Promontory fort and two bowl barrows at Trevelgue Head


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 82639 63011

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. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities including houses, buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. They are settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. Bowl barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Despite partial excavation and erosion, the promontory fort and two bowl barrows at Trevelgue Head survive well. Excavation has already revealed the importance of this fort for defence and display. Its role developed through time, as a centre for metal working and extraction, trade, agriculture. Its prolonged use over time adds considerably to its importance as a settlement. The presence of two burial mounds will also provide evidence for funerary and ritual practices and it will still contain environmental evidence which provides information about its overall landscape context.


The monument includes a promontory fort containing early mineral workings, settlement and agricultural evidence and two bowl barrows, situated on Trevelgue Head - a narrow headland between Newquay and Watergate Bays. The promontory fort survives as a coastal spur naturally defended on most sides by cliffs and elsewhere by a series of up to eight ramparts with ditches, including three outer defences to the landward side. The landward defences comprise an outer enclosure, possibly for grazing or cultivation; four middle defences across the narrowest neck of the headland; and two further inner defences with smaller lengths of defensive works around the edges of the headland where the cliffs are slightly lower. The fort defended a natural harbour at St Columb Porth. The outermost defences are closely spaced and ensure the interior of the fort could not be overlooked by attackers. The four middle ramparts are now separated by a tidal chasm and have been quarried for stone. All ramparts vary considerably in size and profile suggesting several phases of construction, although the largest rampart measures up to 12m wide, 4m high with a 7m wide ditch. Within the interior are traces of a field system and numerous building platforms ranging from 2nd century BC round houses to a rectangular building dating to the 5th - 6th century AD. Settlement appears to have been continuous throughout this long period. Metal mining and working was carried out from the Iron Age with an iron mine to the north side and evidence for bronze and iron smelting from furnaces and slag. The known archaeological history of the fort is a result of partial excavations by CK Croft Andrews in 1939, cut short by the Second World War, and never published. There are two bowl barrows within the fort. The western barrow lies within the inner ramparts at the summit of the headland and survives as a circular mound measuring up to 25m in diameter and 2.5m high with traces of a surrounding quarry ditch up to 1m wide and 0.1m deep. This barrow was excavated by Borlase in 1872 producing an inner cairn of stones, evidence for burning but no interment. The eastern barrow is in the outer enclosed area close to the cliff. It survives as a flat topped circular mound measuring 18m in diameter and 1.6m high, also excavated by Borlase. It produced a deposit of calcined bones in a cup shaped scooped hollow covered with a flat stone around which was evidence of burning.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-429322, 429325, 429328 and 1462241


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

Legacy System number:
CO 88
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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