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HER Number:MDV15124
Name:High Peak Dark Age Defended Settlement

Summary

High Peak Camp is a multi-period site, which encompasses the buried remains of part of an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and the earthworks and buried remains of part of an early medieval fortified settlement dated to the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The Early medieval defences comprise a rampart with large single flat-bottomed ditch on outside, and a smaller outer rampart on east side. Finds of imported Mediterranean amphorae are indicative of high status inhabitants with access to a European-wide trade network.

Location

Grid Reference:SY 103 859
Map Sheet:SY18NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishOtterton
DistrictEast Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishOTTERTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SY18NW/21/2
  • Old SAM County Ref: 55

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • HILLFORT (V to VI - 410 AD to 600 AD (Between))

Full description

English Heritage, 07/03/2014, High Peak Camp, Sidmouth (Correspondence). SDV356411.

Application received to amend entry for the High Peak Camp.

English Heritage, 09/06/2014, High Peak Camp, Otterton (Correspondence). SDV356718.

High Peak is being considered for amendment to update and modernise the record. The assessment is now complete.
High Peak Camp, as it is traditionally known, is a multi-period site that includes Early Neolithic
occupation remains, thought to be a causewayed enclosure, and part of an early medieval
fortified settlement.

English Heritage, 16/07/2014, High Peak Camp (Correspondence). SDV356876.

Letter notifying decision to amend the entry for High Peak Camp on the Schedule of Monuments.
The accompanying report states that High Peak Camp was first scheduled in 1962. The hilltop on which it is situated was under a forestry plantation. This was cut down but has been replanted but the scheduled area will be left as an area of open grass. The site is partly within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. The scheduled monument details, including the description, and map require amendment for several reasons. A topographical survey and excavation were carried out in 2012, which has highlighted additional surviving buried remains that extend beyond the current scheduled area. In addition the current description and map are considered to be inadequate. This led to the inadvertent planting of trees on the north-east portion of the monument. These have now been removed.
High Peak Camp is a multi-period site, which encompasses the buried remains of part of an Early Neolithic causewayed enclosure and the earthworks and buried remains of part of an early medieval fortified settlement. Although the eastern part of the original enclosure has been destroyed by cliff erosion, partial excavation has indicated that buried remains of the western part survive well. High Peak Camp also includes the remains of an early fortified settlement. Many earlier Iron Age defended sites were re-occupied in the 5th to 6th centuries but newly fortified sites such as this are rare. Although only the western defences of the settlement survive, these complex multivallate earthworks are unique in south-west England. It is only of only a few sites in Britain with a finds assemblage of imported Mediterranean amphorae indicative of high status inhabitants with access to a European-wide trade network. Thus High Peak is of national importance as a multi-period site, which contains rare or very rare monument types that are highly representative of their period, hold archaeological potential, and are well documented in archaeological terms.
It is recommended that the schedule entry is amended for the following principal reasons:
Documentation: to update the limited detail on the National Heritage Listing for this Old Country Number scheduling (Devon 55) and to clarify the national importance of the site.
Clarity: to to amend the scheduled area so that it more accurately reflects our present knowledge of the extent and survival of the monument as revealed by recent archaeological excavations.
See report for further details of the site and its history.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Map object based on this Source.

Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 575 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

Other details: Plan.

Carter, G. E. L., 1930, Second Report of the Archaeological Section, 119-120 (Article in Serial). SDV338842.

Fox, A., 1959, Twenty-Fifth Report on the Archaeology and Early History of Devon, 172 (Article in Serial). SDV343851.

Ramparts presumed to be of Iron Age date.

Fox, A., 1963, Twenty-Seventh Report On Archaeology and Early History, 85-6 (Article in Serial). SDV124457.

During 1961 Mrs S Pollard undertook a small-scale emergency excavation at High Peak hill-fort before afforestation. Most of the fort has disappeared with the collapse of the cliffs; the remains consist of a rampart and ditch on the north-west side, with a second smaller rampart on the east side, which probably covered the entrance on the eroded seaward side. Examination of sherds in the Exeter Museum which came from Mr G E Carter's excavations in 1929, previously pronounced to be Roman, and also of drawings made by P O Hutchinson of the finds he made at the site in 1871, showed that both included sherds of identical amphorae. From the stratification and from the absence of Iron Age finds it appears likely, though not yet certain, that the fort was built as well as occupied in the post-Roman period.

Ministry of Works, 1964, High Peak Camp, Sidmouth (Schedule Document). SDV343910.

Most of this fort has disappeared with the collapse of the cliffs. The remains consist of a rampart and a ditch on the north-west side, with a second smaller rampart on the east (Sidmouth) side, which probably covered the entrance, now eroded. The defences are exposed in sections on the cliff edge, where a black occupation layer under the rampart is visible. Excavations in 1871 and 1929 and recently in 1962 by Mrs. Pollard have produced Neolithic pottery and flints and also Dark Age amphorae stratified in the defences.

