Iron Age to Roman settlement with incorporated fogou and adjacent post-medieval cottage at Carn Euny


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Iron Age to Roman settlement with incorporated fogou and adjacent post-medieval cottage at Carn Euny
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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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:
SW 40228 28852

Reasons for Designation

The courtyard house is a building form developed in south west England in the Roman period during the second to fourth centuries AD. It was usually oval or curvilinear in shape, taking the form of a thick coursed rubble wall containing rooms and some storage chambers. A central area - the courtyard - was enclosed by this wall and the rooms and the main entrance opened into it. The courtyard is generally considered to have remained unroofed.

Excavations of courtyard houses have revealed paved and cobbled floors, stone partitions, slab-lined and slab-covered drains, threshold and door pivot stones and slab-lined hearths, together with artefactual debris. Excavations have also shown that some courtyard houses developed from earlier phases of timber and/or stone built round houses on the same site.

Courtyard houses may occur singly or in groups of up to nine. The national distribution includes over 110 recorded courtyard houses, mostly on the Penwith peninsula at the western tip of Cornwall, with a single example on the Isles of Scilly. Courtyard houses are unique within the range of Romano- British settlement types, showing a highly localised adaptation to the windswept conditions of the far south west of England.

At least four courtyard house settlements are also associated with fogous, underground passages up to 30m long and 2m wide, usually with side passages and/or chambers. The passages' drystone walls were initially built in a trench, roofed with flat slabs, then covered by earth.

Fogous also have an Iron Age and Roman period date range for their use, though with little evidence for the initial construction of any after the end of the Iron Age. At least 12 fogous are known to have surviving remains, their national distribution being restricted to the far west of Cornwall, in West Penwith and around the upper Helford River. Besides courtyard house settlements, fogous are associated with various forms of contemporary settlement site including rounds and hillforts. The original functions of fogous are not fully understood; safe refuges, entrances, storage areas and ritual shrines have been proposed as possibilities, with particular emphasis on the refuge theory.

Courtyard house settlements and their occasional associations with fogous are important sources of information on the distinctive nature and pattern of settlement that developed during the Iron Age and Roman periods in south west England.

The courtyard house settlement and incorporated fogou at Carn Euny has survived reasonably well, the published excavations elucidating the nature and development of the settlement while leaving extensive areas of the monument undisturbed, both as unexcavated areas and beneath the Roman phase structures consolidated on the site. The excavations at this monument have provided some of the best available evidence for the sequence of house forms that culminated in courtyard houses, while unexcavated stances of the earlier round houses are also visible. The courtyard houses present a distinctive ground plan, repeated throughout the settlement but unusual even among the diversity of known courtyard house plans.

The fogou in this monument is a complex example of this rare and unusual class and it has survived well; it is one of only very few fogous to have been excavated by modern techniques, leaving the built structure and much of the surrounding deposits intact. The excavations have considerably amplified our knowledge of the date, nature and development of the fogou and its relationship with the developing settlement over and around it. The circular chamber at this monument is rare in its association with a fogou, only paralleled by some above ground structures at this date.

This monument's location in an area containing such a wealth of surviving earlier and broadly contemporary settlement features provides valuable information on the broader context and economic background within which it developed.

The surviving remains and excavated record of the much later 18th-19th century cottage at this monument provides a rare insight into the contemporary organisation of such domestic buildings; although comparatively recent, most houses of this character and date have either been totally demolished and robbed or survive with extensive modification. The smaller houses of this period retain distinctive sub-regional elements and this is the only example of its type to have been examined archaeologically in such detail, revealing information on later 18th century-early 19th century domestic arrangements at the lower end of the social scale.


