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HER Number:MDV7985
Name:Enclosure in Boro' Wood, Ashburton


Boro Wood Camp. Hillslope enclosure of probable Iron Age date, situated on the eastern promontory which forms the south-east extremity of Ausewell Hill at approximately 230m OD. The enclosure is approximately elliptical and constructed from stone rubble. The wall or rampart has been heavily robbed. There are several gaps in the wall though none may be identified as an entrance with any confidence.


Grid Reference:SX 748 716
Map Sheet:SX77SW
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishAshburton
Ecclesiastical ParishASHBURTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX77SW30
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 445328
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX77SW/14
  • Old SAM County Ref: 824

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • HUT CIRCLE? (Constructed, Bronze Age - 2200 BC (Between) to 701 BC (Between))
  • ENCLOSURE (Constructed, Iron Age - 700 BC (Between) to 42 AD (Between))

Full description

Amery, P. F. S., 1873, Some Hitherto Unrecorded Hillfortresses near Ashburton, 262-3 (Article in Serial). SDV164509.

Earthworks in Boro' Wood.

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

Feature not shown on 19th century map.

Ordnance Survey, 1904 - 1906, Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map (Cartographic). SDV325644.

'Boro' Wood Castle' shown on early 20th century map as an oval feature with earthworks around most of the circumference.

Wall, J. C., 1906, Ancient Earthworks, 366, 602 (Article in Monograph). SDV341465.

Amery, J. S., 1924, (Presidential Address) The Ashburton of past days: its manners, customs and inhabitants, 44, 94, map (Article in Serial). SDV315287.

At the highest part of Boro' Wood an enclosure is formed by a stone rampart from 12 to 20 feet wide and from 5 to 6 feet high. There is no outer ditch but advantage of the hillcrest has been taken where possible. To the northwest where there is level ground, there is a double rampart. On the east there are traces of an entrance.
A map of 1605 shows a roughly circular enclosure annotated 'Castle' in Boro' wood' (For photograph of map see Devon 108 SE 6).

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

Royal Air Force, 1946, RAF/CPE/UK/1890, 2384 (Aerial Photograph). SDV169268.

Amery Adams, E. + Dewey, H., 1950, Spindle Whorls Found in Devonshire, 326 (Article in Serial). SDV147932.

Spindle whorl found amongst the rampart stones.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1960, SX77SW30, NRHE Event numbers: 445329 / 445331 for 1960 visits (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV301056.

Lady Fox thinks this a very doubtful site. She says the banks are stone heaps, irregular in profile and look like old copper workings following an outcrop at the top of the scarp to the N.E. and intermittent on the SE. She states that Mrs. Woolner came to the same conclusion (Lady A. Fox, 12/05/1960).
(24/05/1960) This is an oval shaped work situated on a slight S.E. slope, a little below the hill crest. The position is not a good one for defence, only on the N.E. side is any protection afforded by natural slopes.
A single rampart of stone can be traced for most of the circuit although in places, particularly to the S.W., stone robbing has reduced it to barely more than a scatter of stones. The apparent double rampart to the N.W. seems to be mutilation and not an original feature. None of the many gaps could be identified as an original entrance. the bank is composed of small stones, which, with their sharp unweathered faces, appear to have been quarried. There is no outcrop or surface stone in the area.
Lady Fox's contention that the feature is an old copper working appears unlikely. The irregularity of profile is due to stone robbing; to the N.E., where the rampart is undisturbed, it is regular and well made.
The purpose of the enclosure is obscure; situation, construction and long perimeter rule out a defensive use. Possibly a stock enclosure of uncertain date, for it is quite unlike the prehistoric earthworks of the region. The use of what seems to be quarried stone possibly indicates a medieval origin. A 25" survey has been made.
Site visit June 1976. In same condition, completely wooded. A deep shaft within the enclosure is not recent.

Ancient Monuments, 1970, Earthworks in Boro' Wood (Schedule Document). SDV351137.

Sub-rectangular enclosure approximately 247 metres by 174 metres. Stone rampart 3.66 metres - 6.40 metres wide and has a maximum height of 1.53 metres. Stone rampart 3.66 metres to 6.40 metres and 174 metres. There is no sign of an outer ditch. Robbing particularly in the south-west has reduced the bank to a little more than a scatter of stones. None of the many gaps can be identified as an original entrance. The bank is composed of small stones. There are several mine shafts in the interior. Probably a Medieval stock enclosure.

Robinson, R., 1984, List of Field Monument Warden Visits 1984 (Un-published). SDV343082.

Site visit 23rd May 1984.

