Killibury Castle later Prehistoric hillfort


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SX 01816 73707, SX 01927 73623

Reasons for Designation

Small multivallate hillforts are defended enclosures situated on hilltops and defined by two or more lines of closely-set earthworks, usually enclosing an area of under 5ha. They form one of a range of known types of fortified enclosure dating to the Iron Age, constructed during the period 6th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D., and sometimes re-occupied during the Roman and early medieval periods. They present a considerable variety of enclosure shapes and rampart forms, usually with one or two entrances. Where excavated, structures within the enclosure have included round or rectangular houses and associated buildings, often post or stake-built but sometimes of stone; metalled or cobbled roads; hearths; ovens; storage pits; gullies; scatters of post and stake holes, and, by the entrances, post-hole evidence for gate and guard houses. Settlement evidence sometimes extends outside the area enclosed by the earthworks. Outworks are occasionally found, usually associated with the approach to the entrance. These monuments are regarded as high status settlements, permanently occupied, engaged in trade and with evidence for industrial activities such as metal-working, potting, spinning and weaving, and agricultural processes including corn-grinding. About 100 small multivallate hillforts are recorded nationally, commonest in the west and south midlands, central southern and south-west England. They are important as nationally rare monuments which contribute significantly to our knowledge of settlement organisation, and economic and social activities during the Iron Age. Consequently all such monuments which preserve good evidence typical of the main known types, and their regional and topographical spread, would normally be considered of national importance. Killibury Castle is of particular importance because of the good preservation of a substantial proportion of its defences above ground, and the evidence from recent excavations for the survival beneath the ploughsoil of extensive areas of undisturbed sub-surface deposits deriving from a considerable period of occupation and re-occupation. Its importance is further enhanced by the regional significance of the major route-crossing point that this hillfort controlled, by its early medieval literary connections, and by its recurrence in antiquarian records dating back to the 15th century.


The monument includes a small, circular, later prehistoric hillfort with two earth and rubble ramparts and ditches, and a sub-rectangular outwork covering the W entrance. The hillfort comprises a near-circular interior area, 127m by 117m (1.17ha), defined by a massive rampart, 10m wide and 2m high max., and outer ditch 10m wide and 2m deep max. An outer rampart and ditch of similar proportions runs concentric with the inner defences, with a featureless gap 9-18m wide between the inner defensive ditch and the outer rampart. The NNE sector of the outer rampart has been levelled. Breaks in these defences occur at the W and ENE sides, considered to be the sites of original entrances, where the ditches stop short and an early road, now a farm track, passes through. A break also occurs at the NNW side, though there the outer ditch of the outer defensive line continues across the break. The W entrance is protected by the surviving N half of a sub-rectangular outwork comprising a rampart 10m wide and 0.5m high, extending 40m W from the outermost ditch and returning 25m S to the track. The bank has an outer ditch 15m wide and 0.5m deep. The surface features of the SE quarter of the monument have been much reduced by recent ploughing but the line of the former rampart remains clearly visible as a surface undulation, while former surface traces of another outwork covering the ENE entrance, beyond the protected area, have been completely destroyed. Considerable information regarding the high quality and nature of sub-surface features of this monument comes from recent excavations in the hillfort's SW quarter, beyond the protected area of the monument, prior to its destruction by the erection of an extended farm building complex. These revealed extensive surviving structural features and occupation debris dating to the later Bronze Age and throughout the Iron Age, with evidence for re-occupation in the early post-Roman period. An old land surface preserved beneath the ramparts revealed Neolithic or Bronze Age occupation debris. It is considered that similar evidence survives throughout the area of the monument which is continuous with the excavated areas beyond. This hillfort has been identified by several authors with the 'kelliwic' referred to in early medieval Welsh literature; direct references to the hillfort date back to place-name evidence from the early 12th century and its earliest description dates to 1478; it recurs in most 19th century antiquarian references to Cornish antiquities, and for its archaeological importance and possible early historical connections, in most detailed reviews of Cornwall's history and monuments. Killibury Castle occupies the summit of a low hill in the rolling coastal belt between the River Camel estuary and Bodmin Moor. It has gentle slopes on all sides, dropping to the River Allen at the SE side. It is 3.75km E of the head of the Camel estuary and is close to the crossing point of two major cross-country routes: NW-SE across Cornwall using the Camel and Fowey valleys, and the NE-SW route along north Cornwall avoiding the high ground of Bodmin Moor. All modern hedges, the dumped rubble and building materials, the modern bridge for the track over the ditches, and the service trench carrying the water-pipe through the western outwork are excluded from the scheduling but the land beneath, including hedge-banks, is included. This monument is divided into two separate constraint areas.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Ashe, G, The Quest for Arthur's Britain, (1971)
Henderson, C, The Cornish Church Guide, (1928)
Maclean, J, History of Trigg Minor, (1873)
Miles, H et al, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavations At Killibury Hillfort, , Vol. 16, (1977)
Padel, O J, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Kellywic In Cornwall, , Vol. 16, (1977)
Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17991, Killibury Castle,
Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 17992, Tregilders,
Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 26021, Killibury enclosure,
Fox, A., South-West England, (1964)


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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