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HER Number:MDV4861
Name:Iron Age promontory fort at Oldaport Camp, Modbury


This monument includes a large univallate hillfort, occupying a partly wooded promontory, projecting into the estuary of the River Erme. The ramparts form a long tapering enclosure with a well preserved gate structure with outer hornwork at the extreme south west end.


Grid Reference:SX 632 493
Map Sheet:SX64NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishModbury
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishMODBURY

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 441015
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX64NW/13
  • Old SAM County Ref: 331
  • Old SAM Ref: 33759
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX64NW 4

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • HILLFORT (Early Iron Age to Roman - 700 BC to 409 AD (Between))

Full description

Dryden, J., Untitled Source (Un-published). SDV139820.

Unpublished manuscript in Northampton Museum.

Rainbird, P., 06/2015, Oldaport Camp, Modbury (Report - Survey). SDV359462.

Conservation works and an archaeological survey was carried out by Westcountry Stonemasons and AC archaeology at Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (SX 63515,49445) in June 2015. The site of Oldaport Camp covers approximately 13ha, is a Scheduled Monument, and sits within an area held in a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme. The conservation works actioned recommendations from a previous management plan and the survey was carried out to enhance a previous survey and will be used to further inform future management of the site.
Conservation works
As noted in the revised recommendation R7 trees and vegetation had been removed from the northeast wall, along with hedge laying and copping of the adjacent hedgebank sections. By spring 2015 a low vegetation sward had developed, and following discussion with Historic England it was considered that capping (either solid or through the introduction of new soil layer) would not be required. The current vegetation should be maintained through strimming with potentially damaging species (such as ivy) removed as necessary. The conservation works comprised the re-setting of 16 stones on the northeast wall and their repointing. The positions of the works is presented in Fig. 3. The hydraulic lime mortar used for these works was St Astier NHL 3.5. The inclusions to the mortar were chosen to be distinct from the historic mortar, but also not to undermine the aesthetics of the ancient wall. The re-set stones were bedded in a mortar coloured a distinct pink by the inclusion of 2 parts Sowton Red sand and 1 part Yellow Heathfield 50/50 sand. The pointing was a white matching the historic mortar, but with smaller inclusions making it distinct and made with 2 parts Lee Moor silver sand and 1 part Yellow Heathfield 50/50 added to the lime mortar. Some of the finished work is illustrated in Plates 1 and 2.
The northwest angle wall The northwestern boundary of the site within the SM had previously been recorded only from the internal side (reported in Rainbird 2014; 2015). The external side faces on to a field belonging to a neighbouring property (Orcheton Quay). It was previously noted that ‘it was clear that the external face of the northwest wall is under significant threat from unchecked vegetation growth. This appears to have caused collapse and undermining. The hedgebank is in poor condition with evidence of animal burrowing, root disturbance and stock erosion’ and that the ‘external face has not been subject to detailed recording and this, along with a plan for consolidation [should be prepared] as a matter of urgency’ (Rainbird 2014; 2015).
Description of works:
Access to the external (north) side of the NW angle wall was agreed with the landowner. It was found to be difficult of access due to a combination of nettles and brambles, although the vegetation was less dense in front of the upper (eastern) end of the wall, an area defined as up-slope from a post-and-wire fence which delimits an area of orchard abutting the lower (western) half of the wall. It was decided to clear the upper (eastern) half to allow for the elevation to be recorded by a measured drawing (at 1:50) and detailed photography with the purpose of noting features and issues to inform the future management of this part of the monument. A further detailed drawing (at 1:10) was made of a short section where a change in the nature of the wall structure was observed.
Archaeological description:
The wall is constructed of local stone with some quartz (Plate 3). It appears to have been built in the form of a revetment with a flat face one stone wide in front of a rubble core with earth behind. The stonework is bonded by a hard off-white mortar with rare inclusions. Evidence of an off-white lime render survives in small patches. The stone work, where revealed by erosion, is approximately 1m thick. The front of the wall is irregularly coursed with an upper (eastern) stretch of large squared blocks (Plate 4), with a distinct break to a small stone rubble coursing (Plate 5), beyond which (lower down the slope) the course becomes more mixed with some squared blocks and patches of rubble work. In general the coursing is angled downslope, but is occasionally horizontal. The exposed height of the standing front of the wall ranges from 0.3m and three courses to 1.55m with approximately 12 courses. In places the lowest courses of the wall are obscured by dumps of soil and stone eroded from the earth bank above.
Elsewhere, at the upper (eastern) end the lowest course appears to have been exposed as this course appears to sit on soil. In this area the lowest course is stepped out by approximately 0.1m to 0.2m (Plate 6). Where render is visible in the area of the step, it is always above the height of the step and this may indicate that the stepped course was originally footings, forming a plinth course, and possibly positioned in a foundation trench. The revetted bank is considerably higher than the standing front of the wall in all places, and erosion has exposed the rubble core within this bank indicating that the wall face probably stood to an original height of at least 2m (Plates 7 and 8). The original size of the structure is also indicated at the top end of the wall at the point where it joins the northern boundary of Zone 1 where there is an erosion cone beneath a large ash tree. The erosion cone was not drawn but is an estimated 2.5m high, and approximately half way up the slope is three courses of stone, matching the line and type of the wall further downslope, and in addition above the coursed stones and angled away towards the top of the bank an area of rubble and mortar core is exposed (Plate 8). Beyond the erosion cone the northern boundary of Zone 1 is of a different character and appears to abut the earlier northwest angle wall. A single heavily corroded iron nail, possibly square, was recorded on the face of the wall. The Scheduled Monument description details the remnants of a ditch fronting the wall 15m wide and 0.3m deep, but no evidence of this was observed.
Of the upper end of the NW wall exposed the standing wall is generally in good condition. One section of approximately 4m length is heavily bowed due to pressure from tree growth and is in imminent danger of collapse. Elsewhere a previous fallen tree, although sawn to reduce further problems, has deformed the wall beneath it, although this appears to be stable. Towards the upper (eastern) end of the wall a small area, measuring approximately 0.35m by 0.35m, is missing its facing stones. In the bank above the standing wall wild animal burrowing and tracks causing erosion was noted in three places (Plate 9) and at the bottom (western) end of the exposed structure (approximately central to the length of the entire wall), an area eroded by stock animals gaining access to the top of the bank is present. It is apparent that the major threat to the standing wall in the area exposed is through damage to the bank above by tree growth and animal erosion. As part of the current HLES scheme the hedgebank has already been heavily reduced, but several large mature oak trees remain, and those that are on the outer edge of the hedgebank, closest to the wall face, remain a threat to the stability of the structure.
Management recommendations:
The circuit of the fort on this northwest side is still poorly understood. The process of revetment leading to a major drop from the inside of the fort to the outside and down a steep slope is difficult to envision, but this clearly represents a major piece of work, notwithstanding whether it was also fronted by a ditch. Further vegetation reduction and management to inhibit future large tree growth is recommended alongside previous recommendations to reduce the potential for stock animal access to the wall and bank by fencing. The remainder, lower half, of the wall also needs to be cleared and recorded and its condition assessed. (See report for further survey results and recommendations).

