This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Cliff castle known as Maen Castle

List Entry Summary

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.

Name: Cliff castle known as Maen Castle

List entry Number: 1006757


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Cornwall

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Sennen

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 10-Aug-1923

Date of most recent amendment: Not applicable to this List entry.

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM - OCN

UID: CO 19

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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

Selected Sources

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details

National Grid Reference: SW3476725763


© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1006757 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 18-Sep-2018 at 10:43:53.

End of official listing