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HER Number:MDV14326
Name:Okehampton Castle

Summary

Okehampton Castle was built by Baldwin, Sherrif of Devon, soon after the Norman Conquest and is recorded in Domesday Book. It was largely rebuilt and extended in the early 14th century. The fortifications were dismantled following the execution of Henry Courtenay, Lord of the Manor, in 1539. Nevertheless substantial structural remains dating to the early 14th century survive. The site is both a listed building and a scheduled monument.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 583 942
Map Sheet:SX59SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishOkehampton Hamlets
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishOKEHAMPTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX59SE/7
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I)
  • Old SAM County Ref: 21
  • Old SAM Ref: 21705

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CASTLE (XI to Post Medieval - 1001 AD to 1750 AD (Between))

Full description

Swete, R. J. (Revd), 564M/1/70,74 (Record Office Collection). SDV233101.

Illustrations of castle by Swete. Other details: Illustrations.


NMR, SX5894 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233109.


Anonymous, 1868, Untitled Source, 107 (Article in Serial). SDV233125.


Worth, R. N., 1895, Okehampton Castle, 124 (Article in Serial). SDV233108.

Description by Worth is abstracted in the parish file.


Swete, R. J. (Revd), 1901-1902, A Tour across Dartmoor into North Devon by the Rev. John Swete 1789, 121-6 (Article in Serial). SDV233095.

The castle is described in an 18C article.


Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 619-20 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

Other details: Plan.


Oldham, D. W., 1906, The Private Chapels of Devon: Ancient and Modern, 397 (Article in Serial). SDV7299.

In 1381 a licence was granted for a private chapel at Okehampton. The author speculates that this may have been attached to Okehampton Castle.


Ancient Monuments, 1922, Untitled Source (Schedule Document). SDV233097.

Okehampton Castle Described.


Young, E. H., 1931, Okehampton (Article in Serial). SDV233137.


Anonymous, 1937, Proceedings of the 76th annual meeting, 23-4 (Article in Serial). SDV256417.


Department of Environment, 1960, Okehampton RD, 22 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV275388.

Castle. The oldest fabric dates from the 11C with some evidence of 13C, much rebuilt and extended in early 14C. Constructed of a mixture of granite, metamorphic rocks and shale. See DoE list for full details.


Donn, B., 1965, A Map of the County of Devon, 1765 (Reprint) (Monograph). SDV336413.

Shown on Donn's map of 1765.


Copeland, G. W., 1966, Untitled Source, 27 (Article in Serial). SDV61273.

Description by Copeland is abstracted in the parish file. Plan available in parish file.


English Heritage, 1969, Okehampton Castle, 1-7 (Report - Survey). SDV233131.

Other details: Plan.


Higham, R. A., 1973, Interim Report, 161 (Article in Serial). SDV233072.


Higham, R. A., 1974, Interim Report, 195 (Article in Serial). SDV233073.


Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1974, SX59SE5 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV233098.

Nothing to add. Other details: Plan.


Higham, R. A., 1975, Interim Report, 239 (Article in Serial). SDV233074.


Higham, R. A., 1976, Interim Report, 184 (Article in Serial). SDV233115.


Timms, S. C., 1976, The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft, 155, 157, 159 (Report - Survey). SDV341346.

The castle stands in isolation above the West Okement River. It was built by Baldwin, Sherrif of Devon, soon after the Norman Conquest and it is recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The fortifications were dismantled following the execution of Henry Courtenay, Lord of the Manor, in 1539. Nevertheless substantial structural remains dating to the early 14th century survive.


Higham, R. A., 1977, Excavations at Okehampton Castle, 3-42 (Article in Serial). SDV233066.