The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Unit, 1985, The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Project (Interpretation). SDV340940.

Site partly visible but largely obscured by trees.

Berry, N. + Simmonds, T., 1996, An Archaeological Survey of Boro Wood (SX7571), Erme Wood (SX6357), Wistmans Wood (SX6177) and Newpark Waste (SX5961), BW28 (Report - Survey). SDV360518.

SX 74867160 Boro Wood Camp. Hilltop enclosure situated on relatively level area on west side of wood-top of hill, adjacent to south-western boundary pf wood and bordering southern part of Bowdley Plantation. Large enclosed area, approximately 3.5 hectares. Sloping slightly to the south and east. A defensive position, but no ditch. Banks are of rubble stone, single, generally low and wide, 5 - 9m in width, and 1 - 2m above ground, occasionally 2.5m. However, on the north-west and western sides possible double, but narrower bank and ditch, 5m and 4m wide respectively. Poor condition. The possible double bank on the south-west facing side may be partially incorporated into the field boundary which follows the same curve of the bank around to the south.
Part of the north-western end has recently been fenced off by wire and post for cattle. A track has been run through from adjacent Bowdley Plantation, entailing the bulldozing of the boundary and of the possible double bank and entrance at this point. The banks within the area are barely visible. Very muddy due to stock grazing here.
The other gap in the perimeter is on the north-east and measures roughly 20m across, either unfinished or intentional. The banks on the north and east are larger than those at the south end. Some large coppice stools grow on the bank in places, which also seem to be robbed of stone in the relatively recent past. The central enclosure area is densely packed with old coppice, mostly oak, with occasional large stools of ash and chestnut. Ground cover of brambles and moorland type vegetation. Excellent vantage point views to east, south, west and probably north-east. May be intervisible with similar site to east.

Newman, P., 2002, Boro Wood, Ashburton, Devon (Report - Survey). SDV351138.

The enclosure consists of a rubble bank forming an approximately elliptical circuit. It measures 256m by 160m and encloses an area of approximately 4.1ha. There is no obvious evidence of an external ditch. The rampart has been much disturbed and spread in places, and its course has been interrupted at several points, where stone is either partially or completely absent. The strongest and most undisturbed section is on the east side where the rubble stands to a maximum height of 1.5m with a spread of 9m. The northern arc of the enclosure is shown on the OS map as having an apparent double rampart but detailed survey demonstrates this to be more likely due to the heavy mutilation along this section giving the appearance of more than one bank. One short length here appears in cross section to have two peaks, suggesting perhaps a double skinned wall, but it is unlike any other part of the enclosure which, where undisturbed, appears to be of single dump construction. A slight though broad scarp on the interior of the eastern quadrant and a similar, smaller feature on the western side is suggestive of a constructional or quarry scarp but it is not present on any other section of the site.
There are several gaps or breaches in the rampart, most notably on the north-east side where a 21m-wide opening has no stone present. Other apparent gaps shown on the OS map do in fact have some stone or low footings though they are reduced to current ground level. None of the openings may be identified as an entrance with any confidence. On the north-west corner the remains appear to have been completely obliterated and it is notable that this section is close to the medieval or post-medieval stone-faced field boundaries for which the enclosure would have been a ready source of material. These walls were in existence in AD 1603.
The stone from which the enclosure is constructed appears to be unweathered, this observation, together with the fact that there is no obvious local source for such stone led Aileen Fox to conclude that this material is spoil from a nearby copper mine, and, because of the late date of such activity, this would exclude the site from being prehistoric in her view (Lady Fox, 1960 comment).
The interior of the enclosure has been wooded for at least 400 years resulting in many minor surface undulations. Artificial features are therefore difficult to observe and in most cases would not be expected to survive. The presence of burrowing animals is much in evidence over the interior and exterior of the site. However, several features remain including seven circular platforms. Six of these are in the southern quadrant fairly closely grouped and a seventh is isolated on the eastern side. The grouped examples are all quite large, between 9 and 15m diameter, roughly circular with well-defined scarps at the front and rear. The single platform is smaller at 6m and appears more recent with a sharper back scarp. Some of these platforms could have been charcoal burning sites, although it is unlikely that such would be grouped and would be more numerous elsewhere in the wood. There is also a possibility that they may be hut platforms associated with the original occupation of the enclosure.
A short section of much eroded field bank runs south from the eastern side of the enclosure. It is a low, 0.3m, earth bank with a slight ditch on the western side. Its date and purpose are not known.
A small pit close to the centre of the enclosure was probably the result of mineral prospecting of unspecified date and short trench working with associated spoil dump near the south corner is likely to have had a similar purpose.
An open mine shaft in the north-west corner of the interior, with southern spoil collar, is associated with 19th century Arundell or Druid Mine to the east, for which documentation survives from 1852 until the 1870s. North of the shaft is an upstanding circular earthwork platform which would have accommodated a horse whim used for raising and lowering materials in the shaft.
An alignment of seven narrow trenches is sited in the south-east quadrant adjacent to the enclosure wall. These trenches are on average 0.5m wide by 2.5m long are filled with humic material. Each has a low spoil dump on the downslope side. They resemble slit trenches though no military activity is known to have taken place in Boro Wood; similar feature may be observed on the lower slopes.