Unknown, 1846, Untitled Source, 517-518 (Article in Serial). SDV139946.

Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M., 1931, The Place-Names of Devon: Part One, 280 (Monograph). SDV1312.

Oldaport is mentioned as 'La Yoldeporte' in 1310 and 'La Porte in parochia de Modbury' in 1332.

Cottrill, F., 1935, The Fort at Oldaport, 213 (Article in Serial). SDV139872.

A wall and a defensive ditch running north west to south-east across a ridge between the two creeks. Wall of rubble up to 2.5 metres high. Position of the ending of the ditch suggests an entrance. Possibility of pre-Norman origin, but Late Saxon ruled out. Any dating can only be tentative without excavation.

Beckerlegge, J. J., 1938, Seventh Report of the Plymouth and District Branch, 155-157 (Article in Serial). SDV139895.

Dr Woollcombe, in 1841 believed the whole enclosed promontory to be a deerpark. The bank on the inside of the wall does not support this theory.

Jope, E. M. + Threlfall, R. I., 1942, The Fort at Oldaport, 65-68 (Article in Serial). SDV139818.

A trial excavation was carried out in July 1938 across the visible remains of ditch with wall to the north-east. Wall had ashlar facing, five courses high in places, with rubble and mortar core. Originally 2.13 metres thick with ramp of piled shillet against the inner face. Rock cut ditch silted to 1.2 metres in centre. On north-east part of ridge ditch becomes two shallow ditches 2.4 metres wide and 0.3 metres deep - possibly marking out ditches; possibly only partly completed ; possibly Late Roman or Dark Age. In the 1840s the sites of two towers were revealed but their antiquity is doubted. Other details: Plan.

Royal Air Force, 1946, CPE/UK 1890, 3088, 3087 (Aerial Photograph). SDV140289.

Other details: HER Nos 58/91, 58/92.

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/CPE/UK/1890, Devon County Council RAF/CPE/UK/1890 3087-3088 10-DEC-1946 (Aerial Photograph). SDV351061.

Linear and curvilinear banks and ditches are visible as earthworks.

Department of Environment, 1954, Oldaport Camp (Schedule Document). SDV139871.

Oldaport Camp is a fortification of earth and stone walls on a spur of land at the junction of two small creeks, where they join a short arm of the River Erme. Two periods of construction can be recognised. Entirely surrounded by defensive works at some unknown date before AD1300. The landward end has a deep ditch and masonry wall, backed with a bank, cutting off the promontory from the mainland. Traces of earthworks exist around the entire shore line and at the extreme point there is a "water gate" through the banks. The site has deteriorated during the last century, but has remained stationary for the past 20 years. Any ploughing, building, alteration of hedges or other development may make the eventual dating of the monument impossible. Other details: Monument 331.

Farley, M. E. + Little R. I., 1968, Oldaport, Modbury, 31-36 (Article in Serial). SDV139875.

Two periods of construction can be recognised. Firstly, a rectangular enclosure of 2.6 acres, possibly Roman and secondly, a secondary walled enclosure of 30 acres incorporating the primary enclosure and covering the whole spur of land. Today the main visible feature is a substantial mortared rubble wall 33 metres long crossing the neck of the spur, originally 97 metres long. There are traces of defensive earthworks in front of the wall. An early trackway runs along the eastern side of the fort from the harbour to Modbury. The masonry of the secondary fortification is very similar to that of the north-east wall of the primary fort. There is a substantial terrace around two thirds of the site but it is not clear if this is contemporary with the walling, or perhaps even earlier. A trial trench was dug in 1968 and proved the anticipated alignment of the south-east wall of the primary fort. Only two finds: an abraded sherd of probable samian and an iron nail. The primary fort is possibly Roman but no date can be ascribed to the secondary fortification.

