A folly, built in around 1780 by Sir John Call, at the summit of Kit Hill.
Reasons for Designation
The folly, built in around 1780 by Sir John Call, at the summit of Kit Hill, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Period: the folly represents the idea of late-C18 romantic paternalism, utilising an existing landscape feature to exert a small-scale form of empire building;
* Survival: whilst the folly has suffered some losses from later mining activity, the surviving earthworks provide a good illustration of its form;
* Potential: evidence of prehistoric activity, waste from medieval mining activity and C19 mining remains also survive within the scheduled area;
* Documentation: the construction of the folly and the proposed but unbuilt tomb is recorded in Sir John Call’s will of 1800; the C19 interventions for the mining industry are also documented; and the site is included in a comprehensive archaeological survey of Kit Hill;
* Fragility: as the folly is located within a public country park, it is vulnerable from the impact of human footfall and other community activities.
At the summit of Kit Hill, within the ancient Duchy Manor of Stoke Climsland, lies a roughly-square earthwork enclosure, built as a folly by Sir John Call in around 1780. The monument is located within a multi-period archaeological landscape which has been much surveyed and is well-documented (see Sources). Identified features include prehistoric field systems and barrows (burial mounds), and features from the extractive mining industries. The hill’s central chimney stack (Grade II listed) which served Kit Hill Great Consols mine is a significant landmark which can be seen from neighbouring parishes, and beyond. Six barrows on the eastern slope of the hill are separately scheduled.
For many years the folly was assumed to be a C17 earthwork, possibly a temporary camp, and related to Civil War events in 1643 or 1644. Following survey in 1951, the Ordnance Survey suggested that the earthwork was of medieval or later date, possibly ‘erected by tinners for the holding of their courts’. In 1986 a suggestion was made that the earthwork was a reservoir associated with the mining industry. This was investigated during resurvey and restoration work in 1987 but was considered unlikely due to the sloping site and military appearance of the bastions (projecting corner part). The interpretation as a Civil War earthwork was therefore returned to, despite the fact that the enclosure lacked an external ditch. The investigations produced evidence for a 1920s putting green on the flat enclosed area.
The first topographical drawings made by the Ordnance Survey (OS) in around 1803 (published in 1813) captured a square enclosure with bastions central on the hill, later labelled as ‘The Castle’ on an 1815 map of Hingston Down. In the early-C19, a ‘Kitt-Hill Bank’ pound note depicted a round tower flying a flag on the summit of the exaggerated hill, with an attached polygonal enclosure containing mature ornamental shrubs. In around 1827 the north-west bastion of the enclosure was reused as a base for a wind-engine or windmill, and the south-west bastion housed a wind or weather vane; both are shown in an illustration of 1832 but were terminally storm-damaged in 1837. In 1858 a detached chimney stack, designed as a monumental column at the insistence of the Duchy of Cornwall, was constructed at the summit of the hill, associated with the boiler and calciner at the Kit Hill Great Consols mine. By the time of the first large-scale OS map of 1881 the enclosure was labelled as a camp, with embankments seeming to form three sides of a rough square – that to the north being curved, bastions to the corners, a trig point on the south-west bastion, and buildings associated with Kit Hill Great Consols mine at the north-west corner. The 1907 OS map shows that most of these buildings had been removed.
In 1989 a reference was discovered mentioning that Sir John Call constructed a ‘Danish Castle’ on the summit of Kit Hill. Sir John Call (1731-1801), who had made a fortune under Clive in India, had acquired the Whiteford estate near Stoke Climsland in 1763, extending the manor house there in around 1775 and erecting a garden temple to its north in 1779. Sir John requested in his will of 27 June 1800 that a granite tomb be erected ‘on Hengesdon alias Kit Hill…within or adjoining the Inclosure of the Castle which I have built there’; the tomb was to be designed by Philip Stowey, the architect for the temple at Whiteford, for no more than £500, and enclosed by iron railings. It was again recorded in Bentham’s Baronetage in the early years of the C19 as ‘something like an Old Saxon castle on the summit, with large stones of granite found there in great plenty’. After further interpretation (see Herring in Sources) the enclosure was identified as a folly probably built around the same time as Sir John’s works to Whiteford in 1779 or 1780 and designed to be seen from there. He intended it as a monument to the battle of Hingston Down in AD 838, which would be seen by the people who would continue to climb Kit Hill to enjoy the panoramic views, even composing a poem for his tombstone. However, the tomb and its stone were never erected. Sir John died in London on 1 March 1801 and, as indicated in his will if he was to die in the city, was buried in a Coade-stone tomb with an obelisk at the Church of St Margaret in Lee near Lewisham, Kent.
