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HER Number:MDV14318
Name:Saxon Defences west of Lydford


10th century Saxon burh defenses beneath area of Norman ringwork to the west of Lydford


Grid Reference:SX 508 847
Map Sheet:SX58SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishLydford
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD
Ecclesiastical ParishBRIDESTOWE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX58SW/12/1
  • Old SAM County Ref: 392
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX58SW3

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • DEFENCE WORK (VIII to X - 800 AD to 1000 AD (Between))

Full description

Ancient Monuments, 1956, Lydford Ringwork (Report - Survey). SDV230740.

10th century Saxon burh defenses beneath area of Norman ringwork.

Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G., 1965, Medieval Britain in 1964, 170-1 (Article in Serial). SDV6878.

Interim report included.

Addyman, P. V., 1966, Excavations at Lydford, Devon: 3rd Interim Report (Report - Interim). SDV230763.

The Norman fort appeared to be constructed over the remains of pre-existing town defences at Lydford partly levelled to provide a flat building area. The earlier defencesbelow the fort consist of an earthen bank revetted with granite. Traces of substantial upright squared timbers inserted into rock-cut postholes were inplace before the bank was constructed. The bank was constructed of alternate layers of soil and saplings and branches. The bank was constructed on a foundation of parallel planks laid at right angles to its axis. Although there is no archaeological dating for the defence it is clearly pre-Norman and probably belongs to the 9th century.

Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G., 1966, Medieval Britain in 1965, 168-9 (Article in Serial). SDV230757.

Excavated by Addyman. Partly levelled earthen bank with abrupt front slope and gentle back slope. Front revetted with a granite wall inserted at a later date. Within the bank, traces of substantial upright square timbers, inserted into rock cut post-holes, prior to construction. The bank consisted of turves and saplings laid on a foundation of planks or beams. A timber building at the back of the bank was not excavated.

Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G., 1967, Medieval Britain in 1966, 263 (Article in Serial). SDV6880.

Stone structures behind the bank are also presumably Saxon. Plan.

National Trust, 1984, Lydford Gorge (Report - Survey). SDV336885.

The 11th/12th century earthwork which has been so extensively excavated is now grass-covered and in good condition.

Ancient Monuments, 1989, Lydford; Ringwork, Castle, Town Banks, Site of Saxon Town and Defences (Schedule Document). SDV351489.

Lies within the Scheduled area at Lydford of 'ringwork, castle, town banks, site of Saxon town and defences'.

National Monuments Record, 2013, 440671 (National Heritage List for England). SDV351492.

The Saxon burh of Hlidan, the town now known as Lydford, lies on a wedge-shaped promontory, isolated on the south and west by the deep gorge of the Lyd and on the north-west by a very steep sided tributory valley. Finds uncovered during excavation have included Imported Mediterranean Ware, which may indicate there was an earlier post Roman settlement here. During the reign of Alfred the Great (AD 871-99) it is believed that the town was chosen, on account of its great natural strength, to form a unit in the scheme of national defence. It is claimed that it proved an effective barrier to Danish raiders in AD 997 and subsequently became a populous burh, with a mint which issued silver pennies continuously from the reign of Ethelred II (AD 976-1016) to that of Edward the Confessor (AD 1042-1066). After AD 1066, a Norman fort, remaining as earthworks, was built within the town boundaries followed by a late 12th century prison or keep. Lydford subsequently became significant as a centre for justice and administration of the Forest of Dartmoor and the Stannaries. However it declined in commercial terms after the 14th century before seeing a revival in the 19th century. The location of the town on a promontory meant that it required little artificial fortification except for the north-east sector. At this position there still remains a large curvilinear earthwork rampart, separating the original settlement off from the flatter land to the north-east. The rampart is in two sections with a 25 metre gap in the centre, which is thought to be the original entrance to the settlement, though it would have been much narrower in earlier times. There may well have been an external ditch to the rampart. The interior of the buhr contains evidence of street layouts and property boundaries, which are believed to go back to Saxon times. The pottery found during excavations also included some late Saxon wares. The site is in the care of English Heritage

Sources / Further Reading

SDV230740Report - Survey: Ancient Monuments. 1956. Lydford Ringwork.
SDV230757Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G.. 1966. Medieval Britain in 1965. Medieval Archaeology. 10. Digital. 168-9.
SDV230763Report - Interim: Addyman, P. V.. 1966. Excavations at Lydford, Devon: 3rd Interim Report. Digital. [Mapped feature: #5726 ]
SDV336885Report - Survey: National Trust. 1984. Lydford Gorge. National Trust Archaeological Survey Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351489Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1989. Lydford; Ringwork, Castle, Town Banks, Site of Saxon Town and Defences. The Schedule of Monuments.
SDV351492National Heritage List for England: National Monuments Record. 2013. 440671. Website.
SDV6878Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G.. 1965. Medieval Britain in 1964. Medieval Archaeology. 9. Digital. 170-1.
SDV6880Article in Serial: Wilson, D. M. + Hurst, D. G.. 1967. Medieval Britain in 1966. Medieval Archaeology. 11. Digital. 263.

Associated Monuments

MDV14322Related to: Hut to west of St Petrock's Church in Lydford (Monument)
MDV14317Related to: Ringwork to west of Lydford (Monument)
MDV14321Related to: Saxon Burh at Lydford (Monument)
MDV14316Related to: Saxon features at Lydford Castle (Monument)
MDV3179Related to: Saxon Mint at Lydford (Monument)
MDV14323Related to: Saxon Settlement at Lydford (Monument)
MDV14319Related to: Section of Defensive Bank at Lydford (Monument)
MDV3242Related to: Town Defences to north and east of Lydford (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6171 - Archaeological Assessment of Proposed Sewage Treatment Works at Lydford (Ref: 08.31)

Date Last Edited:Mar 2 2021 9:27AM