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HER Number:MDV8292
Name:Wooston Castle multivallate hillfort, Moretonhampstead


Wooston Castle hillfort comprises a defensive enclosure approached through a series of outworks which extend for up to 200 metres from east to west. From south to north the whole complex covers some 500 metres, at the northern extremity the defences lie within 50 metres of a precipitous drop to the River Teign. Excavation in 2018 revealed information on the construction of the ditches and banks but found no dateable evidence to confirm the assumed Iron Age date of the site.


Grid Reference:SX 766 895
Map Sheet:SX78NE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishMoretonhampstead
Ecclesiastical ParishMORETONHAMPSTEAD

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: SX78NE2
  • National Record of the Historic Environment: 445354
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX78NE/11
  • Old SAM County Ref: 265

Monument Type(s) and Dates

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

Full description

Woollcombe, H., 1839-1850, Woollcombe Manuscript, 70-71 (Un-published). SDV16214.

Visited 19/8/1840 Located on spur of hill with one rampart on all sides (rectangular shape) - no ditch on west, north and part of east, but the slope is steep here. On the south side, approximately 200 feet up slope, there is another rampart with very ditch on the outer side, protected to the east by a bank where a path descends to the river. This bank continues south terminating at a mound "possible fire beacon".
An isolated bank exists to the south near the road to Moretonhampstead, partly obliterated by cultivation. Dimensions: (c.4400 feet by 200 feet)

Wilkinson, J. G., 1861, On Ancient British Walls, 4 (Article in Serial). SDV304172.

Wilkinson, J. G., 1862, On British Remains on Dartmoor, 124 (Article in Serial). SDV277122.

Wooston Castle, with Prestonbury and Cranbrook, forms combined system of defence for this locality. From its upper outworks, the other two are visible.

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

'Woosten Castle (Camp), remains of' depicted on the late 19th century historic map.

Rowe, S., 1896, A Perambulation of the Royal Forest of Dartmoor and the venville precincts, 131 (Monograph). SDV249697.

Baring Gould, S., 1900, A Book of Dartmoor, 98 (Monograph). SDV277387.

Victoria County History, 1906, The Victoria History of the County of Devon, 599-600, Plan (Article in Serial). SDV238214.

Extensive camp on slope of hill descending to brink of river. Lower part to north appears to have been a square area, but outlines on east side lost in Hitchcombe Wood. The south side is an agger and fosse extending from original entrance at south east, to the south west angle, where the fosse rises to a platform along the edge of the bank while it is lost on the north. About 60 metres to the south is yet another agger and fosse, the former 3.5 metres high, through which is a gateway with broadened ramparts set obliquely with that which has been the entrance in the camp. In both these defences the fosse is to the south of the agger. The fosse now becomes a covered way partly lined with masonry as it curves up the hill to a strong agger, 4.5 metres in height. By the side of the present road, at the west side of the last curve, a rampart and ditch extend 26 metres to the left. 91 metres in advance an agger 73 metres long provides an outwork on the top of the hill.

Pilkington-Rogers, C. W, 1932, The Date of the Dartmoor Antiquities, 384, map (Article in Serial). SDV149513.

Worth, R. H., 1946, Stray notes on the Teign Valley, 165-167 (Article in Serial). SDV222207.

The bank is continuous around the camp though less marked on the east side. There are detached outworks to the south.

Royal Air Force, 1947, RAF/CPE/UK/2082, 4399 (Aerial Photograph). SDV295065.

Fox, A., 1952 - 1953, Hill-Slope Forts and Related Earthworks in South-West England and South Wales, 1-22, Plan (Article in Serial). SDV343545.

