MSO7896 - Berry Castle, Luccombe (Monument)


Berry Castle is a late Iron Age or early Romano-British rectangular hillslope enclosure at the top of Honbush Wood, visible as a series of earthworks.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (3)

Protected Status

Full Description

[SS 8592 4495] Berry Castle (NAT) Camp (NR). [1] Berry Castle, situated on the slope of a steep and narrow headland at the top of Honbush Wood, is a rectangular enclosure about 40 yards square cut off from the mainland to the southwest by a ditch which is continued at right angles round the sides of the camp. [2] A small promontory camp artificially fortified on the west but without any stone bank on the east, owing to the very steep slope on the ground. [3] Univallate hillfort of under 3 acres. [4] An unfinished encampment in a wood 1.5 miles southwest of Porlock is said to have been thrown up in 1052 when Porlock was invaded by Harold, Godwin's son. The entrance is on the south and the upper north trenches are very deep. `Swords and other instruments of war have been found in its area'. [Savage's `south' is actually northeast, his `north' southwest.] [5] A strong bank and ditch forms three sides of a square on a northeast facing slope. There is no indication that the northeast side which must have contained the entrance, was ever closed by an earthwork. The gap in the southwest side has been caused by the construction of the modern boundary bank. The southwest half of the interior appears to have been levelled as if for a habitation or building site. It is not a hillfort, but could be an Iron Age hillslope enclosure although its angularity is unusual. Savage's report is only of face value, yet its situation size and plan suggest the possibility of a medieval origin e.g. a farmstead or hunting lodge. Surveyed at 1/2500. [6] Higher up the spur, 380 feet southwest of the main earthwork, is a much slighter crossbank, a rampart and ditch running 80 feet northwest form the parish boundary hedgebank. This is presumably a similar outwork to those occurring at other Somerset/Devon hill forts. [7] Berry Castle, an enclosure probably Iron Age in date, is situated in wood and overgrown with trees and scrub. A single bank and ditch on the northwest and south sides peters out on the steep slope and the east side is undefended. On the southeast side a second outer bank and ditch has been added for a short stretch. The banks are both about 4 to 5 feet high on the inside and 8 to 10 feet high from the ditch bottom, and all the banks and ditches are about 21 feet across. The enclosure makes little sense militarily, as it is overlooked by higher ground on the west side which is not strongly defended. [8] SS 859 449, Berry Camp, three sides of a rectangular enclosure, perhaps unfinished, with an outer crossbank 115 netres up the ridge to the southwest. "The earthworks are quite massive and the Ordnance Survey's interpretation of the site as a medieval hunting lodge enclosure (see [6]) seems improbable". There is no sign of an entrance, although its position may have been obscured by the massive field wall, forming the parish boundary, which bisects the site. [9] Berry Castle is a typical Iron Age hillslope enclosure of massive proportions. An outwork lies 140 paces up the slope above it, the ditch of which was waterlogged when visited by Grinsell 31st May 1969. Savage's statement ([5]) on the discovery of weapons "is of doubtful value". [10] (SS 8592 4495) Berry Castle (NAT) Easrthwork (NR) [sic].[11] Additional Bibliography. [12-15] Berry Castle, at SS 8592 4495, is situated on a shelf part way down a steep 1 in 5 slope which runs for some 400 metres between two coombes 250 metres apart in a roughly southwest to northeast direction, i.e. from high ground in the southwest. The shelf is barely 70 metres wide and extends for about 60 metres to the north east as a 1 in 15 slope before reverting to 1 in 5. It is now in an area of old oak coppice. Facing the steep upward slope to the south west is a massive bank 35 metres long with an outer ditch and a central gap of 7 metres at which point it is traversed by a parish boundary bank which effectively bisects the earthwork. To the southeast of this bank the rampart is about 7 metres wide, and 1.7 metres high internally; the ditch is 6 metres wide and 2 metres deep, with a flat bottom 2 metres wide. To the northeast side of the parish boundary bank there is the central gap and rampart and ditch of similar width but much weaker, the bank averaging only 0.6 metres high and the ditch 1.1 metres deep. At each end, the earthwork makes a right angled turn to the northeast, that on the northern side ending after 30 metres, and that on the southern side ending after 10 metres. Thus, most of the south side and all of the north east defence is provided only