MDE1019 - Voley Castle, Heale Down (Monument)


A late Iron Age or Romano-British univallate hillslope enclosure, about 0.4 hectares in area, with an outwork on the south side. It is more likely to represent a defended farmstead, rather than a fort.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

(SS 65574623) Voley Castle (Camp) (NR). [1] Voley Castle is a small earthwork having a bank and ditch measuring 50 feet overall. The entrance, to the south, is raised up and has an outer 'barbican' protecting it. The 'barbican' is about 250 feet long with a gap opposite the inner entrance. [2] The situation is unusual, being on a level shelf 150 feet below the steeply rising crest of Heale Down. The site is thus completely indefensible. It is probably a defended farmstead, rather than a fort, with a suggested date of Late Iron Age. [3] The castle is one of nine multivallate earthworks of a similar construction on Exmoor and the surrounding area, only this particular one being in an indefensible position. From above, the grassy interior of the enclosure is much lusher than that on the terrace outside. This could indicate its use as a stock enclosure over a long period or cultivation at a later date. A Late Iron Age or possibly Romano-British non-defensive settlement. It is univallate, pentagonal, and well preserved with the outerwork clearly traceable. The interior is fairly level but undulating, with traces of a platform on the west side and a circular depression in the southwest corner. The outer 'barbican' may be a cattle enclosure; the communicating ditch 'C' having no very obvious purpose. Re-surveyed at 1:2500. [4] Voley Castle is good on the 1978 [14] aerial photograph and very good on the 1946 [15] aerial photograph. [6] SS 6556 4623. Voley Castle, a univallate hillslope enclosure or settlement with an outwork on the south side. It is set on a natural shelf, at about 235 metres above sea level on a fairly steep east facing slope overlooking the headwaters of the River Heddon. It has uninterupted views down the Heddon Valley to the northeast and also northwards to the sea. From the northwestwards around to the southwest the site is overlooked by sloping ground. The features, apart from the main bank, are not sharply defined. A modern fence runs across the site from north to south just to the west of the entrance. The interior is 72 metres northeast to southwest by 62 metres across, about 0.4 hectares in area, within a bank some 9.5 metres wide. In the north, where it is best preserved, the bank is 1.7 metres high externally and 0.2 metres internally. Around the west the bank is partly furze and scrub covered but generally the area is under improved pasture with little difference in the appearance inside or outside the enclosure. There are rabbit burrows along the southern outer scarp. The inner scarp of this bank is now very slight and has completely disappeared around the south-east side. The interior slopes gently from west to east, following the natural fall of the hill, and slight attempt appears to have been made to level it. There are now no obvious platforms, circular depressions, building sites or partioning bank through the centre, as noted by authorities [4] and [6]. In the south, where it is best preserved, the ditch is about 4 metres wide and 0.6 metres deep. It is much silted and in places, around the western (uphill) side and the flatter south-eastern side, has diasappeared completely, possibly silted and, or ploughed out. There does not appear to have been any outer bank to the ditch, as stated by the Devon SMR [5], apart from a slight length to the immediate west of the entrance. The outwork, probably constructed for added protection for the entrance, does not appear to have been connected to the main enclosure on the west or east sides. The "communicating ditch" at its east end appears to be no more than a shallow channel, 2 metres wide and 0.2 metres deep at best, probably a later feature dug to drain the main ditch [6]. Apart from the outwork, this site is very similar in situation, size and appearance to that at Sweetworthy on the east side of the moor (MSO7333).1:2500 Survey Revised. [7] The late Iron Age hillslope enclosure of Voley Castle is clearly visible on aerial photographs as a series of well-defined earthworks on a natural shelf on the eastern side of Heale Down. The outerwork is also clearly visible as a bank to the north of the main enclosure. [8,9] Voley Castle, Parracombe. Circular camp with double foss and intermediate vallum, small but perfect. Has been suggested to be of sepulchral origin. Ringwork 60 metres of earthwork covering entrance at the south side. Sited at the west side of Parracombe valley, 30 metres below the crest of Heale Down. Completely indefensible. The banks are much reduced and entrance gaps widened. Probably late Iron Age or sub-Roman. [11] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a score of 4. [19] Gorse was cleared from the monument in 2007/8. Under the 2008/9 Monument Management Scheme the gorse stumps were treated to prevent re-growth. [20] The site was surveyed in June 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 4. [21] Monument record reviewed as part of NRHE to HER pilot project. [22,23]

Sources/Archives (23)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1892-1906. County Series, 2nd Edition 6 Inch Map. 1:10560. 1905.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Fox, A.. 1957. Letter.
  • <3> Article in serial: Whybrow, C.. 1967. Some Multivallate Hill-Forts on Exmoor and in North Devon. Devon Archaeological Society. 25. P. 13-14.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Fletcher, M.J.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 24 August 1972.
  • <5> Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Record Card. SS64NE1. Plan & Section.
  • <6> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. SS6546B.
  • <7> Unpublished document: Sainsbury, I.S.S. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 17 June 1993.
  • <8> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72065 180-81 (15 April 1972).
  • <9> Archive: Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme: SS 64 NE. MD002172.
  • <10> Photograph: Victoria County History. IA/RB Settlement. BB74/04417. B/W.
  • <11> Index: Department of Environment. Unknown. List of Ancient Monuments.
  • <12> Aerial photograph: Aerial photograph reference number . NMR SS6546:SF1459/459 (7 March 1979).
  • <13> Monograph: Page, W. (editor). 1906. The Victoria History of the County of Devon. Archibald Constable and Company, Limited (London). 1. JP Wall, 608 (plan).
  • <14> Aerial photograph: Meridian Air Maps. 1977-1978. Infrared False Colour Aerial Photography. MAM/2669 (June 1978).
  • <15> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF/106G/UK/1655.3188 (July 1946).
  • <16> Monograph: Allcroft, A.H.. 1908. Earthwork of England: Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, and Mediaeval. Macmillan (London). P. 578-9.
  • <17> Aerial photograph: Griffith, F.. 1980s-1990s. Oblique aerial photographs of the Devon part of Exmoor National Park.
  • <18> Monograph: Fox, A.. 1996. Prehistoric Hillforts in Devon. Devon Books. p 54.
  • <19> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <20> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. P. 14.
  • <21> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <22> Archive: Historic England. 2016. NRHE to HER prototype website test. 34612.
  • <23> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 34612, Extant 26 April 2021.



Grid reference Centred SS 6556 4621 (115m by 138m) MasterMap
Map sheet SS64NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (4)

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR (Devonshire): SS 64 NE 10
  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2031
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20111
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO12
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 NE1
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 34612
  • Scheduled Monument (County Number): DV 50

Record last edited

Aug 27 2021 2:47PM


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