Lydford Town Defences

Has been described as a Possible Urban Defence

There are earthwork remains

NameLydford Town Defences
Alternative NamesHlidan
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishLydford

The Saxon burh of Hlidan, the town now known as Lydford, lies on a wedge-shaped promontory, isolated on the south and west by the deep gorge of the Lyd and on the north-west by a very steep sided tributary valley. Finds uncovered during excavation have included Imported Mediterranean Ware, which may indicate there was an earlier post Roman settlement here. During the reign of Alfred the Great (AD 871-99) it is believed that the town was chosen, on account of its great natural strength, to form a unit in the scheme of national defence. It is claimed that it proved an effective barrier to Danish raiders in AD 997 and subsequently became a populous burh, with a mint which issued silver pennies continuously from the reign of Ethelred II (AD 976-1016) to that of Edward the Confessor (AD 1042-1066). After AD 1066, a Norman fort remaining as earthworks, was built within the town boundaries followed by a late 12th century prison or keep Lydford subsequently became significant as a centre for justice and administration of the Forest of Dartmoor and the Stannaries. However it declined in commercial terms after the 14th century before seeing a revival in the 19th century. The location of the town on a promontory meant that it required little artificial fortification except for the north-east sector. At this position there still remains a large curvilinear earthwork rampart, separating the original settlement off from the flatter land to the north-east. The rampart is in two sections with a 25 metre gap in the centre, which is thought to be the original entrance to the settlement, though it would have been much narrower in earlier times. There may well have been an external ditch to the rampart

The interior of the burh contains evidence of street layouts and property boundaries, which are believed to go back to Saxon times. The pottery found during excavations also included some late Saxon wares. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

How much post-Conquest use these defences had is open to question, although the natural features would allows have offered some defensive protection, whilst limiting the growth of the town.

- 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 ReferenceSX510848
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Guide Books

  • Saunders, A.D., 1982 (2edn), Lydford: Saxon Town and Castle (HMSO)


  • Newman, P., 2000, The Town and Castles Earthworks at Lydford, Devon (English Heritage Survey Report)