by natural slopes. The ramparts seem to be constructed solely of earth and shillet with no signs of revetting. The 7 metres gap probably incorporated the original entrance. Whybrow [7] suggests that it was of overlapping type but it is difficult to see any evidence for this. For 3 metres the ditch has been infilled with stone rubble to form a causeway which has also been used as a basis for the boundary bank, resting on the southern side though a bump in the bank indicates that the rampart at least went as far as this. The interior of the enclosure shows no signs of structures or platforms but there is the impression of levelling near the southwest side as noted by Palmer [6]. In general the enclosure can be placed in the Iron Age/Romano-British hillslope category. The outwork, first noted by Whybrow, is at SS 8575 4484, 150 metres to the southwest up the slope, and 7 metres from the north side of the parish bank. It extends for 25 metres at an angle of 45 degrees to the hillslope, as a weak ditch and bank. The rushy flat bottomed ditch is 4.5 metres wide and 0.6 metres deep, the bank on the lower side is of similar width, barely 0.2 metres above the ditch but 1 metre high on the north where material is spread down the slope. Whybrow's plan shows it at right angles to the slope, with a short continuation south of the parish boundary bank. There is, however, no trace of this or of any dip or bump on the hedgerow to suggest a former continuation. The outwork may be associated with the enclosure but does little to augment the defence of a settlement, secluded and already difficult of access. It is arguable as to whether either or both are unfinished. [16,22] Generally as described by [16]. The site was surveyed at 1:1000 scale in April 1997, as part of the RCHME Exmoor Project. A full report, plan and land use/management overlay have been deposited in the NMR. The only significant addition is that the outwork continues further southwards than originally thought, covering a length of some 105 metres. [17-20] Three sides of an rectangular enclosure with high steep banks and a deep outer ditch which on the south and southwest sides is up to 2 metres deep. A stone faced, beech topped boundary bank runs through the centre of the site marking the parish boundary. Probably medieval. [24] Short length of ditch seen on aerial photographs to south of the camp. [25] The site lies astride the Porlock-Luccombe boundary wall which runs south-west to northeast. The enclosure is 35 metres in diameter with a single bank and ditch which peters out on the steep east side. The banks and ditches are circa 6 metres across. The Outwork just over 100 metres on slope to the west, with marked banking and ditches running northwest to southeast. [27] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 9. [29] Vegetation clearance was undertaken as part of the 2007/8 monument management scheme, however further clearance work was necessary under the 2008/9 scheme. [30] The site was surveyed in May 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 10. [31] Additional bibliography. [32] Two ditches or gulleys are visible as earthworks on aerial photographs to the southwest of Berry Castle, at c. SS 8574 4485. These have been interpreted on the Somerset HER as possible evidence for mining activity. However, the examination of all available aerial photographs has revealed low earthwork banks to the east and, when considered together, a number of the remains appear to form a coherent pattern with the extant field boundaries and are interpreted here as the remains of field boundaries, possibly of medieval date. The ditches or gulleys may be evidence that the field system was ditched or simply be gullies formed by erosion alongside now lost or obscured earthworks. That the ditches stop at an extant field boundary and the line of the boundaries is visible to the south of it only as low earthworks may indicate differential preservation resulting from differing agricultural regimes; rough grazing to the north, improved grassland to the south. On the evidence visible on the aerial photographs, it is felt to be unlikely that the earthworks are associated with Berry Castle (MSO7896). [33,34] It appears that the rampart of Berry Castle has been transcribed by the National Mapping Project as part of the record for medieval field boundaries to the southwest (MMO2294). The two transcriptions have been separated for clarity. [34,35] The rampart can be viewed on the 1946-8 aerial photographs taken by the Royal Air Force. [36] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [37] Vegetation clearance was undertaken as part of the 2018-2020 monument management scheme [38] A management plan was developed in 2021 to accompany an Environment Stewardship Scheme application [39]

Sources/Archives (39)

