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MONTACUTE CASTLE

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St Michael's Hill is an isolated natural knoll that has been artificially sculpted to create impressive defensive earthworks. The occupation of this prominent landform dates from at least the 11th century and the principal earthwork is a substantial motte created from the upper part of the knoll. This conical mound is flanked on the west side by a strong bank and ditch and it is almost completely enclosed by a broad terrace. The origin of the terrace is unclear but it may have been created to support an annular bailey. A substantial horseshoe-shaped bailey, situated on the south-eastern side of the knoll, has a deep ditch and partial inner bank which cuts across the line of the broad terrace. This bailey exhibits the typical form and layout of an 11th century earthwork yet because it is constructed on a very steep slope only a very small percentage of interior is level - an area confined to four narrow linear terraces. Documentary evidence indicates that an 11th century castle once stood on the summit; it was apparently constructed of stone although this may have been preceded by a timber structure. The castle had lost its military signficance by 1102. A chapel (which may once have been part of the castle) was still in use in the 14th century. In 1630 a structure described as 'a fine piece of work with arched work and roof, all overlaid with stone' stood on the summit; today a tall circular 18th century folly tower occupies the top. Parts of the defensive earthworks were almost certainly altered or enhanced to create an ornamental propect associated with the nearby Montacute House - a 16th century mansion extensively refashioned in 1787. The earthworks were surveyed and investigated in April 2000 by staff from the English Heritage Office at Exeter on behalf of The National Trust.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the English Heritage website.