Slight univallate hillfort with outworks containing a medieval chapel and beacon at Helsbury Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
Location Description:
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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)
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Reasons for Designation

Slight univallate hillforts are enclosures of various shapes, situated on or close to hilltops and defined by a single line of earthworks, the scale of which is relatively small. They date to between the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age (eighth - fifth centuries BC). Slight univallate hillforts are generally interpreted as stock enclosures, redistribution centres, places of refuge and permanent settlements. The earthworks generally include a rampart, narrow level berm, external ditch and counterscarp bank, more elaborate features like outworks are limited to only a few examples. Slight univallate hillforts are rare with around 150 examples recorded nationally.

A medieval chapel is a building containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre- Reformation period. Chapels were generally divided into two main parts: the nave, for the laity and the chancel for the priest and the principal altar. Abandoned chapels are particularly important as they were often left largely undisturbed and retain important information about the nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.

Beacons were fires deliberately lit to give a warning of the approach of hostile forces. They were always sited in prominent positions, usually as part of a group, chain or line. Later methods included one or more fire baskets on a pole, or, less frequently, in some form of stone structure. Despite quarrying, cultivation and the construction of a road and farm buildings, the slight univallate hillfort with outworks containing a medieval chapel and beacon at Helsbury Castle survive well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to a long and varied use as a strategic and defensible location, its spiritual and religious significance, agricultural and domestic use and landscape context.


The monument includes a slight univallate hillfort with outworks, a medieval chapel called St Syth's Chapel and a beacon, situated on the summit of a prominent hill known as Michaelstow Beacon which forms the watershed between the Rivers Allen and Camel. The hillfort survives as an oval enclosure measuring approximately 170m long by 160m wide internally, defined by a rampart of up to 4m high and a partially buried outer ditch, which is cut by a road to the north. There is a rectangular outwork to the east which measures approximately 100m long by 40m wide. A distinct hollow way runs through the entrance of the outwork and parts of the rampart, and interior have been disturbed by stone quarrying.

Within the hillfort is a small rectangular banked enclosure with interior stone facing and possible entrances to the north east and south west. Within this enclosure is a small rectangular two-celled chapel building defined by walls of up to 0.6m high with an internal cross bank, all set onto a low rectangular platform with several architectural fragments scattered throughout the area. To the west are the remains of a possible tower or beacon which survives as a small mound. The chapel has a disputed dedication to St Syth or St Michael. A partial excavation of the chapel by Rev Gibbons in the 19th century found no distinctive chapel remains. It is Listed Grade II (68549).

Helsbury Castle was included within a deer park called New Park documented in 1337. In 1363 the Black Prince ordered a lodge to be built, the location of which is unclear, and it was de-parked in about 1540. The tithe map shows a windmill on the northern side of the hillfort, but there are no visible remains. During the Second World War the Home Guard built an underground observation post in the south west side of the hillfort. Manned each night it was connected by field telephone to Michaelstow House.

Modern barns and road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath is included.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-431560, 431563, 431654, 431655 and 1428468


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

Legacy System number:
CO 82
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.

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