  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <2> Monograph: Page, W. (editor). 1911. The Victoria History of the County of Somerset. Archibald Constable and Company, Limited (London). 2. Volume 2, 479 (CH Bothamley).
  • <3> Article in serial: Gray, H. St. G.. 1928. The Porlock stone circle, Exmoor. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 74. Part II, pp 71-77. 73.
  • <4> Monograph: Ordnance Survey. 1962. Ordnance Survey Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age. Ordnance Survey. 45.
  • <5> Monograph: Savage, J.. 1830. A History of the Hundred of Carhampton. 91-92.
  • <6> Unpublished document: PALMER, JP. Mid 1960s. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 24 June 1965.
  • <7> Article in serial: Whybrow, C. 1967. Some multivallate hillforts on Exmoor and in North Devon. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Exploratio. 25. 9-11.
  • <8>XY Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . DOE (IAM) Record Form, 24 January 1977. [Mapped feature: #40851 ]
  • <9> Article in serial: Burrow, I.. 1981. Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in the First to Eighth Centuries AD. British Archaeological Reports. 91. 261.
  • <10> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgwater. David and Charles Limited. 79, 85.
  • <11> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1978. 1:10,000 SS84SE.
  • <12> Monograph: Dobson, D.P.. 1931. The Archaeology of Somerset. 206.
  • <13> Monograph: Burrow, E.J.. 1924. Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset. 62.
  • <14> Article in serial: Aston, M. 1983. Deserted Farms on Exmoor and the Lay subsidy of 1327 in West Somerset. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society. 127. 98.
  • <15> Monograph: Allcroft, A.H.. 1908. Earthwork of England: Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, and Mediaeval. Macmillan (London). 207.
  • <16> Unpublished document: Quinnell, N.V.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F2, 31 July 1987.
  • <17> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North and H Riley, 23 April 1997.
  • <18> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1997. Berry Castle/ink survey . 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <19>XY Collection: Pattison, P., Quinnell, N.V., Fletcher, M. and Sainsbury, I.. 1987-1988. RCHME: Exmoor Pilot Survey, SS 84 SE, Somerset. [Mapped feature: #47158 ]
  • <20> Report: Wilson-North, R.. 1997. Berry Castle, Porlock, Somerset. RCHME.
  • <21> Monograph: Usmar, J.. 1990. Stoke Pero, Exmoor: Church and Parish. 3.
  • <22> Technical drawing: Quinnell, N.V.. 1987. Berry Castle Survey. 1:2500. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <23> Photograph: Unknown. 1963. PLAN OF BERRY CASTLE AT PORLOCK. OS63/F374/1. B/W.
  • <24> Unassigned: SMR file 33931.
  • <25> Survey: Western Archaeological Trust. 1980s. Exmoor Aerial Photograph Survey. 8544.
  • <26> Aerial photograph: September 19. HSL.UK.71-178 Run 85. 9335.
  • <27> Report: Various. Various. Field Monument Warden Report. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
  • <28> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. 276.
  • <29> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <30> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. 8.
  • <31> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <32> Monograph: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 2001. The Field Archaeology of Exmoor. English Heritage. Figure 3.18b, p68.
  • <33> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR OS/72314 258-9 (16 August 1972).
  • <34> Archive: 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 84 SE. MD002185.
  • <35> Verbal communication: Various. 1993-. Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Team staff comments. Catherine Dove, 30 March 2021.
  • <36> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography.
  • <37> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 35939, Extant 2 March 2022.
  • <38> Unpublished document: Blaylock, Shirley and Thurlow Thomas. 2021. MONUMENT MANAGEMENT SCHEME FOR EXMOOR OCTOBER 2018 – MARCH 2020.
  • <39> Unpublished document: Blaylock, Shirley and McVittie, Graeme. 2021. Scheduled Monument Management Plan for Berry Castle, Luccombe / Porlock.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11536
  • Local Heritage List Status (Candidate)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 84 SE3
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • National Trust HER Record
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 35939
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Somerset SMR PRN (Somerset): 33931



Grid reference Centred SS 2859 1449 (227m by 231m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Mar 13 2024 3:30PM


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