Griffith, F. M., 1973, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV139880.

Site visit during 1973.The site remains enigmatic, and in the field, previously published accounts do not seem very persuasive explanations for the extant features. One small sherd picked up dated as post medieval. The bank behind the main wall certainly supports a defensive function but the masonry of the wall as it survives most certainly does not look Roman. During the field visit a very slight platform was observed in the centre of the promontory and it was observed that Brent Hill is visible from there. If the grounds for suspecting a Roman presence at Oldaport are sound, a signal station is tentatively suggested by the writer.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1974 - 1980, SX64NW4, 4 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV139891.

The name Oldaport is recorded at least as far back as 1310 when it may have been a port. Other details: Plan.

National Monuments Record, 1979, SX6349, 1/209-217 & 2/218-225 (Aerial Photograph). SDV139882.

National Monuments Record aerial photos show the eastern end of site well, including the two outer banks.

Todd, M., 1980 - 1989, The Southwest to AD1000, 260-262 (Monograph). SDV139884.

Interpreted as possible private fortified settlement of Roman date. Wall shown on plan as still standing at south west tip of site as well as on north east and north sides. Other details: Plan in Parish File.

Griffith, F. M., 1983, Oldaport (Worksheet). SDV139879.

Site visit 4th February 1983. Certain features of the site appear to have changed or not to have been recorded before. The whole centre of the enclosed area has been cultivated and a hedge removed. The sites of the 'towers' are only slightly visible. Two small banks outside the large ditch across the promontory appear not to have been recorded before but appear not to be new features. No persuasive trace of fortification was observed around the south west point. The stone revetted drop to the north east side of the fort was however very striking. On field evidence now, there is no support for the suggested 'smaller enclosure' at the east suggested by Farley. Two plans and one letter relating to Farley's excavation in parish file. Other details: Plan.

Unknown, 1983, Untitled Source (Photograph). SDV139899.

Padel, O. J., 1983, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV139881.

The site is believed by to be a significant Dark Age site.

Griffith, F. M., 1984, DAP/DQ, 2, 3, 3a, 4 (Aerial Photograph). SDV139901.

Robinson, R., 1986, List of Field Monument Warden Visits 1986 (Un-published). SDV345664.

Department of Environment, 1986, Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (Correspondence). SDV359410.

Scheduled monument consent granted in respect of proposed works to repair and make safe the approaches to the fort, and to provide a hardstanding for vehicles.

Griffith, F. M., 1989, DAP/OD, 10 - 15 (Aerial Photograph). SDV139904.

Department of Environment, 1990, Proposed Works at Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (Correspondence). SDV139878.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted in 1990 for erection of sheep stock fence.

Timms, S. C., 1990, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV139885.

Wall on north east inspected. Vegetation may be cut back, otherwise no work proposed. P. Rainbird has recently carried out geophysical survey of interior. Reminiscent of Lydford.

Rainbird, P., 1991, Oldaport, Devon: Recent Fieldwork and a Reconsideration (Undergraduate Dissertation). SDV139886.

In his dissertation, Rainbird reviews all the available evidence for Oldaport, including his own geophysical survey and the cropmarks in the interior. He concludes that two phases of Roman activity may be indicated here, but that the majority of the surviving features may relate to a Late Saxon 'emergency burh', possibly never completed. An Ethelredian date is suggested, while the 'towers' are tentatively explained as the remains of Saxon mortar mixers.

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

Rainbird, P., 1998, Oldaport and the Anglo Saxon Defence of Devon, 153-164 (Article in Serial). SDV139888.

The name La Yoldeport appears in 1310. It is not mentioned in a charter of AD847 or in Domesday. The defences were probably constructed in the early 11th century during the reign of Aethelred II to repel Viking attacks. The burh was not completed before it was destroyed.

Environment Agency, 1998-2017, LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) EA: South Devon Coast to Dartmoor, LIDAR SX6249; SX6349 Environment Agency DTM 01-JAN-1998 to 31-MAY-2017 (Cartographic). SDV361470.

Linear and curvilinear banks and ditches are visible as earthworks.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2001, Iron Age Promontory Fort known as Oldaport Camp (Schedule Document). SDV139887.

