MDE10889 - Prehistoric hillslope enclosure above Holworthy, Parracombe (Monument)


An oval hillslope enclosure earthwork of Bronze Age date, which also appears to have been used in the Iron Age. It measures 43 by 34 metres and contains a possible building platform. A well-preserved contemporary lynchet runs to the northwest.

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Type and Period (4)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Centred at SS68704433 are the slight earthwork remains of an oval enclosure with a well preserved lynchet running northwest to southeast from its south end. The enclosure, lying on southwest facing slopes, measures 43 metres by 34 metres. It is slightly terraced into the hillside at its upper end (by 0.4 metres), and correspondingly built out of the slope at its lower end (by 0.8 metres). Its northwest and southeast sides are defined by low spread banks, 7 metres wide, and better defined on their inner faces where they cut into the natural slope. An easing of the slopes at the south corner may mark the site of an entrance. Internally the enclosure is featureless, although a very tenuous levelled area at the North or upper end (see plan) appears to represent a platform, probably for a building. 30 metres and 80 metres to the northwest are 2 marshy areas which may represent former natural springs, providing a local water supply. The lynchet is sharply defined, 0.9 metres high and in places is topped with a slight stony bank. Its sharp preservation suggests that it has not been ploughed down, and that it may have persisted as a boundary until recent times. However, its proximity to the enclosure, and the way in which the lynchet scarp forms the south end of the enclosure indicates that the two are contemporary. Surveyed at 1:1000 scale, 8 September 1993. [1-3] The enclosure is visible on aerial photographs taken in 1952 and in 1979, but has been severely reduced by ploughing. On the 1952 photograph, a second curvilinear bank is visible to the west of the main oval enclosure. This bank is similar in size and form to that of the main enclosure, and may represent the remains of a second enclosure. This feature is described by Riley and Wilson-North as a "classic hillslope enclosure" and morphologically it is very similar to the enclosures at South Common, Parracombe. It seems likely that the features date to the later Prehistoric period, possibly the Iron Age. Additional lynchets visible downslope to the south of the enclosure may be associated with this monument, or may be medieval in origin. [4-7] Geophysical survey and archaeological evaluation undertaken by North Devon Archaeological Society on enclosure earthwork. 3 trenches opened revealing weathered stone spread, remains of stone bank and stone metalling. No ditch present but enclosure appears to be built of stone rather than earth. 2 sherds of medieval pottery and worked flint pebbles found. [8, 20] 1946 aerial photograph shows this area under different cultivation from rest of field with curving southwest boundary very clear. The aerial photograph suggests that these banks still functioned as field boundaries in 1946, although no boundary division is shown on 1903 Ordnance Survey map. [10] An 1979 National Monuments Record aerial photograph appears to show an oval enclosure with a bank continuing west from southern end, and two rectilinear banks outside which may be disused field boundaries as suggested above. [11] Magnetometry survey undertaken in March 2003 on the hillslope enclosure confirms the earthworks recorded by English Heritage. [13, 20] Within the oval enclosure are traces of a possible round house. The base of a pottery vessel, provisionally identified as Middle Bronze Age Trevisker ware, has been found, along with flint scrapers typical of the period. Traces of small 'Celtic' fields have been revealed by geophysical survey, around the enclosure. [14, 20] There are two attached rectangular enclosures with stone and earth banks up to 1 metre high. [15] Three samples from the Holworthy Farm hillslope enclosure were dated to between c1000BC- c1300BC. The Carbon 14 date obtained from beneath the stone 'revetting' on the enclosure bank was 3360 + - 50 BP, the sample from the apparent 'fire trench' gave a date of 2990 + - 60 BP & a small scoop containing pottery sherds was dated using AMS to 3130 + - 40 BP. [16, 20] Analysis of charcoal and pollen has provided information on the Bronze Age environment. Charcoal samples have been identified as oak, hazel and willow. In addition to tree pollen, from oak, hazel, alder and pine, pollen from herbaceous species such as dandelion, ribwort plantain, daisy and buttercup were identified indicating disturbed ground, and heather, grasses and fern suggestive of open grassland. Cereal pollen was also found. This has been complemented by the flotation of bulk samples which produced carbonised seeds, including cereals grains, and fragments of hazel nut shell. A carbonised wooden object found beside the fire trench has been tentatively identified as part of a wooden dish or bowl. [17, 20] Further excavation of the site in 2004 found clear evidence for a roundhouse in the form of seven postholes. A number of the postholes had been sealed off suggesting a deliberate removal of the posts and closure of the site. The Bronze Age Trevisker vessel found in the 2003 season can now be seen to have been left upright on the floor of this building. A quantity of pottery sherds was found close by. A small saddle quern and a loomweight were also found within the area of the apparent roundhouse. The charcoal-filled gulley, partly revealed in 2003, appears to predate the roundhouse. [18, 20] Excavation revealled a total of seven stone lined post holes. The post holes created a circle 8.8metres in diameter, the roundhouse itself would have measured 13metres in diameter with a floor space of 130sq. Metres. The posts had been later removed and the post holes capped. [19, 20] The recent archaeological works undertaken on the ploughed out oval hillslope enclosure between 2002 and 2005 have been summarised in a report in the Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. It advises that the rubble stone enclosure bank contained evidence of occupation and domestic activity dated by radiocarbon determinations and ceramics to the Middle Bronze Age. A circle of post holes (a post ring) suggested a round house which may have been abandoned in an organised way. Environmental evidence gives an insight into the Bronze Age environment and its use by the inhabitants. An Iron Age presence was also indicated with 6 sherds of pottery from one context, though relative chronology was difficult due to site erosion. A radiocarbon date of 390-180 BC was also obtained from a sealed deposit of carbonised grain in a post hole intercutting one of the post holes of the post ring. [20] This record was enhanced as part of the pilot project for the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer. [21,22]