The monument includes an Iron Age to Roman period settlement in which successive groups of timber built round houses developed into a large interlocking group of rounded stone built houses and courtyard houses. The settlement incorporates a complex of underground walled passages called a fogou, also built in successive stages, most of which are contemporary with the development of the settlement around it. The monument also includes the remains of a mid-18th century cottage and its adjoining field plot built into the south west corner of the settlement. The monument is situated on the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall, on a southerly slope below the saddle between Caer Bran and the Bartinney Downs, north of the modern hamlet of Brane. Those parts of the monument within the modern enclosure containing the courtyard house settlement and the fogou, with contiguous parts of the Iron Age to Roman round house settlement and the 18th century cottage and plot, are in the care of the Secretary of State.

Much of our knowledge of this monument, its development and dating, derive from excavations undertaken between 1964 and 1972; some features have since been stabilised for the monument's presentation to the public and now form part of the monument's visible appearance. The radiocarbon dates and datable domestic debris from the excavation showed that the building and occupation of the Iron Age-Roman settlement extended from about the fifth century BC to the fourth century AD.

The earliest feature, considered to date to the fifth-fourth centuries BC, is a subterranean circular chamber near the centre of the monument. It was built in a pit lined by rubble walling and with a partly paved floor 2.5m below the present ground surface. The chamber measures 4.57m in diameter at its base, its rubble walls using progressively longer slabs, extending further inwards as they rise, to give the interior a domed effect called corbelling. The walls end before completion of a dome, leaving a formerly open cavity 3.35m across in the top of the chamber, now covered by a modern roof and grille. In the north west side of the chamber is a slab-lined recess, 0.9m square and 0.6m deep, ending at a face of unexcavated subsoil. Opposite the recess, a doorway in the south east of the chamber opens to a short, slightly curved entrance passage, 2.5m long, rubble-walled and roofed by large slabs called capstones. The passage rises to the south east and opens into the main passage of the fogou, described below. The fogou's main passage is a later feature; originally the circular chamber's passage extended further south, its floor remaining visible as a hollow rising beyond a square aperture in the southern wall of the fogou passage. Pottery contemporary with the construction of this round chamber was found elsewhere in the settlement, but no other settlement structures of this date are known at the monument.

The next structural phase has been identified as Iron Age through to the Roman period, from the third century BC to the first century AD. It includes a settlement of timber built round houses and the construction of much of the fogou. By their nature, the timber built houses recognised during excavation leave little visible surface trace. Extensive remains of one such house were recovered near the southern end of the monument. The house wall was indicated by a curved line of small stake-holes for hurdling from either a wattle wall or a turf wall lining, with a diameter of c.8m. By the inner face of this wall was a curving drainage gully, partly slab-covered, and the interior of the house contained a circular setting of six large postholes, 4m in diameter, for a ring of posts to support the roof. Stake-holes across the north eastern arc of the interior indicated a wattle screen and the floor was laid with redeposited pale subsoil. Successive floor layers, with various burnt hearth areas and the recutting of several postholes provided clear evidence for modification and rebuilding during the life of this house. North west of this house is a slab-covered rectangular pit, 1.3m long, 0.45m wide and 0.7m deep, considered to be a grave contemporary with the later occupation of the timber house nearby. The pit's covering slabs were originally covered by a deposit of subsoil and the pit contained one near complete small Iron Age pot and fragments of others. Curved gullies, post- and stake-holes, and a bell-shaped storage pit lined with china clay, were recognised from at least three other houses of similar form within the areas of later structures in the monument. Occupation debris, notably pottery, from this phase occurred widely throughout the excavated area. At least two rounded, levelled areas, up to 6m across, on the slope immediately south east of the natural outcrop of Carn Euny, are also considered to be stances for this phase and form of timber round house.

