MSO9082 - Bat's Castle, in Dunster Park (Monument)


An Iron Age univallate hillfort in Dunster Park, comprising a subrectangular enclosure, 140 metres by 100 metres, enclosed by a rampart and ditch with a strong counterscarp bank.

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Type and Period (2)

Protected Status

Full Description

'Bat's Castle Camp' is marked on the 1962 Ordnance Survey map. [1] Bat's Castle is an approximately circular enclosure with two banks of stone and a ditch between, situated on a hilltop. The hill is steep on the north and south, but fairly level on the east and west. One entrance is on the west, where the bank turns inwards to flank the passage. On either side there are remains of masonry, but the mortar is modern in character. The other entrance on the east, is peculiar, with the pathway continuing eastwards for c.25 yards as a raised platform, with a ditch along each side and an outer bank. On each side of this entrance are indications of shallow pits, very like rifle pits which have been dug in the outer surface of the bank. [2] Bat's Castle is a univallate hillfort (under 3 acres). [3] 'Bat's Castle' is a hillslope enclosure with strong defences, which bring it into the category of a small hill-slope fort. Bothamley's description of the entrances is inaccurate. That on the west is slightly clubbed with some modern mutilation. No mortared masonry is now visible. The unusual east entrance with its flanking banks and ditches is also inturned. The 'rifle pits' recorded by Bothamley are insignificant. It is probable that the earthwork to the east (MSO9083) is associated with this hillfort. Surveyed at 1:2500. [5] Bats Castle (at SS 988 421) is a strongly defended Iron Age univallate hillfort on a hill crest. The east entrance is unusual, and from air photographs does not appear to be original. The interior appears featureless, with traces of 19th century ploughing visible on aerial photographs. [6] The west entrance is inturned with a very deep ditch. The east entrance is astride the ridge and does not appear to be original. The inner banks are slightly inturned, but the terminals of the ditch turn east for about 45 metres, flanking a causeway 6 metres wide (maximum). The ramparts have been damaged in several places and partly pushed forward into the ditch. (Visited by Burrow 4 April 1973.) [7] Black Ball Camp (MSO9410) may be a satellite of Bat's Castle. The earthwork to the southeast (MSO9083) together with Bat's Castle forms a probable crossbank enclosure. [8] Rainbird Clarke (in about 1938-9) claimed that the eastern entrance and southern outworks (MSO9083) of Bats Castle were civil war additions, for the seige of Dunster Castle (MSO9412). Bats Castle was called Caesar's Camp by Page. [9] SS 988 421. Bat's Castle. Listed in gazetteer as a univallate hillfort covering 1.1ha. Savage describes the bank as 'terraced-like steps'. [10] A small multivallate hillfort with an associated cross-ridge outwork (MSO9083). It is roughly circular, enclosing 1.2 hectares, at one end of the summit of a gently-sloping hilltop, with a steep drop on the southwest side. It is intervisible with smaller contemporary enclosures in the area. Defences consist of an inner and outer rampart, of rubble, surviving up to 2 metres high, separated by a ditch up to 2 metres deep. There are two entrances: on the west is a simple gap and causeway; on the east the inner rampart is inturned and the ditch and outer bank turn out to flank a 45 metre approachway. This approachway appears to be a later alteration. There are slight ridges and furrows in the interior that may be recent as the fort was used to grow potatoes in World War Two. It is suffering very seriously from visitor erosion. There are possibly contemporary settlement and fields to the southeast (MSO11705). [21] Bat's Castle was surveyed at 1:1000 