Okehampton Castle:- a motte with bailey of elongated form to the northeast, and earthworks to the southwest. The keep on the motte is an irregular rectangular structure of 2 storeys (continuing to 3 storeys in the northeast angle) with a dividing wall along its short axis. The two upper rooms have identical arrangements of garderobe, window and fireplace. The stonework is a mixture of granite, metamorphic rocks and shale, with some aplite used for dressed stone. The walls are c2m thick with small window openings. The bailey has 2 ranges of buildings flanking an irregular open space. South range: from west to east: a single lodging (rebuilt 17C), chapel, and series of lodgings. North range: from west to east: a kitchen block, and great hall with chamber block. The ranges meet at the gate house, from which a barbican passage leads to an outer gatehouse. A short stretch of curtain wall survives outside the kitchen block. The west end of the south curtain is built into the south range. Bailey buildings are mainly of shale with aplite dressings.
History: the castle was founded between 1068 and 1086 when it was recorded in the Domesday book under Sheriff Baldwin's demesne of Okehampton. Part of the keep dates to this period. The Courtenays acquired the Barony of Okehampton in the early 13C, and they were responsible for the predominantly late 13C/early 14C architecture to be seen. Robbing and decay seems to have occurred almost continuously since 1538 (the fall of the Marquis of Exeter and Courtenay family from favour, and acquisition by the crown), although the gatehouse and other structures were reoccupied in the late 17C. Other details: Plan.


Higham, R. A., 1977, Interim Report, 234 (Article in Serial). SDV233116.


Greeves, T. A. P., 1978, Archaeological Sites within Okehampton Park and its Vicinity (Monograph). SDV233126.

Other details: No A1.


Higham, R. A., 1978, Untitled Source, 156 (Article in Serial). SDV233117.

Other details: Plan.


Higham, R. A. + Allan, J. P., 1980, Excavations at Okehampton Castle: preliminary report on the bailey, 49-51 (Article in Serial). SDV233111.

The final interim report summarises the development and history of the castle:- the motte is considered to be a primary feature of 1068-1086, the enclosure to its west perhaps being an early bailey. Present bailey occupied by 12th century. The motte ditch was filled in by the end of the 13th century. The whole site was rebuilt in the early 14th century by Hugh Courtenay, and additional lodgings provided in the bailey in the later middle ages. Finds from excavation do not reflect the high level of social life illustrated by the architecture. Excavations in 1972-1981. Reports in Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society from 1973-1980.


Morley, B. M., 1981, Aspects of fourteenth-century castle design, 104-13 (Article in Monograph). SDV233136.


Higham, R. A. + Allan, J. P., 1981, Untitled Source (Article in Serial). SDV233124.


Higham, R. A., 1982, Dating in Medieval Archaeology: problems and possibilities, 83-107 (Article in Monograph). SDV233099.

Dating discussed.


Higham, R. A. + Allan, J. P. + Blaylock, S. R., 1982, Excavations at Okehampton Castle, Devon: Pt 2: the bailey, 19-151 (Article in Serial). SDV233077.

Other details: Plans.


DCC, 1982, Photo/538/20 (Photograph). SDV233121.


Griffith, F. M., 1984, DAP/AP, 12 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233130.


Griffith, F. M., 1984, DAP/CV, 6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233132.


Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/GI, 28-30 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233142.


Thompson, M. W., 1986, Unknown, 305-21 (Article in Serial). SDV233104.

Thompson links the presence of the castle to the founding of the 12th century Priory at Brightley (see PRN 5032). Other details: Table 2.


Department of Environment, 1987, Okehampton Hamlets, 68 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV233134.


Higham, R. A., 1988, Devon Castles: An Annotated List, 143 (Article in Serial). SDV341278.


Griffith, F. M., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 76 (Monograph). SDV64198.

Okehampton Castle, is in fact the only Devon castle specifically mentioned in Domesday book in 1086.


Higham, R. A., 1989, A knight to remember: the building enterprises of Hugh Courtenay(1276-1340)., 154 (Article in Serial). SDV233186.


Griffith, F. M., 1991, DAP/UP, 8-15 (Aerial Photograph). SDV233144.


Higham, R. A. + Freeman, J. P., 1996, Devon Castles (Draft Text), 2, 3, 4-5, 7, 8, 10, 11-14, gazetteer (Monograph). SDV354350.

