The site at Hembury began as a Neolithic Causewayed Camp. This New Stone Age ritual encampment is surrounded by a six-foot deep flat-bottomed ditch in eight sections. There are traces of an external bank on the south side and of a single oval hut within the structure. Several hearths were found during excavations of the hut, along with cereal storage pits, and others containing querns, pottery and over six-hundred flint scrapers. Radiocarbon dating has the occupation period of this phase between 3,330 and 3,150 BC.

A later Iron Age Hillfort

A triangular hillfort of about 7½ acres (c.3ha) was constructed on the site following a long period of abandonment, seemingly in three phases:

  1. Two palisaded ramparts separated by a median ditch.
  2. Triple banks and ditches on the north and western sides, reduced to only double on the east. Long entrance passageways terminating in sturdy timber gates entered the fort from the west and north.
  3. Two internal banks were erected across the centre of the fort roughly from east to west, the northern half was seemingly used for human habitation, while the southern portion was reserved for the use of livestock, probably cattle.

Evidence suggests that the fort had been abandoned by its native inhabitants shortly before the arrival of Roman forces in the area.

Roman Military Occupation

Excavation conducted in the eastern part of the site has recently revealed that roughly half of the fort’s interior had been used by the Roman military. The west gate was rebuilt, large timber structures were erected within the fort, mostly granaries and other storehouses, but there is also evidence of iron-working. The Roman occupation was due no doubt to the proximity of the fort to the Fosse Way, the military highway between the legionary fortresses at Exeter and Lincoln. Occupation started around 50AD and perhaps lasted 10 years before the site was finally dismantled and abandoned.

Map References for Hembury – Payhembury, Devon

NGRef: ST113031 OSMap: LR192

Sites near Hembury Roman Fort