Class IV. Multivallate forts with wide-spaced lines of defence on promontory sites.
Wooston Castle on the south bank of the Teign near Moretonhampstead, Devon, is a structure that resembles the hill-slope forts in certain ways, yet its peculiar plan and situation demand it be assigned to a separate category. The whole fort lies on sloping ground between Mardon Down and the edge of a precipitous fall to the river, running in a wooded gorge, 250 ft below. Thus, whilst the inner zone has good natural defences on the north, the fort as a whole is at a disadvantage in relation to the plateau.
The innermost zone is probably a complete enclosure 1 on the end of the bluff jutting into the gorge. The second enclosure is defined by a bank and ditch, stronger than the inner one, drawn across the neck and with its ends resting on the steep scarps in the manner of a promontory fort; the western end has been extended by a slighter bank along the edge of a re-entrant in the gorge as far as the spring head. Two more outer zones are indicated by short lengths of earthwork aligned long the contour, 100 to 200 ft higher up the hillside: these may have been extended by palisades, as has been conjectured at Milber or Llanmadog.
The whole fort is entered steeply downhill through simple gaps in the two outer lines of ramparts. The way between the second and third lines is a remarkable hollow-way which winds downhill in an S curve, deepening as it goes. The entry to the second enclosure has a characteristic knobbled rampart end on the west side and a well marked inturn on the east. The entry to the inner most zone is again a simple gap.
Dated to 2nd-1st century BC by comparison with similar earthworks which have been excavated.
1 The plantation here was too thick to penetrate in March 1949-50, and trace the eastern side.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1953, SX78NE2, Faded photocopied photograph (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV306559.

(18/04/1953) Position and nature of this sites bears a resemblance to hill-slope fort at Milber Down. Not particularly suited to military defence. Plentiful water to south and is in good state of repair in spite of reafforestation which has caused dense growth of conifers on both banks and ditches.
(Detailed field comments on condition of camp at time of visit are appended to the plan on the original Ordnance Survey card).
Also records: Lady Fox in lecture to the Society of Antiquaries(16/1/1952) brief summary.

Hughes, B. D., 1954, Moretonhampstead, 77 (Article in Serial). SDV306551.

English Heritage, 1969-1989, English Heritage Records Office SAM Record (Un-published). SDV349864.

A remarkable early iron age hillfort of south-west type. There are four lines of defence.
(i) Inner zone is an enclosure at the top of the steep fall to the River Teign, defended by a bank and ditch measuring 0.6 metres on the slope and 17.5 metres overall, except on the east side where it is lost in Hitchcombe Plantation. Simple entrance on the south (upper side).
(ii) Second line is a bank ditch 100 metres higher up the hill with an entrance in the centre in line with that of the inner enclosure flanked by a massive tower-like projection on the west side with an inturn of the bank for 25 metres on the east side.
(iii) From this entrance, a covered way, rock-cut, leads up the hill through a right-angled bend to the third line, consisting of two short lengths of bank and ditch on either side of the exit from the covered way about 30 metres long each.
(iv) the outermost zone consists of two similar short earthworks with a central entrance; the eastern one has been levelled by a farmer. Condition good, though much obscured by woodland.

Pearce, S. M., 1979, The Distribution and Production of Bronze Age Metalwork, 144 (Article in Serial). SDV322230.

Silvester, R. J., 1979, The Relationship of First Millennium Settlement to the Upland Areas of the South West, 176-190 (Article in Serial). SDV177352.

Wooston Castle. Silvester describes Wooston Castle as the most remarkable of the Dartmoor enclosed sites. Four enclosures, three delimited by crossbanks. It is probably erroneous to think of the hillfort as unfinished.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1981, SX78NE2 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV214814.

