Reasons for Designation
Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis. They are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre- Reformation period. Some chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial lords. Many chapels had been abandoned by the 1540s. Beacons were fires deliberately lit to give a warning, by means of smoke by day and flame by night, of the approach of hostile forces. They were always sited in prominent positions, usually as part of a group, chain or line which together made up a comprehensive early warning system covering most of the country. Their use was formalised by 1325 and although some were used later, for example at the time of Monmouth's Rebellion in 1685 or during the Napoleonic wars, the system was in decay by the mid-17th century. The promontory fort, medieval chapel of St Michael's and Second World War radar station at Rame Head survive well and reflect their critical defensive and strategic significance throughout a very long and varied history. The fort, chapel, and radar station survive well and will retain archaeological and other evidence relating to their long and varied use.
The monument includes a promontory fort, a medieval chapel and part of a Second World War radar station located on the tip of a rocky headland, known as Rame Head, which divides Cawsand Bay from Whitsand Bay and forms a protective natural barrier on the western side of Plymouth Sound. The promontory fort survives as an irregularly-shaped enclosure, defined by steep cliffs on all but its north eastern side where a narrow neck of land connects it to the mainland. The fort is protected by a deep, well-defined outer ditch with an earth and stone-built rampart with a central entrance. The rampart bank was partially built over by 20th century defensive structures which are no longer extant. Several stray finds of flints have been made within the hillfort. The ground rises to a natural point within the centre of the fort and on the summit is a small rectangular, stone-built chapel measuring approximately 6.4m long by 3m wide internally with a solid arched stone roof. It has a doorway to the north east with a small lancet window. There is a large east window and further windows to the south and west. Internal niches suggest that there might have been an upper chamber in the western end. Licenses for the chapel were issued to the Dawney family in 1397 and again in 1425. It was subsequently used as a lighthouse, beacon and watchtower as documented as early as 1486. A watchman was employed during the Spanish Armada in 1588, although the lighthouse or chapel were no longer used by this time. It was noted as an important sea-mark by Carew around 1600 and retained this significance until at least the 19th century. The building was in use as a sheep house by 1824 and restored in the 1880's. A concrete platform abutting the chapel, with two possible aerial mounting marks, is the surviving remains of a Royal Air Force Chain Home Low radar station established at Rame Head in June 1940 to provide early warning of low flying enemy aircraft approaching Plymouth during the Second World War.
The chapel is Listed Grade II* (61698).
PastScape Monument No:-437403, 437401 and 1411781