Iron Age promontory fort known as Oldaport Camp. A long tapering enclosure, aligned north-east to south-west, with an interior measuring up to 200 metres by 910 metres, although the north-east end narrows to a maximum of 105 metres wide.
The ramparts of the main enclosure survive as earthworks towards the south-west end but elsewhere have largely been reduced. Their outer face varies between 3 metres and 5.5 metres wide, falling up to 5 metres on the north into the former tidal creek, and between 3 metres and 5 metres on the south side, where an outer ditch survives as a terrace about 12 metres wide. The ramparts preserve traces of a coursed stone revetment, bonded with clay. Fragments of this are evident on the north side near a natural spring which lies within the rampart and also at the south west tip of the promontory. They survive an average of 0.5 metres high and are towards the top of the rampart.
At the south-west end of the site, a narrow hornwork defends the north side of a steep hollow way, which entered the fort from the beach beside the river. This hornwork utilises part of the natural river cliff and projects about 21 metres from the rampart. It is between 1.3 metres and 2 metres wide and rises about 1.5 metres from the hollow way, falling about 2.5 metres on its north side. The former beach level to the north of this gateway was covered in the 19th century by a causeway, carrying a carriage drive which ran down the east bank of the Erme estuary from Flete House to Erme mouth. The causeway is not included in the scheduling.
At the north-east end of the site, the north rampart leaves the creek side, climbing steeply to a narrower enclosure on level ground. The nature of the rampart changes here. Where it angles up the hillside, it survives about 3 meters wide, rising 1 metre from the interior and falling about 2.5 metres to an outer ditch. The rampart is fronted by a coursed stone wall of clay bonded rubble, about 2 metres high. The outer ditch is 15 metres wide by 0.3 metres deep.
Around the east end of the fort there was formerly a walled enclosure which may be evidence of re-fortification in the Post-Roman period and perhaps the presence of a Medieval castle. This is known from 19th century sketches and descriptions and had earth ramparts fronted by a mortared stone wall. Two towers are recorded at the north-west and south corners of this enclosure, where a 19th century sketch shows arched gateways, the southern of which was defended by a sub-circular stone tower. The base of this survives as a mortared stone foundation. Earthworks mark the sites of both gates and earthworks of a possible rampart and ditch, facing west lie between the two.
A further two possible round towers were found on this rampart line during a geophysical survey in 1991. Fragments of a mortared stone wall facing the south rampart continue to be visible for at least 100 metres west of the southern gateway. Part of the wall fronting the east rampart survives for a distance of 35 metres. It stands between 1 metre and 2.7 metres high and is 1.3 metres thick, backed by an earth rampart about 5 metres thick by 2 metres high. A disturbance in its centre, where the rampart is lower, is associated with a hole in the wall 2.6 metres wide and a spread of rubble to the east. This may be the site of a gate or a tower. A berm outside this wall is 13 metres across, fronted by an unfinished ditch 11 metres wide by 1.5 metres deep, with an outer glacis 7 metres wide by 0.8 metres high. The ditch stops halfway across the hilltop and cuts two parallel banks, the inner of which is 12 metres thick by 0.6 metres high and the outer 10 metres thick by 0.4 metres high.
A further line of defence lies about 55 metres to the north-east. This has a rampart between 3 metres and 10 metres thick and 0.4 metres to 0.7 metres high, fronted by a ditch whose course is now followed by a metalled lane. This is about 12 metres wide by 2.5 metres deep.
A small ruined 19th century building on the north shoreline at the south-west end of the site is dug into the rampart and is included in the scheduling. The modern road surfaces and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath them is included.
Other details: Monument 33759.

Environment Agency, 2001-2010, Lidar data JPEG SX64NW DTM, LIDAR SX64NW DTM Environment Agency 2001-2010 (Cartographic). SDV351394.

Earthwork banks are visible.

Rainbird, P. + Druce, D., 2004, A Late Saxon Date from Oldaport, 177-180 (Article in Serial). SDV322803.

An Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) date has provided the first absolute date for the masonry remains, strengthening the interpretation that they are Late Saxon in origin. The date was determined from charcoal extracted from loose and fallen mortar from the wall. Much of the charcoal was identified as oak, which, because it is a long lived species, was not considered suitable for dating but one sample was identified as hazel, a short-lived species, which provided a calibrated date of AD873-1020. The authors suggest that Farley and Little's hypothesis of two phases at Oldaport is correct with Phase 1, represented by the surviving earthworks, which compare well with other Romano British enclosures in south west England, and Phase 2, represented by the mortared stone walls and external ditch which should now be considered as Late Saxon. If the charcoal dating is contemporaneous with Phase 2, Oldaport is a strong candidate for a previously unrecognished burh.

Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M., 2006, The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon, 72 (Article in Serial). SDV339814.

It has been suggested that Oldaport could have been reached by sea-going vessels before the construction of the causeway in the 19th century and may have been a 10th century centre of trade for sea-borne goods.

English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West, 109 (Report - non-specific). SDV342694.

Generally satisfactory condition, but with significant localised problems. Principal vulnerability localised/limited stock erosion.

English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West, 102 (Report - non-specific). SDV344777.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 441015 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV346279.

Oldaport Camp is a fortification of earth and stone walls on a spur of land at the junction of two small creeks, where they join a short arm of the river Erme. There are two periods of construction. Firstly a rectangular work occupying the north east end of the spur, and secondly a much larger work occupying the whole spur and incorporating all but the south west side of the smaller work in its perimeter. A stone wall defence survives 74.2 metres long, 3 metres wide and up to 2.7 metres high. Excavation in 1968 found a Samian sherd suggesting the early feature may be a Roman fort.
The phase 1 enclosure is probably Romano-British. However, a Romano-British civilian settlement has no morphological parallel in the south-west, and the Oldaport site would be out of character with such an interpretation. Therefore the second phase of stone construction must be considerably later. It is unlikely that the Phase II stonework dates to before the 10th century. By analogy, the work appears to be a burh of the reign of Aethelraed II

English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West, 106 (Report - non-specific). SDV355280.

Generally satisfactory condition, but with significant localised problems. Declining. Principal vulnerability localised/limited stock 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.

Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R., 2013-2014, South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project (Interpretation). SDV351146.

Probable earthwork banks reating to Oldaport Camp are visible on images derived from Lidar data captured between 2001 and 2010. Some correspond to field boundaries, whilst others around the shoreline resemble flood banks, but are likely to be the defences alluded to in the literature associated with the defended site. The south western tip is not visible on other available aerial photographs due to tree cover and interpretation is extremely tentative, especially as the documents relating to this site were not available at the time of the survey so unfortunately none of the maps or plans could be consulted. A possible narrow ridge, circa 20 metres inland from the northern bank at its south-west point, is also visible. It may be associated with the path depicted on the late nineteenth century OS map, or simply an artefact of data processing, and has not been transcribed here, although a site visit is recommended. Other earthwork features on the north-east of the promontory are visible on some aerial photographs, but these are well outside the project area where aerial photograph coverage for this project was limited, and so have not been discussed or transcribed here.

English Heritage, 2014, Iron Age Promontory Fort known as Oldport Camp, Oldaport, Modbury, South Hams, Devon (Correspondence). SDV356175.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted subject to conditions, in respect of proposed works concerning the cutting and removal of vegetation in preparation for an archaeological survey and consolidation of the monument.

Rainbird, P., 2015, Oldaport Camp, Modbury (Report - Survey). SDV360007.

Conservation works and an archaeological survey was carried out by Westcountry Stonemasons and AC archaeology at Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (SX 6351549445) in June 2015. The site of Oldaport Camp covers approximately 13ha, is a Scheduled Monument, and sits within an area held in a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme. The conservation works actioned recommendations from a previous management plan and the survey was carried out to enhance a previous survey and will be used to further inform future management of the site.
Oldaport Camp is a Scheduled Monument (National Heritage List no. 10202340) located near Modbury in the South Hams district of Devon (SX 63515 49445). The site is described as 'enigmatic' and its origins and development are not fully understood. Whilst Scheduled as an Iron Age promontory fort, it may have originated as a Romano-British enclosure, with later earthworks, including a bank, wall and ditch being of later Saxon date. A radiocarbon determination provides a date for this later phase.
Oldaport is the name of the farm positioned on the neck of the spur adjacent to the site. The site of Oldaport Camp is defined by sections of large wall and ditches, situated on a spur some 900m long by 215m wide at its broadest point. At present the majority of the 13ha enclosed is given over to stock grazing. The spur has a stream (Ayleston Brook) and marsh to the north, and a stream in the valley to the south. At the southwest end of the spur is Oldaport Woods and tidal Orcheton Creek, close to the head of the Erme estuary. For purposes of discussion in the management report the SM within the Oldaport Farm holding was divided into five zones shown on Fig. 2, and these will also be referred to here.
See report for full report On Conservations works and Survey Results.

Rainbird, P., 2015, Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (Report - Excavation). SDV359819.

