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HER Number:MDV2690
Name:Castle Head Promontory Fort, Dunterton


A promontory fort which survives as a semicircular rampart and ditch to the north, and as a ditch above a steep natural scarp to the west and south, tapering away to the east. Parts of the ditch have been disturbed by later carriage drives.


Grid Reference:SX 380 785
Map Sheet:SX37NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishDunterton
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishDUNTERTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX37NE/502
  • Old SAM County Ref: 150
  • Old SAM Ref: 34290
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX37NE10

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

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

Dunterton Castle, bank and ditch across neck of peninsula. Wooded. Plan in manuscript.

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

Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 576 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

Other details: Plan.

Office of Works, 1928, The Castle Dunterton (Schedule Document). SDV343890.

A vallum and fosse facing northwards extend across the neck of a promontory. Part of the centre of the fosse has been filled in at some time. The height from the top of the vallum to the fosse is about 15 feet. In one place the vallum has been cut through to form a modern carriage drive. The other three sides are protected by a natural scarp. On the western side are the remains of an ancient trackway descending to a ford across the River Tamar, about half a mile distant. The river encircles the camp on three sides and approaches within 100 yards of the foot of the scarp on the east and west. The whole area is covered with dense woods, intersected by open walks. There are some subsidiary earthworks within the area of the camp.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1950 - 1951, SX37NE10 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV343889.

Promontory Fort. "The Castle" situation on Castle Head, is a strong frontier fort overlooking the Cornish territory. The position is a bold headland rising high from the surrounding country and precipitately descending to the River Tamar, which makes a convex curve at its base: it then commands two reaches of the river, and would have been a powerful deterrent to the raids of the Cornabii of the opposite bank.

Site visit 22nd February 1951. Promontory Fort. A strong bank 70 metres long, 4 metres high, with traces of outer shallow ditch on north-west side. Eastern extremity appears to have been destroyed when bank was made. Scarp of bank is to north-west and it appears to have defined the comparatively low lying promontory enclosed by a loop of the River Tamar. The ground falls away steeply immediately to the west and east of bank. Any traces of other earthworks which might have existed would have been destroyed when ornamental terraced paths made in the area.

Griffiths, D. M., 1982, Hillfort and Chapel (Worksheet). SDV343888.

Plan of field names onTthe Map in area of chapel and hillfort.

Griffith, F. M., 1987, DAP/HU, 13-14 (Aerial Photograph). SDV218009.

Griffith, F. M., 1987, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV343887.

Site visit 20th April 1987 (with G. Walford and Brierley) It is now difficult to relate the remains on the site to the above descriptions, and particularly to the plan in Victoria County History. Clearly the site has been much disturbed by recent landscaping. The field to the north, immediately outside the present wood, shows a marked rise, stoney and pale, at circa SX38047863 to SX38107866, but unless the boundary of the wood has physically moved southwards since the Ordnance Survey 6 inch map 1956 was surveyed, this is impossible to reconcile with the mapped information.

Grant, N., 1995, The Occupation of Hillforts in Devon during the Late Roman and Post Roman Periods, 105 (Article in Serial). SDV7954.

Swete, J. (ed. Gray T. + Rowe, M.), 1997, Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete. Vol. 1 (Monograph). SDV341166.

Dyer, M. J. + Manning, P. T., 1998, Objective 5B: Lower Tamar Valley Recreation and Land Management Iinitiative: Cultural Heritage Appraisal, 11 (Report - non-specific). SDV319814.

Castle Head hillfort is probably the earthwork described in Dean Milles' eighteenth century questionnaire asa 'large ancient encampment' on the brow of a hill. Visited and described by Swete in 1793 as 'the vallum called Castle Head, whence the name Dunterton derived'.

English Heritage, 2000, Endsleigh (Register of Parks and Gardens in England). SDV338299.

The pleasure grounds of Endesleigh House includes early 19th century walks and carriage drives in Dunterue Woods. Other details: GD1396.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2002, Castle Head Promontory Fort (Schedule Document). SDV343891.

