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History of Hembury Castle

The River Dart at Hembury and Holne Woods, Devon
The River Dart at Hembury and Holne Woods, Devon | © National Trust Images / Mick Jones

Discover how Hembury Castle at Hembury and Holne Woods was built in two phases – first as an Iron Age hillfort, followed by an early Norman motte (mound) and bailey (enclosure) castle.

Iron Age hillfort

Although there have been no archaeological excavations at the site, survey work shows that the enclosure consisted of an inner rampart (bank), which was then surrounded by a ditch and outer rampart with one original entrance.

The survey suggests the location of five timber round houses inside the hillfort, though there could have been many more along with storage buildings, fences and pits or possibly a large open space for corralling stock.

Early Norman castle

Following the Norman Conquest and over 1,000 years after the hillfort was abandoned, the Iron Age defences were reused for the site of an earth and timber motte and bailey castle.

The motte was built around a timber tower, long since rotted away, leaving the large central hole. Small enclosures around the motte would have held further domestic or store buildings.

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