Scheduled Monument: Earthwork defences of Countisbury Castle promontory fort (1020807)

Authority Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Other Ref Devon 28; 33056
Date assigned 10 August 1923
Date last amended 16 October 2002
Date revoked
The monument, which lies in two separate areas of protection, includes the artificial defences of a promontory fort, considered to be of Iron Age date, known as Countisbury Castle but more commonly referred to as Wind Hill. The fort made use of the steep natural defences on three sides of the promontory formed by the precipitous sea cliffs overlooking Lynmouth Bay to the north and the deep valleys of the East Lyn River to the south. The defensive circuit was completed by a high rampart and ditch placed across the only gentle approach from the east. Together the combination of artificial and natural defences enclosed a large irregular area of approximately 35ha. The scheduling encompasses the defensive earthworks which extend for about 400m from the coastal sea slopes at the north west to a steep-sided cliff at the south east which overlooks the East Lyn River. The rampart stands to a height of 13m in places above the ditch bottom, notably at its southern section, and is no lower than 2.3m elsewhere; it varies in width but has maximum dimensions front to tail, of 17m. On its outer, eastern side the rampart is fronted by a flat-bottomed ditch which is about 5m wide over most of its length and is 1.5m deep, although the full depth may have become obscured by natural slippage over the course of two millennia. Fronting the ditch is a counterscarp bank which varies between 0.7m and 1.7m in height and which is on average 4.5m wide. It has a vertical rear face of drystone walling and this may be the result of post-medieval adaptation. The rampart is cut through in two places, in one instance to accommodate the main A39 coastal road, and in the other to provide a simple 3m wide gap which is believed to be the original entrance. This entrance exists just to the south of the centrepoint of the earthwork; it would have given access to Wind Hill, the highest point of the defended promontory, and in 2002 it carried a modern track. Forward of the entrance are the remains of a defensive outwork which has been reduced by agriculture although it still survives over part of its length as a scarp up to 2m high and 9m wide. It extends in a curve fronting the entrance at a maximum distance of 30m forward of the main defences and it is visible as an earthwork over a length of about 95m from a point against the counterscarp bank 30m north of the entrance. The outwork is considered likely to have rejoined the counterscarp bank at a point some 70m south of the entrance but this section appears to have suffered from agricultural damage and is no longer visible on the ground. The earlier popular name for the monument of Countisbury Castle or Camp derives from the Domesday `Contesberie' and it has been suggested to be the `Arx Cynuit' or fortified hill where the Viking Ubba, the brother of Ivar the Boneless, suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the Anglo-Saxons in AD878 according to the chronicler Asser. In modern literature, Countisbury Castle is often referred to as Wind Hill which is the highest hill within the enclosed area. All fixed signposts, fencing, gates, and gate posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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Grid reference Centred SS 7398 4939 (288m by 337m) (Estimated from sources)
Map sheet SS74NW

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)