Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Blackbury Castle/Camp, Southleigh, Nr Seaton, Devon

This delightful and important prehistoric site is an Iron Age hillfort with high ramparts, an unusual entrance facing the southern slopes, and featuring a triangular earthwork (known as the Barbican) to screen the gates.

The above photo shows the later, modern eastern entrance leading from the car park, and is a popular place for locals to enjoy a walk. Now a lovely woodland comprising birch and beech trees...with swathes of bluebells in the spring...the enclosures and layout of defensive banks are still very much discernable.

Excavation in 1952-54 showed evidence that the main gate had been an imposing structure with the rounded rampart ends projected forward and built up with flint nodules. These were retained by a timber palisade and deep post holes indicated a gate which probably also had a bridge to link them. 

Views of the Southern entrance and Barbican from inside the ramparts.

A second gateway was situated at the entrance to the Barbican, and the embanked passageway had a compartment on either side. The post holes to a rectilinear hut was discovered in the interior, along with a nearby cooking pit. Other remains included iron slag, whetstones and spindle whorls as well as 1,200 sling stones. Pottery found included Glastonbury ware, as well as other iron age ware, indicating that the site was in use from the early 3rd century BC onwards, possibly by a cattle farming community; the compartments either side of the Barbican used as stock pens.

Outer views of the Southern entrance and Barbican, above. Back inside the ramparts and looking towards the Northern entrance, below.

Near to the Northern ramparts is this rather odd looking tree, which appears to have been partially felled and carved. Below are circles made of stones and the remains of a fire can be seen within the futhermost one. 

And talking of oddities, I came across a rather scary account of something that happened to a Mr Terry Bridlington in 1969. The story is too long to include here, but suffice to say it appeared to have been caused by a site guardian, or Genius Loci, as logs were rained down near him in order to scare him off...with no-one else being there at all. The full story is fascinating, well worth a read, and can be read here...

The original name was Blackbury Castle, but was later changed to Blackbury Camp on the brown monument signpost. Some of us locals weren't too happy about that and the term castle is still often used. I suspect it was thought that a mediaeval castle building might be expected from the term, but I can't help wondering whether that stops anyone from thinking it might be a campsite! ;) 

Being a local, I've been to Blackbury Castle several times, usually with friends during Spring when the whole area is carpeted with beautiful blue swathes of bluebells. However, these photos were taken during a visit in September 2008 when I walked around the ramparts in a more consistent manner. Whatever the season, the trees inside the fort always seem to stand out in stark contrast to the soft green of the grass, helping to create an otherwordly atmosphere. It truly is a magical place.

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