Situated on a spur overlooking a ford on the West Okement river the castle occupies a strategic position on the north-western edge of Dartmoor. The castle is first documented in the Domesday Book and was probably, therefore, constructed soon after the arrival of the Normans in Devon in 1068. This early castle consisted of an almost square stone tower on top of a large motte sculpted from the end of a natural shale spur and further raised by material quarried from adjacent ditches. It probably also included the portion of the spur cut off by a bank and ditch to the south-west, on the opposite side of the motte from the later castle bailey.
The castle became the centre of the Courtenay estate in the late 12th century and it was substantially rebuilt by Hugh Courtenay II in the early 14th century. The evolution of the castle from the 11th to 14th centuries is considered to be of national importance. The castle provides a good example of medieval domestic planning with a combination of a traditional hall range with more innovative individual lodgings, the latter being one of the earliest examples in England.


English Heritage, 1997, January-June 1997, 66 (Report - non-specific). SDV233105.

Wall painting condition audit - includes wall painting record, general audit information, documentation of original materials and execution of the painting, deterioration and damage including previously used materials and treatment, as well as proposals for treatment and monitoring strategies.


Gaimster, M. + Bradley, J. + Beaumonth James, T., 2000, Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1999, 259-260 (Article in Serial). SDV361738.


Probert, S. A. J., 2004, Okehampton Castle and Park, West Devon: Survey Report (Report - Survey). SDV324949.

The English Heritage survey plan shows the keep built in the late 11C, most of the ancillary buildings added in the early 14C & a few added in the later 17C. Other details: Plan.


Higham, R. A., 2010, Castle Studies in Transition: A Forty Year Reflection, 1 - 13 (Article in Serial). SDV361505.


Historic England, 2015, National Heritage List for England, 1007812 (National Heritage List for England). SDV358087.

Okehampton Castle: a motte and bailey castle with associated earthworks north of the West Okement River.
Reasons for Designation: Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.
Details: Okehampton Castle is situated in a bend of, and to the north of, the West Okement River, about 500m south-west of the town of Okehampton. The site commands the valley through which the road from Devon into Cornwall ran, prior to the construction of the later road cut higher up the valley side to the north. The original castle was of motte and bailey construction and was built by 1086 AD, when it was recorded in the Domesday book as belonging to Sheriff Baldwin. The castle includes a large mound, the motte, on which is situated the keep. Part of this keep is believed to have been built by Sheriff Baldwin and is the oldest of the stone structures surviving. The 11th century keep was square but was added to in the 14th century to create a rectangular building which survives as a ruined structure three storeys high. The motte on which it sits has a summit of c.25m by 30m in diameter while at its widest point the base is over 60m across. The motte is partly made up of the natural spur of land on which the castle sits and partly of artificially built-up deposits giving it a height of about 8m. To the north-east of the motte is the main bailey of the castle, which contained buildings essential to the housing and feeding of the castle's occupants. The surviving buildings are mostly of 14th century date and many of the original buildings in the bailey would have been demolished to make way for them. The bailey buildings provided shelter for the inhabitants of the castle, store rooms and activity areas including domestic rooms, a great hall, stables, a chapel and kitchens. The defence was provided by curtain walls along the north and south sides of the bailey while a double gatehouse connected by a corridor provided a formidable entrance to the castle at the north-eastern end. Recent research suggests that the curtain walls follow the line of the earlier bailey defence and are probably of late 12th century date. To the west of the quarry ditch which surrounds the motte there is a spur on which an earthwork survives running roughly north-south before turning east along the top of the steep slope overlooking the West Okement River. This earthwork is probably the boundary of an earlier bailey than the one to the east and its construction is similar to that of the motte, both being built of quarried shale and soil. The castle site also contains further ruins to the north-west of the motte, within a compound north of the stream which runs through the site. These survive as a number of dispersed stretches of wall c.0.75m wide and varying from less than 1m to several metres long. These visible remains appear to be part of further buildings buried below the surface. The stream runs into the West Okement River north-east of the castle and is abutted by a number of slight earthworks which are thought to represent an additional defence on the northern side of the castle and a number of later structures built after the castle went out of use. Okehampton is the only castle in Devon mentioned in the Domesday book and was later acquired by the Courtenays who were responsible for the majority of the stone buildings which survive today. Excluded from the scheduling are the steps set into the side of the motte, the compound north of the stream and the custodian's hut, although the ground beneath all of these features is included in the scheduling.


Historic England, 2015, National Heritage List for England, 1165647 (National Heritage List for England). SDV358087.

Okehampton Castle. Castle. The oldest fabric dates from the C11 with some evidence of C13, much rebuilt and extended in early C14. Constructed of a mixture of granite, metamorphic rocks and shale. The earliest structure is the C11 keep standing on its motte, there is some evidence of C13 buildings in the main bailey but most of the surviving structure dates from an early C14 rebuild and extension of the site when the keep was also enlarged. Dating from this time is the hall, the kitchen range, a chapel and priests accommodation, extensive lodgings, a main gatehouse and a barbican gatehouse. Further minor additions were made in the late C14 and C15 and the late C17. The structure is now ruinous with the extant remains varying in their degree of survival but the external fabric is in places relatively complete. The motte and keep are to the south-west with the bailey buildings ranging down the valley to the north east. The castle is first mentioned in 1086 in Domesday Book when it was the centre of the estates of Baldwin de Brionne who was Sheriff of Devon. In 1173 the castle passed into the hands of the Courtenay family who held it until 1509. This castle holds a strategic point at the head of the valley and as such has great landscape value. From the extensive survival of the buildings a reconstruction of the early C14 layout is possible and it is one of the more complete castle sites in Devon.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV233066Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1977. Excavations at Okehampton Castle. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 35. 3-42.
SDV233072Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1973. Interim Report. Medieval Archaeology. 17. 161.
SDV233073Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1974. Interim Report. Medieval Archaeology. 18. 195.
SDV233074Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1975. Interim Report. Medieval Archaeology. 19. 239.
SDV233077Article in Serial: Higham, R. A. + Allan, J. P. + Blaylock, S. R.. 1982. Excavations at Okehampton Castle, Devon: Pt 2: the bailey. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 40. 19-151.
SDV233095Article in Serial: Swete, R. J. (Revd). 1901-1902. A Tour across Dartmoor into North Devon by the Rev. John Swete 1789. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 1 Part 1. 121-6.
SDV233097Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1922.
SDV233098Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1974. SX59SE5. SX59SE.
SDV233099Article in Monograph: Higham, R. A.. 1982. Dating in Medieval Archaeology: problems and possibilities. Problems and Case Studies in Archaeological Dating. 83-107.
SDV233101Record Office Collection: Swete, R. J. (Revd). 564M/1/70,74. 564M/1/70,74.
SDV233104Article in Serial: Thompson, M. W.. 1986. Unknown. Archaeological Journal. 143. Unknown. 305-21.
SDV233105Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 1997. January-June 1997, 66. Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report. 22.
SDV233108Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1895. Okehampton Castle. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 27. 124.
SDV233109Aerial Photograph: NMR. SX5894. SX5894.
SDV233111Article in Serial: Higham, R. A. + Allan, J. P.. 1980. Excavations at Okehampton Castle: preliminary report on the bailey. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 38. 49-51.
SDV233115Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1976. Interim Report. Medieval Archaeology. 20. 184.
SDV233116Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1977. Interim Report. Medieval Archaeology. 21. 234.
SDV233117Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1978. Medieval Archaeology. 22. 156.
SDV233121Photograph: DCC. 1982. Photo/538/20. Conservation Section Photograph Collection.
SDV233124Article in Serial: Higham, R. A. + Allan, J. P.. 1981. Archaeology in Devon 1981. Summary Report.
SDV233125Article in Serial: Anonymous. 1868. National Gazetteer. 3. 107.
SDV233126Monograph: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1978. Archaeological Sites within Okehampton Park and its Vicinity. Archaeological Sites within Okehampton Park and its Vicinity.
SDV233130Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1984. DAP/AP. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 12.
SDV233131Report - Survey: English Heritage. 1969. Okehampton Castle. Ancient Monuments Laboratory Report. 1-7.
SDV233132Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1984. DAP/CV. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 6.
SDV233134List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1987. Okehampton Hamlets. Historic Houses Register. 68.
SDV233136Article in Monograph: Morley, B. M.. 1981. Aspects of fourteenth-century castle design. Collectanea Historica: Essays in Memory of Stuart Rigold. 104-13.
SDV233137Article in Serial: Young, E. H.. 1931. Okehampton. Devon Parochial Histories. 1.
SDV233142Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/GI. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 28-30.
SDV233144Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1991. DAP/UP. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 8-15.
SDV233186Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1989. A knight to remember: the building enterprises of Hugh Courtenay(1276-1340).. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 121. 154.
SDV256417Article in Serial: Anonymous. 1937. Proceedings of the 76th annual meeting. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 69. Unknown. 23-4.
SDV275388List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1960. Okehampton RD. Historic Houses Register. Unknown. 22.
SDV324949Report - Survey: Probert, S. A. J.. 2004. Okehampton Castle and Park, West Devon: Survey Report. English Heritage Report. AI/03/2004. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV336413Monograph: Donn, B.. 1965. A Map of the County of Devon, 1765 (Reprint). A Map of the County of Devon, 1765 (Reprint). Hardback Volume.
SDV341278Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 1988. Devon Castles: An Annotated List. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 46. Paperback Volume. 143.
SDV341346Report - Survey: Timms, S. C.. 1976. The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Unbound + Digital. 155, 157, 159.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 619-20.
SDV354350Monograph: Higham, R. A. + Freeman, J. P.. 1996. Devon Castles (Draft Text). Devon Castles. A4 Unbound + Digital. 2, 3, 4-5, 7, 8, 10, 11-14, gazetteer.
SDV358087National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2015. National Heritage List for England. Website. 1007812.
SDV361505Article in Serial: Higham, R. A.. 2010. Castle Studies in Transition: A Forty Year Reflection. Archaeological Journal. 167. 1 - 13.
SDV361738Article in Serial: Gaimster, M. + Bradley, J. + Beaumonth James, T.. 2000. Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1999. Medieval Archaeology. 44. Unknown. 259-260.
SDV61273Article in Serial: Copeland, G. W.. 1966. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 98. 27.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 76.
SDV7299Article in Serial: Oldham, D. W.. 1906. The Private Chapels of Devon: Ancient and Modern. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 38. A5 Paperback. 397.

Associated Monuments

MDV69627Parent of: Gateway (Monument)
MDV14328Parent of: Okehampton Castle Bailey (Building)
MDV111466Parent of: Okehampton Castle Keep (Building)
MDV14329Parent of: Okehampton Castle Moat (Monument)
MDV14327Parent of: Okehampton Castle Motte (Monument)
MDV58133Parent of: SCULPTURE in the Parish of Okehampton Hamlets (Monument)
MDV5032Related to: Brightley Priory, Okehampton (Building)
MDV69626Related to: Chapel at Okehampton Castle (Building)
MDV4806Related to: Deserted Medieval Settlements, Sites 52-59, at Okehampton (Monument)
MDV14330Related to: FINDSPOT in the Parish of Okehampton Hamlets (Find Spot)
MDV6131Related to: Gidleigh Castle (Monument)
MDV69625Related to: LINEAR FEATURE in the Parish of Okehampton Hamlets (Monument)
MDV18818Related to: Manor of Okehampton (Monument)
MDV20451Related to: Medieval Settlement around Okehampton Castle (Monument)
MDV14219Related to: Okehampton Deer Park. Okehampton Hamlets (Park/Garden)
MDV41883Related to: Roman finds, Okehampton Castle (Find Spot)
MDV65939Related to: WATERMILL in the Parish of Okehampton, Okehampton Hamlets (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV3457 - SX59SE 5
  • EDV3458 - Photo/538/20
  • EDV3459 - DAP/AP
  • EDV3460 - DAP/CV
  • EDV3461 - DAP/GI
  • EDV3462 - DAP/UP
  • EDV3474 - Earthwork survey of Okehampton Castle and Park

Date Last Edited:Jan 11 2019 11:25AM