Much of the fogou also dates to this phase of the Iron Age timber buildings, radiocarbon dating suggesting a fourth-third century BC date for some early floor deposits in its main passage. With the corbelled circular chamber and its passage already built, the main passage of the fogou truncated the circular chamber's passage. The main passage has a north east-south west alignment and a very shallow S-shaped plan, with rubble walls sloping in towards the top where it is roofed by transverse capstones. The passage is generally 2m wide and 1.82m high, its walls built in a trench that was subsequently backfilled to create the underground passage. The passage was initially c.17.5m long and closed at each end, the original north east end being c.2m north east beyond its junction with the circular chamber passage. The original south west end corresponds with the present end of the covered sector of the passage and its side walls beneath. In this initial form, one access route was provided to the main passage and, after its construction, to the circular chamber; this was by a short, narrow side passage branching west from the main passage at a slab-lined doorway 1m before the closed south west end. The side passage, called a `creep', is 3.5m long, only 0.6m wide in places, and rises steeply to the surface. It is unclear whether the initial sloping access to the circular chamber's entrance passage was also left open as an access point to the fogou main passage or if it had been blocked by this stage.

Subsequently, possibly during the Iron Age, the south west end of the main passage was opened by digging a deep trench, from immediately beyond it, south westwards, whose floor sloped steeply down to a sump 1.2m below the fogou passage's floor level. This sump was bisected by a transverse wall and is considered to have functioned as a well. When excavated the sump was found to have been much more recently reused by the inhabitants of the adjacent 18th century cottage.

The third structural phase at the monument extends from the 2nd to 4th centuries AD, during the Roman period, when the timber built round houses were replaced by an interlocking group of stone built, single-roomed, round and ovoid houses together with larger multi-roomed courtyard houses whose extensive remains survive across the slope in the eastern part of the monument. Although modification and accretion is evident in relationships between the various structures of this phase, this is not believed to indicate significant differences in their periods of use and both the rounded houses and the courtyard houses are considered to be broadly contemporary. The round and ovoid houses have earth walls, 1m-1.4m wide, faced along each side by edge-set and laid slabs, sometimes coursed and incorporating large blocks along the base. The walls survive to 1m high in places, defining internal areas ranging from 7m to 9m across their greatest dimension. Entrance gaps are identifiable in most houses, paved in two examples, and at least one, possibly two, have two opposed entrances. The remains of at least seven such houses are visible: an east-west row of four adjoining houses running parallel to the monument's southern edge; one located immediately north of the western house in that row; one located around the top of the fogou's early circular chamber, and one against, and partly incorporated into, the modern hedgebank along the northern edge of the monument; only the latter house has not been excavated. In addition, walls of at least two more stone houses were later incorporated into the courtyard house walls.

These single room houses contained a range of features including floors of white kaolinised granite (china clay), redeposited subsoil and hearth debris, with some traces of paving; hearths of baked clay subsoil; slab-covered drainage gullies, and scatters of pits, post- and stake-holes, some of which are cooking pits and hollows while others supported posts carrying doorway structures across entrance gaps in the walling. Two houses each contain a distinctive flat slab bearing a circular hollow; when excavated, the hollow of one contained a small rubbing stone. One house, near the south east corner of the monument, has two small subrectangular annexes, one each side of the entrance and one of which was built into the wall thickness; a boulder wall also defines a third annex along the south west outer side of this house. Another house also contained a wall-lined storage chamber in its wall thickness. The house built over the earlier circular chamber may have had a wooden floor over the cavity in the chamber's upper wall; a post supporting this floor would rest on a granite slab in a pit found in the base of the circular chamber.

