Oldaport Fort

Has been described as a Questionable Fortified Manor House, and also as a Questionable Urban Defence

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameOldaport Fort
Alternative NamesYoldeporte; La Porte in parochia de Modbury
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishModbury

A fortification of earth and stone walls on a spur of land at the junction of two small creeks, where they join a short arm of the river Erme. There are two periods of construction. Firstly a rectangular work occupying the north east end of the spur, and secondly a much larger work occupying the whole spur and incorporating all but the south west side of the smaller work in its perimeter. A stone wall defence survives 74.2 metres long, 3 metres wide and up to 2.7 metres high. Excavation in 1968 found a samian sherd suggesting the early feature may be a Roman fort. The phase 1 enclosure is probably Romano-British. However, a Romano-British civilian settlement has no morphological parallel in the south-west, and the Oldaport site would be out of character with such an interpretation. Therefore the second phase of stone construction must be considerably later. The earliest evidence of stone secular building in England comes from the palace site at Northampton (late 8th/early 9th century), and it is not until the 10th century that stone was again used in defensive works. It is unlikely then that the Phase II stonework dates to before the 10th century. By analogy, the work appears to be a burh of the reign of Aethelraed II. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The masonry walls now seem to be fairly securely dated as early C11, when the site may well still have been accessible by sea going vessels. It is unlikely to have had post-Conquest significance. Presumably silting of the waterways resulted in this small town and port failing. The later medieval farmstead that stood within the old defences is unlikely to have been fortified and certainly would have been unable to garrison these defences.

- 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 ReferenceSX633493
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  • Griffith, F.M. and Wilkes, E.M., 2006, 'The Land Named from the Sea? Coastal Archaeology and Place-names of Bigbury Bay, Devon' The Archaeoloigcal Journal_ Vol. 163 p. 72
  • Rainbird, P. and Druce, D., 2004, 'A Late Saxon Date from Oldaport' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 62 p. 177-80
  • Rainbird, P., 1998, 'Oldaport and the Anglo-Saxon defence of Devon' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 56 p. 153-164
  • Farley, M.E. and Little, R., 1968, 'Oldaport, Modbury. A reassessment of the Fort and harbour' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 26 p. 31-6
  • Jope, E.M. and Threlfall, R.I., 1942, The Antiquaries Journal Vol. 22 p. 65-8
  • 1938, Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 70 p. 155-6
  • Cottrill, F., 1935, 'The 'fort' of Oldaport' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 2.3 p. 213


  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 103 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 101 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 118 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 106 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 102 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 109 online copy