SSO742 - Article in serial: Aston, M. 1983. Deserted Farms on Exmoor and the Lay subsidy of 1327 in West Somerset. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 127. P. 98.
[15]SMO5064 - Monograph: Allcroft, A.H.. 1908. Earthwork of England: Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, and Mediaeval. Macmillan (London). P. 207.
[16]SMO5111 - Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. F2 Quinell, N. V. 31/07/1987.
[17]SMO5111 - Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. Wilson-North, R. & Riley, H. 23/04/1997.
[18]SMO5722 - Survey: Berry Castle/ink survey . 1:1000. General: Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
[19]SMO6274 - Collection: RCHME: Exmoor Pilot Survey, SS 84 SE, Somerset.
[20]SMO5723 - Report: Wilson-North, R.. 1997. Berry Castle, Porlock, Somerset.
[21]SEM7155 - Monograph: Usmar, J.. 1990. Stoke Pero, Exmoor: Church and Parish. P. 3.
[22]SMO5439 - Survey: Quinnell, N.. Berry Castle Survey. 1:2500. General: Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
[23]SMO1174 - Photograph: PLAN OF BERRY CASTLE AT PORLOCK. OS63/F374/1. B/W.
[24]SSO522 - Unassigned: SMR file 33931.
[25]SSO708 - Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 8544.
[26]SSO270 - Aerial Photograph: September 19. HSL.UK.71-178 Run 85. 9335.
[27]SSO1247 - Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. Field Monument Warden Report.
[28]SMO5711 - Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. P. 276.
[29]SEM7744 - Report: Bray, L.S.. 2009. Final Results Table: Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment.
[30]SEM7897 - Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. P. 8.

Other References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11536
  • Monarch UID: 35939
  • National Monuments Record: SS 84 SE3
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust Land
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR (Somerset): 33931
Date Last Edited:Jun