(15/12/1981) Wooston Castle occupies a mature conifer plantation on a steep north facing spur. It comprises a defensive enclosure approached through a series of outworks which extend for up to 200m. across the spur from East to West. From South to North the whole complex covers some 500m., descending from 210m. to 140m. O.D. in the process. At the northern extremity the defences lie within 50m. of a precipitous drop to the river Teign.
General comments. (See annotated 1:2500 survey for numbers and letters in text).
(1.) SX 76708932. The initial approach is demarcated by an apparently unfinished outwork of cross bank type 150m. long, of which the western half is a well developed bank and ditch and the eastern half poorly defined scarps. It is possible that a central entrance was intended. A detached length of weak bank and ditch (A), 20m. from the west end, has no obvious purpose but might represent a fragment of hollow way. To the north the ground appears undisturbed but the profile of the modern hedge bank suggests it extended into the field to the west.
(2.) SX 76668941. A bank and ditch, 65m. long, has a central causewayed entrance to the main approach hollow way. The western part of the work is strong and sharply defined; the eastern half fades into the natural ground level as it approaches the modern road.
(3.) SX 76678946. The main hollow way, 150m. long, takes a necessarily sinuous course down a steep slope and through a cross bank (4) qv. It averages 2m. deep and is sharply cut with a flat bottom 2m. to 3m. wide at its commencement and becomes progressively more 'V' shaped as it descends. Upcast spread to each side accounts for about only half the volume of earth and shale removed.
(4.) SX 76598952. The third outwork, of strong proportions, is 220m. long with well defined terminals resting upon steep slopes at a constriction of the spur. Near the centre are two gaps (B) and (C); both are utilized by modern tracks but, judging by the appearance of the intermediate rampart seem to be original features. (B) At the west end of this rampart its ditch fades to natural ground (i.e. track) level. The bank has an unmutilated rounded end and is much higher than the rampart to the west side of the entrance. This rampart has recently been cut back to afford vehicular access, but its deep ditch maintains a sharply cut end. There is no evidence of any infilling to form the present trackway.
(C) The ditch of the intermediate rampart at the eastern gap is deep and precisely ended to accommodate the hollow way, although all traces of its passage through the outwork have been obliterated by a raised track and modern hedge bank.
(D) SX 76598955. To the west of the cross bank Lady Fox's plan shows an extension by way of a weaker bank. This runs down the steep slope and although substantial appears to be a modern boundary as its narrow well cut ditch impinges upon the prehistoric rampart ditch; additional scarping on the northwest side has resulted in a terrace at the base of the boundary.
(E) SX 76598955. Between the cross bank (4) and the enclosure (5) there is a broad, relatively low bank, with traces of a ditch on its west side. This earthwork might represent a continuation of the hollow way except that its northern end rests on the enclosure ditch immediately east of the entrance.
(5.) SX 76508957. The interior of the main Wooston Castle enclosure is fairly flat from east to west. It occupies 2.2ha. at the spur end, with, beyond it to the north, a small triangular area of dead ground.
A weak bank and ditch delineates the west side of the enclosure continuing around the north as a scarp and ditch; on the east it survives merely as a scarp with an outer terrace. The southern side becomes progressively stronger as it approaches the original entrance, the gap of which has been mutilated by the construction of a modern bank. To the east of the entrance both rampart and ditch have been enlarged to massive proportion, similar to the cross bank (4), and extended to reach the steep natural slope. This extension is 50m. beyond what was apparently the original south-east corner. (F) (SX 76608963). Here the use of gang or section construction is clear as the enlarged defence work meets in an incomplete state at (F), upon two slightly different alignments.
Conclusion:- The initial phase of development of Wooston Castle appears to have been the main enclosure and probably the hollow way (3), and versions of the outworks (2) and (4), all of which have traces of secondary work.
Bank and ditch (1) is clearly unfinished. It was presumably intended as an addition to the outwork area, with possibly an extension to the hollow way, and is indicative of a last phase. The small outwork (2) has no obvious defensive potential since it crosses barely one quarter of the spur, and yet its angle, relative to the hollow way, provides a poor form of funnel entrance for animals. Near its west end the bank appears to have been re-furbished.
The hollow way appears to have been partly re-cut or cleaned out since along its western edge an additional material overlies the earlier upcast and the inner face of cross bank (2) at its entrance. For practical purposes the hollow way now ceases at the cross bank (4).
Cross bank (4) is curious in having a simple entrance very near that for the hollow way, both apparently initial conceptions. Both rampart and ditch exhibit dump construction and although the western extremity stops some 15m. short of the crest of the ridge the overall coverage is exceptionally good.
The entrance gap of the enclosure appears to be original but if the hollow way formerly entered the enclosure here it must have been adjacent and curtailed at the time of the re-building.
Surveyed at 1:2500 on M.S.D.
Enlargement survey at 1:1250 with profiles.

Greeves, T. + Griffith, F. M., 1981, Woosten Castle, Possible survey drawing? (Worksheet). SDV306546.

(04/11/1981) In excellent state of preservation, though heavily wooded. Wilkinson describes Wooston Castle as displaying an example of a ditch lined with masonry intended as a covert-way thrown out in a winding direction before the works through which the garrison could make a sortie.

Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, 1985, Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP (Cartographic). SDV319854.

Outline shape of hillfort visible through patchy tree cover on 1947 Royal Air Force aerial photographs.

McCrone, P., 1985, An Archaeological Survey of Some Dartmoor Woodlands, 29-30, fig 15 (Report - Survey). SDV360479.

Woosten Castle is sited on a spur. It is a late prehistoric hillfort of south-west type with four lines of defence. The inner zone is an enclosure at the top of a steep drop to the River Teign. It is partly enclosed by a bank and ditch and may have had slighter defences on the east side (now in Hitchcombe Wood). From this a hollow way leads uphill passing through a massive bank and ditch about 100m to the south and terminating with short lengths of bank and ditch on either side.
The outer line consists of two lengths of bank and ditch with a central entrance. These nay have been partly levelled by farming.

