Widworthy Castle Hill
Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)
There are earthwork remains
|Name||Widworthy Castle Hill
Motte castle, of possibly C12 date, sculptured from the natural hillside. The motte was created by the scarping of a natural irregularly-shaped knoll which sits on the top of the hill. The knoll, as modified, is sub-rectangular in shape, being near circular on its southern and eastern sides whilst the north and north west sides are nearly straight, measuring about 31m and 27m in length respectively. The apex of the knoll has been flattened to provide a platform about 35m across. The resulting platform is about 5m in height with no encircling bank. It slopes at a 45 degree angle on all sides to a ditch which survives as a faint trace, with a width of about 3m. It is suggested that may date from the second major period of motte construction, during the civil wars of King Stephen's reign in the 1130s and 1140s. (PastScape)
The place called Castle Wood. The earthwork is not circular, but rather an irregular triangle. The north side is nearly straight and 103 feet, the west side is nearly straight and 90 feet. The south and east sides form part of a circle 142 feet long. The flat area is surrounded by a terrace some feet lower which perhaps occupies the course of the enclosing ditch (Hutchinson 1868).
Seems to have been one of the Saxon Burhs, which were built between 750 and 1000 AD. (Ramsden 1947).
Early medieval or late Saxon fortified site. Hill-top, 100 feet square, has been scarped and ditched, no bank (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card) 1951-4.
An unusual small fortified site, possibly a late Saxon manor or 'burh', or the counterpart of the medieval moated sites of the lowlands. It occupies the top of a hillock, which has been levelled, scarped and ditched, but not embanked, forming an enclosure about 100 feet long. Entrance probably at south-west angle. A low bank and track extending from this point to a spring-head, which has a leat to a fishpond about 100 yards west-north-west
In fairly good condition (Ministry of Works, 1952, Castle Hill, Widworthy - Schedule Document).
An earthwork created by scarping of a natural knoll. Mound with flat top. No bailey visible. Its interpretation is complicated by landscaping, and it has been variously interpreted as a post-medieval landscaping feature, a windmill mound, Iron Age enclosure or Saxon Burh. It is most likely to be a medieval fortification (castle) modified by later landscaping. It has a long tradition of antiquity (the field name 'Castle Hill' goes back at least to 1780), and the adjacent field name of 'Barbarry' could be a corruption of 'Barbican'. Founded possibly at the time of the Norman conquest, but more probably in the 12th century, during the Civil Wars of Stephen's reign (1130's and 1140's). (Higham 1979).
This earthwork might possibly be part of the landscaping of Widworthy Court by Repton in circa 1830. See letter from L. V. Grinsell in parish file (Timms, S. C., 1982 Personal Comment).
None of the original plans and drawings by G. S. Repton indicate any landscape features at this location (Haydon, E. S., 1992, Correspondence).
Castle Hill is a motte castle, of possible 12th century date, sculptured from the natural hillside in a commanding position overlooking the ancient settlements of Widworthy and Wilmington, both recorded in Domesday. Mottes are usually constructed as artificial mounds thrown up by means of piling soil and/or stone, but the motte at Castle Hill was created by the scarping of a natural irregularly-shaped knoll which sits on the top of the hill. The knoll, as modified, is sub-rectangular in shape, being near circular on its southern and eastern sides whilst the north and west sides are nearly straight, measuring about 31 metres and 27 metres in length respectively. The apex of the knoll has been flattened to provide a platform about 35 metres across. The resulting platform is about 5 metres in height with no encircling bank. It slopes at a 45 degree angle on all sides to a ditch which survives as a faint trace, more visible to the north than the south, with a width of about 3 metres. The tradition of the antiquity and function of the site goes back at least until 1780 when it was known as Castle Hill and its original use as a fortification is possibly confirmed by the adjacent field name 'Barbarry' which is perhaps a corruption of barbican. Dr Robert Higham has suggested that Castle Hill may date from the second major period of motte construction, during the civil wars of King Stephen's reign in the 1130s and 1140s. Originally scheduled 29/05/1952 (Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 1997, Castle Hill - Schedule Document).
The sculptured knoll known as Castle Hill, which overlooks Widworthy to the south and Wilmington to the north, has been suggested by Dr Higham of the University of Exeter, to be a fortification dating from the time of King Stephen's conflict with Matilda in the middle of the 12th century although it could be earlier and of the Conquest period. Higham's suggestion that the monument is military in nature is supported by the field-name Barberry in a field adjacent to the monument, this name thought to be a corruption of barbican. Additionally, the name Castle Hill goes back at least until 1780 and the tradition of a castle is therefore clearly earlier than the period of landscaping in the 1830's when George Repton built Widworthy Court which, it has been suggested, could account for the shape of the knoll. The platformed mound, which is in a prominent position in the landscape, has attracted a great number of alternative interpretations including the proposition that it could be a Saxon burh, an Iron Age enclosure, or a Roman fort; These alternatives are summarised in a publication by Haydon who concluded that the question of interpretation of Castle Hill was still open to debate although he argued that the artificial shape of the knoll is not the result of 19th century landscaping and that one of the trees on the platform is at least 250 years old (Salvatore, J. P., 1997, Motte Castle on Castle Hill (Un-published)). (Devon and Dartmoor HER)
This site is a scheduled monument protected by law
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
|OS Map Grid Reference||SY212994