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HER Number:MDV582
Name:The Castle, Knowle


Oval enclosure set on end of spur commanding valley route from north to River Taw estuary. Defined by single rampart and trace of ditch remaining, probably an early Iron Age univallate hillfort.


Grid Reference:SS 488 383
Map Sheet:SS43NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishBraunton
DistrictNorth Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishBRAUNTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SS43NE/5
  • Old SAM County Ref: 513
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SS43NE 19

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica, 352 (Monograph). SDV323771.

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

Ordnance Survey, 1905, 8NE (Cartographic). SDV59307.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1953 - 1954, SS43NE19 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV341597.

1. The Castle. Possibly an Iron Age Hill Fort.
2. Half a mile from Braunton, on a hill, is a camp called THE CASTLE, containing about 4 acres: on the north, which is the only accessible side, is a large platform with a fosse.
3. Possible hillfort.
4. Visited 6/10/1953. The topographical situation is fairly good from the point of view of an Iron Age hillfort. The earthwork consists of a glacis type bank surrounding a steep hillside on the east and west, and cutting across a promontory on the north, but it may be a. natural, b. an uncompleted earthwork, c. on the east and west sides a lynchet. The west side is still topped by a low field bank and hedge, but no trace of a field boundary was found at the east. The scarp at the north may have been accentuated by ploughing. At 'D' and looking east the land rises steadily to form a wide ridge running east to west. The slope to the north becomes more prominent as the ridge extends to the east. This ridge probably accounts for the statement in 2 of a fosse and vallum for the land falls from the approximate centre of the enclosure to the ridge. No trace of outlying earthwork was found. At 'E' the scarp has been lowered for 20 metres, giving the effect of an easier access, rather than a constructed entrance to the interior. From this point southwards the scarp continues prominently to 'F' where it fades into the natural slope of the hillside. The southern portion is heavily overgrown whilst remainder is under grass. No sign of habitation is visible. Other details: Photograph, sections..

Ministry of Works, 1962, The Castle, Knowle (Schedule Document). SDV341598.

The Castle, Knowle. Visited 02/10/1962. Oval enclosure 230 yards by 120 yards, set on end of spur commanding valley route from north to River Taw estuary. Defined by single rampart, and trace of ditch remaining. Probably an Early Iron Age univallate Hill-fort. Terraced area 50 feet by 35 feet at south end of site, revetted by mortared small stone masonry (undressed). Possibly site of medieval defensive structure set in apex of an earlier earthwork. North half of site under pasture, south half overgrown.

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

Knowle Castle is partly a folly of the 19th century, but may be on an Iron Age forerunner.

Griffith, F. M., 1987, DAP/HY, 1-2 (Aerial Photograph). SDV341600.

Mills, A., 1996, The Castle, Knowle (Personal Comment). SDV341599.

Terrace constructed in 1850 to house 2 cannon from wreck of HMS Weazle.

Walls, T., 1999 - 2000, Earthwork Enclosures in North-East Devon and Their Late Prehistoric Landscape, 14, 21 (Post-Graduate Thesis). SDV341596.

Visited 16/2/2000. Very large enclosure consisting of steep scarp to east (wooded), disturbed and overgrown remains to south, scarp plus modern field boundary to west, and slight scarp to north. Ditch is filled in but its extent can be seen as a berm in places. Field has been extensively ploughed in the past to reduce earth works to scarps. Other details: Plan, Photograph.

Carey, C., 2009, Interim Report: Braunton Community Archaeology Project (Report - Interim). SDV342459.

Geoprospection surveys undertaken, included topographic, earth resistance and gradiometer survey. The outputs from these provide key baseline data on the enclosure.
Interpretation of gradiometer survey showed the bank and ditch of the enclosure are clearly definable, as is the entrance. The interior of the enclosure is largely devoid of recognisable archaeological features, although much of the speckling in the enclosure (black dots) could be small pits/features or underlying geology.
Interpretation of earth resistance survey identified a possible roundhouse (anomaly 23). Other details: Figures 1-8.

Carey, C., 2011, Braunton Community Archaeology Project: Results of Geoprospection Surveys, 12 (Report - Geophysical Survey). SDV348156.

Combination of the gradiometer and earth resistance survey has produced substantial results. Primarily, the form of the enclosure is now fully defined, with internal bank and external ditch, representing a univallate enclosure. The entranceway to the enclosure also has clear definition and is seen to face into the enclosure, with small appendages at ends of the banks within the entrance interior. The morphology of enclosure entrance is also witnessed on the hillslope enclosures at Leyhill and Timberscombe on Exmoor.
Anomaly 22 is the best candidate for an archaeological structure within the enclosure definable from the geophysical surveys. Whilst the form and dimensions are reasonable for the remains of a roundhouse, it is possible that this is a variation within the geology. Although other anomolies were seen within the enclosure from both the earth resistance and gradiometer surveys, none of these are definable as archaeological in origin and most of these are ambiguous in form. It is probable that these anomolies are merely variation in the underlying geology (see report for further details). Other details: Filed, Geophysics Oxford Archaeology.

Eastwood, C., Mar 1984, Braunton Hill Hillfort and Artillery Fort (Worksheet). SDV358959.

Extract from Woollcombe manuscript. Woollcombe visited the site on 24th August 1843. Hillfort located half a mile from Braunton above the confluence of the Taw and Toridge. Woollcombe found no sign of an early camp, only a modern fort with small cannon.

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. 81, 202.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown. 352.
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. 14, 21.
SDV341597Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1953 - 1954. SS43NE19. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV341598Schedule Document: Ministry of Works. 1962. The Castle, Knowle. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV341599Personal Comment: Mills, A.. 1996. The Castle, Knowle.
SDV341600Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1987. DAP/HY. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 1-2.
SDV342459Report - Interim: Carey, C.. 2009. Interim Report: Braunton Community Archaeology Project. Oxford Archaeology. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV348156Report - Geophysical Survey: Carey, C.. 2011. Braunton Community Archaeology Project: Results of Geoprospection Surveys. Oxford Archaeology. A4 Stapled + Digital. 12.
SDV358959Worksheet: Eastwood, C.. Mar 1984. Braunton Hill Hillfort and Artillery Fort. Worksheet + Digital.
SDV59307Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1905. 8NE. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 6 inch Map. Map (Paper).

Associated Monuments

MDV11856Parent of: Battery at The Castle, Knowle (Monument)
MDV11904Related to: Cannon from HMS Weazle (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4516 - Geoprospection Survey of Knowle Enclosure

Date Last Edited:Aug 6 2020 4:14PM