Pollard, S. H. M., 1966, Neolithic and Dark Age Settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth, 25-59 (Article in Serial). SDV338843.

Dark Age site at High Peak. There being no evidence of Iron Age or Roman occupation, it follows that the fortifications must be of the period of the finds on the site, ie fifth to sixth century (as revealed during reassesment of finds from earlier excavations). In view of the rapid erosion that has taken place, the exact structure and dimensions of the fort must remain largely a matter for conjecture. Remains of Dark Age settlement consist of a rampart with large single flat-bottomed ditch on its outside, and a smaller outer rampart on the east side. Occupation debris was found on the terrace and in the upper fill of the ditch. Finds included pottery, bones (mainly ox and pig), a whetstone and a spindle whorl. Possibly originally an oval/sub-rectangular earthwork, with entrance on ne side where ramparts are doubled. Date of occupation: 5th-6th centuries, with end possibly due to saxon advance. Other details: Figures 1-8, 12-13 (copy of plans in parish file). Map object based on this Source.

Pollard, S. H. M., 1967, Radiocarbon Dating, Neolithic and Dark Age Settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth, Devon., 41 (Article in Serial). SDV343920.

Carbon 14 datings for the Neolithic and Dark Age phases on High Peak, Sidmouth, have now been received from the British Museum. A sample from the Dark Age level in cliff cutting H (see Pollard 1966, figure 8, page 40) gave a dating of 489 AD. This corroborates Professor Charles Thomas's suggestion of a late 5th -6th century dating in his report on the amphora sherds (page 53).

Timms, S. C., 1979, High Peak, Otterton, 505/3-8 (Ground Photograph). SDV343913.

Other details: Film 505.

Burrow, I., 1980, Dark Age Devon: The Landscape AD 400-1100, 66-4 (Article in Monograph). SDV343902.

A number of fortified sites were in use in the AD 400-700 period. The best documented is the small defended cliff-top enclosure at High Peak (Otterton). Here, the wealth of the inhabitants is clearly indicated by the presence of the pottery fragments of wine jars brought from the Mediterranean about AD 500. Other details: Figures 7.5-7.6.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/GE, 7, 7a (Aerial Photograph). SDV338981.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/GG, 3-5 (Aerial Photograph). SDV35320.

Griffith, F. M., 1987, DAP/IQ, 6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV120097.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 64 (Monograph). SDV64198.

Grant, N., 1995, The Occupation of Hillforts in Devon during the Late Roman and Post Roman Periods, 103 (Article in Serial). SDV7954.

The fort was probably originally oval or sub-rectangular in shape, and approximately 2.4 hectares in size. The rampart and V-shaped ditch, with an outwork on the north probably protecting a former entrance, are believed to have been newly built in the Early Christian period. Roman coins have been reported from cliff slippage on the beach, but no occupation evidence for this period was recovered from the fort.

Fox, A., 1995, Tin Ingots from Bigbury Bay, South Devon, 22 (Article in Serial). SDV323321.

Fox, A., 1996, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon, 38 (Monograph). SDV7958.

Radio carbon dates of the late 5th century came from charcoal associated with sherds of imported Mediterranean amphorae which came from ditch fillingand cooking holes.

Department of National Heritage, 1996, Proposed Works at High Peak Camp, Sidmouth (Correspondence). SDV343904.

Scheduled monument consent granted for works concerning the infilling of eroded areas.

Exeter Archaeology, 2004, East Devon AONB Archaeological Survey. High Peak, Sidmouth (Report - non-specific). SDV347615.

One of the highest points along the southern coast of England. Apears to have been occupied from the Neolithic period onwards but most of the site has disappeared due to coastal erosion. The remains include a rampart and ditch on the north-west side with a second, smaller rampart on the east, possibly representing an outwork. The area investigated in the 1960s appears to have now been lost to cliff falls. The field within which the site is situated is largely under a conifer plantation which thins out to scubby undergrowth towards the cliff edge and the area occupied by the earthworks. The main threats to the site are identified as conifer 'harvesting' and coastal erosion; erosion by walkers, the area is criss-crossed with paths, and animal damage appear minimal. It is recommended a survey be undertaken of the site to establish the current extent of the remains. Due to the vegetation and the closeness of the site to the cliff edge an off-site 'viewpoint' interpretation board is suggested.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 98 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Generally unsatisfactory with major localised problems. Principal vulnerability coastal erosion.

Ordnance Survey, 2009, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV341569.

Map object based on this Source.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 89 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West, 92 (Report - non-specific). SDV355280.

Generally unsatisfactory with major localised problems. Declining. Principal vulnerability coastal erosion.

Agate, A., et al, 2012, Early Medieval Settlement at Mothecombe, Devon, The Interaction of Local, Regional and Long-Distance Dynamics (Article in Serial). SDV351669.

Newman , P., 2012, High Peak, Sidmouth. An earthwork survey (Report - Survey). SDV363588.

Earthwork survey undertaken after tree felling. The surviving remains shows that the earthworks were dictated by the natural topography. The most notable earthwork was the curved section of a robust rampart (A) at the edge of the cliff. There is no trace of an external ditch. The survey showed that a col (C) had been cut through a natural summit ridge to form the rampart and ditch at the northern end and that the latter had been altered to the south of the col create a continuation of the rampart. Its ditch is silted.
The slight earthwork (H) cut into a steep slope about 39 metres to the west of the rampart is suggested to be the remains of an old path.
Only a small portion of the site survives and will eventually be lost to cliff erosion but the site has also suffered through forestry activity.
See report for full details.

Rainbird, P. + Hughes, S. + Allen, M. J. + Duggan, M. + Payne, N. + Quinnell, H. + Simmons, E. + Taylor, R., 2013, Excavations at the Early Neolithic and Post-Roman Site of High Peak Camp, Otterton, East Devon (Article in Serial). SDV358051.

Archaeological works were undertaken by AC archaeology at High Peak, near Sidmouth, Devon, during September 2012. The post Roman defences were examine and a previously unknown outer ditch was identified. The ditch was up to 4.0 metres wide and 1.8 metres deep, flanked by the remains of earth ramparts. Eleven sherds of Mediterranean amphorae were recovered. Radio carbon dates support a 5th-6th century AD date for the defences. See article for full details.

AC Archaeology, 2013, High Peak Summary - August 2013, 1-3 (Report - non-specific). SDV351945.

The current project confirmed Pollard’s results that two distinct phases of occupation are evident at High Peak. The second phase, with imported Mediterranean pottery and ditch and rampart features, is post-Roman in date and is a rare example of hilltop fortification constructed in the 5th-6th centuries AD.
The evidence at High Peak indicates that this is a site not occupied in the Iron Age or Romano-British period and that the enclosure of the hilltop or promontory was achieved by the construction of two ditches with internal ramparts, probably reveted in stone, and an external counterscarp or rampart. The bivallate complexity of the ditches and ramparts at High Peak makes this site unique, so far, for the post-Roman period in SW England.
See report for full details.

Rainbird, P. + Hughes, S., 2013, The South West Coast Path 'Unlocking our Heritage' Project. High Peak Camp, Otterton, East Devon (Report - Excavation). SDV361426.

Archaeological works were undertaken by AC archaeology at High Peak, near Sidmouth, Devon in September 2012 in order to gain a better understanding of how the site was used in the Neolithic and post-Roman/early medieval periods.
Post-Roman activity comprised the occupation of the highest point of the site. Trenches positioned across the earthworks here recorded the inner ditch, previously investigated in the 1960s, and also an outer ditch. These ditches were up to 3.7 metres wide and 1.8 metres deep, flanked with earthen ramparts. Stake holes recorded between the second ditch and its rampart suggest that the ditches may have originally had timber revetting.
Eleven sherds of pottery dated circa 450-550 AD were recovered from the fills of the ditches. This dating is further supported by the radiocarbon dates obtained from a discrete deposit of charcoal in the fill of ditch F202.
Two of the sherds were probably from one of the same vessels found during the 1960s excavations. The pottery is of late Roman Ampora type indicating continuing trade between the Mediterranean and south-west England in the post-Roman period.

Duggan, M. C., 2016, Links to Late Antiquity. Understanding Contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th Centuries AD, 175-183, figs 4.11-4.12 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV359586.

High Peak is featured in Duggan's consideration of imported 5th and 6th century Mediterranean pottery in its wider context and the nature of the exchange and contact between Britain, the Atlantic seaboard and the Mediterranean.

Tilley, C., 2017, Landscape in the Longue Durée, 299-319, tables 9.1-9.5, figs 9.7-9.17 (Monograph). SDV361032.

Discussion of Woodbury Castle and the other hillforts in the locality, making reference to the East Devon pebblebeds.

Duggan, M. C., 2018, Links to Late Antiquity. Ceramic exchange and contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th centuries AD, 81-85, figs 4.11-12 (Article in Serial). SDV363192.

