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HER Number:MDV112692
Name:Causewayed Enclosure at Hembury Fort


A series of characteristic interrupted ditches, typical of Neolithic causewayed enclosures was found across the southern part of the hilltop during excavations in the 1930s.


Grid Reference:ST 112 030
Map Sheet:ST10SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishPayhembury
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishPAYHEMBURY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CAUSEWAYED ENCLOSURE (Constructed, Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2201 BC (Between))
  • HENGE? (Constructed, Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2201 BC (Between))

Full description

Liddell, D. M., 1935, Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort, 161 (Article in Serial). SDV338838.

The southern portion of the hillfort was 'fortified' during the Neolithic period with a characteristic interrupted ditch of which eight sections with the intervening causeways were located. The ditches, which are steep sided and flat bottomed average 12 feet wide and 6 to 7 feet deep and vary in length from 25 to 56 feet.

Todd, M., 1984, Excavations at Hembury (Devon) 1980-3; A Summary Report (Article in Serial). SDV135872.

Mercer, R., 1989, The Earliest Defences in Western Europe. Part 1: Warfare in the Neolithic, 21-22 (Article in Serial). SDV135882.

Griffith, F.M. + Quinnell, H. + Wilkes, E, 2013, Hillforts of Devon, 22-24 (Monograph). SDV352457.

Excavations in the 1930s showed that the fort had been built over an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure. The inner line of the causewayed enclosure comprised at least eight ditch segments across the hillfort. There was also an outer line of ditches running north to south outside the north-east fort entrance. Excavations uncovered a possible house just outside the inner rampart by the west entrance and an extensive area of pits and hearths at the southern end of the hillfort. Early Neolithic finds have included more than 15 complete or partial greenstone axes and over 130 leaf arrowheads. Some 10 per cent of the pottery sherds found are Cornish gabbroic but much is local from west of Exeter. As yet no finds have been identified for the period between the Early Neolithic and the Iron Age. Calibrated radiocarbon dates of 3690-3655BC and 3630-3605 have been calculated for the construction of the inner and outer ditch lines. However, dates of 840-780BC and 790-410BC from a hearth within the possible house have now thrown doubts on its interpretation as a structure.
See guide booklet for further information.

Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M., 2016, Hembury, Payhembury Fort, Devon: Geophysical Survey (Report - Geophysical Survey). SDV360861.

A sample survey to explore the potential of two geophysical survey techniques at Hembury Fort was conducted by this team in May 2015. This confirmed the usefulness of both magnetic gradiometry and earth resistance techniques within the hillfort. Vegetation clearance at the time of that survey had opened up some areas of the interior for survey, but much of it, particularly in the southern half of the site, remained inaccessible. A further survey was undertaken in 2016 when conditions were more favourable.
Intersecting with anomalies G and G1, anomaly X shows the curving line of the Neolithic causewayed ditch excavated by Liddell (1930). Her trenches excavated the line of the ditch in several places and account for the disturbed responses at X1 and X2. The phasing of the relationship between G and X cannot be determined by geophysical survey, but Liddell's excavations revealed that the feature of anomaly X is a Neolithic causewayed ditch (Liddell 1935), and the feature of anomaly G was described by Todd as post‐medieval (Todd 2002).The parallel positioning of anomalies X and H, c. 30m apart, is striking and may both represent ditches associated with the Neolithic occupation of Hembury, although whether these might be contemporary or successive cannot be determined by geophysical survey.

Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R., 2016-2018, The Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV359463.

A broad but shallow curvilinear ditch was clearly visible as an earthwork on digital images derived from lidar data captured between 1998 and 2014, within the enclosed area of Hembury Fort, approximately 120 metres from the southern tip of the enclosure. The earthwork was between circa 30 to 50 metres to the south of the known location of the excavated interrupted ditches of the Neolithic causewayed enclosure (see MDV121063). Although not precisely on the same alignment and more continuous than the interrupted ditches, the visible ditch is tentatively interpreted as an inner circuit of the causewayed enclosure. Alternatively, it may be evidence of a separate phase of activity, such as a possible henge enclosure. A similar association has been recorded within the causewayed enclosure at Dallington, Northamptonshire. The ditch might also be visible as a slight earthwork on aerial photographs of 1970.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV135872Article in Serial: Todd, M.. 1984. Excavations at Hembury (Devon) 1980-3; A Summary Report. Antiquaries Journal. 64. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV135882Article in Serial: Mercer, R.. 1989. The Earliest Defences in Western Europe. Part 1: Warfare in the Neolithic. Fortress. 2. Photocopy + Digital. 21-22.
SDV338838Article in Serial: Liddell, D. M.. 1935. Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society. II: Part 3. A5 Paperback. 161. [Mapped feature: #111990 ]
SDV352457Monograph: Griffith, F.M. + Quinnell, H. + Wilkes, E. 2013. Hillforts of Devon. Hillforts of Devon. A4 Stapled + Digital. 22-24.
SDV359463Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R.. 2016-2018. The Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme Project. Historic England Research Report. Digital.
Linked documents:2
SDV360861Report - Geophysical Survey: Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M.. 2016. Hembury, Payhembury Fort, Devon: Geophysical Survey. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV1853Part of: Hembury Hillfort, Payhembury (Monument)
MDV5327Related to: Hembury Fort Neolithic Settlement (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6794 - Excavations at Hembury Fort
  • EDV7508 - The Blackdown Hills AONB and East Devon River Catchments National Mapping Programme (NMP) project (Ref: ACD1228)
  • EDV7504 - Geophysical Survey; Hembury, Payhembury Fort, Devon

Date Last Edited:Jan 15 2020 2:12PM