Cliff castle at Tubby's Head


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017017

Date first listed: 12-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Cliff castle at Tubby's Head
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: St. Agnes

National Grid Reference: SW 69794 50492


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. On the seaward side the precipitous cliffs of the promontory provided a natural defence, only rarely reinforced by man-made features. 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, related to the broadly contemporary classes of hillfort. The inner area enclosed at cliff castles varies with the size and shape of the promontory; they are generally in the range 0.5ha to 3ha, but a few much larger examples are known, enclosing up to 52ha. The area of many cliff castles will have been reduced by subsequent coastal erosion. The ramparts are of earth and rubble, occasionally with a drystone revetment wall along their outer face. Ditches may be rock- or earth-cut depending on the depth of the subsoil. The number and arrangement of ramparts and ditches varies considerably and may include outworks enclosing large areas beyond the promontory and annexes defining discrete enclosures against the landward side of the defences. Multiple ramparts may be close spaced or may include a broad gap between concentric ramparts defining inner and outer enclosures. Entrance gaps through the defences are usually single and often staggered where they pass through multiple ramparts. Internal features, where visible, include circular or sub-rectangular levelled platforms for stone or timber houses, generally behind the inner bank or sheltered by the promontory hill. Where excavated, cliff castles have been found to contain post holes and stakeholes, hearths, pits and gullies associated with the house platforms, together with spreads of occupation debris including, as evidence for trade and industrial activity, imported pottery and iron working slag. Cliff castles are largely distributed along the more indented coastline of western Britain; in England they are generally restricted to the coasts of north Devon and Cornwall. 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. All cliff castles with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered worthy of preservation.

The cliff castle at Tubby's Head is in an unusual location, overlooked by higher ground to the east, and is comparatively small in size. The monument, including the shell midden which it contains, will provide archaeological information on the lives and activities of its inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.


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


The monument includes Tubby's Head, a defended coastal promontory which has been interpreted as an Iron Age cliff castle. It is located along a stretch of exposed coastline which faces the Atlantic but which is overlooked by steeply sloping land to the east. The earthwork defences are shown on a 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1880. The cliff castle was defended by natural rock on all sides but the east where a 20m length of bank and earth-cut ditch runs north-south across the neck of the promontory. The bank has average dimensions of 0.9m in height and 2.3m in width. It is fronted by a ditch with a maximum width of 3m, the outer slope of which is formed by the natural cliff slope. A causeway, 2m wide, across the ditch and with a similar width gap in the bank, provides the only entrance. The land defended within the enclosure comprises of a sloping rock promontory with a further flat expanse of rock near the waterline; it has dimensions of approximately 90m east-west by 50m north-south; approximating to an internal area of about 0.45ha. A measure of occupation within the enclosure at some time in the past is attested by the presence of a shell midden on the north west side of the promontory, while a National Trust survey in 1985 located two possible hut circles close to the midden.

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: 29668

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Chapel Porth, Cornwall, Archaeological Survey, (1985), 6
Warner, R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parish of St Agnes: checklist additions, , Vol. 6, (1967), 97
Title: Ordnance Survey 1st Edition Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing