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HER Number:MDV1669
Name:Hillfort at Brent Tor


Iron Age hillfort at Brent Tor, with an incomplete rampart enclosing the north and eastern sides of the tor. The hill was subsequently used by the abbots of Tavistock as the site for Brentor parish church. Additional earthworks within the area enclosed by the rampart may represent the site of a medieval fair and post-medieval quarrying or mining.


Grid Reference:SX 470 803
Map Sheet:SX48SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishBrentor
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBRENTOR

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX48SE5
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 438139
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX48SE/13
  • Old SAM County Ref: 988

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • EARTHWORK (Undated)
  • HILLFORT (Iron Age - 700 BC to 42 AD (Between))

Full description

Department of Environment, 05/08/1991, Scheduled Monument Consent Letter (Correspondence). SDV345443.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted for the replacement of the existing steps by re-laying with granite slabs and the reinstatement of an area of erosion alongside the existing steps.

Griffith, F. M., 17/09/1996, DAP/ABH, 1-5 (Aerial Photograph). SDV265157.

Worth, R. N., 1889, Notes on the Early History of Tavistock, 135 (Article in Serial). SDV341116.

National Monuments Record, 19/04/1982, SF2113, 9-11 (Aerial Photograph). SDV234683.

Crossing, W., 1912 (1965), Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor, 161 (Monograph). SDV320981.

Brent Tor has been fortified, the turf vallum being still in a good state of preservation.

Pilkington-Rogers, C. W, 1932, The Date of the Dartmoor Antiquities, 385 (Article in Serial). SDV149513.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 348 (Monograph). SDV17562.

An earthwork of unknown date or purpose runs around Brent Tor well below the summit in the form of a massive stone-faced bank. In 1232 Henry III granted to the abbot of Tavistock, an annual three-day fair to be held at the church of Brentor.

Department of Environment, 1976, Earthworks on Brent Tor (Schedule Document). SDV265137.

Earthwork at Brent Tor, defending the base of the cone. The natural rocky outcrop which dominates the surrounding land and flatter ground to the east is surrounded by a bank and ditch. The bank on the flatter north and east sides is large approximately 4.572 metres high externally, 1.827 metres internally. About two thirds of the exterior of the bank has been cut back. The remains of a ditch can be traced in places along this side. On the rocky steeper south side, the bank is much slighter, and disappears altogether on the almost sheer western side. Inside the enclosure running from east to west is a line of two parallel banks, and on the north side of the church, there are a series of three rectangular shaped bank enclosures. The purpose or date of these is uncertain.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1977, SX48SE5 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV265145.

Air photographs (1958) also show a possible bank nearer the summit of Brent Tor (17/RAF 170 0079 0080 May 58).

Silvester, R. J., 1979, The Relationship of First Millennium Settlement to the Upland Areas of the South West, 181, Fig. 1 (Article in Serial). SDV177352.

Silvester describes site as hillfort of primary defensive type utilising a strong natural position where topography and altitude outweighed economic considerations.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP (Cartographic). SDV319854.

Site recorded.

Griffith, F., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 66 (Monograph). SDV64198.

In the first millennium BC the natural defensive advantages of the site were exploited when earthwork ramparts running around the contour towards the base of the hill were constructed to provide the defences for a hillfort .

Blackman, A., 1991, Flint (Worksheet). SDV345442.

(June 1991) Flint found as chance find, 40 millimetres long by 14-19 millimetres wide.

Greeves, T. A. P., 1996, Devonshire Association Annual Meeting 1996. Field Excursion Monday 10th June. Archaeological Sites North of Tavistock (Un-published). SDV342363.

The prehistoric ramparts and ditches are most conspicuous on the lower slopes of the north and east sides of the hill. The earthwork foundations of at least a dozen small rectilinear structures approximately 4.0 metres by 3.0 metres extend for around 70 metres along the inside of the highest rampart with at least another 10 contiguous structures approximately 5.0 metres by 4.0 metres are terraced into the slope to the south-west.

Fox, A., 1996, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon (DNPA Copy), 23 (Monograph). SDV360402.

Miller, A., 1996, RCHME Aerial Photograph Primary Recording Project (Interpretation). SDV346377.

