Bridestowe Burley Wood

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameBridestowe Burley Wood
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishBridestowe

Motte with two baileys on a prominent ridge in an area known as Burley Wood. The motte is a circular mound which measures 44m in diameter and is up to 4m high. On the summit are two roughly oval depressions. Surrounding the mound is a ditch which measures up to 4m wide and 1.2m deep. Immediately to the west of the motte is a 'D' shaped bailey. This is enclosed by a rampart which measures 36.2m long by 19.6m wide maximum. To the north and west of the first bailey lies a second outer bailey which is defined by another rampart and outer ditch. Beyond the rampart and ditch is a further defensive outer bank which sits on the summit of the steep natural slope. This measures up to 3m wide and 2.3m high externally. (PastScape)

Despite afforestation and agricultural activity, the motte with two baileys and multivallate hillfort at Burley Wood survive well and provide an unusual example of defences of very different periods lying adjacent to each other. In most instances where Iron Age and medieval defences share a hilltop, the earlier hillfort is reused. There is however no evidence of this having happened at Burley Wood and therefore the earlier hillfort remains intact.

This monument includes a motte with two baileys and an Iron Age hillfort with multiple defences lying juxtaposed on a prominent ridge overlooking the valleys of the River Lew and one of its major tributaries in an area known as Burley Wood. The monument survives as a prominent motte with two baileys to its north west and a large oval enclosure defined by ramparts and an outer ditch with a series of smaller enclosures, and five outer defensive ramparts and ditches to the south. The motte is a circular mound which measures 44m in diameter and is up to 4m high. On the summit are two roughly oval depressions. Surrounding the mound is a ditch which measures up to 4m wide and 1.2m deep. Immediately to the west of the motte is a 'D' shaped bailey

This is enclosed by a rampart which measures up to 8.5m wide and 0.9m high internally enclosing an area which measures 36.2m long by 19.6m wide maximum. This bailey is largely level. Beyond the rampart is a ditch which measures up to 5m wide and 1.2m deep. To the north and west of the first bailey lies a second outer bailey which is defined by another rampart and outer ditch. The rampart measures 3.2m wide and up to 0.3m high internally. The ditch measures 4.9m wide and is up to 0.8m deep. This rampart encloses an area which measures 38m long by 35m wide maximum, although the width decreases to 14.5m in the west. This bailey also slopes to the north and east. Beyond the rampart and ditch is a further defensive outer bank which sits on the summit of the steep natural slope. This measures up to 3m wide and 2.3m high externally. To the south west of the motte, at some 36m distance, lies a hillfort. This consists of a roughly oval enclosure which measures 144m long from east to west and 94m wide internally. The enclosure is defined by a double rampart and ditch. The outermost ditch is preserved mainly as a buried feature. The outer rampart bank measures up to 9m wide and is 1.3m high; the inner ditch is up to 7.2m wide and 0.8m deep; the inner rampart measures up to 6.8m wide and 2.2m high. On the southern side of the hillfort are a series of irregularly shaped defended enclosures. The first of these is roughly rectangular in shape and the whole is enclosed by a bank which measures up to 3.6m wide and 1.2m high. This is surrounded by a ditch up to 6.3m wide and 0.8m deep. To the south east are two roughly circular quarry type depressions the largest of which is up to 10m in diameter and 2.2m deep. Beyond these lies a further substantial outer bank which surrounds the first enclosure and merges with the outer rampart of the hillfort, then extends to enclose a further area which measures 104m long by 42.6m wide maximum. The bank itself measures up to 5.3m wide and 1.3m high internally. Within this enclosure is a clearly defined entrance to the south west. On this southern side of the hillfort, local topography has necessitated the use of further ramparts and ditches which are not present on any other side of the monument. The first bank has been fossilised within an existing field boundary and measures up to 4.3m wide and 1.3m high. The ditch for this bank is preserved as a buried feature. Further south and parallel to this bank is the second rampart and ditch. The rampart measures up to 4.2m wide and 0.5m high. The ditch is up to 4.1m wide and 0.3m deep. This has been cut at its western end by a farm road. Further south again lies the third rampart which is less obvious and possibly marks the position of a naturally occurring geological feature, since there is no obvious ditch. It measures up to 4m wide and 0.5m high. Further south again lies a fourth rampart with outer ditch. The rampart measures up to 9.2m wide maximum and 1.6m high. The ditch measures up to 9.4m wide and 0.4m deep. This rampart has a central entrance which measures up to 24m wide and is slightly in turned. The fifth and outermost rampart lies further south again. This links two naturally steep valley slopes to form a major defensive outer line and thus cut off the promontory. The outer rampart measures up to 4.8m wide maximum and 2.5m high. The outer ditch measures up to 8.9m wide and up to 2m deep maximum. This is a long defensive line and has been cut in several places over the years to provide access to fields. Within the upper fill of the ditch a stone built farm building was erected and a well sunk, probably during the 19th century, this building, its track and well are still extant. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Renn, 1959, writes "Large unfinished site close to motte with tiny bailey" in list of precursor sites, presumable he felt this the outer bailey was a precursor castle to the motte.

- 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 ReferenceSX497876
Latitude50.6689910888672
Longitude-4.12768983840942
Eastings249720
Northings87610
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Books

  • 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. 87 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 115
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 404-5 online copy
  • Wall, C., 1906, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Devon Vol. 1 p. 616

Journals

  • 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' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 9-10 p. 101-116
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12
  • Young, E.H., 1914, 'Oakhampton Castle' The Devonian Year Book p. 109 online copy

Other

  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 114 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 129 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 117 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 111 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 119 online copy