Prehistoric and Roman settlement at Carvossa


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016890

Date first listed: 10-Aug-1999


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric and Roman settlement at Carvossa
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Probus

National Grid Reference: SW 91879 48266, SW 92006 48209


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

Reasons for Designation

Pre-Roman defended enclosures or hillforts intensively occupied in the Roman period are extremely rare nationally as are sites of this type which also have an association with extra mural settlement. In the tribal area of the Dumnonii, and in Cornwall in particular, the most commonly recognised form of defended enclosure of the pre-Roman Iron Age and Romano-British period is the `round'. Rounds are small embanked enclosures, usually circular or oval, with a single earth and rubble bank and outer ditch, and with one entrance breaking the circuit. Although Carvossa bears superficial similarities to a round its defences are much more substantial and its earthworks more closely resemble those of a large univallate hillfort of Iron Age date. Excavation shows that, even if the defences were constructed in the Iron Age, the major period of occupation at Carvossa was in the Roman period and that the provision of a metalled road to the site occurred whilst the site was under Roman control. The Roman finds, which include quantities of Samian ware (a fine table ware) suggest an unusual status for Carvossa and a possible military origin for its Roman use is suggested by the mid-1st century AD date for some of the pottery. In this respect the monument might be compared to the Iron Age site of Hembury in East Devon where part of the interior of the hillfort was enclosed by the Roman army probably for a base connected with the overseeing of the extraction of iron from nearby ore deposits. At Carvossa the continuity of the occupation beyond AD75 when the Roman military presence might have ceased, suggests that Carvossa became a successful Romano-British settlement perhaps trading by way of the River Fal. Despite some disturbance to its defensive circuit, the monument at Carvossa is known from excavation and geophysical survey to contain extensive archaeological material both within its enclosure and to the east of its defences, including some in a well preserved and waterlogged condition. It will provide information on the relationship between Roman and native Iron Age populations in the South West at a crucial time in their development and its extramural settlement has the potential to contribute further to these studies.


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


The monument, which falls into two areas, includes Carvossa, a prehistoric defended enclosure later occupied in the Romano-British period, with an associated extramural settlement also considered to be Romano-British. It is situated near the crest of a spur, on a slight south facing slope, about 2.5km west of the River Fal, which is considered to have been navigable as far upstream as Grampound in the Roman period. The monument is known, from a combination of extant remains, excavation, and geophysical survey, to comprise a roughly square defended enclosure of about 2ha with extramural occupation extending from its eastern side for a distance of at least 140m. Excavations conducted in the late 1960s have demonstrated that the majority of finds at the site belong to the first two centuries AD during the Romano-British period, but the defences of the enclosure itself are considered to date from the pre-Roman Iron Age. The enclosure is formed of a bank and external ditch. The bank survives on the northern part of the defensive circuit with maximum dimensions of 1.8m in height and 10m in width. Elsewhere it is preserved, although diminished, in field walls and hedgerows on the western and southern sides and by a scarp on the eastern side where it has been reduced by cultivation. The enclosure has rounded corners, the best preserved of which is on the north west, whilst the south eastern corner has been levelled at some stage in the past for the construction of agricultural buildings. The bank is fronted by a ditch which is again most visible on the northern side where it has a maximum width of 8m and, although infilled, it retains a depth of about 0.4m and is known from excavation to be 4.5m deep; the ditch is visible as a slight depression around most of the remainder of the circuit. The ditch was shown to have been at least partially infilled, by a depth of about 1.5m of silted deposit, before the first appearance of Roman pottery. A single entrance is known from excavation on the eastern side of the defences where the bank terminals were curved and revetted in stone to respect a massive timber gate structure and a causeway. Excavations and geophysical survey within the defences revealed a circular building, which might have pre-Roman origins, and a pattern of sub-rectangular enclosures. Precise separation of pre-Roman from Roman structures was not possible without further detailed archaeological evidence as native building traditions are considered to have continued throughout the South West in the Roman period. The coins, brooches, glass and pottery (other than a few Iron Age sherds) recovered from excavation trenches just inside the eastern defences, were however firmly attributable to the Roman period and had a date span of the mid-first century AD to the second half of the third century AD, with most of the finds dateable to 60-130. The opening date of this range has prompted the suggestion that the pre-existing enclosure may have been utilised by the Roman army as a fort. Later in the Romano-British period the causeway through the eastern defences was overlain by a well made road which has been traced running south east on a line leading to the River Fal. Occupation beyond the area of the main enclosure is demonstrated by geophysical survey which reveals a number of small enclosures and pits in the field (OS 0021) opposite the east gate of the main enclosure; the full extent of this extramural settlement has not been tested but it is recorded in this field over an area of about 150m north-south by 60m east-west. Beyond this to the north, south and east sides a further 10m margin is included in the scheduling as it is believed that the remains also survive in this area. It may represent part of an external vicus (area of civilian settlement outside a Roman fort), a native trading settlement set up under Roman auspices or a Romano-British village. Whether or not there was a military origin for the Roman period occupation at Carvossa, it remained in use during the second century (with some iron working within the enclosure and across the area of the redundant ditch at least on its eastern side), and evidence of occupation into the third century suggests that Carvossa was a successful Romano-British site over an extended period, perhaps taking advantage of its position to trade on the River Fal.

All fencing and fence posts, gates and gate posts, telegraph poles, and the agricultural buildings and pond in the south east corner of field OS 8926, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features 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.

Legacy System number: 29683

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bartlett, A, David, A, Geophysical Survey at Carvossa, Probus, Cornwall, (1980)
Carlyon, P M, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Finds from the Earthwork at Carvossa, , Vol. 26, (1987), 103-141
Douch, H L, Beard, S W, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavations at Carvossa, Probus 1968-1970, , Vol. 9, (1970), 93-97
Fox, A, Ravenhill, W L D, 'Britannia' in The Roman Fort at Nanstallon, Cornwall, , Vol. 3, (1972), 56-111
Quinnell, H, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Cornwall During The Iron Age And The Roman Period, , Vol. 25, (1986), 111-134

End of official listing