scale using GPS as part of the RCHME Exmoor project. The site lies on the hilltop between Gallox Hill and Withycombe Hill, at 200 metres Ordnance Datum. A small hillslope enclosure lies on Gallox Hill 600 metres to the northwest (MSO9410). The outwork to the southeast of Bat's Castle was also surveyed (MSO9083). The defences enclose a sub-rectangular area of 140 x 100 metres. They consist of a rampart and ditch with a strong counterscarp bank. The overall width of the defences is some 20-25 metres. The ramparts are very stony, with much loose material on the surface, and it would appear that stone extraction has taken place in the past. This would account for the rifle pits and 'tourelles' described by Allcroft and Bothamley [2,12]. There are two original entrances. The western entrance is a simple passage through the defences, with an inturn to the south. The eastern entrance is more complex. The inner ramparts thicken and inturn. The ditch and counterscarp turn sharply away from the hillfort to form a causeway 50 metres long and 6 metres wide. There is no reason to suppose that this entrance is later than the main defensive work, as suggested by Burrow and Rainbird-Clarke. A third breach of the defensive circuit is caused by the well established track which runs between the two enclosures to Withycombe Hill Gate [22]. Narrow ridging fills the interior. Preece [21] notes that these may be from growing potatoes here in World War Two; the ridges are not visible on 1947 aerial photographs [25]. [13,21,29] The hillfort of Bat's Castle and associated outwork were clearly visible on aerial photographs surveyed as part of the Exmoor National Park National Mapping Programme. [24,25,50] The internal diameter is 300 feet. The ramparts rise 1.65 metres above the interior, with a ditch of c1.8 metres deep. Patches of loose stone are exposed in the ditch and on the ramparts. A track crosses the site from northwest to southeast using a causeway to the entrance on the west side, and crossing banks where they are lowest on the southeast and where the ditch is infilled. The track has a stony base. [26] Also, there are two lengths of banks with ditches to the northeast, which may be an outwork. [27] Some coins were discovered at the end of 1983, by two schoolboys playing on the ramparts who then dug to find the remainder of a coin hoard. The hoard was spread over an area of 2 square metres and comprised eight coins with a large date span from 102 BC to 350 AD. Three of the coins, which were silver plated, were declared treasure trove at an inquest on the 9th September 1986. [31] Bat's Castle was re-scheduled on the 25th February 1994 with a new national number (old number was Somerset 245a). [36] [SS 9881 4213] Bat's Castle [NAT] Settlement [NR] [39] There is a substantial bank and ditch on the east side, with some infilling and holes in the bank. Some areas of stone are exposed, with evidence of both human and animal disturbance. The causeway on the northeast side is c9 metres across. There is a recent hole in the southeast entrance. There is some horse damage along the track, which passes through the centre of the site; otherwise it has a good vegetation cover of heather, bracken and grass. There is no evidence of any ridge and furrow or hut circles. [40] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 10. [42] Vegetation clearance of the main enclosure was undertaken in January 2009. [43] A digital reconstruction drawing was created in 2013 by Peter Lorimer. [44] 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. [45] The site is marked as "Bat's Castle" on the 1 inch 1898 Ordnance Survey map and as "Bat's Castle (Camp)" on the 25 inch map from 1889. [46-8] The 2018 MasterMap data records earthworks of the site and labels its "Bat's Castle" and "Fort". [49] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [51]