The ceramics recovered from High Peak suggest a range of production sources for the vessels (similar to Bantham and Mothecombe). It also seems likely that amphorae of the distinct 'Bantham-type' were also imported to High Peak, possibly arriving via shipments reaching Bantham itself. Although the range of pottery at the site is rather limited, a possible East Mediterranean origin is likely. No fine ware has been recovered so far, although much of the site has been destroyed by erosion, so material may have been lost. Ten or eleven vessels (minimum) have been estimated for the site; comparable for other early Medieval sites in the South West.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV120097Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. DAP/IQ. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 6.
SDV124457Article in Serial: Fox, A.. 1963. Twenty-Seventh Report On Archaeology and Early History. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 95. A5 Paperback. 85-6.
SDV323321Article in Serial: Fox, A.. 1995. Tin Ingots from Bigbury Bay, South Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 53. Paperback Volume. 22.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV338842Article in Serial: Carter, G. E. L.. 1930. Second Report of the Archaeological Section. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 62. A5 Hardback. 119-120.
SDV338843Article in Serial: Pollard, S. H. M.. 1966. Neolithic and Dark Age Settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploration Society. 23. A5 Paperback + Digital. 25-59.
SDV338981Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/GE. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 7, 7a.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 575.
SDV341569Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2009. MasterMap. MasterMap. Digital.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 98.
SDV343851Article in Serial: Fox, A.. 1959. Twenty-Fifth Report on the Archaeology and Early History of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 91. A5 Hardback. 172.
SDV343902Article in Monograph: Burrow, I.. 1980. Dark Age Devon: The Landscape AD 400-1100. Archaeology of the Devon Landscape. Paperback Volume. 66-4.
SDV343904Correspondence: Department of National Heritage. 1996. Proposed Works at High Peak Camp, Sidmouth. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV343910Schedule Document: Ministry of Works. 1964. High Peak Camp, Sidmouth. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV343913Ground Photograph: Timms, S. C.. 1979. High Peak, Otterton. Devon County Council Conservation Section Collection. Photograph (Paper) + Digital. 505/3-8.
SDV343920Article in Serial: Pollard, S. H. M.. 1967. Radiocarbon Dating, Neolithic and Dark Age Settlements on High Peak, Sidmouth, Devon.. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 25. Paperback Volume. 41.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 89.
SDV347615Report - non-specific: Exeter Archaeology. 2004. East Devon AONB Archaeological Survey. High Peak, Sidmouth. Exeter Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351669Article in Serial: Agate, A., et al. 2012. Early Medieval Settlement at Mothecombe, Devon, The Interaction of Local, Regional and Long-Distance Dynamics. Archaeological Journal. 169. Digital.
SDV351945Report - non-specific: AC Archaeology. 2013. High Peak Summary - August 2013. AC Archaeology Report. Digital. 1-3.
SDV35320Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/GG. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 3-5.
SDV355280Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2011. Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West. english Heritage. Digital. 92.
SDV356411Correspondence: English Heritage. 07/03/2014. High Peak Camp, Sidmouth. Application Received to Amend the Entry. Digital.
SDV356718Correspondence: English Heritage. 09/06/2014. High Peak Camp, Otterton. Completed Assessment. Digital.
SDV356876Correspondence: English Heritage. 16/07/2014. High Peak Camp. English Heritage Advice Report. 1419548. Digital.
SDV358051Article in Serial: Rainbird, P. + Hughes, S. + Allen, M. J. + Duggan, M. + Payne, N. + Quinnell, H. + Simmons, E. + Taylor, R.. 2013. Excavations at the Early Neolithic and Post-Roman Site of High Peak Camp, Otterton, East Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 71. Paperback Volume.
SDV359586Post-Graduate Thesis: Duggan, M. C.. 2016. Links to Late Antiquity. Understanding Contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th Centuries AD. University of Newcastle. A4 Hardback. 175-183, figs 4.11-4.12.
SDV361032Monograph: Tilley, C.. 2017. Landscape in the Longue Durée. Landscape in the Longue Durée. Digital. 299-319, tables 9.1-9.5, figs 9.7-9.17.
SDV361426Report - Excavation: Rainbird, P. + Hughes, S.. 2013. The South West Coast Path 'Unlocking our Heritage' Project. High Peak Camp, Otterton, East Devon. AC Archaeology. ACD448/3/1. Digital.
SDV363192Article in Serial: Duggan, M. C.. 2018. Links to Late Antiquity. Ceramic exchange and contacts on the Atlantic Seaboard in the 5th to 7th centuries AD. British Archaeological Reports. 639. Paperback Volume. 81-85, figs 4.11-12.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 64.
SDV7954Article in Serial: Grant, N.. 1995. The Occupation of Hillforts in Devon during the Late Roman and Post Roman Periods. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 53. Paperback Volume. 103.
SDV7958Monograph: Fox, A.. 1996. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Paperback Volume. 38.

Associated Monuments

MDV15126Related to: High Peak Hillfort, Axes (Find Spot)
MDV15122Related to: Neolithic Settlement at High Peak (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV5184 - Assessment of High Peak, Sidmouth
  • EDV6707 - Excavations at High Peak (Ref: ACD448)
  • EDV8248 - Earthwork survey at High Peak, Sidmouth

Date Last Edited:Mar 6 2020 1:16PM