Neolithic hilltop enclosure with later settlement and defensive structures, a prehistoric field system, a medieval castle and deer park and mineral workings on Carn Brea


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)
Carn Brea
National Grid Reference:
SW 68609 40784

Reasons for Designation

Carn Brea is one of the most distinctive hills in Cornwall and has long held an important and strategic role. With finds dating to the Mesolithic, a Neolithic hilltop enclosure, Iron Age Hillfort, the largest in Cornwall, a medieval deer park and castle and its subsequent economic importance for mining, quarrying and charcoal burning Carn Brea has demonstrated its clear strategic and historic significance over considerable time. The palimpsest of so many different facets and types of activity help to make this one of the most important monuments in Cornwall and serve to indicate its changing roles through time for which a rich array of archaeological and environmental evidence will still survive relating to all of these various activities within their overall landscape context.


The monument includes a Neolithic hilltop enclosure with later settlements and hillfort, a prehistoric field system, a medieval castle incorporated into an 18th century folly, deer park, medieval and later mineral workings, a pillow mound and a commemorative memorial all situated on and around the summit of the strategically important and prominent hill, Carn Brea. The hill top has been extensively occupied since the Neolithic and there are extant remains of two widely spaced ramparts which surround the summit enclosing several natural rock outcrops and the possibility of two separate large enclosures. Numerous excavations have revealed extensive Neolithic activity including settlements, cultivation, timber buildings, lithics and pottery with population estimates of between 150 - 200 inhabitants. There has been to date, no specific evidence for Bronze Age occupation, but some chance finds of this date have been located. During the Iron Age this became the largest hillfort in Cornwall although the defence modifications may never have been completed; there is evidence of a field system and at least twelve stone hut circles and shelters. During the medieval period a castle with a deer park was established on the site and is first mentioned in documents of 1348. A rectangular building set on older foundations remains, re-modelled into an 18th century folly. The lower end of a medieval garderobe is still visible and parts of the chapel, a licence for which had been granted in 1379, may survive within this structure. The building was used as a hunting lodge by the Bassets. However, the deer park was moved to Tehidy by 1785 because of mining activities. A low pillow mound for breeding rabbits also survives illustrating medieval and later animal husbandry practices. Much of the interior of the enclosed area of Carn Brea has been disturbed by mineral prospecting and extraction with its distinctive earthworks. The workings relate to both medieval and 19th century extraction of tin, copper and arsenic. There is a memorial commemorating Sir Francis Basset, later Lord de Dunstanville, who was one of the major mine owners of the region. The memorial survives as a 30m high tapering octagonal cross on a plinth. Carn Brea was also a focus for other light industrial use including charcoal burning as well as stone splitting and quarrying activities, evidence of which survives as pits and associated spoil. Chance finds from the area have included Mesolithic flints, bronze socketed axes and several Roman coins. Carn Brea Castle (66669) and the Dunstanville Memorial (66670) are both Listed Grade II.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:- 426086, 426089, 426099, 426102, 426109, 426110, 426112, 426178, 426180, 1470370 and 477794


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

Legacy System number:
CO 79
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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