Cliff castle known as Maen Castle


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:

Reasons for Designation

Cliff castles are coastal promontories adapted as enclosures and fortified on the landward side by the construction of one or more ramparts accompanied by ditches. Cliff castles date to the Iron Age, most being constructed and used between the second century BC and the first century AD, although some were reused in the medieval period. They are usually interpreted as high status defensive enclosures. Around sixty cliff castles are recorded nationally, of which forty are located around the Cornish coast. Cliff castles contribute to our understanding of how society and the landscape was organised during the Iron Age and illustrate the influence of landscape features on the chosen locations for prestigious settlement, trade and industry. Maen Castle is one of only two fortified sites in Cornwall to produce Early Iron Age pottery, and parallels have been drawn with other early Cornish prehistoric sites which imply it may be one of the earliest defended sites in prehistoric West Penwith.


The monument includes a cliff castle, situated on a small headland overlooking Gamper Bay at Mayon Cliff. The cliff castle survives as a roughly-rectangular enclosed area of approximately one hectare. It is defined by steep cliffs on two sides, a boulder strewn slope on the third and a rock-cut ditch measuring up to 2.4m deep with stone revetted rampart and counterscarp of up to 2m high on the fourth. The main rampart has a massive stone wall of up to 60m long, 3.7m wide and 1.5m high. There is a well-preserved gateway lined with stone which contains a later post medieval shelter. The cliff castle defences partially overlie an earlier field system and kink to integrate an earlier lynchet into the defensive line. The outer ditch appears to have been built after the inner defensive rampart wall and the up-cast material used instead to construct the counterscarp bank.

The cliff castle was first described by Edmonds in 1845 - 50. Partial excavations between 1939 and 1949 by the West Cornwall Field Club produced evidence for the occupation of the interior including layers of charcoal and burnt material together with sherds of Iron Age pottery and medieval grass-marked wares. Their findings were re-interpreted by Quinnell who suggested the cliff castle was possibly in use not only in the Iron Age but throughout the Romano-British period and even into the medieval period, having been built between 800 and 400 BC. Although not confirmed, later surveys suggest it may have Late Bronze Age or Neolithic origins.

Sources: HER:- PastScape Monument No:-421208


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

Legacy System number:
CO 19
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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