The castle is situated on a high-point on the Common, some 600 feet above sea-level at O.S. Map Reference SY 032 873. It consists of a prehistoric earthworks of the glacis type (two great ramparts with a ditch between), some half-a-mile around.
Associated with it are a number of burial mounds, scattered around the common.
It is believed that the Castle was used again between 1798 and 1803, because of the threat of invasion during the Napoleonic wars.
A conspicuous hill-top fort, on the crest (175m) of a ridge of the Bunter Pebble Beds on Woodbury Common, two kilometres east of Woodbury village. The B3180 runs through the fort, passing through the two entrances.
The main enclosure of 2 hectares is defended by a massive steep rampart and deep ditch, supplemented on the north and east sides by a substantial counter-scarp bank. On the west side the defences are doubled and the end of the second rampart is expanded to create a fighting platform beside the northern entrance. The main rampart turns inwards to flank the southern entrance, now under the road. Other gaps are modern.
60m to the north there is another smaller rampart and ditch across the ridge, extending to Soldiers' Well, a spring on the western side, which probably served as the water supply for the hillfort. On the southern and western sides there are intermittent earthworks that are earlier than the main hillfort.
Limited excavation of a narrow strip alongside the road in 1971 by Henrietta Quinnell showed that a palisaded enclosure pre-dated the defences. The inner rampart was found to have a turf revetment at the back and was topped by a timber breastwork; subsequently it was heightened and the breastwork renewed. At the northern entrance, the rampart ends were revetted with timber and later strengthened with stone, whilst in the interior there were post-holes indicating rectangular timber buildings, possibly granaries. Finds were very few but the pottery suggested that the defences were completed before 300 BC.
The public have access to almost all of the area of the Castle. Car parks are coloured in yellow on the aerial photograph.
Copies of the Devon Archaeological Society's leaflet "Woodbury Castle - Field Guide No. 2" are available from the Woodbury Post Office or from the
Royal Albert Memorial Museum,
Queen Street, Exeter (admission free; open weekdays 10.00 am to 5.00 pm).
The Devon Archaeological Society welcomes new members who are interested in hillforts and other antiquities. For details, take the link above or write to the Hon. Secretary, c/o Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Queen Street, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RX.
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This page last updated 16th. August 2020.
Text © Copyright Jim Batten, 1996-2020.
Aerial photograph Copyright © Devon County Council, 1996.