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Historic England Research Records

Okehampton Roman Fort

Hob Uid: 440810
Location :
Devon
West Devon
Okehampton
Grid Ref : SX5963096000
Summary : A Roman fort and a series of associated enclosures on a hilltop location overlooking the valley of the River Okement to the north west and Okehampton town to the south west. The central feature of the monument is the fort itself, which is a rectangular enclosure with rounded corners. Excavations have confirmed the military origin of the fort and suggested occupation in the period AD 50-80. Surrounding the fort are a series of associated ditched enclosures mainly surviving as buried features.
More information : A Roman fort of the 1st century AD at Okehampton on the north edge of Dartmoor, occupies the saddle of a spur between the river Okement and one of its tributaries, at 183m above sea level. It was noticed on air photographs in 1974 (at SX 59639600 on OS air photographs) and was excavated in 1976 and 1977. The rectangular enclosure has an area of 1.05 ha internally and can be seen on the ground as a low and intermittent scarp bank, the south east corner of which has been built upon. The trench cut in 1977 across the north west defences showed that the fort had a single V-shaped ditch with cleaning slot, up to 3.3m wide and 1.8m deep. The base of a clay rampart 4.5m wide was found to have had a 1.5m wide revetment bank on its inner side, which still survives to a height of 40cm. The inner end of the trench showed that occupation material had accumulated to a depth of 50cm, and exposed the corner of a rubble platform. The occupation material, consistent with the period of military occupation in southwest England circa 50 to 80 AD, included sherds of at least one vessel typical of the local kilns serving the legionary fort at Exeter. (1-3)

A small trial trench 6m long by 1m wide was dug in 1976 across the southeast rampart and the area behind it. Apparently (the section given is ambiguous) a hollow had been cut through the original turfline into the subsoil immediately behind the rampart. Possibly it had then been paved with stones, but certainly it had been filled with a layer of stones and pottery, the only pottery found in the section, to form " a well trodden and remade pathway". Overlying this were two layers; collapsed clay and burnt material from the rampart. The pottery found could not be closely dated, but a mortarium sherd is of first or second century.

The enclosure is not clearly shown on the air photographs. Its corners look too sharp for a Roman fort and nothing could be seen of the eastern entrance shown on Balkwill's map. (4-5)

Further excavation was undertaken to establish the nature of the site more clearly. A trench 14.65m long and 1m wide was extended across the western defences. The ditch was found to be 3.3m wide, 1.75m deep and had a 'V' shaped profile with a cleaning slot. The only find from the ditch was a fragment of a Dr. 37 bowl dated to c 70-85AD. The rampart was just over 6m wide and had been almost completely ploughed away at the front. Other finds from the site included samian, pottery and small tile fragments. The site is only 7km south-west of the fort at North Tawton (SX 69 NE 2). It is suggested that 2 forts so close to each other are unlikely to have been occupied at the same time and that perhaps the fort at Okehampton (with its early Flavian sherd) superseded North Tawton. (6)

Okehampton fort (SX 596960): the fort was shown by aerial survey to have 2 close-set ditches; only one was previously recorded. Immediately south-west a cropmark resembling a fortlet c 50m square was seen. (7)

A rapid examination of air photography (8a) shows the fort, including rampart, double ditches and indications of internal roads and gateways. A note on the air photography was published in 1985 (8b). The fort has been ploughed, but is pasture in 1990. A possible associated road is recorded as SX 59 NE 27, and a possible fortlet is recorded as SX 59 NE 28. (8)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Letter from RJ Silvester 06/04/1977
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Interim Report April 1977 (P Bidwell and RJ Silvester)
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Source Number : 8b
Source : Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings
Source details :
Page(s) : 13
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Vol(s) : 42
Source Number : 9
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : English Heritage Schedule Entry 13/11/1996
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Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Aerial Photographs (OS 71/ 130 May 1971 022-3)
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Source Number : 4
Source : Devon Archaeological Society proceedings
Source details :
Page(s) : 89-92
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Vol(s) : 34, 1976
Source Number : 5
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Aerial Photograph (OS 71/130 030 Exeter Univ Geography Dept No 016/0571 May 1971)
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Source Number : 6
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
Source details :
Page(s) : 255-8
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Vol(s) : 10, 1979
Source Number : 7
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Letter from SS Frere 04/05/1985
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Source Number : 7a
Source : Britannia : a journal of Romano-British and kindred studies
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Vol(s) : 16
Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Andrew Miller 12/01/1996 RCHME: Air Photography Primary Recording Project
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Source Number : 8a
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : National Monuments Record SX 5995/4-5; SX 5996/3-10, 12-17, 24-30, 34-35
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : AD 50-80
Monument End Date : 80
Monument Start Date : 50
Monument Type : Fort, Ditched Enclosure
Evidence : Cropmark, Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Devonshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 2
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DV 1006
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 28620
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SX 59 NE 14
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1035102
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1035099
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, CHICHACOTT LANE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1967-01-01
End Date : 1977-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CHICHACOTT LANE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1976-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: AIR PHOTOGRAPH PRIMARY RECORDING PROJECT 1992-1996
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1996-12-31