An archaeological survey of Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (SX 63515 49445) was carried out by AC archaeology between March and August 2014. The survey was carried out to inform future management, with particular emphasis on erosion caused by stock animals. Archaeological excavations in relation to management recommendations and to enable improved interpretation and future management of the site were conducted in January 2015.
No mention is made in the Domesday Book but a marginal note in Exon Domesday reveals that nine manors neighbouring the area of Oldaport, east of the River Avon, had been ‘laid waste’ by Irish raiders, seven of which had not recovered by 1086 (Thorn and Thorn 1985, 17, 41). The earliest reference to Oldaport is dated c. 1250, when John de la Port is said to have taken 'his name of an old fort that standeth upon the river of Erme and gave the name unto a family' (Lysons 1822, 274). The name ‘la Yoldeport’ appears in the Feet of Fines for 1310, and the Episcopal registers for 1332 record it as ‘La port in the parochia de Modbury’ (Gover, Mawer and Stenton 1932). Around 1630 Risdon produced a survey of Devon in which he notes, ‘De la Port, called also Old Port, lieth near Orcharton, and had, in elder ages, inhabitants of that name. It was sometime a castle of defence, having a little creek of the sea coming up under it’ (Risdon 1970, 188).
During the later 19th and into the 20th Centuries there were various mentions of and theories relating to Oldaport, ranging from a Norman deer park to the lost Roman station of Armina (see Appendix 1). An unpublished note dated June 1863 in the diary of antiquary Sir Henry Dryden, of Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire, reports the remains of two round towers and elaborate gateways. Page (1893, 162) reports that the farmer at Oldaport had told him that ‘in his father’s time the fortification was in a much better state of preservation, that there were entrances on each side, one surmounted by a huge arch of a “sort of red sandstone”.’
Early maps
Saxton’s 1575 map of Devon shows Orcheton and Kingston, but does not mark Oldaport or show any indication of features at the site. Benjamin Donn’s map of 1765 shows only the road that passes Oldaport Farm. Greenwood’s map of 1827 provides further detail; Oldaport Farm is shown with three buildings depicted and the road past the farm is marked with a crossroads at the location of the current entrance drive. The southwest arm follows the line of the green lane (Zone 3) to Orcheton Creek with the northeast arm a short stub. Oldaport Wood occupies the area at the end of the spur. No further details are present.
Tithe map (1841) (Fig. 3)
The tithe map and apportionment of 1841 shows the site of the ditch (Zone 1) covered in wood (plot 1950). The paddock in this area up to the lane (part of Zones 1 and 2) is recorded as ‘Pitty’ and inside the northeast wall on Zone 1 is a small subrectangular enclosure recorded as ‘Pitty Orchard’ (plot 1949). The major part of the interior of the site, covering the spur, is divided into three plots with Oldaport Wood at the tip of spur, as in earlier mapping, and two large arable fields; east of Oldaport Wood is ‘Point Park’ and to the east again is ‘Well Park’. The latter is presumably named for the spring (Zone 2) which is within this paddock, although not marked on the tithe map. Table 2 is based upon a transcription of the Modbury tithe apportionment showing all relevant and adjacent fields, including plot numbers, ownership, land use and a description. (See report for further details on historic maps).
Summary of the archaeological resource:
Zone 1: The most obvious features of the site today are the northeast wall and ditch. The wall may have once straddled the neck of the spur, a distance of about 100m. It has a rubble and mortar core, with facing stones surviving both front and rear. The interior of the wall is backed by an earthen bank. The ditch, which is parallel to the wall and fronts it, is separated from the wall by a wide berm. It does not front the entire length of the wall. Its southern end has been slighted by probable quarrying and is currently used as a parking area. At the northern end of the ditch slight earthworks continue the line of the ditch across the spur.
Zone 2: On the steep north slope of the spur a wall runs down at an angle to the Ayleston Brook, probably to include a freshwater spring within the circuit. On the external side, facing the land of Orcheton Quay, the wall stands to a height of up to 3m. The wall is topped by a hedgebank which forms the majority of the height of the wall on the internal side.
Zone 3: The earthworks on the southern side, which are slight, may include a ditch which is now used as a track and adjacent tree-topped bank that runs from Oldaport Farm to the head of Orcheton Creek.
Zone 4: This is the large area on top of the spur. It is largely level and overlooked by hills to north and south with views west blocked by Oldaport Wood and east by the wall and earthworks of Zone 1. To the northeast there are far-reaching views to Dartmoor, and Brent Hill by South Brent is a distinct feature 14km away. There are no obvious extant archaeological features in this area, but aerial photography and geophysical survey show that the area has many buried features of archaeological interest.
Zone 5: A further putative earthwork and ditch is present further to the northeast where it has been proposed that the hedgebank and hollow way of the public road represent an outermost line of defences. These too, straddle the spur.
Oldaport Wood at the tip of the spur is outside of the HLS area, but has earthworks and a short section of mortared wall. Here there is a curved hollow-way leading from the original creek side up onto the spur. This track ends at a gap between two earthen banks, the butt ends of which form a gateway. These banks can be traced for a short distance in each direction. To the north are the remains of a wall in front of the bank. Although this wall utilised smaller blocks of stone than the larger walls elsewhere on the site, it is similar in being over 1m thick and full of mortar.
In 2007 an extensive geophysical survey was carried out by Exeter University. This provided further detail for previously observed features and several new features were identified. The survey reaffirmed the position of the enclosure previously identified in Zone 4 (labelled 5 on Fig. 8), but also added a clear NW-SE aligned ditch crossing the spur further west in Zone 4 and another similarly oriented ditch crossing the spur directly outside and adjacent to the large ditch and earthworks in Zone 1. In Zone 4 further features were identified including a possible double sub-circular double-ditch and bank enclosure (9), a rectangular building (10), a circular pit-like feature (7) and a circle of apparent pit features (3). In Zone 1 several linear anomalies at right-angles to one another (2) were oriented roughly N-S, E-W. Directly to the north of these an area of burning was identified (1). In Zone 5 approximately EW aligned linear anomalies (11) were interpreted as representing the underlying geology. None of the possible archaeological features, excepting the ditch (12) in Zone 1, is easy to interpret in relation to the known archaeology of the site, although some of these will be discussed further where appropriate below.
Airborne laser scanning data presented as a digital terrain model produced by the Environment Agency was consulted as an aid to identifying surface features. The apparent off-set gateway visible on the RAF 1946 aerial photography is a clear feature. A feature previously not identified was an apparent earthwork bank located in Oldaport Wood running from close to the tip of the spur in a northerly direction and taking in the upper edge overlooking Ayleston Brook. As viewed on LiDAR it appeared that this feature was confined to Oldaport Woods, outside of the area which is the subject of this report; however, observations on the ground showed that it continued as a standing earthwork in the southwest end of Zone 2 and is discussed further below. (See report for full survey details).
The excavation trench to the rear of the NE wall revealed a sequence of bank deposits confirming the expectation that the bank survives to a width of over 6m in this area. The bank deposits are dissimilar to the minimal description provided by Jope and Threlfall (1942) in that they cannot be described as being formed of ‘piled shillet’, but contain a great deal more soil and must derive from former topsoil or subsoil deposits. It is not clear exactly where Jope and Threlfall’s section was placed, but it appears to have been against the back of part of the standing NE wall, and it perhaps indicates that they exposed higher bank deposits that were lost from the current section. The piled shillet that they saw is perhaps related to a refurbishment contemporary with the digging of the large rock cut ditch from which the higher bank material could have been derived. This would also account for the fact that they exposed well-made facing stones on the rear of the wall, indicating that the wall had been constructed without the expectation of a rear bank, and certainly was not added to the front of an existing earthwork. This correlates with the current observations of a mortared faced to the exposed masonry on this side of the wall (see Fig. 10b). (See report for results of each evalutaion trench).
The transect of test pits revealed a sequence of deposits which confirmed that archaeologically significant material is located in the terrace adjacent to the spring. These deposits (in TPs 2 and 3) comprise made ground to a depth of at least 1m, and clearly represent infilling behind the present course of the Ayleston Brook. No dating evidence was forthcoming, but the location of these deposits directly above the steep drop to Ayleston Brook, could be interpreted as the remnants of a former bank, perhaps contemporary with the construction of the NW wall which brings the spring within the bounds of the site. The transect also showed that these deposits are located only in the level area of the terrace (over a width of approximately 10m) and that the steep hill slope (the location of TPs 4 and 5) is made up of overlying subsoil and colluvial deposits of less archaeological interest. On the basis of the current evidence the archaeological activity in this area is functional in nature rather than ritualistic.
(See report for full details on individual test pits).

