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HER Number:MDV3829
Name:Hillfort, The Trendle, Tavistock


The remains of a roughly rectangular earthwork to the north east of Kelly College, damaged by the road and railway passing through it, together with development. Pottery found during excavation in the 1960s indicates an Iron Age date for the enclosure. A number of bronze tools and ornaments of varying dates have also been found. Earthworks have been recorded here during the Tamar Valley NMP project.


Grid Reference:SX 490 753
Map Sheet:SX47NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTavistock
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX47NE/1
  • Old SAM County Ref: 764
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX47NE15

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 06/12/2006, Proposed Works at Trendle Earthwork North East of Kelly College, Tavistock, West Devon, Devon (Correspondence). SDV350305.

Scheduled monument consent granted for proposed works concerning the removal of spoil and reseeding the area with grass. The proposed works are unlikely to damage archaeological deposits therefore there is no requirement for archaeological recording.

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

'Camp (Remains of)' marked on 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey map, comprising a roughly rectangular earthwork to the north east of 'Kelly College' divided in two by the road. Map object partly based on this source.

Worth, R. N., 1889, Notes on the Early History of Tavistock, 136 (Article in Serial). SDV341116.

Tavistock was an early Saxon centre of importance. The earthwork on the hill near Kelly college may represent the original Tavy-stock. Local nomenclature mainly saxon, with Celctic traces. Tavistock is one the line of the Fosseway which crossed Dartmoor from Exeter to its Cornish terminus at Giano, or Marazion. Great central trackwayof Dartmoor a relic of this road, and Ptolemy's Tamara probably somewhere in this locality.

Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 611 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

To the north east of Kelly College, in a valley outside the town, is an irregularly planned camp, divided in half by the ancient high road from Tavistock. It is now scarcely distinguishable and is unknown to the inhabitants of Tavistock. At the north of the western side, the most perfect, the rampart is nearly 6 feet high but is lost to the north; that at the south east is 4 feet high. A small stream, called the Waterbrook, flows north and east of the camp. Plan on page 612.

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

Alexander, J. J., 1942, The Beginnings of Tavistock, 176 (Article in Serial). SDV256363.

Alexander suggests that the earthwork may have been a shelter or refuge for users of an ancient British trackway which perhaps crossed the Tavy here.

Worth, R. H., 1947, Prehistoric Tavistock, 126-127 (Article in Serial). SDV341113.

On a spur of the hill above Kelly College, almost equidistant from the channels of the Wallabrook and the Tavy, are the remains of a camp with an earth rampart. Quadrilateral in shape, its greatest length within the rampart is about 420 feet and its greatest width was probably about 300ft. Worth quotes from his father's article on the 'Early History of Tavistock' published in Volume 21 of The Transactions: 'It [the earthwork] is sometimes called the Roman Camp, but this name is purely fanciful. It has no definite Roman characteristics, and, so far as I can learn, no definite Roman relics have been found there. The suggestion that it may represent the original Tavy-stock should not, however, be hastily rejected. The site is suitalbe, and of little strength.' Bronze artifacts found within the area of camp, since the article was published in 1889, now identify the site as Late Celtic. In the 14th century a parcel of land called Trendle formed part of the Manor of Hurdwick, paying rent of one halfpenny. The rent was still one halfpenny in 1726. An estate map of 1768 shows the camp divided by a road into two fields, that to the north called Trendle Meadow and that to the south, Little Field.

Royal Air Force, 1958, Untitled Source, 17/170 (Aerial Photograph). SDV341118.

Clare, T., 1969, Excavations at The Trendle, Tavistock (Un-published). SDV341112.

Following excavations in 1967 and 1969 it was concluded that the earthwork was a fortified enclosure similar to that at St. Mawgan in Pydar and defended by a single rampart and ditch. The rampart could have been built in two phases - a simple bank followed later by a wall. It has a shallow inturned entrance in the north east side. Traces of the enclosure were recorded in the bungalow gardens, and there may also be traces of the enclosure ditch within the railway cutting. Pottery similar to that from Meare was recovered and a Late Iron Age date is suggested for the site. The enclosure is subrectangular, 2.5 acres in extent. Clare notes, however, that the excavations were not taken down to the natural and the interpretation of some layers should be regarded as provisional.

Ancient Monuments, 1970, Trendle Earthwork (Schedule Document). SDV341111.

An oval shaped earthwork cut by road and railway. South of the road the bank is well preserved to a maximum of 405 feet high. An external ditch is visible. The south west edge is complicated by a boundary hedge which is probably on the line of the bank. The section between the road and the old railway is built on. North of the railway there is a very slight trace of bank with a possible trace of extennal ditch. Fortified enclosure probably of Pre-Roman Iron Age date.

Timms, S. C., 1976, The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft, 173 (Report - Survey). SDV341346.

