Scheduled Monument: Beacon Castle, South Down
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
18 July 1961
Date last amended
05 November 2015
Summary of Monument
An Iron Age defended settlement called Beacon Castle.
Reasons for Designation
Exmoor is the most easterly of the three main upland areas in the south western peninsula of England. In contrast to the others, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, there has been no history of antiquarian research and little excavation of its monuments. However, detailed survey work by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England has confirmed a comparable richness of archaeological remains, with evidence of human exploitation and occupation from the Mesolithic period to the present day.
During the Iron Age a variety of different types of settlement were constructed and occupied in south western England. At the top of the settlement hierarchy were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these a group of smaller sites, known as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others in less prominent positions. They are generally smaller than the hillforts, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction. Univallate sites have a single bank and ditch, multivallate sites more than one. At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade. Where excavated, evidence of stone- or timber-built houses has been found within the enclosures, which, in contrast to the hillfort sites, would have been occupied by small communities, perhaps no more than a single family group. Defended settlements are a rare monument type. They were an important element of the settlement pattern, particularly in the upland areas of south western England, and are integral to any study of the developing use of fortified settlements during this period.
Despite some early partial excavation or stone robbing and disturbance through cultivation the Iron Age defended settlement called Beacon Castle survives well and will contain important archaeological end environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, agricultural practices and defended settlement patterns in the vicinity as well as its landscape context through changing climatic conditions.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 5 November 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes an Iron Age defended settlement called Beacon Castle situated below the summit of a prominent hill called South Down overlooking the valleys of the River Heddon and one of its major tributaries. The defended settlement survives as an oval enclosure measuring 58m long by 55m wide internally defined by a single rampart and outer ditch. The rampart measures up to 6.7m wide and 1.6m high. The ditch survives as a partially buried feature and measures up to 4m wide and 0.5m deep. The original entrance was to the west. The whole enclosure is bisected by a parish boundary bank which measures up to 2.6m wide and 0.5m high. This is one of a group of similar monuments in the vicinity which are the subject of separate schedulings.
PastScape Monument No:-34621
National Grid Reference: SS 66459 46010