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HER Number:MDV2210
Name:Hillsborough Promontory Fort, Ilfracombe

Summary

Hillsborough Iron Age promontory fort to the east of Ilfracombe. The rampart earthworks on the southern edge of the site can be seen on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards and images derived from Lidar data.

Location

Grid Reference:SS 532 477
Map Sheet:SS54NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishIlfracombe
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishILFRACOMBE

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS54NW/2
  • Old SAM County Ref: 414
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS54NW3

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PROMONTORY FORT (Iron Age - 700 BC to 42 AD (Between))

Full description

Ministry of Works, Hillsborough Promontory Fort (Schedule Document). SDV340517.

Hillsborough headland is defended on the landward side by two ramparts and ditches, close set at their south end, but diverging to 61.0 metres apart at the east end. The outer entrance has one side inturned for 15.24 metres, the other is deep in brambles but appears to be club ended; the inner entrance is worn down and probably was a single gap. The eastern ends of the defence have been destroyed by quarrying, but must have been continued to the edge of steep slope to Hele Bay. A fine promontory fort, overall measurments 30.5 metres. An alleged fogou in the outer face of the inner rampart appears to be nothing more than an animal hole.


English Heritage, 07/11/2014, Hillsborough Promontory Hillfort, North Devon, Devon (Correspondence). SDV357382.

I am writing to inform you that English Heritage is currently undertaking a strategic designation project in the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, following on from an aerial photographic interpretive survey of the area undertaken on behalf of English Heritage and Devon County Council. As well as assessing some sites which have been highlighted as having potential national importance, the project will also re-assess some sites where revisions to the existing statutory designation have been identified, among them the above named monument for amendment. Assessment underway.


English Heritage, 10/03/2015, Hillsborough promontory fort, Hillsborough, Ilfracombe, Devon (Correspondence). SDV357932.

English Heritage have completed their initial assessment of the above monument to consider whether its entry on the Schedule of Monuments should be revised. See attached report.


Woollcombe, H., 1839-1850, Woollcombe Manuscript (Un-published). SDV16214.

Site visit September 1841. Hillsborough promontory fort fortified by a double bank across the promontory with outer bank having continuation back to inner bank, at one end. Other details: Plan (based on Greenwood).


Slade-King, 1879, The Older Times of Ilfracombe, 162 (Article in Serial). SDV339332.


Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 577 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.


Ordnance Survey, 1938, 5NW. Revision of 1932 with additions in 1938. Provisional Edition (Cartographic). SDV335610.


Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1953 - 1977, SS54NW3 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV340518.

Site visit 31st August 1953. Two terraces formed on the inland slope each with an escarpment of 12 feet and an intermediate platform 12 feet wide, extending side by side for 550 feet where the lower terrace inclines to the southeast with a final curve inwards at the entrance. At the eastern end of the upper work is a large mound which with a natural rock outcrop protected the entrance.
Site visit 23rd September 1953. Typical Iron Age promontory fort consisting of two steep, artificially scarped banks on the natural southern slope of the headland. Inturned entrance, 4.0 metres wide, cut through both banks in the east. No trace of interior features. Other details: Plans, section and photos.


Department of Environment, 1960, Hillsborough Promontory Fort (Schedule Document). SDV340524.

Area of Hillsborough promontory fort revised and extended.


Whybrow, C., 1967, Some Multivallate Hill Forts on Exmoor and in North Devon, 14-6 (Article in Serial). SDV93362.

Other details: Map.


Grinsell, L. V., 1970, The Archaeology of Exmoor, 79-81,140,202 (Monograph). SDV1641.


Grinsell, L. V., 1970, The Barrows of North Devon, 122 (Article in Serial). SDV7849.


Illegible, 1984, Hillsborough or Olsborrow (Worksheet). SDV358856.


Griffith, F. M., 1987, DAP/HX, 10-12 (Aerial Photograph). SDV340523.


Griffith, F. M., 1987, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV340519.

