MSO8387 - Roman fort at Rainsbury, Upton (Monument)


The remains of a rectangular enclosure, 100 metres by 67 metres, defined by a pronounced outward-facing scarp, on the top of a hill, south of Rainsbury Farm. The regularity of the site and its setting suggests a Roman fort.

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Type and Period (1)

Protected Status

Full Description

The remains of a large rectangular platform are visible on aerial photographs. The platform measures 95 metres by 65 metres and is surrounded by a broad ditch and a slight bank. The features had been partially ploughed on the 1977 photographs and showed partially as cropmarks. [1] None of the above features are marked on the Ordnance Survey First Edition map, but one of the buildings of the present farm is marked as 'Rainsberry House'. [2,3] The platform sits on top of a hill at 168 metres above Ordnance Datum, to the southwest of Rainsbury Farm. Rainsbury House sits at the north east corner of the platform. The platform is centred at SS99002915, and is cut by the field boundaries marked on maps from the 1st edition of 1891 to the latest map. The enclosure could be a post medieval garden, but is rather large for this. [4] The rectangular enclosure at Rainsbury was surveyed at 1:1000 scale in July 1998 by staff of RCHME's Exeter Office. The date and function of the enclosure are uncertain. However, its strong spur end location and precise shape suggest that it may be Roman. [4-8] A rectangular enclosure was identified on aerial photographs, aligned northeast to southwest, with a bank and external ditch. A possible outer line is visible which is incorporated in field boundaries in some places. Since the aerial photograph was taken (1977) the northeast end has been severely damaged by the construction of a large farmyard and buildings. The rest of the earthwork survives well, although ploughed in the past. The enclosure measures at least 100 metres by 67 metres wide with an outward facing scarp between 1.2 and 2 metres high. The inner face of the rampart can be discerned on the northwest and southwest sides. Also on the southwest side, an external ditch is evident 0.4 metres deep, with a counterscarp bank running round to the northwest side, where it is followed by a field boundary. The counterscarp can be followed to the southeast as well before it fades out. No entrances are visible and the interior is level and featureless. Although possibly a prehistoric enclosure, the regularity of the site and its setting suggests a Roman fort. [8] Geophysical survey was undertaken over the area of the earthwork at Rainsbury Farm. The survey showed that there are a series of banks and ditches forming two distinct, and very likely defensive, structures. There may be the remains of a third sequence of linear structures lying between these two. The monument continues into the field west of the farm buildings and south of Eastmoor Lane, and may extend into the field north of Eastmoor Lane. [9] A gradiometer survey was undertaken to the north of the previously surveyed 'playing card' shaped earthwork, so that the surveys could be combined. The two gradiometer surveys have demonstrated that the inner 'playing card' shaped structure is defined by three concentric bank and ditch sets. Surrounding this is what is likely to be a further sequence of three bank and ditch sets enclosing an area of 5.6 hectares. To the north of the outer ditch and bank sequence are a number of anomalies that are suggestive of field patterns and one possible circular structure, which may represent a phase of settlement distinct from that of the modern hamlet. [10] Works to prepare the site of an agricultural barn at SS 9904 2924 were undertaken at some time between 1994 and 1998. During these works, the farmer reports that two or three large ditches, 2 to 3 metres wide and 2 metres deep, were present. They were excavated with a machine. The ditches had a soft fill and so were backfilled with stone to allow the construction of the barn. No archaeological material was noted. [12] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [13] A Roman road network system in South West Britain was mapped using Lidar and GIS spatial analysis producing a prediction of the likely layout of the road network. Multiple routes are suggested from Rainsbury; to Old Burrow, the coast, Wiveliscombe, Cudmore and North Tawton [14] The heritage asset was assessed for inclusion on the Exmoor Local Heritage List in November 2022. It was decided to add the asset to the Local Heritage List. [15]

Sources/Archives (15)

  • <1> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Vertical Aerial Photograph. NMR MAL/77037 0207 (26 November 1977).
  • <2> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500.
  • <3> Collection: Dyer, C. and Winton, H.. 1998. RCHME: Brendon Hills Mapping Project, SS92NE.
  • <4> Unpublished document: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. Field Investigators Comment. R Wilson-North and H Riley, 14 July 1998.
  • <5> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1998. Rainsbury/pencil survey. Unknown. Permatrace. Pencil.
  • <6> Technical drawing: Wilson-North, R. and Riley, H.. 1998. Rainsbury/ink survey. Unknown. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <7> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <8> Report: Wilson-North, R.. 1998. A Rectangular Enclosure at Rainsbury, Upton, West Somerset. RCHME.
  • <9> Report: Dean, R.. 2007. An Archaeological Geophysical Survey: Rainsbury Farm, Bridge End, Upton, Somerset.
  • <10> Report: Dean, R.. 2008. Rainsbury Farm, Bridge End, Upton, Somerset: Results of an Archaeological Gradiometer Survey.
  • <11> Report: Dyer, C.A.. 1998. National Mapping Programme: The Brendon Hills Mapping Project, Devon and Somerset. RCHME Swindon. P.22.
  • <12> Verbal communication: Various. Various. ENPA archaeologist field visit. Shirley Blaylock, 5 January 2018.
  • <13> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 1133864, Extant 4 April 2022.
  • <14> Article in serial: Parcero-Oubina, C., Smart, C., and Fonte, J. 2023. Remote Sensing and GIS Modelling of Roman Roads in South West Britain. Journal of Computer Applications in Archaeology. 6. (1).
  • <15> Unpublished document: Dove, C.. 2022. Exmoor LHL Panel Meeting 28 November 2022. Exmoor National Park Authority.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Local Heritage List Status (Listed)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 92 NE59
  • National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 1182414
  • NBR Index Number: 1182415
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 1133864
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 35844



Grid reference Centred SS 2991 1293 (352m by 396m) Surveyed
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Mar 4 2024 4:28PM


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