Redcliff Castle, later prehistoric cliff castle 550m south west of Bedruthan


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021006

Date first listed: 20-Jan-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Aug-2003


Ordnance survey map of Redcliff Castle, later prehistoric cliff castle 550m south west of Bedruthan
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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. Eval

National Grid Reference: SW 84924 69647


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.

Despite limited modification of its enclosing earthworks, and coastal erosion, Redcliff castle, 550m south west of Bedruthan survives well. The underlying old land surface, and remains of any structures or other deposits associated with this and with the upstanding earthworks and ditches, will also survive. The presence of both rock- and earth-cut ditches, and the evidence for the use of stone grounders in the ramparts, illustrate well the variations in construction among monuments of this type.


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


The monument includes a later prehistoric cliff castle situated on a promontory projecting west into the Atlantic north of Mawgan Porth. The site has level and moderately sloping ground on top of the promontory, and steep high cliffs with a narrow ridge projecting seaward below. In plan the cliff castle is roughly crescent-shaped, its irregular outline reflecting the indented course of the cliffs. It measures up to approximately 200m across north-south by 75m east-west. Around the landward side it has two concentric ramparts, each with an external ditch, running north-south across the neck of the promontory with a slight outward curve. The ramparts are visible as rounded banks of earth and stone; there is evidence for the use of large grounders or basal facing stones. The banks are 4m-5m wide and 1m-1.5m high. The two ditches both have fairly flat bases, but differ in their proportions. The inner (west) one is around 6m-7m wide and 1m deep. The outer ditch is wider, at 9m-10m across, and deeper, varying from about 2m to 3.5m deep. For some 20m towards its south end, the sides of the outer ditch are formed of exposed, steep faces of cut bedrock. The entrance to the cliff castle runs east-west through the centre of its enclosing earthworks, passing over the ditches on a causeway 4m-7m wide and around 0.7m-1m high. The interior slopes west with the natural gradient, undulating slightly.

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: 32976

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pattison, S R, 'Annual Report of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in On Some Earth-Works Near Newquay, On The North Coast of Cornwall, , Vol. 31, (1849), 36
AM7, (1951)
Kirkham, G to Parkes, C, (2001)
MS at RIC library, Truro. Date approx, Henderson, C, Notebooks of Parochial Antiquities, Notebooks of Parochial Antiquities, (1920)
SW 86 NW 3, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
Title: Cornwall Mapping Programme Source Date: 1995 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map Source Date: 1880 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: St Eval Tithe Apportionment Source Date: 1842 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: 667

End of official listing