Heywood Castle, Wembworthy

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameHeywood Castle, Wembworthy
Alternative NamesHeywood Wood
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishWembworthy

Motte and bailey castle which survives as a circular motte, rock-cut ditch and cresent shaped bailey with an outer bank. The motte is up to 6.2m high with a 1.8m deep central depression. The castle is thought to date to the 1130s and 1140s. (PastScape)

Heywood Castle survives well, contains important archaeological information relating to Norman military activity in this part of Devon and is a popular destination for educational groups and visitors to the area. This is one of two castles from the same period to survive in the area.

This monument includes a motte and bailey castle known as Heywood Castle which is situated in a commanding location overlooking the valley of the River Taw. The monument survives as a circular motte, rock-cut ditch and crescent shaped bailey with an outer bank. The motte has a diameter of 48.7m and is 7.9m high. On top of the motte is a ring bank which attains a height of up to 4m in places and is up to 2m wide. The central enclosed area has a small linear bank running from north to south within it, which measures 3.5m wide and up to 1.7m high and runs across the top of the mound. The rock-cut ditch which surrounds the foot of the motte is 4m wide and 2m deep. The crescent shaped bailey lies to the north east of the motte, is 60m long by 40m wide and bounded on all sides by a bank which measures up to 1.5m wide and 2m high on average except on the eastern side where it attains a height of some 4m. On the eastern side there is an entrance which measures 2.8m wide. From the entrance and across the ditch there is a causeway which extends to the outer bank. On the northern side of the bailey a more modern entrance has formed which measures 3.5m to 4m wide. From the bailey to the motte on the north eastern side there is the possibility of a bridgeway. An outer bank surrounds the motte and bailey; this measures up to 4m wide and 1.6m high

The monument lies relatively near another contemporary castle which lies a short distance to the south and is the subject of a separate scheduling. The castle is thought to date to the 1130s and 1140s and the fact that two are so close together may reflect civil war antagonism or replacement of one by the other. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Eggesford Castle and Heywood Castle are only 500m apart. Both are rather isolated from settlement, although the settlement form is dispersed in this area. The mid C12 date given to both castles is speculative. There must be some relationship between these two neighbouring castle but the nature of that relationship is obscure. The suggestion by Vatchell that Eggesford was the original post-Conquest castle succeeded by the larger Heywood has merit but is unproven. The Eggesford location may be close to, a now lost, river crossing suggesting a manorial centre. The Heywood location, on a hill spur end is more defensive and more dramatic and impressive (although this impact is now lost in the wooded site). If the Eggesford location became somewhat isolated after a ford became impassible then this might suggest a reason for a move to a more impressive location. Dating evidence would be useful but would probably require extensive and destructive excavation and both these earthworks are actually well preserved and should be protected from such damage.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS679124
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Copyright Alan Rosevear All rights reservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Alan Rosevear All rights reservedView full Sized Image

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  • Higham, Robert A., 1999, 'Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 136-43
  • Salter, Mike, 1999, The Castles of Devon and Cornwall (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 86
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 405, 407 online copy
  • Wall, C., 1906, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Devon Vol. 1 p. 621-22


  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Higham, R.A., 1982, 'Early Castles in Devon' Château Gaillard Vol. 9-10 p. 101-116
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Vatchell, E.T., 1963, 'Eggesford and Heywood Castles' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 95 p. 197-207
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12