Historic England, 2018, Post Roman Fortification at Oldaport Camp, Modbury (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV361236.

A sub-rectangular enclosure at the eastern end of an Iron Age promontory fort. Earth ramparts with mortared stone facings existed on the north, east and south sides. 19th century descriptions and sketches show that gateways existed in the north west and south west corners, facing east and implying that the earlier hillfort to the west was included in the defensive circuit. The gates had mortared stone arches and were each defended by angled embrasures in the defensive walls to their east. The southern gateway had a sub-circular tower on its south side. The north and south ramparts, gates and tower have been reduced and their facing walls mainly demolished although the base of the tower is visible as a mortared stone foundation. Remains of a mortared stone wall front the Iron Age rampart running down the promontory to the west. Between the sites of the two gates, slight earthworks may preserve the line of a western rampart and ditch.
Geophysical survey in 1991 identified two anomalies on the line of this possible western rampart, possibly the sites of further defensive towers. A high stone wall fronts the rampart to the north west of the north gate, but this may be much later in date. The eastern rampart is the best preserved. A mortared stone wall survives up to 2.7m high, fronting the earth rampart. It is constructed of rubble stone, with a core of thick layers of mortar and rubble, levelled up occasionally with herringbone courses. The mortar contains charcoal flecks. The coursed outer facing stones are mainly robbed out. A gap in the centre with a rubble spread outside could be the site of a gate or tower. A wide berm in front of the wall is fronted by a pair of parallel earth banks, partly destroyed by a large unfinished rock-cut ditch with an upcast bank on its outer edge.
A small archaeological excavation in 1968 investigated the southern rampart of this fortified enclosure. The results were inconclusive as the wall had been substantially robbed, but an abraded sherd of possible Samian ware was found. Firm identification of this defensive enclosure has been hampered by lack of serious excavation and the suggested post Roman date is based on academic argument only.

Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R., 2019-2020, The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP) (Interpretation). SDV362982.

