Lydford Norman Ringwork

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameLydford Norman Ringwork
Alternative NamesThe Fort; Lideforde
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishLydford

Lydford Norman Earthworks are thought to be the remains of a Norman castle or fort, consisting of a half ringwork. It is believed to have been erected after 1066 and occupied for a short period before being abandoned, probably by the late 12th century when Lydford Castle, to the north east, was built. It is located on the south west edge of the town, within the defences of the Anglo-Saxon burh of Lydford (see associated record). It is defended on two sides by steep ravines and on the third by a rubble rampart/bank and (partly) rock-cut ditch. The rampart is crescent-shaped in plan, running a length of 55 metres. The earth bank is up to 25 metres thick and stands up to 5 metres high from the base of the ditch. The external ditch is on average 3 metres deep and has well-defined, partly rock-cut sides. At the centre of the earthwork, a narrow bank crosses the base of the ditch and there is an indentation near the summit of the bank. This could possibly have been the position of a feature such as a timber causeway entrance, although this is uncertain. The interior of the ringwork is level. A transect was cut across the bank and ditch of the ringwork, and part of the interior excavated in 1963. This revealed the burnt out remains of five timber and earth buildings set close together behind the rampart, their inward facing ends being flanked by deeply set, rough stone paving. The buildings were rectangular in plan, subdivided internally and had earth, clay or shillet (slate) walls, which were faced externally with wattle woven round posts. They measured 8 to 12 feet wide and 24 to 25 feet long. The rampart was found to have been revetted internally with massive timber posts. The finds from the excavation included 11th-early 12th century pottery, a coin of the first issue of Stephen and nearly 300 kilograms of charred grain. (PastScape)

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 ReferenceSX508847
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  • 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. 70-2
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 59-60
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 277, 279
  • Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 117
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 258
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 235
  • Hoskins, W.G., 1954, A New Survey of England: Devon (London: Collins) p. 427
  • Wall, C., 1906, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Devon Vol. 1 p. 619 (a misleading account)


  • 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' Château Gaillard Vol. 9-10 p. 101-116
  • Saunders, A.D. et al, 1980, 'Lydford Castle, Devon' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 24 p. 123-86 online copy
  • Addyman, P.V. in Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, D.G.(eds), 1967, 'Medieval Britain in 1966: I Pre-Conquest' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 11 p. 263 download copy
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Addyman, P.V. in Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, D.G.(eds), 1966, 'Medieval Britain in 1965: II Post-conquest' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 10 p. 196-7 (Plan) download copy
  • Addyman, P.V. in Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, D.G.(eds), 1965, 'Medieval Britain in 1964, II. Post-Conquest' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 9 p. 170-1, 194 download copy
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12

Guide Books

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

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book online copy (40 houses laid waste - taken as evidence of castle building although this town may have been economically failing - it certainly never became a significant urban settlement) See also The Devonshire Association, 1884-92, The Devonshire Domesday and Geld Inquest (Plymouth) Vol. 1 p. 5 [online copy >]


  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
  • Newman, P., 2000, The Town and Castles Earthworks at Lydford, Devon (English Heritage Survey Report)
  • Higham, R.A., 1979, The Castles of Medieval Devon (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) Downloadable from EThOS