The courtyard houses in this phase form a group of three adjoining excavated examples along the south east side of the fogou, with a possible fourth, largely unexcavated, example beneath the 18th century cottage's plot to their south west, and a fifth unexcavated courtyard house north west of the fogou, beyond the round house over the circular chamber. The courtyard houses share many features of the round and ovoid houses but were built on a much larger scale with walled internal partitions creating the multi-roomed plan. Their walls have earth cores faced by coursed slabs, frequently incorporating edge-set slabs and large boulders in their lower course. In several sectors they incorporate or reuse wall lengths from round or ovoid houses built on the same sites earlier during the development of this phase. The walls are generally in the range 1m-2.5m wide and 1m high, defining ovoid internal areas ranging from 15.3m by 12.5m to 15.75m by 15m in overall extent. The plan and features of the courtyard houses are clearest and least affected by later modification in the excavated central and north eastern examples beside the fogou. Each house has a broad paved entrance, 2m-2.3m wide, flanked by large upright slabs set into the walling. Beside the entrance, walls extend into the house interior, creating two slender side rooms backed by the outer wall of the house; this was complicated in the north east house by the creation in its western side of a new north east entrance to the fogou described below. Two of the side rooms were partitioned by edge-set slabs and one, in the central courtyard house of the group, is accompanied by a rounded storage chamber, 1.3m across, built into the thickness of the outer wall beside the room's open end. All the houses were modified in various ways during their period of occupation.

As with the smaller houses of this phase, the courtyard house interiors contain slab-covered drainage gullies, at least one being culverted beneath its courtyard house wall. Traces of paved internal flooring were found but post-medieval ploughing over the interiors of the excavated courtyard houses had removed much of their original flooring. Various pits, post- and stake- holes were recorded in the internal areas: some derive from structures and subdivisions while others include cooking pits.

During this phase, the fogou was altered by creating an entrance passage to the north east end of the main passage. This new entrance rises steeply, curving north to join the western side of the north eastern courtyard house. The sides of this new passage extend those of the main passage but contrast by rising vertically, an indication that this new entrance was unroofed. It joins the courtyard house at a tangent, extending directly towards, and clearly influencing, the offset line of the paved entrance of the house. About the same time as this new entrance was created, the fogou's subsoil floor was paved, an action later repeated, though few traces survive as visible features.

The excavations also recovered numerous artefacts from the successive phases of this settlement. This included abundant pottery from all phases; much was produced in west Cornwall but the Iron Age pottery included parts of late second-early first century BC wine vessels called amphorae, in which wine was traded from Italy. Some of the Roman pottery was also imported, including fragments of a distinctive fine ware called samian pottery imported from central France. Other artefacts included glass beads; an iron brooch and a pruning hook; spindle whorls of stone and reused pot fragments for weighting wool-spinning spindles; millstones, whetstones and stone rubbers amd hammers. Datable finds indicated that the settlement was abandoned in the fourth century AD, towards the end of the Roman period. It became incorporated in the pattern of small irregular fields defined by stone-faced hedgebanks visible today. The excavation also revealed remnants of two former hedgebanks running east-west across the settlement, evidence for an even finer subdivision of the present small plots.

The excavation also revealed the lower courses of a small rounded post-Roman shelter, about 3m in external diameter, built against the inner wall of the courtyard house beside the fogou's south west end. West of that shelter, and partly overlying its west side, are the lower courses of a subrectangular pig sty, locally known as a `crow', in use until relatively recently. In the mid-18th century, a cottage and adjoining small plot were built in the south west corner of the monument; on excavation they were found to overlie further features of the Iron Age to Roman settlement. The cottage is at the north end of its plot and is rectangular, 7m east-west by 3.5m north-south internally, its outer walls 0.6m thick, with roughly dressed granite facing blocks over a basal course of larger, more irregular blocks. The walls had subsoil mortar with traces of plaster on the inner face. The surviving walls rise from only the basal course on the south to a maximum 1.87m high in the east of the north wall, over a square window opening, 0.45m across. The cottage is considered to have risen to an upper floor. A doorway, 1m wide, was provided in the centre of the south wall. The floor was of compacted subsoil, patched with subsoil and lime and containing traces of coal dust. The floor had evidence for a timber partition running back from the doorway, dividing the interior into two rooms.

