Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Woodbury Castle - Iron Age Hill Fort

Isn't it strange that places of interest, that we are so familiar with, often go unnoticed by us and yet most strangers would spend time to stop and look and want to know more.

I have spent time walking around and over the ramparts of Woodbury Castle for years and it falls into the category of "taken for granted", which I decided to put right with this post as it really is an impressive structure that has dominated the highest local point for over two and half thousand years.

Devon Archaeological Society Leaflet page 1

Devon Archaeological Society Leaflet page 2

The pictures above and below show the depth of the ditch and height of the ramparts on the north east face of the fort and those ramparts would have had a wooden palisade on top which would have made them even more imposing to any would be attacker

The picture below gives an idea of how steep the ramparts are and that time has probably lessened that, but they still pose a significant obstacle today.

The earliest part of the works have been dated to about 1000BC, and it seems the castle was abandoned by about 300BC. Excavations have revealed the presence of wooden buildings within the main part of the work, and the importance of the area as a site for a local chieftain is further supported by several burial mounds close by, one of which revealed, in a dig,a stone battle axe and bronze dagger which are now housed in Exeter museum.

It is believed that the Castle was resurrected as a defence structure in 1798 - 1803 as a centre of resistance to a possible Napoleonic invasion

The castle is covered in Beech trees which would not have been present when it was constructed and it is only when you step out from the small wood that covers the sight that you see the strategic view offered, giving views out to Somerset and Dartmoor.

In 1549 Woodbury Common was a battle field during the Prayer Book Rebellion when Lord Russell leading the King's army against Exeter was attacked near a windmill near to the village of Woodbury by the men of Devon and Cornwall, but saw off the attack taking 900 prisoners who were later murdered in the killing field at Clyst Heath.

The area retains it's connection with the military today as a training area for the elite Royal Marine Commandos and the occasional cartridge case can be seen around as evidence of that training

Woodbury Castle is on Woodbury Common, a pebble bed common with sandstone pebbles originating from about 440 million years ago. The land is owned by the Clinton Devon Estates but was opened to the public in the 1930's and remains a much valued leisure walking area today.


  1. Interesting visit!

    You are quite right about "locals" dismissing interesting sites that visitors long to see.
    I suppose every place suffers from that malady in some form.

    Always enjoy your walk-abouts!

    1. Thanks Jon. I have travelled a lot around the UK for work and am always taking time to see the sights abroad, as they say, and then you realise you have quite a few sights on your own doorstep.

  2. There is a similar hill fort at Castle Dyke on Little Haldon near Teignmouth. I grew up in the area and just took it for granted that a megalithic structure was part of the landscape.


  3. There were some vicious actions in the Prayer Book rebellion. This site gives a good, if somewhat partisan, account of them:

    There are some very "gameable" actions there. I have always fancied the battle of Fennybridges. I mean, Italian arquebusiers and German landsknechts in Devon ?

    Every time I drive past the old bridges I think "I have got to do that battle at the club".


    1. It's strange but when I think of areas in England that stand out for ancient monuments I tend to think of Dorset and Wiltshire before Devon and yet when I came to write this post I started to think there are a few local sites I need to have a look at. We don't have a Maiden Castle or Stone Henge, but these smaller hill forts are impressive in their own right.

      Yes, the Prayer Book Rebellion is a really interesting hard fought little campaign that is very peculiar to our "neck of the woods" and I think we will need to scratch this itch and see if we can get some games together. The troop types are so spectacular and would look fantastic on the table.

      I remember going up to the Rougemont Gardens a few years ago to see a Landsknecht display group commemorating the rebellion and they were great. I am not sure if I have any pictures.

  4. I can recommend a good little book that covers the Prayer book Rebellion battlefields .
    Battlefield Walks: Devon

    1. Good shout Steve, I think you flagged this one up to me previously. Got a brand new copy via Amazon for £2 last night, so I'll do a review a bit later and see if I can tempt Carolyn to an interesting walk or two.