At least five bronze artefacts, covering a wide period of time, have been found in the area of the Trendle, the prehistoric enclosure to the north-east of Tavistock.

Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Field Survey Officer, 1977, The Trendle (Worksheet). SDV341114.

The site was visited on 5th May 1977 due to the threat of development within the enclosure. The bank survives on the south east side to a height of 1 metre and below this the ditch is still visible. A continuation of the scarp on the north east side is also visible. Internal breaks in the slope do not look like hut platforms. Area to south of road generally well preserved.

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.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1983 - 1999, SX47NE15 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV341115.

1. This is an early Iron Age Camp. The bank extends around the west side of the camp. Finds of bronze implements indicate a long occupation.
2. This earthwork is sometimes called the Roman Camp, but the name is purely fanciful. The suggestion that it may represent the original Tavy-stock (Saxon settlement) should not be hastily rejected.
3. To the north east of Kelly College is an irregularly planned camp
4. Site visit 10th July 1950. The north east rampart is quite well defined but much overgrown north of the road - south of the road its condition is quite fair. The south west rampart is in poor condition with a stone wall built on the bottom of the slope. The north west rampart is obliterated by an occupation road to a quarry made during the 1939-1945 war; the portion east of the fence survives but is rather weak and in poor condition.
5. Camp with an earth rampart, roughly quadrilateral, 420 feet long and at one time about 300 feet wide.
6. Oval shaped earthwork with external ditch. North of the railway a slight trace of a bank and external ditch.
7. An estate plan of 1768 shows field boundaries following the line of the ramparts and the 1885 Ordnance Survey map shows the site fairly entire save for the disecting road which probably cut through an inturned entrance on the north east side. Excavation in 1969 showed the defences to have consisted of a rock cut ditch 3.0 metres wide and at leat 2.5 metres deep backed by a revetted platform 4.0 metres wide and 2.0 metres high. Decorated sherds of Glastonbury ware suggest occupation from circa 1BC-early 1AD.
8. Site visit 14th November1983. At the end of a small spur are the remains of a small earthwork. All that survives is the south east quadrant, about 0.7 hectares in extent, possibly half to a third of the original size. The trace of bank and external ditch noted on the Department of Environment record could not be idenfitied among the quarry tipping and railway cutting material to the north of the railway. The work consists of a bank some 8 metres wide overall with an outer ditch 5 metres wide. The inner face of the bank, where traceable, is only 0.2 metres high, the outer face prominent and 0.8-1.9 metres high. The ditch varies from 0.1-0.3 metres deep. It is possible that the bisecting road utilised the original entrance or entrances. There is a slight inturn on the south side of the road at the north east entrance. To the north of this modern development has destroyed the earthwork and extensions to Kelly College may have overlaid any remains to the west of the enclosure, although they have not trespassed on the scheduled area. The 1960s excavations are no longer visible. At SX49037531 there is a circular scooped depression, 7 metres in diameter and 0.3 metres deep, opening to the south west. The scoop may represent earth digging but is just possibly the site of a hut. The situation, original size and plan of the earthwork, together with the excavation results indicate an Iron Age 'round type' defended settlement. The surviving part is in fair condition, under permament pasture. No finds were made.
Copy of plan in Parish File.

Griffith, F. M., 1988, DAP/KM, 3A, 4 (Aerial Photograph). SDV242441.

The Tavistock and District Local History Society, 1994, About Tavistock: An Historical Introduction and Six Town Walks, 7 (Monograph). SDV354806.

Quinnell, H., 1998, Later Prehistoric Pottery Survey, DBID:2215 (Report - Survey). SDV336212.

Circa 5 sherds of Middle/Late Iron age pottery recovered during excavation. Not in Plymouth City Museum.

Cornwall Archaeological Unit, 2001-2002, Tamar Valley National Mapping Programme Transcriptions and Database Records, RAFV17/170/0021-2 (Interpretation). SDV346287.

An earthwork bank forming part of the southern extent of The Trendle hillfort is visible on aerial photographs.

West Devon Borough Council, 2009, Tavistock Conservation Area Management Plan, 22 (Report - non-specific). SDV351411.

Ordnance Survey, 2012, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV348725.

Map object partly based on this source.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2016, Backlog Recording of the Tamar Valley National Mapping Programme Survey (Personal Comment). SDV359374.

Only part of the photo reference is given in the transcription attributes, so the date of the photograph is not known.

Hudswell, J. + Thompson, A., 2020, The Tavistock Trendle: The Biography of a Prehistoric Enclosure (Article in Serial). SDV365916.

