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HER Number:MDV9594
Name:Earthwork on Berry Head, Brixham


An earthwork or wall appears to have formerly stretched across the neck of land but to have been destroyed when the Napoloeonic fortifications were built. The headland may have been the site of a promontory fort which was subsequently occupied during the Roman period as Roman coins and pottery have been found here.


Grid Reference:SX 294 056
Map Sheet:SX20NE
Admin AreaTorbay
Civil ParishBrixham
Ecclesiastical ParishBRIXHAM

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX95NW/5
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX95NW10
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX95NW12
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX95NW35
  • Tide Project: 09/10/2020
  • Torbay HER: MTO9594

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • EARTHWORK (Constructed, Early Iron Age to Roman - 700 BC (Between) to 409 AD (Between))

Full description

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica. Devonshire, 351 (Monograph). SDV323771.

Site of promontory fort with a vallum 5.5 metres high. They thought it was Roman because of coins found there in about 1730.

Blewitt, O., 1830, The Panorama of Torquay, 202 (Monograph). SDV362566.

Blewitt states that the 'Roman rampart' was 18 feet high and that it was destroyed by the fortifications 40 years ago.

Woollcombe, H., 1839-1850, Woollcombe Manuscript, 40-41 (Un-published). SDV16214.

Site visit 24th August 1840. There was originally a rampart across the neck of land, now obliterated by the 'modern' construction of fortifications partly on the same line. Thought to be British in origin, but Roman coins have also been found (c1730). Linked in tradition with Vespasian and the defeat of the Gaulish/British fleet in Torbay. On the north side is a zig-zag path to the sea.

Davidson, J. B., 1861, Notes on the Antiquities of Devonshire which date before the Norman Conquest, 18 (Monograph). SDV123842.

Worth, R. N., 1891, President's Address, 57, 77-78 (Article in Serial). SDV158810.

According to Mr Davidson a great number of Roman coins have been found here. He thought that if the earthwork was not built by the Romans, then it was certainly occupied by them. He stated that the northern vallum was 18 feet high, included Roman masonry and stretched straight across the promontory but that it had now been destroyed by the modern fortifications. Roman coins had also been found in the cliffs.
Woollcombe, however, believed it to be a cliff castle. There is no trace of the coins.

Page, W., 1906, Victoria County History, 576 (Monograph). SDV362501.

All now destroyed.

Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M., 1932, The Place-Names of Devon: Part Two, 508 (Monograph). SDV337894.

Berry Head is referred to as Byri pointe by Leland circa 1550. The name derives from burh. There are old earthworks here.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1951-56, SX95NW10 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV317919.

References to Roman coins found on Berry Head, including a Claudius with a figure of Victory on the reverse. It has been said that there was a Roman camp here which was demolished and that some of the stones were used in the building of the present fort.
It is suggested that this was possibly the site of an Iron Age fort which was taken by the Romans.

Hoskins, W. G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon, 349-350 (Monograph). SDV17562.

Horsley, J., 1956, Letter 6 November 1956 (Correspondence). SDV162818.

According to Horsley, a Roman camp on the end of Berry Head was demolished and the present fortifications built with part of the stones from the earlier rampart. Suggested to b an Iron Age 'B' fort which was stormed and taken by the Romans.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1956, SX95NW12 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV317921.

According to an article in the Dartmouth and Brixham Chronicle in 1871 there was formerly a rampart and vallum stretching from Berry head towards Mudstone which was levelled in about 1850. It was said to be part of a Roman camp. Examination of aerial photos found no indication of it.

Smith, L. T., 1964, The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543, 223-224 (Monograph). SDV362504.

Donn, B., 1965, A Map of the County of Devon, 1765 (Reprint) (Monograph). SDV336413.

'Ruins of a Danish Castle' is marked on Donn's Map. However, the marked position of the site places it above Shorestone Point, not on Berry Head itself.

County Borough of Torbay, 1967, Berry Head, 9-10, 14-15 (Monograph). SDV362520.

At the time of the construction of Napoleonic defences in 1803, the Colonel of the engineers suggested that the masonry repairs to the earthen wall were Roman work. Some 27 acres of Berry Head were bought by the government in 1794 and subsequently levelled, thus removing all trace of the earlier defences.

Pike, J. R., 1973, Brixham, Torbay: A Bibliographical Guide, 2 (Monograph). SDV362271.

Pike citing the Dartmouth Chronicle of 9th June 1871 describe the Revd Hogg using shipwrecked German emigrants to level a surviving portion of the earthwork circa 1850.

Cambridge University, 1973, K17-AD (Aerial Photograph). SDV354635.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1980, SX95NW35 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV317930.

A promontory fortress of Berry Head, probably Iron Age in date, was destroyed by the construction of the fort in 1803. It was defended by an 18 foot high rampart, partly stone built, approximately where the outer wall of the Napoleonic fort now stands.
Leland refers to 'Byri pointe', the name being derived from 'burh'.
The discovery of Roman coins in the area together with 'Celtic' pottery from Ash-hole suggests an Iron Age trading settlement that survived into the Roman period.
Summarised from various sources.