A rapid examination of air photography (NMR, date unrecorded) shows the earthworks on Brent Tor, possibly the remains of a Prehistoric hillfort.

Newman, P., 2003, Brentor. An Earthwork Site on Western Dartmoor, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV351157.

Brentor is a conspicuous landmark with a curving earthwork enclosing the north and eastern sides of the tor which appears to have been constructed to be used in conjunction with the natural defences formed by the near vertical outcrops on the western side. The earthwork comprises a wall-bank rising to about 1.0 metres high on the inside but presenting a definite rampart-like appearance on the outside with a steep, apparently artificial earthwork slope up to 5.0 metres high and 10.0 metres wide at the base. This rampart probably represents an incomplete Iron Age defended site and as such Brentor can be added to the growing number of hillforts around the periphery of Dartmoor. The section of rampart on the south-east side is built in a different style and it is presumed that this is a later addition as a field boundary.
Within the area enclosed by the rampart are a series of linear earthworks which have been interpreted in the past as an additional set of ramparts. The form of these earthworks, however, is quite different, comprising two parallel, steeply and unevenly cut scarps with no banks or ditches. It is considered that these are unlikely to be defensive in nature and may be the result of stone or mineral extraction in the post-medieval period.
A further group of earthworks on the north slopes of the tor may represent enclosures and building platforms. These may be Dark Age in date but a medieval or later date is perhaps more likely and they may be associated with a fair held here between 1231 and 1550.

Ralston, I. + Lock, G., 2017, Atlas of Hillforts (Website). SDV360888.

National Monuments Record, unknown, SX4780, 1-2, 4-8 (Aerial Photograph). SDV265155.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV149513Article in Serial: Pilkington-Rogers, C. W. 1932. The Date of the Dartmoor Antiquities. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 64. A5 Hardback. 385.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 348.
SDV177352Article in Serial: Silvester, R. J.. 1979. The Relationship of First Millennium Settlement to the Upland Areas of the South West. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 37. Paperback Volume. 181, Fig. 1.
SDV234683Aerial Photograph: National Monuments Record. 19/04/1982. SF2113. National Monuments Record Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 9-11.
SDV265137Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1976. Earthworks on Brent Tor. The Schedule of Monuments. Unknown.
SDV265145Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1977. SX48SE5. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV265155Aerial Photograph: National Monuments Record. unknown. SX4780. National Monument Record Aerial Photograph. Unknown. 1-2, 4-8.
SDV265157Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 17/09/1996. DAP/ABH. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1-5.
SDV319854Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV320981Monograph: Crossing, W.. 1912 (1965). Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Crossing's Guide to Dartmoor. Hardback Volume. 161.
SDV341116Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1889. Notes on the Early History of Tavistock. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 21. A5 Hardback. 135.
SDV342363Un-published: Greeves, T. A. P.. 1996. Devonshire Association Annual Meeting 1996. Field Excursion Monday 10th June. Archaeological Sites North of Tavistock. A4 Stapled.
SDV345442Worksheet: Blackman, A.. 1991. Flint. A4 Single Sheet.
SDV345443Correspondence: Department of Environment. 05/08/1991. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV346377Interpretation: Miller, A.. 1996. RCHME Aerial Photograph Primary Recording Project. RCHME Aerial Photograph Primary Recording Project. Digital.
SDV351157Report - Survey: Newman, P.. 2003. Brentor. An Earthwork Site on Western Dartmoor, Devon. English Heritage Archaeological Investigation Report. AI/12/2004. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. [Mapped feature: #81854 ]
SDV360402Monograph: Fox, A.. 1996. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon (DNPA Copy). Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Paperback Volume. 23.
SDV360888Website: Ralston, I. + Lock, G.. 2017. Atlas of Hillforts. https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk/. Website.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 66.

Associated Monuments

MDV1658Related to: St Michael's Church, Brentor (Building)

Associated Finds

  • FDV5841 - FLAKE (Prehistoric - 698000 BC to 42 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV6142 - Earthwork Survey of Brentor
  • EDV8691 - RCHME: Air Photograph Primary Recording Project 1992-1996

Date Last Edited:May 21 2021 12:30PM