Geophysical survey results reveal historical features at Castle Green

Posted on: 22 September 2017

A geophysical survey of one of Barnstaple’s most important archaeological sites has revealed more about the town’s ancient history.

In March, North Devon Council carried out a geophysical survey of Castle Green, following a successful bid for funding from Historic England. With the help of volunteers, local archaeological surveyors ‘Substrata’ used magnetometer resistance and ground penetrating radar and magnetometer to record what lies beneath this historical site.

The results of the survey will be presented by Ross Dean of Substrata, at a talk held by the North Devon Archaeological Society (NDAS) on Tuesday 17 October at 7.30pm at the Castle Centre in Barnstaple. The event is free for NDAS members or £2.50 for non-members. The talk will cover the results of the Castle Green survey, as well as those from a survey at Clovelly Dykes. There will be no charge for volunteers who helped with the council’s geophysical survey.

Castle Green is the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle dating back to the early 12th century. The castle was situated on top of the mound with a moat surrounding it. The geophysical survey concentrated on the area of the bailey, which was a fortified enclosure where the occupants lived. This is thought to have been on Castle Green and could also lie beneath part of Cattle Market car park.

The results of the magnetometer and resistance surveys on Castle Green reveal:

  • evidence of Castle House (demolished in 1976) including likely wall footings and floors
  • areas that may relate to previous archaeological excavations in the 1970s
  • a number of linear features that may be associated with the old garden and possibly earlier structures relating to the castle
  • a number of areas which may represent graves from the Anglo-Saxon cemetery located on the Green

The top of Castle Mound was also surveyed with a ground penetrating radar and magnetometer resistance. A circular structure, likely to be the inner shell keep (Donjon) was recorded. The same radar was used to survey Cattle Market car park, the ground of which has been highly disturbed by services. However, areas to the south of the car park show potential lost burgage plots extending into the site (a burgage was a town rental property owned by a lord).

North Devon Council’s Executive Member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones says: “The survey work in March went very smoothly and I would like to thank all the volunteers who gave up their time to help. We know from previous digs on Castle Green that there is an ancient burial ground, as well as remains of the castle motte and bailey. This was the first time we had done any investigative work under the Cattle Market car park and although we didn’t find a buried King, it has given us some interesting information about the town’s past. The geophysical report provides us with a guide for where to dig in the future, if further archaeological work were to be carried out.”

Read a copy of the full geophysical survey report on the council’s website: www.northdevon.gov.uk/parks.

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