St Piran's Round


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


Ordnance survey map of St Piran's Round
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. 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 77891 54476

Reasons for Designation

Rounds are small embanked enclosures, one of a range of settlement types dating to between the later Iron Age and the early post-Roman period. Usually circular or oval, they have a single earth and rubble bank and an outer ditch, with one entrance breaking the circuit. Excavations have produced drystone supporting walls within the bank, paved or cobbled entrance ways, post built gate structures, and remains of timber, turf or stone built houses of oval or rectangular plan, often set around the inner edge of the enclosing bank. Other evidence includes hearths, drains, gullies, pits and rubbish middens. Evidence for industrial activities has been recovered from some sites, including small scale metal working and, among the domestic debris, items traded from distant sources. Some rounds are associated with secondary enclosures, either abutting the round as an annexe or forming an additional enclosure. Rounds are viewed primarily as agricultural settlements, the equivalents of farming hamlets. They were replaced by unenclosed settlement types by the 7th century AD. Over 750 rounds are recorded in the British Isles, occurring in areas bordering the Irish Seas, but confined in England to south west Devon and especially Cornwall, where many more examples may await discovery. Most recorded examples are sited on hillslopes and spurs. Rounds are important as one of the major sources of information on settlement and social organisation of the Iron Age and Roman periods in south west England. Consequently, sites with significant surviving remains will normally be considered to be of national importance.

St Piran's Round is a well preserved example of its class and will retain archaeological evidence for the monument's construction, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived. The monument also exhibits features of medieval date resulting from its use as a Plain an Gwarry. Although many parishes in medieval Cornwall are believed to have had Plain and Gwarry, few survive. The example of St Piran's Round is especially unusual in that many of its original features remain visible and correspond to those shown on an 18th century plan.


The monument, known as St Piran's Round, includes a circular defended late prehistoric enclosure, or round, with a surviving bank and wide outer ditch located about 1.5km behind the coastal sand dunes east of Perranzabuloe; it was later adapted for use as a Plain an Gwarry, a `playing place' or amphitheatre for the performance of medieval mystery or miracle plays. The interior of the enclosure is about 45m in diameter and it is defended by a single earthen rampart surviving 3m high around the entire circuit, except where entranceways occur, and a ditch 2.5m deep and 3m wide. The outer near vertical scarp of the rampart forms the inner face of the ditch which is continuous around the rampart except for the causewayed southern entrance where the ditch terminates either side of a 4.5m wide entrance gap. The earthworks comprising the monument appear to have been modified, probably in medieval times, for the use of the site as a Plain an Gwarry. Consequently, the rampart is flat topped with a walkway 2.5m wide, probably to allow access to the seating which would once have been supported on the bank. Other interior features comprise a trench and connecting hollow pit on the north east side of the arena known as the `devil's spoon'. This was designed to help with dramatic effects during the play, for example representing hell, form which the devil could appear at appropriate momenmts. A secondary entranceway, opposite to the original causewayed south entrance, was cut at some time in antiquity, possibly for the cart track which ran through the site after it ceased to function as a Plain an Gwarry. Excluded from the scheduling are all fencing, iron posts, and stanchions, signposts, paving stones and the mock wooden gateway facade at the southern entrance; the ground beneath all these features is however 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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Borlase, W, Natural History of Cornwall, (1758), 298
Borlase, W, Parochial Memoranda, (1760), 164
Warner, R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parish of Perranzabuloe, , Vol. 2, (1962), 72
Title: Ordnance Survey Source Date: 1813 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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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