Site visit June 1987. The form of the two 'ramparts and ditches' is reflected on the landward side of several other clifftop scarps in the immediate vicinity. These features are certainly in part geological in origin, deriving from the extreme folding of harder and softer rocks in this area, with subsequent differential erosion. The degree to which this natural feature has been intensified and enhanced by human activity is currently hard to determine since the whole area is heavily overgrown with scrub.


Weddell, P. J. + Turton, S. D., 1992, Preliminary Archaeological Assessment of Ilfracombe Sewage Treatment Works, 4 (Report - Assessment). SDV321602.


Horner, B., 1995, DAP/YV, 23-24 (Aerial Photograph). SDV7961.


Fox, A., 1996, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon, 38-9 (Monograph). SDV7958.


Walls, T., 1999 - 2000, Earthwork Enclosures in North-East Devon and Their Late Prehistoric Landscape (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV341596.

Earthworks consist of two linear banks, much only surviving as scarps, with ditch surviving in places at each end. Area poor for cultivation, perhaps concerned to some degree with trade.


Walls, T., 1999 - 2000, The Archaeology of Hillsborough Ilfracombe. A Management Plan, 15-20 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV342294.

Description of fort and threats from vegetation and animals.


Moore, J., 2004, Untitled Source, 17-8 (Article in Serial). SDV340521.

'Hillborough Promontory Fort' was probably built during the late Iron Age and abandoned circa 50AD.


Environment Agency, 2007, LiDAR data JPEG image (1 metre resolution), LIDAR SS5347 Environment Agency D0079131 01-APR-2007 (Cartographic). SDV350317.

The ramparts or scarps and associated ditch are clearly visible.


Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J., 2007, The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report, No. 1214 (Report - Assessment). SDV339712.

Hillsborough promontory fort. Iron Age. Double banks across promontory are in part geological in origin.


Context One Archaeological Services, 2008, Ilfracombe Bus Station, Ropery Road, Ilfracombe, Devon. An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment, 6 (Report - Assessment). SDV342172.


Edgcombe, D., 2010, Hillsborough Advisory Group meeting (Correspondence). SDV345859.

Geophysical Survey of the interior showed few anomalies that could be related to archaeological features. It has been suggested that the site may have been a status symbol rather than a defensive site which could explain the lack of archaeological remains and the fact that the earthworks do not run from east cliff to west cliff.


Beamish, M., 2011, Archaeological Walkover Survey and LiDAR Study, Hillsborough Promontory Fort, Ilfracombe, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV348722.

Results from a LiDAR and walkover survey:
Walkover survey: Despite vegetation clearance in 2010, there has been much bracken and scrub regeneration over the ramparts. Although the banks across most of their lengths remain visible, and are impressive both on immediate approach and when viewed from Ilfracombe up to 1km to the west, elements are less impressive when viewed in close proximity. The inturned entrances are now barely perceptible beneath the bracken cover.

LiDAR: Some possible bank slippage is visible on both ramparts broadly centrally. The friable nature of the soils can lead to swift movement once de-vegetated. There are indications of a ditch, or a secondary scarp below the lower eastern rampart. The approach to the entrance to the fort is slightly hollowed over a distance of some 50m to the south of the southern ramparts, and for over 65m between the ramparts. The hollowing is up to 13.5m wide.


Hegarty, C. + Knight, S., 2011 - 2012, North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV349018.

The two roughly parallel ramparts or scarps flanking an internal ditch at Hilsborough promontory fort can be incompletely seen as earthworks on aerial photographs of the 1940s onwards. The poor visibility is caused by scrub vegetation partly obscuring the earthworks. However, the form of the earthworks is revealed on images derived from Lidar data acquired in 2007, allowing a reasonable plan to be transcribed. No other archaeological features have been identified.


Ordnance Survey, 2015, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV357601.

Map object based on this source.


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

The promontory fort at Hillsborough is located on a headland to the east of Ilfracombe and the site had been recognised as archaeological by the early C19. It is depicted on the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1890 which shows two parallel banks or ramparts with an entrance towards their eastern end. A burial mound is also depicted in the northern part of the site on the 1890 map, but is now understood to be a natural outcrop. The earthworks of the promontory fort can be seen on aerial photographs from the 1940s onwards, but are obscured in places by vegetation; they are, however, clearly visible on images derived from a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) survey in 2007. A geophysical survey of parts of the interior was carried out in 2011 but did not identify any clear archaeological features. Hillsborough headland was purchased by Ilfracombe Urban District Council in 1895 as a recreation area for local residents and for visitors. Paths were laid out and some landscaping is believed to have been undertaken around this time. The area saw some military activity in the late C19 when a gun emplacement was established just beyond the northern extent of the promontory fort and a tented military camp was laid out beyond its lower slopes. The emplacement guns were removed in 1914.

Details
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS This Iron Age promontory fort has a commanding position on a natural headland at Hillsborough to the east of Ilfracombe. It is defined by the steep cliffs and slopes of the headland except on its south, landward side where a series of banks cross the neck of the promontory, enclosing a roughly triangular-shaped interior which rises towards the central spine of the promontory.

DESCRIPTION The enclosure is defined along the neck (south) of the headland, where natural defence is weak, by two artificially-scarped and roughly parallel banks, probably of earth and stone. They survive in some places as low scarps and diverge towards their eastern ends. They are aligned roughly north-west to south-east, following the natural topographic contours of the promontory, and are approximately 265m in length. The ramparts terminate short of the sides of the headland and the eastern end of the lower one has been removed by late-C19 quarrying. A LiDAR survey (2007) produced evidence for a ditch or secondary scarp below the eastern end of the lower rampart. Access to the interior was provided by an inturned entrance which cuts through both the upper and lower ramparts towards their eastern ends. To the south-west of the entrance, a geophysical survey (Substrata, 2012) identified a circular structure which has been interpreted as a possible roundhouse. It measures some 7.8m in diameter and will survive in the form of buried archaeological deposits.

The interior of the fort measures some 360m north to south by 310m west to east at its widest point. No excavation of the interior has been carried out, but three flint tools, now at the Ilfracombe Museum are said to have been recovered from the fort. A geophysical survey of part of the interior in 2011 did not identify any clear archaeological features, but this may be due to the underlying geology, and it is likely that features such as possible structures, ditches, postholes and pits may survive as buried features. A stone chamber, possibly a cist, was discovered in the upper rampart in 1937 and described as constructed of drystone masonry surmounted by a lintel. Although it can no longer be identified on the ground, the remains of a stone slab and possible evidence of slumping may mark its location.

EXCLUSIONS The Victorian shelter at the south-western edge of the site, the one close to the summit, and the ruined shelter to the north, the area of hard-standing for the former tea room, flagpoles, benches, interpretation panels, guide posts, metal railings and concrete posts, and the surfaces of all footpaths and steps are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features, however, is included.


Historic England, 28/04/2015, Hillsborough Promontory Fort, Hillsborough, Ilfracombe, North Devon, Devon (Correspondence). SDV358142.

