Kenwith Castle, Northam

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameKenwith Castle, Northam
Alternative NamesKenwiths; Cynuit; Cynwit; Henny; Henney; Henniborough; Hennaborough; Henni-Castle
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishNortham

A natural knoll that has been physically modified and known locally as Henni Castle or Hennaborough. There has been speculation since at least the early 19th century that the mound and its supposed earthworks represent the site of a Saxon encampment from which the men of Devon emerged to defeat the Danish at the battle of 'Arx Cynuit'. There are, however, strong arguments for other locations. (Green 2010)

About half-way down the hill, traces of a ditch can be seen, the circuit of which is 250 meters. A loose stone wall 2 meters high, 100 meters long is close by and partly supports a low bank. Herringbone structure, characteristically Saxon. A Saxon earthwork - the corresponding Danish fortification is at Godborough. (Rogers 1948)

The earthwork remains known as Kenwith Castle comprise a natural knoll which is fortified on the upper slope by a single rampart with a simple entrance at the west end. The site has also been known as Henni Castle or Henniborough Castle within the local area. The rampart runs away to the east where there may have been a former entrance; Kenwith Farm interferes with it at the easternmost point. A disused quarry cuts into the south-west base of the hill. The rampart has the appearance of ledge and terrace on oval shaped mound. The top is relatively level and the enclosure is circa 50 metres running east-west. There is an old pit at the east end and there was a wooded platform to the west but this no longer remains. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Higham writes very doubtful with no convincing documentary or archaeological evidence. A watching brief on groundworks at Kenwith Castle Residential Home found 'only a few sherds of medieval ware' although the area examined was some distance from the suggested medieval site. The actual scarping of the hilltop is suggested as C18 ornamental terracing. The house currently bearing the name Kenwith Castle dates back to the C18 and was built in a castellated gothick style. From Vidal there is no suggestion that this place was called Kenwith in the early C19 and the house may have taken it name from his article, although an older Henni-Castle place name may have effected the choice of style. There is probably a great deal of fancifully writing connecting a C9 historical record with some slight earthworks on a hill. This monument is scheduled as a fortification, although the NMR now expresses the idea this was ornamental terracing. Gatehouse postulates, since it was well wooded by the early C19, the terracing was a form of woodbank built to keep animals out of area, particularly when first planted with tree saplings.

- 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 ReferenceSS432273
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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 121 (possible)
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 390-1 online copy
  • Wall, C., 1906, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Devon Vol. 1 p. 614-15
  • Lewis, S. (ed), 1848, Topographical Dictionary of England online transcription
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1822, 'Antiquities: Camps and earthworks' Magna Britannia Vol. 6 Devon (as Hennaborough) online transcription
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1822, 'Northam' Magna Britannia Vol. 6 Devon p. 365 (as Henniborough) online transcription



  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Rogers, I., 1948, 'The Invasion of North Devon by Hubba the Dane' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 80 p. 125
  • Thurnam, J., 1856, 'On the barrow at Lanhill near Chippenham with remarks on the site of the battles of Cynuit and Ethandun' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 3 p. 67-86 esp. 84-5 online copy
  • Vidal, R.S., 1808, 'Kenwith or Kenwic Castle' Archaeologia Vol. 15 p. 198-208 online copy


  • Green, T., 2010, Kenwith Castle Residential Home, Abbotsham and Northam, Devon. Results of a Desk-Based Assessment (Report - Assessment)
  • Preece, C., 2007, Archaeological watching brief on groundworks at Kenwith Castle Residential Home, Abbotsham (South West Archaeology: Devon County Council Historic Environment Record) online copy
  • Higham, R.A., 1979, The Castles of Medieval Devon (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) Downloadable from EThOS