300 acres of land on Kit Hill including the folly were given by Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall to Cornwall County Council in 1982 to mark the birth of Prince William; the gift was accepted in November 1985. Restoration and management of the hill followed in 1988-1989 including the re-turfing and consolidation of the folly’s banks, and reversion of a gravelled car park within the enclosure to grass. Investigations during this time included three small trial pits within the folly’s enclosure; these contained loamy topsoil in all three pits, with a thin gritty layer above a peaty layer in two pits, and one pit having products of shode (deposits of ore-rich material) and lode (a vein of metal ore) pits from medieval surface prospecting, beneath the topsoil. In a further trial a shallow trench was excavated outside of the folly to check for a defensive ditch; no evidence was found. The project culminated in a detailed report by Cornwall Archaeological Unit, first published in 1988 and republished in 1990 to include the reinterpretation of the enclosure as a folly (see Sources).
The annual Midsummer bonfire, established in 1929, takes part within the embankments of the folly.
SUMMARY OF ASSET
A folly, built in around 1780 by Sir John Call, at the summit of Kit Hill.
Located at the summit of Kit Hill in east Cornwall, is a late-C18 folly comprising a roughly-square platform enclosed by low earth and stone embankments with stone-revetted bastions at each corner. The platform comprises products of medieval shode and lode prospecting pits, and there is a Bronze Age round barrow recorded on the east side of the earthwork, within the extent of the scheduled area.
The folly at Kit Hill was constructed in around 1780 by Sir John Call as the location of his tomb (although this was not fulfilled), overlooking the surrounding landscape in all directions including to the north-east towards Plymouth Sound. The folly is built on an artificially-levelled platform, mainly comprising mining waste including from medieval lode and shode pits on the western side of the enclosure (there are thousands of such pits on Kit Hill, but only those within the enclosure are included within the scheduled area).
The folly comprises a straight-sided polygonal enclosure, with five sides of irregular length and an internal area of 0.27 hectares (0.66 acres). Four of the five corners have stone-revetted bastions whose centres lie beyond the points of intersection of the sides, deliberately designed to allow clear views along them. All of the sides are earthwork banks with flat tops and symmetrically-splayed bases. The south side is approximately 37m long, up to around 1.3m wide with a base around 4.5m to 5.5m wide and measuring up to around 1.4m high internally (on the inward side) and up to around 1.8m high externally. The east side is approximately 36m long, the top up to around 2m wide with a base between around 5.5m and 6.5m wide, and measures up to around 1.6m high internally and up to around 2.5m externally. The north-east side is approximately 18m long, the top up to around 1.4m wide with a base around 2.5m to 4.5 wide, and is around 1.2m to 2.3m high internally and 1.2 to 2.6m high externally. The north-west side is approximately 29m long, the top up to 1.3m wide with a base around 4.5m to 5.5m wide; this bank has been damaged by the construction of C19 mining buildings, but it is between around 0.8m and 1.9m high internally and around 1.3m and 2.2m high externally. On the west side only around 9m of an approximately 41m long bank survive intact; it has an approximately 1.1m to 1.3m wide top, and a base around 4.2m to 4.5m wide. The rest is now a slight western scarp approximately 0.7m high.
All of the bastions had stone revetments, with the eastern ones covered with debris from their collapse. The two western bastions were reused as platforms in the early-C19, the northern as a wind-engine (or windmill) base to power a pump to remove water from a shaft below, and the southern as a platform for a wind vane associated with the functioning of the wind-engine. The north-west bastion was the ‘castle’ of the folly, and sits on top of a mound approximately 2.8m-high and around 15.2m in diameter, with an inner circular revetment of granite blocks around 7.3m in diameter forming the collar of the shaft beneath the wind-engine, which later was used for the foundation of the summit stack (the stack is excluded from the scheduling). The outer revetment is up to 0.6m high and was probably used as the foundation for the wind-engine itself. The south-west bastion is approximately 12.5m in diameter, around 2.4m high and on a base of around 13m diameter which is between around 0.3m and 0.45m high. A nearby stony mound about 0.5m high and around 3.5m in diameter may be the base of the OS trig pillar shown on the 1881 OS map. The south-east and north-east bastions are now irregularly-shaped earthen mounds about 16m wide and up to 2.5m high, with traces of stone revetments. The northern node lacks a bastion and instead may have been the entrance as there is a gap approximately 3.5m wide, with a viewing platform on the north-west bank.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING
The extent of the folly is determined by the outer wall of the banks and the outer walls of the bastions which make up the enclosure.
The chimney to Kit Hill Great Consols mine (Grade II listed), and all modern stiles, steps, posts, surfaced footpaths, and signage are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.