Crabb, A., 2003, Enclosures in Boro'wood (Un-published). SDV351143.

Documents setting out the extent of the damage caused by cattle to the south-west quadrant of the monument which had been enclosed by a modern fence with recommendations for repair and the works undertaken in November 2003. The latter comprised removal of the modern fence, blocking of an extant gateway and creation of a new gateway into Bowdley plantation and the erection of a new fence along the boundary of Bowdley and Borough plantations to prevent cattle access to the enclosure.

Ordnance Survey, 2013, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV350786.

'Boro' Wood Castle Enclosure' shown as an oval feature on modern mapping.

Environment Agency WMS, 2020, Environment Agency LIDAR Composite DTM 2020 - 1m (Cartographic). SDV364513.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV147932Article in Serial: Amery Adams, E. + Dewey, H.. 1950. Spindle Whorls Found in Devonshire. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 82. A5 Hardback. 326.
SDV149513Article in Serial: Pilkington-Rogers, C. W. 1932. The Date of the Dartmoor Antiquities. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 64. A5 Hardback. 385.
SDV164509Article in Serial: Amery, P. F. S.. 1873. Some Hitherto Unrecorded Hillfortresses near Ashburton. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 6. Digital. 262-3.
SDV169268Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946. RAF/CPE/UK/1890. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 2384.
SDV301056Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1960. SX77SW30. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index. NRHE Event numbers: 445329 / 445331 for 1960 visits.
SDV315287Article in Serial: Amery, J. S.. 1924. (Presidential Address) The Ashburton of past days: its manners, customs and inhabitants. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 56. Unknown. 44, 94, map.
SDV325644Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1904 - 1906. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Second Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV340940Interpretation: The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Unit. 1985. The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Project. The Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England Aerial Photograph Project. Map (Paper).
SDV341465Article in Monograph: Wall, J. C.. 1906. Ancient Earthworks. Victoria History of the County of Devon. Hardback Volume. 366, 602.
SDV343082Un-published: Robinson, R.. 1984. List of Field Monument Warden Visits 1984. Lists of Field Monument Warden Visits. Printout.
SDV350786Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2013. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital.
SDV351137Schedule Document: Ancient Monuments. 1970. Earthworks in Boro' Wood. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled.
SDV351138Report - Survey: Newman, P.. 2002. Boro Wood, Ashburton, Devon. English Heritage Archaeological Investigation Report. AI/7/2002. A4 Comb Bound + Digital.
SDV351143Un-published: Crabb, A.. 2003. Enclosures in Boro'wood. A4 Stapled.
SDV360518Report - Survey: Berry, N. + Simmonds, T.. 1996. An Archaeological Survey of Boro Wood (SX7571), Erme Wood (SX6357), Wistmans Wood (SX6177) and Newpark Waste (SX5961). Dartmoor National Park Authority Report. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. BW28.
SDV364513Cartographic: Environment Agency WMS. 2020. Environment Agency LIDAR Composite DTM 2020 - 1m. Environment Agency LiDAR data. Digital. [Mapped feature: #106651 ]

Associated Monuments

MDV133142Related to: Holloway or track in Boro Wood (Monument)
MDV130506Related to: Linear banks in Boro Wood (Monument)
MDV130509Related to: Linear cuttings within enclosure, Boro Wood (Monument)
MDV130507Related to: Pit in Boro Wood (Monument)
MDV7986Related to: Shaft at Boro' Wood Castle, Ashburton (Monument)
MDV130508Related to: Whim platform in enclosure, Boro Wood (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV8197 - SPINDLE WHORL (Early Bronze Age to Late Iron Age - 2200 BC to 42 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV6139 - Archaeological Survey of Boro Wood, Ashburton (Ref: AI/7/2002)
  • EDV7444 - Survey of Newpark Waste and Boro, Erme and Wistmans Woods

Date Last Edited:Jul 31 2023 2:11PM