Fox, A., 1996, Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon (DNPA Copy), 57-8 (Monograph). SDV360402.

An unusual hill-slope fort of multiple enclosure type.

Griffith, F.M. + Quinnell, H. + Wilkes, E, 2013, Hillforts of Devon, 12 , Figs 7a-b (Monograph). SDV352457.

Wooston Castle situated on slope above the south bank of the River Teign. It has four widely separated lengths of ramparts with ditches on the southern side which run along the contours. The uppermost rampart is most substantial in the western part The second rampart lies 75 metres downhill and consists of two short lengths either side of an in turned entrance. Within the entrance is the start of a 'hollow way' 2 metres deep which curves downhill through the third rampart. The third rampart has a bend at the entrance but has been damaged by modern access tracks. The fourth rampart runs along the hillside for 200 metres with an entrance also damaged by modern access. The ends of the rampart form a simple roughly triangular enclosure which slopes downhill.

Ordnance Survey, 2014, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV355681.

Woolston Castle Camp shown on modern mapping.

Historic England, 2015, Wooston Castle, Devon (Schedule Document). SDV358874.

Application for Scheduled Monument Consent in respect of proposed works concerning clearance of fallen trees and felling and clearance of standing trees in sub compartment 14g at the southern end of the scheduled site.

Dean, R., 2017, An archaeological gradiometer and resistance survey Wooston Castle, Moretonhampstead, Teignbridge, Devon, 7 (Report - Geophysical Survey). SDV363155.

A total of sixty-six magnetic anomaly groups and fifty-four resistance anomaly groups were mapped as representing archaeological deposits and features. The anomalies from both surveys recorded on the extant earthworks suggested that they were constructed with a relatively stony inner component and a relatively earthen outer component. Further, an inner earthen component was demonstrated for one extant bank and this pattern was hinted at for the other banks surveyed.
Numerous possible internal linear sub-divisions were recorded across the largest enclosure and there may be a semi-circular structure in the southwestern corner of this enclosure. A potential sub-circular surface and a group of possible pits were recorded close by this potential structure. Further south there is some evidence for former earthworks that may have once enclosed Area B. There may also have been an earlier phase of earthworks in Area C. There was good evidence for internal divisions in Area D along with possible craft or industrial activities such as metal working.

Ralston, I. + Lock, G., 2017, Atlas of Hillforts (Website). SDV360888.

Hughes, S., 2018, Wooston Castle, Fingle Woods, Drewsteignton, Devon. Results of archaeological investigations 2018, 1-18, (Report - Excavation). SDV362980.

Excavations in 2018 exposed the full scale of the ditches and banks in two locations that make up the enclosure to the fort. Information on its phasing, construction and design was also obtained. Perhaps originating as a more modest enclosure, the perimeter circuit was then established with the ditches and banks that form the main elements of the earthworks visible today. The investigations showed that the fort’s construction sealed a buried soil and comprised a ditch with adjacent un-revetted earthen bank. In the corner of the enclosure, a well-defined dump of stone rubble derived from deeper bedrock present beneath overlying natural head deposits, may have represented a subsequent phase of ditch deepening and enhancement of the bank. Latterly, evidence for the partial slighting of the ditch was recorded.
A lack of useful datable evidence, in the form of recovered finds or implemented scientific techniques, meant that the assumed Iron Age date for the monument remains unconfirmed. Nevertheless, an 1160-1255AD radiocarbon date that was obtained from a charcoal-rich upper fill of the enclosure ditch, provides evidence for some form of later activity on the site during the medieval period.
The separate investigation of one of the nearby charcoal burning platforms provided a clear indication of its construction and use. This comprised a simple cut and fill platform terrace, with layers of charcoal demonstrating the waste from its use. Evidence for the re-use of the platform following a period of hiatus and the selection of oak for burning was considered to reflect the likely management and cyclical use of coppiced woodland.

Historic England, 2021, National Heritage List for England, 1003822 (National Heritage List for England). SDV364016.