The west room contained the fireplace, against the west wall. The fireplace was modified during the cottage's later occupation and its final form, as now visible, includes a small oven against its south side and a fuel store against the north. The fireplace and the floor immediately in front of it were paved. The east room had a slab-lined drain running from the north wall window to the doorway, considered to derive from a small dairy occupying the north east corner and defined by edge-set slabs in the floor. Outside the cottage, an L- shaped wall adjoining the east wall defines a small privy from which a paved drain runs south west. This is a late addition and analogy with local practice suggests it was a washing area for a miner prior to his entering the cottage. To the south, the cottage fronts onto a raised terrace, paved over its western half, beyond which are traces of a slab-built wall marking the northern end of the cottage's plot. The plot is 12m wide and extends 20m SSW from the cottage's terrace, defined by hedgebanks on the east, west and south. Its surface is now largely obscured by slabs and rubble deposited from the excavations of the Iron Age to Roman settlement.

The architectural style of this cottage and pottery found during its excavation indicated construction and occupation from c.AD 1750 to c.1800. A second period of occupation was also indicated, from c.AD 1830 to c.1850. Documentary evidence shows that in the early 19th century it was leased by a family named Wallis. In 1867 antiquary W C Borlase noted, while excavating the fogou, that the cottage had lost its roof, and its subsequent decay is attributable to stone robbing for other structures.

The area around this monument contains an unusually high density of surviving archaeological remains. These include the Iron Age hillforts of Caer Bran, 0.5km to the ENE, and Bartinne Castle, 0.9km to the north west. Courtyard house settlements are located at Goldherring, 1km to the south east, and at Botrea, 2km to the north. The Bartinney Downs to the north west, also contain earlier Bronze Age settlement sites, field systems and funerary cairns, while a chambered cairn is situated 0.65km to the south, near the hamlet of Brane.

All English Heritage notices, fixtures and fittings, and all modern stiles, gates and fences are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath, including hedgebanks, is included.

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.

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Books and journals
Clarke, E, Cornish Fougous, (1961)
Cunliffe, B, Iron Age Communities in Britain, (1991)
Edmonds, R, The Land's End District, (1862)
Hencken, H O'N, The Archaeology of Cornwall and Scilly, (1932)
Todd, M, The South-West to A.D. 1000, (1987)
Todd, M, The South-West to A.D. 1000, (1987)
Borlase, W C, 'Proc Soc Ants' in Subterranean chambers at Chapel Euny, , Vol. 4 (4), (1868), 161-170
Christie, P M L, 'Cornish Archaeology' in A Post-Medieval Cottage at Carn Euny, Sancreed, , Vol. 18, (1979), 105-123
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Christie, P M L, 'PPS' in Excavation Of An Iron Age Souterrain And Settlement At Carn Euny, , Vol. 44, (1978), 309-433
Quinnell, H, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Cornwall During The Iron Age And The Roman Period, , Vol. 25, (1986), 111-134
Quinnell, H, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Cornwall During The Iron Age And The Roman Period, , Vol. 25, (1986), 111-134
Quinnell, H, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Cornwall During The Iron Age And The Roman Period, , Vol. 25, (1986), 111-134
Christie, P M L, Carn Euny Guide (Christie's 1/1989 draft revision the 1983 edn), 1989, Unpubl draft sent to CAU by Christie
Christie, PML, Carn Euny Guide (Christie's 1989 revision of 1983 edn), 1989, Unpubl draft notes sent to CAU
Christie, PML, Carn Euny Guide (Christie's 1989 revision of 1983 edn), 1989, Unpubl draft notes sent to CAU
Christie, PML, Carn Euny Guide (Christie's 1989 revision of 1983 edn), 1989, Unpubl draft notes sent to CAU
consulted 1995, DoE/HBMC, Ancient Monuments Terrier for CO 97, 'Carn Euny', (1984)
consulted 1995, DoE/HBMC, Ancient Monuments Terrier for CO 97; Carn Euny, (1984)
Crucible shown to MPPA by Mr R Taylor of Chapel Euny on 14/2/95, (1995)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map; SW 42 NW Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Unpub diary note for 10/8/1863 in RIC, Borlase, WC, Opening of the Cave at Chapel Uny, Sancreed, (1863)


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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