Daw's Castle

Daw's Castle (or Dart's Castle or Dane's Castle) is a sea cliff hill fort just west of Watchet, a harbour town in Somerset, England. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[1]

Daw's Castle
Daws Castle Somerset Map.jpg
Plan of earthworks at Daw's Castle
LocationWatchet, Somerset, England
Coordinates51°10′53″N 3°20′39″W / 51.18139°N 3.34417°W / 51.18139; -3.34417Coordinates: 51°10′53″N 3°20′39″W / 51.18139°N 3.34417°W / 51.18139; -3.34417
Area2 hectares (4.9 acres)
BuiltIron Age
Reference no.188490[1]
Daw's Castle is located in Somerset
Daw's Castle
Location of Daw's Castle in Somerset

The name comes from Thomas Dawe, who owned castell field in 1537.

The fort is situated on an east-west cliff about 80 metres (260 ft) above the sea, on a tapering spur of land bounded by the Washford River to the south, as it flows to the sea at Watchet, about 1 km east. The ramparts of the fort would have formed a semicircle backing on to the sheer cliffs, but coastal erosion has reduced the size of the enclosure, and later destruction by farming, limekilns, and the B3191 road, have left only about 300 metres (980 ft) of ramparts visible today.[2]

The fort may be of Iron Age origin, but was rebuilt and fortified as a burh by King Alfred, as part of his defense against Viking raids from the Bristol Channel around 878 AD. It would have been one of a chain of forts and coastal lookout posts, connected by the Herepath, or military road, which allowed Alfred to move his army along the coast, covering Viking movements at sea.

Excavations have revealed a first phase of defence with a mortared wall fronting an earth bank from this period. Then a second phase of defence in late 9th or early 10th centuries, also against Viking invaders.

In the Burghal Hidage of 919, nearby Watchet is attributed 513 hides, which converts to a defensive perimeter of 645 m. It is not clear whether this refers to the walls of the town, or of Daw's Castle high on the cliff above.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records a Viking raid on Watchet in 914, but they were defeated with great slaughter ... so that few of them came away, except those only who swam out to the ships.[3]

There was a plundering raid in 987, and another in 997, with much evil wrought in burning and manslaughter.[4]

A Saxon mint was established at Watchet in 1035, and this was probably within the fort, rather than in the town below.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Daws Castle". National Monuments Record. English Heritage. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
  2. ^ "Daws Castle, Watchet". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  3. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 902-24 AD
  4. ^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 980-99 AD

Further readingEdit

  • A Field Guide to Somerset Archaeology, Lesley and Roy Adkins (1992) ISBN 0-946159-94-7
  • The Archaeology of Somerset, Michael Aston and Ian Burrow (Eds) (1982) ISBN 0-86183-028-8