Exceptional aspects of the design and location of a pair of first-century fortlets on the Exmoor coast are explicable as a product of local influence. Previous explanations for the remote setting of these small posts and the distinctive defences securing them have focused on a signalling role, with the fortlets serving as a means to transmit messages to naval vessels patrolling the Bristol Channel. Instead, both the landscape setting and articulation with local settlement patterns imply that these installations strengthened pre-existing measures to counter coastal raiding. Parallels between this variant fortlet design and settlement morphology in the South-West peninsula suggest that the army co-opted an indigenous architectural style. The two fortlets could act as components of what was effectively a composite coastal cordon, built on collaboration between the Roman military and the local population.