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Historic England Research Records

Wooston Castle

Hob Uid: 445354
Location :
Devon
Teignbridge
Moretonhampstead
Grid Ref : SX7653089690
Summary : Earthwork remains of an Iron Age hillfort.
More information : SX 765 896 Wooston Castle (NAT) Camp (NR). (1)

Class IV. Multivallate forts with wide-spaced lines of defence
on promontory sites.

Wooston Castle on the south bank of the Teign near
Moretonhampstead, Devon, is a structure that resembles the
hill-slope forts in certain ways, yet its peculiar plan and
situation demand it be assigned to a separate category. The
whole fort lies on sloping ground between Mardon Down and the
edge of a precipitous fall to the river, running in a wooded
gorge, 250 ft below. Thus, whilst the inner zone has good
natural defences on the north, the fort as a whole is at a
disadvantage in relation to the plateau.

The innermost zone is probably a complete enclosure 1 on the
end of the bluff jutting into the gorge. The second enclosure
is defined by a bank and ditch, stronger than the inner one,
drawn across the neck and with its ends resting on the steep
scarps in the manner of a promontory fort; the western end has
been extended by a slighter bank along the edge of a re-entrant
in the gorge as far as the spring head. Two more outer zones
are indicated by short lengths of earthwork aligned long the
contour, 100 to 200 ft higher up the hillside: these may have
been extended by palisades, as has been conjectured at Milber
or Llanmadog.

The whole fort is entered steeply downhill through simple gaps
in the two outer lines of ramparts. The way between the second
and third lines is a remarkable hollow-way which winds downhill
in an S curve, deepening as it goes. The entry to the second
enclosure has a characteristic knobbled rampart end on the west
side and a well marked inturn on the east. The entry to the
inner most zone is again a simple gap.

Dated to 2nd-1st century BC by comparison with similar
earthworks which have been excavated.

1 The plantation here was too thick to penetrate in March
1949-50, and trace the eastern side. (2)

Wooston Castle occupies a mature conifer plantation on a steep
north facing spur. It comprises a defensive enclosure
approached through a series of outworks which extend for up to
200m. across the spur from East to West. From South to North
the whole complex covers some 500m., descending from 210m. to
140m. O.D. in the process. At the northern extremity the
defences lie within 50m. of a precipitous drop to the river
Teign.

General comments.
(See annotated 1:2500 survey for numbers and letters in text).

(1.) SX 76708932. The initial approach is demarcated by an
apparently unfinished outwork of cross bank type 150m. long, of
which the western half is a well developed bank and ditch and
the eastern half poorly defined scarps. It is possible that a
central entrance was intended. A detached length of weak bank
and ditch (A), 20m. from the west end, has no obvious purpose
but might represent a fragment of hollow way. To the north the
ground appears undisturbed but the profile of the modern hedge
bank suggests it extended into the field to the west.

(2.) SX 76668941. A bank and ditch, 65m. long, has a central
causewayed entrance to the main approach hollow way. The
western part of the work is strong and sharply defined; the
eastern half fades into the natural ground level as it
approaches the modern road.

(3.) SX 76678946. The main hollow way, 150m. long, takes a
necessarily sinuous course down a steep slope and through a
cross bank (4) qv. It averages 2m. deep and is sharply cut with
a flat bottom 2m. to 3m. wide at its commencement and becomes
progressively more 'V' shaped as it descends. Upcast spread to
each side accounts for about only half the volume of earth and
shale removed.

(4.) SX 76598952. The third outwork, of strong proportions, is
220m. long with well defined terminals resting upon steep
slopes at a constriction of the spur. Near the centre are two
gaps (B) and (C); both are utilized by modern tracks but,
judging by the appearance of the intermediate rampart seem to
be original features. (B) At the west end of this rampart its
ditch fades to natural ground (ie track) level. The bank has an
unmutilated rounded end and is much higher than the rampart to
the west side of the entrance.

This rampart has recently been cut back to afford vehicular
access, but its deep ditch maintains a sharply cut end. There
is no evidence of any infilling to form the present trackway.

(C) The ditch of the intermediate rampart at the eastern gap is
deep and precisely ended to accommodate the hollow way,
although all traces of its passage through the outwork have
been obliterated by a raised track and modern hedge bank.

(D) SX 76598955. To the west of the cross bank Lady Fox's plan
shows an extension by way of a weaker bank. This runs down the
steep slope and although substantial appears to be a modern
boundary as its narrow well cut ditch impinges upon the
prehistoric rampart ditch; additional scarping on the northwest
side has resulted in a terrace at the base of the boundary.

(E) SX 76598955. Between the cross bank (4) and the enclosure
(5) there is a broad, relatively low bank, with traces of a
ditch on its west side. This earthwork might represent a
continuation of the hollow way except that its northern end
rests on the enclosure ditch immediately east of the entrance.

(5.) SX 76508957. The interior of the main Wooston Castle
enclosure is fairly flat from east to west. It occupies 2.2ha.
at the spur end, with, beyond it to the north, a small
triangular area of dead ground.

A weak bank and ditch delineates the west side of the enclosure
continuing around the north as a scarp and ditch; on the east
it survives merely as a scarp with an outer terrace. The
southern side becomes progressively stronger as it approaches
the original entrance, the gap of which has been mutilated by
the construction of a modern bank. To the east of the entrance
both rampart and ditch have been enlarged to massive
proportion, similar to the cross bank (4), and extended to
reach the steep natural slope. This extension is 50m. beyond
what was apparently the original south-east corner. (F) (SX
76608963). Here the use of gang or section construction is
clear as the enlarged defence work meets in an incomplete state
at (F), upon two slightly different alignments.

Conclusion:-

The initial phase of development of Wooston Castle appears to
have been the main enclosure and probably the hollow way (3),
and versions of the outworks (2) and (4), all of which have
traces of secondary work.

Bank and ditch (1) is clearly unfinished. It was presumably
intended as an addition to the outwork area, with possibly an
extension to the hollow way, and is indicative of a last phase.
The small outwork (2) has no obvious defensive potential since
it crosses barely one quarter of the spur, and yet its angle,
relative to the hollow way, provides a poor form of funnel
entrance for animals. Near its west end the bank appears to have
been re-furbished.

The hollow way appears to have been partly re-cut or cleaned
out since along its western edge an additional material
overlies the earlier upcast and the inner face of cross bank
(2) at its entrance. For practical purposes the hollow way now
ceases at the cross bank (4).

Cross bank (4) is curious in having a simple entrance very near
that for the hollow way, both apparently initial conceptions.
Both rampart and ditch exhibit dump construction and although
the western extremity stops some 15m. short of the crest of the
ridge the overall coverage is exceptionally good.

The entrance gap of the enclosure appears to be original but if
the hollow way formerly entered the enclosure here it must have
been adjacent and curtailed at the time of the re-building.

Surveyed at 1:2500 on M.S.D.

Enlargement survey at 1:1250 with profiles. (3)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1964
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Arch J 109 1952 6 15 plan (A Fox)
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 NJA 15-DEC-81
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number :
Source : Wooston Castle/Antiquity Model
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Iron Age
Display Date : Iron Age
Monument End Date : 43
Monument Start Date : -800
Monument Type : Hillfort
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DV 265
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SX 78 NE 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SX 78 NE 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1981-12-15
End Date : 1981-12-15
Associated Activities : Primary, WOOSTON CASTLE HILLFORT
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2017-01-01
End Date : 2017-12-31