Wooston Castle Hillfort. The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort with extensive outworks situated on a prominent ridge on the southern side of the steep valley of the River Teign. The hillfort survives as an oval inner enclosure measuring 160 metres long by 140 metres wide internally defined by a rampart. To the south the rampart is ditched externally and extends beyond the eastern side of the enclosure. There is an in turned entrance to the south. 80 metres to the south is a second rampart and ditch connected to the first by a bank. The second rampart also has a south facing in turned entrance. A rock cut hollow way meanders to the south east from this entrance. The hollow way is partially flanked on both sides by banks and extends through a third rampart and ditch. 220 metres to the south-east is a fourth rampart and ditch with an in turned entrance at the western end.

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. 384, map.
SDV16214Un-published: Woollcombe, H.. 1839-1850. Woollcombe Manuscript. Woollcombe Manuscript. Manuscript. 70-71.
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. 176-190.
SDV214814Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1981. SX78NE2. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV222207Article in Serial: Worth, R. H.. 1946. Stray notes on the Teign Valley. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 78. Unknown. 165-167.
SDV238214Article in Serial: Victoria County History. 1906. The Victoria History of the County of Devon. Victoria History of the County of Devon. 1. Unknown. 599-600, Plan.
SDV249697Monograph: Rowe, S.. 1896. A Perambulation of the Royal Forest of Dartmoor and the venville precincts. Perambulation of the Forest of Dartmoor. Unknown. 131.
SDV277122Article in Serial: Wilkinson, J. G.. 1862. On British Remains on Dartmoor. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 18. Unknown. 124.
SDV277387Monograph: Baring Gould, S.. 1900. A Book of Dartmoor. A Book of Dartmoor. Unknown. 98.
SDV295065Aerial Photograph: Royal Air Force. 1947. RAF/CPE/UK/2082. Royal Air Force Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 4399.
SDV304172Article in Serial: Wilkinson, J. G.. 1861. On Ancient British Walls. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 17. 4.
SDV306546Worksheet: Greeves, T. + Griffith, F. M.. 1981. Woosten Castle. Unknown. Unknown. Possible survey drawing?.
SDV306551Article in Serial: Hughes, B. D.. 1954. Moretonhampstead. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 86. Unknown. 77.
SDV306559Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1953. SX78NE2. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index. Faded photocopied photograph.
SDV319854Cartographic: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1985. Aerial Photograph Project (Dartmoor) - Dartmoor Pre-NMP. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Aerial Photograph P. Cartographic.
SDV322230Article in Serial: Pearce, S. M.. 1979. The Distribution and Production of Bronze Age Metalwork. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 37. 144.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV343545Article in Serial: Fox, A.. 1952 - 1953. Hill-Slope Forts and Related Earthworks in South-West England and South Wales. Archaeological Journal. 109. Unknown. 1-22, Plan.
SDV349864Un-published: English Heritage. 1969-1989. English Heritage Records Office SAM Record. English Heritage. A4 Spiral Bound.
SDV352457Monograph: Griffith, F.M. + Quinnell, H. + Wilkes, E. 2013. Hillforts of Devon. Hillforts of Devon. A4 Stapled + Digital. 12 , Figs 7a-b.
SDV355681Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2014. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #108334 ]
SDV358874Schedule Document: Historic England. 2015. Wooston Castle, Devon. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Digital.
SDV360402Monograph: Fox, A.. 1996. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon (DNPA Copy). Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Paperback Volume. 57-8.
SDV360479Report - Survey: McCrone, P.. 1985. An Archaeological Survey of Some Dartmoor Woodlands. Dartmoor National Park Authority. A4 Comb Bound + Digital. 29-30, fig 15.
SDV360888Website: Ralston, I. + Lock, G.. 2017. Atlas of Hillforts. https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk/. Website.
SDV362980Report - Excavation: Hughes, S.. 2018. Wooston Castle, Fingle Woods, Drewsteignton, Devon. Results of archaeological investigations 2018. AC Archaeology. ACD1788/1/0. Digital. 1-18,.
SDV363155Report - Geophysical Survey: Dean, R.. 2017. An archaeological gradiometer and resistance survey Wooston Castle, Moretonhampstead, Teignbridge, Devon. Substrata. Digital. 7.
SDV364016National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2021. National Heritage List for England. Digital. 1003822.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7430 - Woodland Survey (1985) in Wray Cleave, Sanduck Wood, Caseley Wood, Kings Wood and Fingle Woods
  • EDV8010 - Survey of charcoal burning platforms in Fingle Woods
  • EDV8096 - Excavation at Wooston Castle (Ref: ACD1788/1/0)
  • EDV8140 - Gradiometer and resistance survey at Wooston Castle

Date Last Edited:Oct 11 2022 12:28PM