Many who live in the Bideford and Torrington area are probably not aware of the ancient treasure which lies above them in Huntshaw Wood. Berry Castle is a small Iron Age hilltop enclosure (formerly known as a hillfort) which is believed to be about 2600 years old. There are around 150 examples recorded in Britain many occurring in North Devon and North Cornwall. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth – fifth centuries BC). They are of national importance, as they give clues about the history of the area and people who lived there. The hilltop enclosures are protected in law, and is known as a ‘Scheduled Monument’.
Berry Castle had been covered with woodland for hundreds of years until cleared in July 2015. The earliest references to the site are on old maps with the first record on an ordnance survey map from 1809. The Victoria County History for Devonshire (1906) describes the site as a univallate defensive fort situated on a promontory between two streams. The feature was strongly defended on the north side but less so on the south where topological features afforded natural protection.
In modern times, Berry Castle’s isolated location within woodland helped preserve the ramparts and ditches from disturbance. During July 2015, due to concern that tree roots were damaging the archaeology, Clinton Devon Estates, Historic England and the Friends of Berry Castle collaborated in a project that resulted in the removal of the trees. The tree clearance allowed research to take place and geophysical surveys have added to our knowledge of its construction.
Friends of Berry Castle have continued their voluntary work, focusing on different projects each year. This month, we launched our website ( www.berrycastlehuntshaw.com) with information about the site, and events and visits to local historical locations. For more information on becoming a volunteer with us see our website, Facebook page, Twitter account, or email us at email@example.com