This paper discusses the results of new research on The Trendle, a prehistoric enclosure of probable Iron Age date on the edge of Tavistock. Topographical survey clarified the extent of the surviving earthworks and geophysics revealed the possible existence of up to three large roundhouses. Historical research provided new insights into both the physical history of the Trendle and the changing ways in which it has been perceived and interpreted since the eighteenth century by local people, antiquarians and previous researchers. The research combined archaeological and historical methodologies and techniques in an attempt to begin to reveal the history of the monument, albeit with significant gaps due to the current state of the evidence, as an evolving entity from prehistory to the present.

Our research has enabled us to synthesise and reflect on previous archaeological and historical investigations and to add some important new data. The topographical survey and the lidar data appear to confirm that the rampart continues into the back gardens of staff houses at Mount Kelly and that the hedge bank running up to the Old Exeter Road is constructed on top of the rampart. The Trendle’s distinctive shape raises key questions about the construction of the earthworks and their relationship to the Old Exeter Road which, unfortunately, remain unanswered at this time. It is possible that the earthworks were built with entrances in the East and West to accommodate a trackway running through the enclosure. Our survey, however, did not conclusively demonstrate that the north east section of the earthworks turn inward to form an entrance at the point where they might have met a track on the line of the road. Another possibility could be that the two parts of the enclosure were constructed in separate phases. The visible earthworks indicate that the Trendle was a univallate enclosure although the results of geophysical survey may possibly indicate the presence of an additional bank and ditch. If the earthworks are more complex than has hitherto been recognised, this would raise the question of how many construction phases the banks and ditches represent and over what timescale. Geophysics also revealed the potential presence of between one and three curvilinear structures with drip ditches or bedding trenches. If these features are roundhouses, then they are large for the Iron Age. Taken together, the scale of the roundhouses, if that is what they are, and the extent of the banks and ditches raise further important questions about the status of the Trendle in the landscape and social hierarchy.

Horner, W., 27/01/2015, The Trendle, Tavistock (Ground Photograph). SDV358591.

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.
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..
SDV242441Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. DAP/KM. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 3A, 4.
SDV256363Article in Serial: Alexander, J. J.. 1942. The Beginnings of Tavistock. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 74. A5 Hardback. 176.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336212Report - Survey: Quinnell, H.. 1998. Later Prehistoric Pottery Survey. Later Prehistoric Pottery Survey. A4 Spiral Bound. DBID:2215.
SDV341111Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1970. Trendle Earthwork. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV341112Un-published: Clare, T.. 1969. Excavations at The Trendle, Tavistock. Typescript + Digital.
SDV341113Article in Serial: Worth, R. H.. 1947. Prehistoric Tavistock. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 79. A5 Hardback. 126-127.
SDV341114Worksheet: Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Field Survey Officer. 1977. The Trendle. Worksheet.
SDV341115Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1983 - 1999. SX47NE15. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV341116Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1889. Notes on the Early History of Tavistock. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 21. A5 Hardback. 136.
SDV341118Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1958. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Unknown. 17/170.
SDV341346Report - Survey: Timms, S. C.. 1976. The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Unbound + Digital. 173.
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 611.
SDV346287Interpretation: Cornwall Archaeological Unit. 2001-2002. Tamar Valley National Mapping Programme Transcriptions and Database Records. National Mapping Programme. Map (Digital). RAFV17/170/0021-2.
SDV348725Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2012. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV350305Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 06/12/2006. Proposed Works at Trendle Earthwork North East of Kelly College, Tavistock, West Devon, Devon. Letter. A4 Stapled.
SDV351411Report - non-specific: West Devon Borough Council. 2009. Tavistock Conservation Area Management Plan. West Devon Borough Council Report. a4 Stapled + Digital. 22.
SDV354806Monograph: The Tavistock and District Local History Society. 1994. About Tavistock: An Historical Introduction and Six Town Walks. About Tavistock: An Historical Introduction and Six Town Walks. A5 Paperback. 7.
SDV358591Ground Photograph: Horner, W.. 27/01/2015. The Trendle, Tavistock. Digital.
Linked images:2
SDV359374Personal Comment: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2016. Backlog Recording of the Tamar Valley National Mapping Programme Survey. Not Applicable.
SDV365916Article in Serial: Hudswell, J. + Thompson, A.. 2020. The Tavistock Trendle: The Biography of a Prehistoric Enclosure. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 152. A5 Paperback.

Associated Monuments

MDV3833Related to: Bronze Fibula Found at Trendle Camp (Find Spot)
MDV3831Related to: Disc Head of a Bronze Pin, Trendle Camp (Find Spot)
MDV3832Related to: Fragment of Bronze Ornamental Work, Trendle Camp (Find Spot)
MDV3830Related to: Late Bronze Age Socketed Axe, Trendle Camp (Find Spot)
MDV16557Related to: ROAD in the Parish of Tavistock (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6911 - Tamar Valley National Mapping Programme

Date Last Edited:Apr 4 2024 2:41PM