Sources/Archives (51)

  • <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. P.484-486 (CH Bothamley).
  • <3> Monograph: Ordnance Survey. 1962. Ordnance Survey Map of Southern Britain in the Iron Age. Ordnance Survey. P.45.
  • <4> Aerial photograph: Aerial photograph reference number . J.K. St Joseph. CG.067.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Quinnell, N.V.. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 2 September 1965.
  • <6> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS9842/1, SS9842/2, SS9842/4. West Air Photography..
  • <7> Article in serial: Burrow, I.. 1981. Hillfort and Hilltop Settlement in the First to Eighth Centuries AD. British Archaeological Reports. 91. P.242-244.
  • <8> Article in serial: Forde-Johnson, J.. 1962. Earl's Hill, Pontesbury and Related Hillforts in England and Wales. Archaeological Journal. 119. P.86-87.
  • <9> Article in monograph: Forde-Johnston, J.L.. 1976. Hillforts of the Iron Age in England and Wales: A Survey of the Surface Evidence. Liverpool University Press. P.137, 206, 224-5, 231-2.
  • <10> Monograph: Savage, J.. 1830. A History of the Hundred of Carhampton. P.289.
  • <11> Monograph: Grinsell, L.V.. 1970. The Archaeology of Exmoor: Bideford Bay to Bridgewater. David and Charles Limited. P.72, 77, 80, 87, 155, 201.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . Department of the Environment. England 2 (1978) 119.
  • <13> Collection: RCHME Exeter. 1993-1999. Exmoor Project.
  • <14> Monograph: Allcroft, A.H.. 1908. Earthwork of England: Prehistoric, Roman, Saxon, Danish, Norman, and Mediaeval. Macmillan (London). P.197-198.
  • <15> Monograph: Dobson, D.P.. 1931. The Archaeology of Somerset. P.238.
  • <16> Monograph: Burrow, E.J.. 1924. Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset. P.84-85.
  • <17> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. P.158-9.
  • <18> Article in serial: Dixon, J.. 1980. Somerset Parish Survey 3: Carhampton. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. P.15.
  • <19> Aerial photograph: Griffith, F.. 1980s-1990s. Oblique aerial photographs of the Devon part of Exmoor National Park. DAP OF/9,10 (1989), DAP QK/12-14 (1990), DAP AAU/01, 02 (1996).
  • <20> Monograph: Page, J.L.W.. 1890. An Exploration of Exmoor and the Hill Country of West Somerset: With Notes on its Archaeology. P.200-201.
  • <21> Report: Preece, A.. 1993-1994. English Heritage Monument Protection Programme.
  • <22> Unpublished document: Riley, H.. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, 1998.
  • <23> Article in monograph: Hogg, A.H.A.. 1979. British Hillforts: An Index. Occasional Papers of the Hill-Fort Study Group; No.1. British Archaeological Reports. P.197.
  • <24> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. NMR SS 9482/28 (DAP 6804/13) (15 March 1990).
  • <25> Aerial photograph: Royal Air Force. 1946 -1948. Vertical Aerial Photography. RAF CPE/UK/1980 3017-19, 3191, 4217-19 (11 April 1947).
  • <26> Report: Various. Various. Field Monument Warden Report. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
  • <27> Unpublished document: McDonnell, R.. 1980. Gazetteer of Sites in the Exmoor National Park Identified through Aerial Photography. SS9842.
  • <28> Aerial photograph: Various. Various. Oblique Aerial Photograph. HSL.UK.71-177 Run 99 8804 (September 19??).
  • <29> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1998. Bats Castle/ink survey. 1:1000. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <30> Photograph: Plan of Bat's Castle - Circular Enclosure at Carhampton. OS63/374/4. B/W.
  • <31> Unpublished document: Somerset County Museum. 08/10/1986. Details of Coin Hoard - Somerset County Museum to Somerset County Council.
  • <32> Aerial photograph: Cambridge University Collection. CG68 (16 June 1949).
  • <33> Photograph: Somerset County Council Planning Department. Slide. 3.005.0013-0018 (March 1977).
  • <34> Photograph: Somerset County Council Planning Department. Slide. 3.005.0036-0043 (July 1979).
  • <35> Photograph: Somerset County Council Planning Department. Slide. 3.005.0034 (March 1984).
  • <36> Unpublished document: English Heritage. 04/03/1994. English Heritage to Somerset County Council.
  • <37> Unassigned: 12/09/1986. SOCG.
  • <38> Aerial photograph: West Air Photography. 1981-1983. Oblique aerial photographs across Exmoor National Park. 1067-1069.
  • <39> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1974. 1:10,000 scale map: 1974. 1:10000.
  • <40> Report: Various. Various. Field Monument Warden Report. English Heritage.
  • <41> Monograph: Kain, R.. 2006. England's Landscape: The South West. Collins. Volume 3. P.56; Fig.3.12.
  • <42> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park.
  • <43> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2009. Monument Management Scheme: 2008-9 Report. P. 7.
  • <44> Artwork: Lorimer, P.. 2013. Bat's Castle, Exmoor: Digital reconstruction drawing. Digital.
  • <45> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <46> Map: Ordnance Survey. Various. Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) . 1 inch / 1898, Somerset 294.
  • <47> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854-1901. County Series; 1st Edition 25 Inch Map. 1:2500. 1889, Somerset 35 (14).
  • <48> Verbal communication: Various. Various. Oral Information. M. Brand, by e-mail.
  • <49>XY Map: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap. [Mapped feature: #37893 ]
  • <50> Archive: Toms, K.. 2007-2009. Exmoor National Park NMP: SS 94 SE. MD002187.
  • <51> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36896, Extant 17 May 2022.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MMO219
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11135
  • Local List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 94 SE17
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 1184166
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36896
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33442



Grid reference Centred SS 9882 4214 (217m by 200m) Estimated from sources
Map sheet SS94SE

Finds (1)

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

May 17 2022 2:23PM


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