Ancient Monuments

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Promontory fort at Black Head

A Scheduled Monument in St Austell Bay, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.2993 / 50°17'57"N

Longitude: -4.7544 / 4°45'15"W

OS Eastings: 203933.979368

OS Northings: 48001.043424

OS Grid: SX039480

Mapcode National: GBR N1.ZGLC

Mapcode Global: FRA 08X7.RL4

Entry Name: Promontory fort at Black Head

Scheduled Date: 5 October 1959

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1004391

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 520

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St Austell Bay

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Austell

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a promontory fort, situated on the dramatic headland dividing St Austell and Mevagissey Bays. The promontory fort survives as irregularly-shaped area, defined by at least three parallel rampart banks, with partially buried outer ditches to the north across the narrowest part of the headland and with the other defences provided by steep natural cliffs. The outermost rampart is slight and the ditch almost totally buried. The central and inner ramparts are up to 5.2m high with 2.1m deep ditches. In the interior is at least one stone hut circle to the NNW of the more recent rifle butts. The rifle range was built in the 1880's and modified during 1907 and the 1970's and many of the surviving features are associated with this subsequent re-use.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-431089

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Promontory forts are a type of hillfort in which conspicuous naturally defended sites are adapted as enclosures by the construction of one or more earth or stone ramparts placed across the neck of a spur in order to divide it from the surrounding land. Coastal situations, using headlands defined by steep natural cliffs, are common while inland similar topographic settings defined by natural cliffs are also used. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. Access to the interior was generally provided by an entrance through the ramparts. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for timber- and stone- walled round houses can be expected, together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals. Promontory forts are generally Iron Age in date, most having been constructed and used between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD. They are broadly contemporary with other types of hillfort. They are regarded as settlements of high status, probably occupied on a permanent basis, and recent interpretations suggest that their construction and choice of location had as much to do with display as defence. Promontory forts are rare nationally with less than 100 recorded examples. They are important for understanding the nature of social organisation in the later prehistoric period. Despite its later re-use as a rifle range, the promontory fort at Black Head survives well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, longevity, social organisation, strategic and territorial significance, trade, agricultural practices, domestic arrangements and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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