Dating from at least Anglo-Saxon times Parracombe has a wealth of history and archaeological remains. Most spectacular is Holwell Castle the massive remains of the Norman Motte and Bailey Castle which can be best viewed from the entrance to Christchurch. No buildings remain but there would have been a wooden tower on top of the Motte (mound) and buildings such as barns, stable and a chapel in the wide flat area known as the bailey, A massive ditch surrounds the site.
The moorland on the boundary between the Parishes of Challacombe and Parracombe is recognised as one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the South West of England. It is known as Chapman Barrows and Challacombe Common. Dominated by the Longstone, a tall slab of slate some 3m high and possibly erected up to 6000 years ago, this area commands spectacular views of Bideford Bay and is littered with prehistoric and more recent earthworks.
The most substantial remains are the Chapman Barrows comprising at least eleven large Bronze Age burial mounds forming a cemetery along the Parish Boundary. The Reverend Chanter and others opened some of the barrows over a hundred years ago. The easternmost barrow was found to have a central burnt patch, a large pottery vessel and some bones at the time thought to be mutton but very likely human. These were surrounded by a low stone wall and covered with turves to build a sizeable mound. Chapman Barrows
Close by and relatively recently discovered is a low large rectangular platform some 25 long by 10 metres wide. It is enclosed by a low bank with a slight ditch. This is an intriguing site and recent theories suggest that it could be the remains of a Neolithic mortuary enclosure, which is a place where human beings were placed after death as part of some unknown ritual or religious practices.
Elsewhere on the moor are prehistoric stone settings and one of especial interest above Challacombe is known as a Quincunx. These are five stones, under a metre in height set in the pattern of the five dots on a domino piece of that value, covering an area of about 6 metres by 7 metres.
Just above Challacombe is the deserted farmstead and field systems of Radworthy. This area was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 which is a certain indication that it was
occupied in Anglo-Saxon times. However the farm ruins are much more recent and a complex system of field boundaries indicates many hundreds of years of farming on the site. A recent LIDAR survey has shown up two circular platforms which might possibly be Iron Age hut circles.
There are several prehistoric settlements around the village of platform. These are known locally as “castles” but by archaeologists as hillslope enclosures. They are usually a roughly oval areas surrounded by a low bank which were probably farmsteads dating from the Bronze and the Iron Ages. Excavations at Holworthy Castle brought to light a large Bronze Age pot, and masses of charred grain. Other similar sites in Parracombe are Beacon and Voley Castles and South Common hut circles.