Pye, A.R., 1989, Berry Head Fort, Brixham. An Archaeological Assessment, 2-4, 16-7, 26-7 (Report - Assessment). SDV362497.

The presence or absence of an earthwork demarcating a promontory fort is set out. Pye discusses and evaluates the 19th century authorities. As late as the 1890s the pre-18th century fortifications were still being ascribed to either the Romans or the Danes.
The earliest reference cited by Pye is the reply to the questionnaire in D. Milles 'Parochial History of Devon' (1747-62) where the brother in law of the Vicar of Brixham describes the wall as 'a large heap of stones and rubbish about a quarter of a mile in length, commonly called the Berry Walls, it crosses the neck of land called the Berry [Head] about a furlong from the point and said to have been thrown up by the Danes'. He also mentions as a separte feature 'the ruins of an ancient castle, in the manor of Brixham, facing Torbay'. Lysons' writing in the earlier 19th century presumed it to have been constructed by the Romans as Roman coins were found there circa 1730.
Further primary evidence for the presence of an early rampart on the line of the redoubt is its depiction on a number of late 18th century charts and maps.

Pye, A.R. & Slater, W.D., 1990, Berry Head Fort, Brixham, An Archaeological Survey, 3, 4 (Report - Survey). SDV362493.

Eighteenth and nineteenth century documentary and cartographic evidence suggests there was an Iron Age promontory fort on the headland.

Exeter Archaeology, 2010, Berry Head Hotel Brixham Part 1: Archaeological Assessment, 2, 7 (Report - Assessment). SDV362409.

There is evidence of a promontory fort on the headland which is often attributed to the Romans in antiquarian accounts; Roman coins were found here circa 1730. The rampart was destroyed or incorporated into the wall of the Napoleonic fort. It is suggested, however, that a portion remained until circa 1850 when shipwrecked German emigrants were used to level the site.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV123842Monograph: Davidson, J. B.. 1861. Notes on the Antiquities of Devonshire which date before the Norman Conquest. Notes on the Antiquities of Devonshire which date before the Norman Conquest. Unknown. 18.
SDV158810Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1891. President's Address. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 23. A5 Hardback. 57, 77-78.
SDV16214Un-published: Woollcombe, H.. 1839-1850. Woollcombe Manuscript. Woollcombe Manuscript. Manuscript. 40-41.
SDV162818Correspondence: Horsley, J.. 1956. Letter 6 November 1956. Letter. Letter.
SDV17562Monograph: Hoskins, W. G.. 1954. A New Survey of England: Devon. A New Survey of England: Devon. A5 Hardback. 349-350.
SDV317919Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1951-56. SX95NW10. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV317921Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1956. SX95NW12. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV317930Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1980. SX95NW35. OSAD Card. Card Index + Digital.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Devonshire. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown. 351.
SDV336413Monograph: Donn, B.. 1965. A Map of the County of Devon, 1765 (Reprint). A Map of the County of Devon, 1765 (Reprint). Hardback Volume.
SDV337894Monograph: Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M.. 1932. The Place-Names of Devon: Part Two. The Place-Names of Devon: Part Two. IX. A5 Hardback. 508.
SDV354635Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University. 1973. K17-AD. Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs. Photograph (Paper).
SDV362271Monograph: Pike, J. R.. 1973. Brixham, Torbay: A Bibliographical Guide. Brixham, Torbay: A Bibliographical Guide. Paperback Volume. 2.
SDV362409Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 2010. Berry Head Hotel Brixham Part 1: Archaeological Assessment. Exeter Archaeology. 10.05. Digital. 2, 7.
SDV362493Report - Survey: Pye, A.R. & Slater, W.D.. 1990. Berry Head Fort, Brixham, An Archaeological Survey. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit Report. EMAFU 90.10. Hardcopy + Digital. 3, 4.
Linked documents:1
SDV362497Report - Assessment: Pye, A.R.. 1989. Berry Head Fort, Brixham. An Archaeological Assessment. Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit. EMAFU 89.04. Hardcopy + Digital. 2-4, 16-7, 26-7.
Linked documents:1
SDV362501Monograph: Page, W.. 1906. Victoria County History. Victoria County History. Devon. Hardback Volume. 576.
SDV362504Monograph: Smith, L. T.. 1964. The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543. The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543. 1. Unknown. 223-224.
SDV362520Monograph: County Borough of Torbay. 1967. Berry Head. Berry Head. Paperback. 9-10, 14-15.
SDV362566Monograph: Blewitt, O.. 1830. The Panorama of Torquay. The Panorama of Torquay. Hardback Volume. 202.

Associated Monuments

MDV20080Related to: Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham (Monument)
MDV9593Related to: Redoubt at Berry Head Fort No. 3, Brixham (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV8174 - COIN (Roman - 43 AD to 409 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV7797 - Architectural Survey by DA Buildings Section 1988
  • EDV7832 - Documentary research on the Berry Head Fort
  • EDV7834 - Archaeological Assessment of the Berry Head Forts
  • EDV7835 - Archaeological Survey of the Berry Head Forts
  • EDV7960 - Berry Head Hotel, Brixham, Archaeological & Architectural Assessment 2010

Date Last Edited:Mar 28 2024 6:15PM