Two later prehistoric cliff castles on Kelsey Head and west of Porth Joke, and two round barrows 610m west and 760m south west of Porth Joke


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020026

Date first listed: 03-Mar-1951

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Dec-2001


Ordnance survey map of Two later prehistoric cliff castles on Kelsey Head and west of Porth Joke, and two round barrows 610m west and 760m south west of Porth Joke
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Cornwall (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Cubert

National Grid Reference: SW 76476 60225, SW 76486 60818, SW 76539 60536, SW 76855 60709


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 castles on Kelsey Head and west of Porth Joke survive well. The earthworks remain substantially intact, and the old land surface underlying these, and remains of structures and other deposits associated with them, will survive. The apparently unfinished earthworks at Kelsey Head may illustrate methods of cliff castle construction. Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. There are over 10,000 surviving examples recorded nationally. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials and occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries, often acting as a focus of burials in later periods. The presence of earlier round barrows on the prominent cliff-top location clearly illustrates the important role of topography in Bronze Age funerary activity.


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


The monument includes a later prehistoric cliff castle with an annexe on Kelsey Head, a cliff castle west of Porth Joke, and two prehistoric round barrows, one with evidence for use as a beacon in historic times. All are at Inner Kelsey, the seaward part of The Kelseys, a headland south west of Newquay. The scheduling is divided into four separate areas of protection. The cliff castles are situated on promontories sloping fairly steeply north or north west from the wider headland, that on Kelsey Head facing a rocky islet known as The Chick. The round barrows lie on the western shoulder of the headland, south of Kelsey Head and north of Holywell Beach respectively. The round barrows are closely associated with others beyond this scheduling, which together form a small coastal ridge-top barrow cemetery. The cliff castle and annexe on Kelsey Head measures up to approximately 170m WNW-ESE by 230m NNE-SSW overall. It has an irregular plan, reflecting the indented outline of the natural cliffs on the seaward side. Its enclosing earthworks, on the promontory neck, are more regular, forming a curving `L'- shape with a rounded corner on the south east side. The annexe adjoining it on the south west side has an irregular finger-like plan determined by flanking narrow precipitous inlets. The cliff castle itself measures approximately 170m WNW-ESE by 160m NNE-SSW. Its single rampart, of earth and stone and incorporating natural rock outcrops, is mostly around 8.5m wide, up to 1.4m high externally and 1.1m high internally. It broadens to an irregular profile 25m across at the southern corner of the cliff castle, probably due to natural rock beneath the surface. The external ditch is partly rock-cut. It is 3.5m-4m wide and generally 0.3m-0.7m deep, though in places it appears slighter and uneven in depth. On the north east side, the ditch is visible as an alignment of three depressions 7m-16m long, running step-like down the slope with scarps 0.5m- 0.7m high between them. The second and third depressions from the north are separated by a 5m gap, with the rampart continuing (though lower) inside it, indicating perhaps that the earthworks are unfinished. The earthworks appear to end around 5m from the cliff edge on the north east side, and 7m from that on the south west side. The rampart is not visible on the ground on the south west side where the cliff castle adjoins the annexe. A causewayed entrance 4m wide, at the south east corner of the earthworks, is considered to be original. The interior falls away to the cliffs, level ground being limited to an area inside the entrance and another on top of a spur surrounded by cliffs on the north west side, with a few small patches around low outcrops of natural rock. The cliff castle's annexe measures up to 80m WNW-ESE by 70m NNE-SSW. It is bounded to the north east by the cliff castle, and to the south east by an earthwork running north east-south west from the latter's south eastern corner. This earthwork has an external ditch shown on aerial photographs extending across the promontory neck, and visible on the ground for some 14m on the north east side where it is around 2.5m wide and 0.7m deep, and a rampart of earth and stone upstanding at the north east end of the ditch, up to 4m wide and 0.5m high. The interior of the annexe slopes towards the cliffs with no level ground. Although this feature has been interpreted as an annexe to the cliff castle, it is possible that it is actually an earlier cliff castle, later reused as an annexe. The cliff castle west of Porth Joke lies on a single promontory spur. Again, it has an irregular plan reflecting the topography of the cliffs, measuring approximately 50m across. It has a rampart of earth and stone incorporating natural rock across the neck of the promontory, curving to the south. This is generally around 6m wide and 0.8m-1.5m high outside, 0.3m-1.1m high inside, but is very slight for some 7m from the cliff on the east side. The original entrance is thought to be near the centre of the rampart, where it dips by around 0.5m for a distance of some 3m. The interior falls towards the cliffs with the natural slope, broken by one fairly prominent and several lower outcrops of bedrock, except inside the entrance where it forms a natural or modified platform about 8m across and 0.8m high above the slope. The round barrow south of Kelsey Head on the western shoulder of The Kelseys has an earth and stone mound with a low, regular profile, approximately 28m in diameter and up to 0.4m high, projecting from the natural slope. A late 17th century map shows evidence for its use at that time as a beacon, and it commands distant views both along the coast and inland. The round barrow situated on a prominent clifftop north of Holywell Beach has a mound of earth and stone approximately 15m in diameter and 0.3m high, rising to 0.8m above the natural slope to the west. It has a slightly concave top and a natural rock outcrop is visible on its surface on the west side. All modern waymarking posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 32942

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Harding, J R, 'Antiquaries Journal' in Prehistoric Sites On The North Cornish Coast, , Vol. 30, (1950), 163-165
Pattison, S R, 'Annual Report of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in Annual Report of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, , Vol. 31, (1849), 36-37
Whitley, H M, 'Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in , , Vol. 7, (1881), 289-291
AM7, (1950)
Coad, R, to Parkes, C, (2000)
Dyer, CA, Cornwall Mapping Project, (1998)
NT SMR no 90,118. Date uncertain, Archaeological Survey, Cubert and the Gannel, Cornwall, (1985)
NT SMR site no 90,112. Date uncertain, Archaeological Survey, Cubert and the Gannel, Cornwall, (1985)
NT SMR site no 90,114. Date uncertain, Archaeological Survey, Cubert and the Gannel, Cornwall, (1985)
Penna, LJ, Letter to OS, (1954)
Penna, LJ, Letter to OS, (1954)
Penna, LJ, Letter to the OS, (1950)
SW 75 SE 5, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
SW 76 SE 10, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
SW 76 SE 3, Lovell, GS, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1950)
SW 76 SE 3, Quinnell, NV, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
SW 76 SE 4, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
Title: Cubert Tithe Apportionment Source Date: 1840 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 356
Title: Lanhydrock Atlas Source Date: 1696 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Kelsye in the Manor of Ellinglaze
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing