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HER Number:MDV14597
Name:Saxon Cemetery at Barnstaple Castle

Summary

Excavations in the 1970s in the vicinity of 'The Castle', an 18th/19th century house in the former bailey of the castle, revealed 105 graves belonging to a Saxon cemetery. The general nature of the burials, which were extended inhumations, orientated broadly east-west and the lack of grave goods, suggests that the cemetery was Christian in character.

Location

Grid Reference:SS 555 333
Map Sheet:SS53SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBARNSTAPLE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS53SE/43/6
  • Old SAM County Ref: 255
  • Old SAM Ref: 33062
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS53SE49

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CEMETERY (Saxon - 701 AD to 1065 AD (Between))

Full description

Timms, S. C., 09/02/1983, Barnstaple Castle (Personal Comment). SDV74061.

Skeletons said to be stored in AM laboratory in Fortress House.


Cullen, B + Thompson, S, 09/2013, Joy Street, Green Lanes, Barnstaple, Evaluation, 3 (Report - Evaluation). SDV357185.


Oliver, B. W., 1928, The Castle of Barnstaple, 216 (Article in Serial). SDV73002.

Building operations in 1882 disclosed a number of skeletons at the west end of the site. Further interments were revealed (?in 1927) to north and west.


Miles, T. J., 1972, Unknown, 48 (Article in Serial). SDV73938.

Trial trenches adjacent to 'The Castle', an 18th/19th century house, revealed extensive features and traces of buildings overlain by a long-established cemetery. Graves were of both adults and children and were frequently intercut. Some had iron coffin fittings; an infant burial was also packed in charcoal. Many burials were sealed by a clay and rubble bank, apparently the Norman bailey rampart.


Unknown, 1974, Barnstaple, 308 (Article in Serial). SDV356770.


Miles, T. J., 1974, Calendar of Excavation Summary, 5 (Report - non-specific). SDV73930.

Excavations in the vicinity of 'The Castle' an 18th Century house, revealed the existance of a cemetery of more than 57 graves sealed by the Norman bailey rampart. No dateable finds were obtained but the graves were aligned east to west. At cessation of excavations in 1975 an area of the cemetery had revealed 103 graves, over 80 sealed by the bailey bank. Many were coffined and intrusive burials were common. The cemetery may date from about 900 to 1068 AD. The excavation area has now been infilled.


Miles, T. J., 1975, Barnstaple: Excavation at the Castle Site 22/9 (Report - Excavation). SDV344493.

A further 20 graves sealed by the Norman bailey rampart were excavated in 1975 and contained bones in poor condition with traces of coffins surviving as lines of iron pan and occasional nails. A few of the burials were on a reversed alignment with the head to the east. A stone-packed post hole cut one grave and apparently avoided another.


Timms, S. C., 1976, The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft, 76 (Report - Survey). SDV341346.


Markuson, K. W., 1980, Barnstaple Survey (Un-published). SDV356766.

More than 106 Late Saxon graves were found during an exavation on North Walk in 1971-4. The finds add weight to the theory that Barnstaple was an important Saxon settlement and probably a burh at this time.


Henderson, C., 1983, Barnstaple Local Public Inquiry. Devon Archaeological Statement. Appendix 6, 22 (Un-published). SDV357965.

This report was commissioned by North Devon Council. Magnetometer, resistance and ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys were completed to inform upon the buried remains at Barnstaple Castle. The outer and inner castle baileys are now mainly urban parkland and were subject to magnetometer and resistance surveys. The tarmac carpark, which includes part of the former outer bailey and areas out with the scheduled monument, was subject to a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey. The top of the motte was subject to surveys using all three techniques. The parkland, formerly parts of the inner and outer baileys and part of the moat, was the subject of magnetometer and resistance surveys (Figures 3 and 4). Evidence for the location, structure and demolition of Castle House, situated in this area between at least 1684 to 1976, was recorded in both surveys. The resistance survey highlighted anomalies likely to represent wall footings and floors. Both surveys recorded anomaly groups that may reflect the archaeological excavation that took place in this area between 1972 and 1975.


North Devon District Council Rescue Archaeology Unit, 1986, An Excavation at North Devon Area Library Site, Barnstaple; Summary Report (Report - Excavation). SDV76038.


Miles, T. J., 1986, The Excavation of a Saxon Cemetery and Part of the Norman Castle at North walk, Barnstaple, 59-84 (Article in Serial). SDV73913.

Excavations between 1972-75 at North Walk revealed 105 graves belonging to a Saxon cemetery. All the excavated burials were extended inhumations, in coffins, orientated broadly east-west and lacking in grave goods, suggesting the cemetery was Christian in character. A number of burials, however, contained 'coffin furniture' in the form of a stone(s) placed with the body, a practice that has been noticed elsewhere in Britain. These may be indicative of superstitious practices or merely indicate a concern for neatness or for the 'comfort' of the deceased. Several other graves were found to contain charcoal. One burial was found to be orientated west-east which could indicate that the body, which was male, was that of a priest. Burials ceased when the castle bailey moat and rampart constructed.


Timms, S., 1987, The Archaeology of North Devon Towns, 2 (Un-published). SDV354573.


North Devon Journal, 1988, Digging for History and Unearthing the remains of Saxon Barnstaple on the Crystal Palace Site (Article in Serial). SDV361484.

Piecing together a picture of Barnstaple's past is a painstaking project. But North Devon's own rescue archaeology unit are digging up discoveries which have delighted historians all over the world.

A 10th century Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Castle Green is the earliest evidence of settlement unearthed in Barnstaple.


Salvatore, J. P., 2001, 144561 (Un-published). SDV73935.

Anglo Saxon cemetery. Excavations within the grounds of Barnstaple Castle in 1972-75, conducted by Trevor Miles on the north-west side of the motte in the area thought to encompass the bailey and its defences, revealed the presence of 105 graves forming part of a Saxon cemetery which had been known about since 1927. All of the excavated burials were extended inhumations orientated east-west and all lacked gravegoods. The cemetery was therefore deemed to be Christian and it is thought to date from the period about AD900. It would have ceased to function when the moat and rampart of the Norman castle were constructed across the site. The results of the excavations were published in 1986. Further burials may be expected to lie in those undisturbed areas which were not subject to archaeological investigation particularly to the south of the moat of the bailey which it was thought might have respected the northern edge of the cemetery.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2002, Barnstaple Castle (Schedule Document). SDV342276.

Saxon cemetry excavated within the grounds of Barnstaple Castle to the north-west of the motte which was in use at the time of the Norman Conquest. Other details: Monument Number 33062.


Exeter Archaeology, 2003, Barnstaple Castle Car Park Scheme: Phase 1: Archaeological Assessment, 16, Fig. 11 (Report - Assessment). SDV319631.


Southwest Archaeology, 2013, Greater Barnstaple Area Project Database, Mapping Area 316 (Un-published). SDV351581.


Dean, R., 2017, Barnstaple Castle, Barnstaple: Geophysics (Report - Survey). SDV360284.


Dean, R., 2017, Barnstaple Castle, Barnstaple: Geophysics (Report - Survey). SDV360284.

This report was commissioned by North Devon Council. Magnetometer, resistance and ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys were completed to inform upon the buried remains at Barnstaple Castle. The outer and inner castle baileys are now mainly urban parkland and were subject to magnetometer and resistance surveys. The tarmac carpark, which includes part of the former outer bailey and areas out with the scheduled monument, was subject to a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey. The top of the motte was subject to surveys using all three techniques. The parkland, formerly parts of the inner and outer baileys and part of the moat, was the subject of magnetometer and resistance surveys (Figures 3 and 4). Evidence for the location, structure and demolition of Castle House, situated in this area between at least 1684 to 1976, was recorded in both surveys. The resistance survey highlighted anomalies likely to represent wall footings and floors. Both surveys recorded anomaly groups that may reflect the archaeological excavation that took place in this area between 1972 and 1975.

Twelve distinct anomalies were recorded in the magnetometer survey which, given their proximity to known Anglo-Saxon burials, may represent graves from the same Anglo-Saxon cemetery. These anomalies were not reflected in the resistance survey. It is possible some or all may reflect relatively recent ground disturbance and/or natural deposits. Further archaeological investigations would be required to clarify the origins of these anomalies.


Unknown, Unknown, Sites Excavated 1972-1978 by T. Miles (Cartographic). SDV357959.


Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, Unknown, SS53SE49 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV73936.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV319631Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 2003. Barnstaple Castle Car Park Scheme: Phase 1: Archaeological Assessment. Exeter Archaeology Report. 03.62. A4 Stapled + Digital. 16, Fig. 11.
SDV341346Report - Survey: Timms, S. C.. 1976. The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Unbound + Digital. 76.
SDV342276Schedule Document: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2002. Barnstaple Castle. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV344493Report - Excavation: Miles, T. J.. 1975. Barnstaple: Excavation at the Castle Site 22/9. North Devon District Council Rescue Archaeology Unit Report. A4 Single Sheet + Digital.
SDV351581Un-published: Southwest Archaeology. 2013. Greater Barnstaple Area Project Database. Greater Barnstaple Area Project. Digital. Mapping Area 316. [Mapped feature: #81295 ]
SDV354573Un-published: Timms, S.. 1987. The Archaeology of North Devon Towns. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2.
SDV356766Un-published: Markuson, K. W.. 1980. Barnstaple Survey. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV356770Article in Serial: Unknown. 1974. Barnstaple. Current Archaeology. 4.10. Newspaper/Magazine Cutting + Digital. 308.
SDV357185Report - Evaluation: Cullen, B + Thompson, S. 09/2013. Joy Street, Green Lanes, Barnstaple, Evaluation. Wessex Archaeology Report. 78942.03. Digital. 3.
SDV357959Cartographic: Unknown. Unknown. Sites Excavated 1972-1978 by T. Miles. a4 single Sheet + Digital.
SDV357965Un-published: Henderson, C.. 1983. Barnstaple Local Public Inquiry. Devon Archaeological Statement. Appendix 6. A4 Stapled + Digital. 22.
SDV360284Report - Survey: Dean, R.. 2017. Barnstaple Castle, Barnstaple: Geophysics. Substrata. 1702BAR-R-1. Digital.
SDV361484Article in Serial: North Devon Journal. 1988. Digging for History and Unearthing the remains of Saxon Barnstaple on the Crystal Palace Site. North Devon Journal. 05/05/1988. Photocopy + Digital.
SDV73002Article in Serial: Oliver, B. W.. 1928. The Castle of Barnstaple. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 60. A5 Hardback. 216.
SDV73913Article in Serial: Miles, T. J.. 1986. The Excavation of a Saxon Cemetery and Part of the Norman Castle at North walk, Barnstaple. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 44. Paperback Volume. 59-84.
SDV73930Report - non-specific: Miles, T. J.. 1974. Calendar of Excavation Summary. Council for British Archaeology Report. Unknown. 5.
SDV73935Un-published: Salvatore, J. P.. 2001. 144561. Monument Protection Programme. Archaeological Item Dataset.. Unknown.
SDV73936Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. Unknown. SS53SE49. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV73938Article in Serial: Miles, T. J.. 1972. Unknown. Archaeology Review. 7. Unknown. 48.
SDV74061Personal Comment: Timms, S. C.. 09/02/1983. Barnstaple Castle.
SDV76038Report - Excavation: North Devon District Council Rescue Archaeology Unit. 1986. An Excavation at North Devon Area Library Site, Barnstaple; Summary Report. North Devon District Council Rescue Archaeology Unit Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV14592Part of: Barnstaple Castle (Monument)
MDV14995Related to: Anglo Saxon Burh at Barnstaple (Monument)
MDV14594Related to: Barnstaple Castle Inner Bailey (Monument)
MDV853Related to: Castle House, Barnstaple (Building)
MDV70642Related to: Prehistoric flints from Castle Green, Barnstaple (Monument)
MDV857Related to: St Peter's Parish Church, Barnstaple (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV1378 - Barnstaple Castle Car Park Scheme Archaeological Assessment
  • EDV7313 - Geophysics: Barnstaple Castle, Barnstaple (Ref: 1702BAR-R-1)

Date Last Edited:Jun 27 2018 9:24AM