After examining all the records and other relevant information and having carefully considered the
archaeological interest of this case, the Schedule entry for Hillsborough promontory fort should be amended.
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
The Schedule entry for Hillsborough promontory fort, Ilfracombe which dates from the Iron Age period should be amended for the following principal reasons:
* Extent of remains: to include the known extent of the ramparts and archaeologically sensitive areas in the southern part of the site;
* Clarity: to fully describe the remains and the archaeological interest of the site in a national context.
See advice report for full details.
Map object based on this source.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV16214Un-published: Woollcombe, H.. 1839-1850. Woollcombe Manuscript. Manuscript.
SDV1641Monograph: Grinsell, L. V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. A5 Hardback. 79-81,140,202.
SDV321602Report - Assessment: Weddell, P. J. + Turton, S. D.. 1992. Preliminary Archaeological Assessment of Ilfracombe Sewage Treatment Works. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. 92.50. A4 Stapled + Digital. 4.
SDV335610Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1938. 5NW. Revision of 1932 with additions in 1938. Provisional Edition. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map. Map (Paper).
SDV339332Article in Serial: Slade-King. 1879. The Older Times of Ilfracombe. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 11. Unknown. 162.
SDV339712Report - Assessment: Collings, A. G. + Manning, P. T. + Valentin, J.. 2007. The North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Phase 1. Archaeological Survey. Summary Report. Exeter Archaeology Report. 06.22 (rev.1). A4 Stapled + Digital. No. 1214.
SDV340517Schedule Document: Ministry of Works. Hillsborough Promontory Fort. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV340518Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1953 - 1977. SS54NW3. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV340519Personal Comment: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. Not Applicable.
SDV340521Article in Serial: Moore, J.. 2004. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 7. Paperback Volume. 17-8.
SDV340523Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. DAP/HX. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 10-12.
SDV340524Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1960. Hillsborough Promontory Fort. The Schedule of Monuments. Letter.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 577.
SDV341596Post-Graduate Thesis: Walls, T.. 1999 - 2000. Earthwork Enclosures in North-East Devon and Their Late Prehistoric Landscape. University of Bristol Thesis. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV342172Report - Assessment: Context One Archaeological Services. 2008. Ilfracombe Bus Station, Ropery Road, Ilfracombe, Devon. An Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment. Context One Archaeological Services Report. COAS/DBA/08/IBD. A4 Stapled + Digital. 6.
SDV342294Post-Graduate Thesis: Walls, T.. 1999 - 2000. The Archaeology of Hillsborough Ilfracombe. A Management Plan. Bristol University Thesis. A4 Stapled + Digital. 15-20.
SDV345859Correspondence: Edgcombe, D.. 2010. Hillsborough Advisory Group meeting. Email to S. Knight. Digital.
SDV348722Report - Survey: Beamish, M.. 2011. Archaeological Walkover Survey and LiDAR Study, Hillsborough Promontory Fort, Ilfracombe, Devon. University of Leicester Archaeological Services Report. 2011-121. A4 Stapled.
SDV349018Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S.. 2011 - 2012. North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. ACD383/2/1. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV350317Cartographic: Environment Agency. 2007. LiDAR data JPEG image (1 metre resolution). Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital. LIDAR SS5347 Environment Agency D0079131 01-APR-2007.
SDV357382Correspondence: English Heritage. 07/11/2014. Hillsborough Promontory Hillfort, North Devon, Devon. Assess for Upgrading. Digital.
SDV357601Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2015. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV357932Correspondence: English Heritage. 10/03/2015. Hillsborough promontory fort, Hillsborough, Ilfracombe, Devon. Letter and Consultation Report. Digital.
SDV358087National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2015. National Heritage List for England. Website.
SDV358142Correspondence: Historic England. 28/04/2015. Hillsborough Promontory Fort, Hillsborough, Ilfracombe, North Devon, Devon. Notification of Decision to Amend Designation. Digital.
SDV358856Worksheet: Illegible. 1984. Hillsborough or Olsborrow. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV7849Article in Serial: Grinsell, L. V.. 1970. The Barrows of North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 28. A5 Paperback. 122.
SDV7958Monograph: Fox, A.. 1996. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Paperback Volume. 38-9.
SDV7961Aerial Photograph: Horner, B.. 1995. DAP/YV. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 23-24.
SDV93362Article in Serial: Whybrow, C.. 1967. Some Multivallate Hill Forts on Exmoor and in North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 25. A5 Paperback. 14-6.

Associated Monuments

MDV81093Part of: Round House, Hillsborough Promontory Fort (Monument)
MDV12535Related to: Possible Cist at Hillsborough Promontory Fort (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4499 - Desk-Based Assessment of Ifracombe Bus Station
  • EDV6132 - North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty NMP Project

Date Last Edited:Aug 17 2016 9:10AM