Mawgan Porth early medieval settlement and associated burial ground, 250m west of Lanerick


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SW 85156 67257

Reasons for Designation

Early medieval settlements (400 1100 AD) survive very rarely and as with those of later date include close groupings of dwellings, ancillary buildings and one or more adjacent small plots which served as kitchen gardens or stock pens. These components are arranged within the settlement around internal yards and trackways which led from the settlement to its associated fields, pasture and water supply. Occasionally such trackways show evidence for cobbling or paving. Long houses were the dominant type of farmhouse in upland settlements of south-west England between the 10th and 16th centuries. Rectangular in plan, usually with rubble or boulder outer walls and their long axis orientated downslope, the interiors of long houses were divided into two separate functional areas, an upslope domestic room and a downslope stock byre, known in south-west England as a shippon. Ancillary buildings were generally separated from the farmhouse itself and these additional structures served as barns, fuel or equipment stores and occasionally contained ovens and corn-drying kilns. Well- preserved deserted sites are rare and in the case of Mawgan Porth its associated cemetery is also intact. Because it appears to have been engulfed by encroaching sand it has not been successively built on in the intervening periods and so survives particularly well. Although partially excavated, it still contains a great deal of further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, longevity, abandonment, farming practices, trade, domestic arrangements, religious development, social organisation, health and welfare of the inhabitants and its overall landscape context. It remains one of the most important sites of its type in Cornwall and England.


The monument includes an early medieval settlement at Mawgan Porth, situated close to the mouth of the estuary, on the northern bank of the River Menalhyl. The settlement was first discovered in 1934 when trial excavation holes were dug to inspect the subsoil prior to building work. The trial pits uncovered walls and a burial. In 1949, further building proposals prompted a second trial excavation which confirmed the existence of a settlement and produced an Aethelred II coin of 990 - 995. This prompted a major Ministry of Works excavation from 1950 - 54. The excavations uncovered the remains of part of a settlement of at least four farm houses, although only two and part of a third were examined and a portion of the associated contemporary burial ground. At least two of the rectangular buildings were arranged around a courtyard with a third to the south west and a fourth to the north east which was not fully excavated. At least one of the dwellings was of the long house type with a byre and living quarters under one roof. The houses had been constructed on platforms cut into the slope and had drystone walls of 0.7m thick standing to a maximum of 2.1m high, with slab lined recesses in the walls. The roofs were supported by timber uprights. The floors consisted of trodden black soil containing domestic detritus. At least one building was built over an earlier structure. The settlement dated from 850 to at least 1050 AD and appeared to have been abandoned because of encroaching sand. The limits of the burial ground were established to the south, east and west but not to the north. Some 23 graves were excavated, with a further estimated 28 unexcavated in the surrounding area. It is possible that further burials will be found to the north. The graves were aligned east to west with all but three placed in coffins or stone lined long cists. There was one fully crouched burial and a high proportion of children were found to have been interred. A later burial, not in a cist, is thought to have been a shipwrecked sailor. Finds included 'strike-a-lights', rubbing stones, bone implements and pottery (now at the British Museum), but very few metal objects. Both the settlement and cemetery are known to extend beyond the present scheduled area although the full extent is not known. It is expected that a chapel also will survive in the wider area. These are preserved as buried features. The excavated buildings are still visible, although the excavated graves have been backfilled.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-429174


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
CO 530
Legacy System:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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