The aim of this website is to inform, update and bring awareness of how historically rich this site is and why it should be preserved.
Hembury Fort is privately owned by the Devon Archaeological Society (DAS). It is a Scheduled Monument (No. 29660) and survives in exceptionally good condition with well defined circuits of ramparts surrounding the entire monument.
Hembury was previously deemed as 'High Risk' on the English Heritage's 'At Risk Register' and was recognised as on of the highest priority sites in Devon. The site shows evidence of settlement dating back to the Neolithic and Iron Age periods and it was a base for the Roman army in the middle of the 1st century AD.
Active management by the previous and current owners has reduced the risk to this important monument. Ongoing good management and the continued awareness of all who visit Hembury Fort should ensure its survival into the future.
The plan is to preserve the site with great sensitivity to the sites archaeology, biodiversity, trees and scrubland. This will be undertaken by DAS in collaboration with local and regional partners with specialisms in managing the historic and natural environments.
Although Hembury is privately owned, members of the public are welcome to visit on foot. Please keep to the paths and keep dogs under control at all times. Hembury is a Scheduled Monument where fires, metal detecting and camping are not permitted.
Devon Archaeological Society completed the purchase of Hembury Fort in September 2022. The purchase was funded by a grant from Historic England, funds from DAS and donations from individual Trustees and members of the Society. A press event to announce the purchase was held at Hembury Fort on 17 March 2023. Representatives of DAS and Historic England met with the former owner, neighbours of Hembury, Tiverton & Honiton MP Richard Foord, members of the Blackdown Hills AONB team and local parish councillors to celebrate the purchase.
Devon Archaeological Society will continue to carry out the very good programme of site maintenance and clearance put in hand by the previous owner, to ensure the monument's long-term wellbeing. You will see us or our contractors on the hill from time to time looking after the monument. Please be assured we are also taking good care of the hilltop's important nature conservation aspects in consultation with the Devon Wildlife Trust.
Don't miss the chance to listen to this episode of Open Country about the Tale Valley from BBC Radio 4. There's some very interesting facts about Hembury Fort and its surrounding area that you might
never have had the opportunity to hear about.
Hembury fort stands at the end of a spur projecting boldly southward from the main plateau of the Blackdown Hills. It is defended and protected on three sides by steep natural slopes, leaving only a narrow neck of level land on the north. The earthworks you see today date from the Iron Age, but the hilltop was first occupied during the Neolithic when a causewayed enclosure was constructed (c. 3500BC). After the Iron Age, the hilltop was briefly occupied by the Roman military. Its location was almost certainly chosen for its natural defensive qualities and the views across the Otter Valley.
Hill forts are found across Britain and western and northern Europe. Some are of a simple form, others were surrounded by multiple circuits of large banks and ditches, some of which remain complex and elaborate. Other good examples of hill forts include Maiden Castle and Hambledon Hill, both in Dorset.
Hembury Fort is the subject of an HLS agreement negotiated by the previous owner. The primary aim of the project is to reduce the risk to the Scheduled Monument; to reverse the current declining condition trend leading eventually to a monument that is at low risk and in a stable condition. Due consideration of other factors including biodiversity, public access and landscape value should be incorporated at all times.
What is crucial to the plan is that it recognises all of the interests across the site – the archaeology, biodiversity, scrub and trees, and seeks to integrate the conservation and enhancement of all these interests throughout the management process.
There have been two archaeological excavations, one in the early 1930s by Miss Dorothy Liddell and the other in the early 1980s by Malcolm Todd. The digs provided evidence of Iron Age usage and Todd's later excavations showed evidence of a Roman military presence. Many of the artefacts found during these digs are on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, where there is a section on the Hemburyware Gabbro pottery and other items found.
More recently there have been geophysical surveys carried out by Bournemouth University in preparation for more extensive survey at a later date.
We also are aiming to link up with Exeter's Royal Albert Memorial Museum, to showing you some of the artefacts found at Hembury during past excavations and what the museum have on display and in their archives.