Additional earthworks of banks and ditches were recorded to supplement and enhance those features transcribed during the South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone NMP project. These were visible on RAF aerial photographs taken in 1946 and on visualisations derived from lidar data captured between 1998 and 2017. These include: two sections of bank, circa 15m wide, which define part of the southern edge of the hillfort; evidence of possible terracing, circa 12m wide, within the inside edge of the hillfort ramparts which also possibly define the eastern edge of the Iron Age hillfort itself; and parallel, linear banks associated with the ramparts of the possible post-Roman enclosure to the east.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV1312Monograph: Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M.. 1931. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. VIII. A5 Hardback. 280.
SDV139818Article in Serial: Jope, E. M. + Threlfall, R. I.. 1942. The Fort at Oldaport. Antiquaries Journal. 22. Unknown. 65-68.
SDV139820Un-published: Dryden, J.. Unknown.
SDV139871Schedule Document: Department of Environment. 1954. Oldaport Camp. The Schedule of Monuments. Letter.
SDV139872Article in Serial: Cottrill, F.. 1935. The Fort at Oldaport. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 2. Paperback Volume. 213.
SDV139875Article in Serial: Farley, M. E. + Little R. I.. 1968. Oldaport, Modbury. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 26. Paperback Volume. 31-36.
SDV139878Correspondence: Department of Environment. 1990. Proposed Works at Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV139879Worksheet: Griffith, F. M.. 1983. Oldaport. Devon County Sites and Monuments Register. Worksheet.
SDV139880Personal Comment: Griffith, F. M.. 1973.
SDV139881Personal Comment: Padel, O. J.. 1983.
SDV139882Aerial Photograph: National Monuments Record. 1979. SX6349. Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1/209-217 & 2/218-225.
SDV139884Monograph: Todd, M.. 1980 - 1989. The Southwest to AD1000. The Southwest to AD1000. Unknown. 260-262.
SDV139885Personal Comment: Timms, S. C.. 1990.
SDV139886Undergraduate Dissertation: Rainbird, P.. 1991. Oldaport, Devon: Recent Fieldwork and a Reconsideration. University of Sheffield Dissertation. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV139887Schedule Document: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2001. Iron Age Promontory Fort known as Oldaport Camp. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled. [Mapped feature: #93237 ]
SDV139888Article in Serial: Rainbird, P.. 1998. Oldaport and the Anglo Saxon Defence of Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 56. Paperback Volume. 153-164.
SDV139891Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1974 - 1980. SX64NW4. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index. 4.
SDV139895Article in Serial: Beckerlegge, J. J.. 1938. Seventh Report of the Plymouth and District Branch. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 70. A5 Hardback. 155-157.
SDV139899Photograph: Unknown. 1983. Slide.
SDV139901Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1984. DAP/DQ. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 2, 3, 3a, 4.
SDV139904Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1989. DAP/OD. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 10 - 15.
SDV139946Article in Serial: Unknown. 1846. Gentleman's Magazine. Newspaper/Magazine Cuttin. 517-518.
SDV140289Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. CPE/UK 1890. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 3088, 3087.
SDV322803Article in Serial: Rainbird, P. + Druce, D.. 2004. A Late Saxon Date from Oldaport. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 62. Paperback Volume. 177-180.
SDV339814Article in Serial: Griffith, F. M. + Wilkes, E. M.. 2006. The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon. Archaeological Journal. 163. A5 Paperback. 72.
SDV342694Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2009. Heritage at Risk Register 2009: South West. English Heritage Report. A4 Bound +Digital. 109.
SDV344777Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2010. Heritage at Risk Register 2010: South West. English Heritage Report. Digital. 102.
SDV345664Un-published: Robinson, R.. 1986. List of Field Monument Warden Visits 1986. Lists of Field Monument Warden Visits. Printout.
SDV346279National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 441015. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV351061Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/CPE/UK/1890. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). Devon County Council RAF/CPE/UK/1890 3087-3088 10-DEC-1946.
SDV351146Interpretation: Hegarty, C. + Knight, S. + Sims, R.. 2013-2014. South Devon Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme Project. AC Archaeology Report. Digital.
Linked documents:1
SDV351394Cartographic: Environment Agency. 2001-2010. Lidar data JPEG SX64NW DTM. Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital. LIDAR SX64NW DTM Environment Agency 2001-2010.
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.
SDV355280Report - non-specific: English Heritage. 2011. Heritage at Risk Register 2011: South West. english Heritage. Digital. 106.
SDV356175Correspondence: English Heritage. 2014. Iron Age Promontory Fort known as Oldport Camp, Oldaport, Modbury, South Hams, Devon. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Digital.
SDV359410Correspondence: Department of Environment. 1986. Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon. Scheduled Monument Consent Granted. Letter.
SDV359462Report - Survey: Rainbird, P.. 06/2015. Oldaport Camp, Modbury. AC Archaeology. ACD1130/1/0. Digital.
SDV359819Report - Excavation: Rainbird, P.. 2015. Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon. AC Archaeology. ACD879/1/2. Digital.
SDV360007Report - Survey: Rainbird, P.. 2015. Oldaport Camp, Modbury. AC Archaeology. ACD1130/1/0. Digital.
SDV361236List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Historic England. 2018. Post Roman Fortification at Oldaport Camp, Modbury. Addition to Schedule. Digital.
SDV361470Cartographic: Environment Agency. 1998-2017. LiDAR DTM data (1m resolution) EA: South Devon Coast to Dartmoor. Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital. LIDAR SX6249; SX6349 Environment Agency DTM 01-JAN-1998 to 31-MAY-2017.
SDV362982Interpretation: Hegarty, C., Knight, S. and Sims, R.. 2019-2020. The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping Survey. Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (AI&M, formerly NMP). Historic England Research Report. Digital.
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.

Associated Monuments

MDV36045Parent of: FINDSPOT in the Parish of Modbury (Find Spot)
MDV4863Parent of: Tower on north side of Oldaport Camp (Monument)
MDV4864Parent of: Tower on south side of Oldaport Camp (Monument)
MDV4847Related to: Oldaport, Modbury (Building)
MDV125831Related to: Rectangular enclosure within Oldaport Fort, Modbury (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV474 - NAIL (Unknown date)
  • FDV473 - SHERD (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)
  • FDV475 - SHERD (XIII to XIX - 1201 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV2242 - Oldaport, Modbury
  • EDV2245 - The Fort at Oldaport
  • EDV6127 - Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey National Mapping Programme (NMP) for South-West England - South Coast Devon (Ref: ACD618)
  • EDV6923 - Conservation Works and Additional Archaeological Survey, Oldaport Camp, Modbury (Ref: ACD1130/1/0)
  • EDV7102 - Higher Level Stewardship Scheme Survey and Excavation, Oldaport Camp, Modbury, Devon (Ref: ACD879/1/2)
  • EDV7187 - Conservations Works and Survey, Oldaport Camp, Modbury (Ref: ACD1130/1/0)
  • EDV8098 - The South Devon Coast to Dartmoor Aerial Investigation and Mapping (formerly NMP) Survey, Area 2, Avon Valley to Plymouth (Ref: ACD2040)

Date Last Edited:Jun 20 2019 2:03PM