Sources/Archives (22)

  • <1> Technical drawing: Sainsury, I. & Wilson-North, R.. 1993. Holworthy, SS 64 SE 55/ink survey . 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Field Investigators Comments. R Wilson-North, 8 September 1993.
  • <3> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. RAF 540/931 3046-48 (8 November 1952).
  • <5> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS6844/1/471 (SF1459) (1 March 1979).
  • <6> Monograph: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 2001. The Field Archaeology of Exmoor. English Heritage. P. 71-72.
  • <7>XY Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 64 SE. MD002181. [Mapped feature: #39734 ]
  • <8> Article in serial: Green, T.. 2002. Parracombe Project: Holworthy Farm. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 4 Autumn/Winter. 5-9. 5-9.
  • <9> Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Record Card. SS64SE 55.
  • <10> Aerial photograph: RAF. 1946. 106G/UK/1655.4060.
  • <11> Aerial photograph: NMR. 1979. SS6844:SF 1459/470.
  • <12> Unassigned: North Devon Archaeological Society. 2002. Holworthy Farm: Funding Application.
  • <13> Article in serial: NDAS. 2003. Fieldwork. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 5 Summer. 6-7. 6-7.
  • <14> Article in serial: Juleff, G.. 2004. Exmoor Iron. Historic Environment Review, 2003. Newsletter, Volume 2.
  • <15> Archive: Devon County Council. Various. Devon SMR / HER records / parish files - Exmoor records. Worksheet and photographs, H Eardley-Wilmot, 1982.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Green, T.. 2005. Email to HER.
  • <17> Article in serial: Green, T.. 2005. The Holworthy Project: Progress and Plans. North Devon Archaeological Society Newsletter. 9. 5-7. 5-7.
  • <18> Article in monograph: Green, T.. 2005. Medieval Silver-Lead Mining in Devon. Holworthy Farm, Parracombe. Historic Environment Review 2004. 3.
  • <19> Article in serial: Green, T.. 2004. Digging into Bronze Age Exmoor. Exmoor Park Life. 15.
  • <20> Serial: Devon Archaeological Society. 1929+. Devon Archaeological Society Proceedings. No. 67 (2009), p39-98.
  • <21> Archive: Historic England. 2016. NRHE to HER prototype website test. 910070.
  • <22> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 910070, Extant 25 July 2016.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Devon SMR Monument ID: 2087
  • Devon SMR: SS64SE/21
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MDE20147
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO310
  • Local List Status (Candidate)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 64 SE55
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 910070



Grid reference Centred SS 6866 4435 (155m by 124m)
Map sheet SS64SE

Finds (31)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (9)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

May 5 2021 11:51AM


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