This monument includes a promontory fort at Castle Head on an upland spur created by a meander in the River Tamar. The monument survives as a semicircular rampart and ditch to the north and as a ditch above a steep natural scarp to the west and south tapering away to the east. Parts of the ditch have been disturbed by later carriage drives which lead to this prominent location overlooking the river from the nearby Endsleigh House. The monument is best preserved to the north where an impressive rampart up to 10 metres wide at the base, 3 metres high externally, 2.2 metres high internally and an outer ditch up to 5 metres wide and 1 metres deep defend a narrow strip of land on the summit of the ridge. On the other sides the natural topography drops steeply away. A ditch is visible to the west and south which measures up to 5 metres wide and 1 metres deep, but this tapers away to the east where the natural scarp slope is at its steepest. Parts of the ditch have been disturbed by the subsequent carriage drives which were laid across both the interior of the fort and on its western side; these are level and measure up to 4 metres wide. The internal area defined by the ramparts, ditches and prevailing steep natural slope measures 100 metres from south-west to north-east by 80 metres north-west to south-east. Within the enclosed area on its western side is the remains of a summer house lying adjacent to a carriage drive and measuring approximately 3 metres long by 2 metres wide and having been terraced into the hillside. At its eastern end this supports the remains of a stone built chimney stack and fireplace. This feature probably dates to the same period as the carriage drives and would have had extensive views across the river. On the south-western corner of the outer ditch a stone and rubble bank defines its edge and leads away to the east down the hill. The northern face of this bank forms the edge of the monument in this area.
An unfinished enclosure, 570 metres to the south, and another enclosure some 500 metres to the south-west may be associated with this monument and with the defence of what would have been a strategically important location in the later prehistoric period.

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

Knight, S., 2010, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV345562.

Site visited on 14th October 2010. A six metre uncultivated buffer is to be established along the southern boundary of the field immediately to the north of the scheduled area. Other details: Photographs in HER.

Houghton, P., 2015, An Archaeological and Historical Report on The Upper Tamar Valley including Excavations at Lamerhooe Volume One, 49-56, fig 16-20, map 11-12 (Report - Assessment). SDV363240.

At 'Castle Head' promontory fort there is one sector of a small annular fort, possibly post Roman in date (AD 400-1200), although may be Medieval. It is situated around 100m OD and makes use on its southern and western side of a natural scarp to the to the wood and Tamar River below.
The whole area is now heavily wooded but the bank is best preserved to the north (up to 3.0m high externally and 2.2m internally). The bank is around 10m wide at the base and the ditch is 5m wide. Depth of the ditch could not be determined due to vegetation cover. Images of the fort included.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV16214Un-published: Woollcombe, H.. 1839-1850. Woollcombe Manuscript. Manuscript.
SDV218009Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. DAP/HU. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 13-14.
SDV319814Report - non-specific: Dyer, M. J. + Manning, P. T.. 1998. Objective 5B: Lower Tamar Valley Recreation and Land Management Iinitiative: Cultural Heritage Appraisal. Exeter Archaeology Report. 98.60. A4 Stapled + Digital. 11.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV338299Register of Parks and Gardens in England: English Heritage. 2000. Endsleigh. Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. A4 Unbound.
SDV341166Monograph: Swete, J. (ed. Gray T. + Rowe, M.). 1997. Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete. Vol. 1. Travels in Georgian Devon. The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Sw. 1. Hardback Volume.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 576.
SDV341569Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2009. MasterMap. MasterMap. Digital.
SDV343887Personal Comment: Griffith, F. M.. 1987.
SDV343888Worksheet: Griffiths, D. M.. 1982. Hillfort and Chapel. Devon County Sites and Monuments Register. Worksheet.
SDV343889Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1950 - 1951. SX37NE10. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV343890Schedule Document: Office of Works. 1928. The Castle Dunterton. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV343891Schedule Document: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2002. Castle Head Promontory Fort. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV345562Personal Comment: Knight, S.. 2010.
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. 105.

Associated Monuments

MDV32464Part of: Endsleigh Park, Milton Abbot (Monument)
MDV29905Related to: Summer House at Castle Head (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Oct 9 2019 1:49PM