Ancient Monuments

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Part of a promontory fort with Civil War fieldworks known as Little Dennis

A Scheduled Monument in St. Anthony-in-Meneage, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.0898 / 50°5'23"N

Longitude: -5.0945 / 5°5'40"W

OS Eastings: 178749.316397

OS Northings: 25660.913392

OS Grid: SW787256

Mapcode National: GBR ZC.MGXZ

Mapcode Global: FRA 086S.52X

Entry Name: Part of a promontory fort with Civil War fieldworks known as Little Dennis

Scheduled Date: 29 November 1957

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1004431

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 437

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Anthony-in-Meneage

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Anthony-in-Meneage

Church of England Diocese: Truro


This monument includes the part of a promontory fort containing Civil War fieldworks, situated on the north eastern section of the coastal headland known as Dennis Head. The promontory fort survives as the northern end of a rampart with its outer rock cut ditch towards the centre of the headland which defined the western side of the fort and the northern half of the interior. The name Little Dennis is derived from the Cornish 'Dynas' meaning fort. In the mid-18th century Borlase noted 'an old vallum', which he believed to be Roman, stretching from sea to sea on the western side of the headland, and the 1813 Ordnance Survey map depicts the earthwork crossing the centre of the headland from north to south. Col. Vyvyan in 1909-10 suggested the defences were part of the Civil War fortifications, although the Victoria County History of 1906 also gave prehistoric origins describing it as a cliff castle. Within the enclosed area of the promontory fort are a number of surviving Civil War fieldworks which include a roughly-square shaped fort with projecting bastions, a battery to the north east defined by banks and further protective ditches and outworks with projecting bastions to the west. The Civil War fortifications were built by the Royalists in 1643 - 4 and were surrendered to Parliament in 1646. These fieldworks are extremely well documented amongst the papers of the Vyvyans of Trelowarren with records and sketches detailing the planning, construction and manning of the fort which were transcribed and published by Col. Vyvyan. He described the planned fortifications as including a five-sided fort at the centre with breastworks along the northern edge of the promontory and a cross work with a gate tower and outwork to the north west, although the surviving remains differ from these original plans. Within the fort was a reputed chapel measuring approximately 12m long by 6m wide of which only low walls survive and it is shown on a plan of 1910.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-426909

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. The ramparts and accompanying ditches formed the main artificial defence, but timber palisades may have been erected along the cliff edges. The interior of the fort was used intensively for settlement and related activities, and evidence for round houses together with the remains of buildings used for storage and enclosures for animals can be expected. 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 regarded as settlements of high status occupied on a permanent basis and their 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.

The battles and sieges of the English Civil War (1642-52) between King and Parliament were the last major active military campaigns to be undertaken on English soil. Fieldworks are earthworks which were raised during the military campaigns to provide temporary protection for infantry or to act as gun emplacements. The earthworks, which may have been reinforced with revetting and palisades, consisted of banks and ditches and varied in complexity from simple breastworks to complex systems of banks and interconnecting trenches. They have been recognised to be unique in representing the only evidence on the ground of military campaigns fought in England since the introduction of guns. There are some 150 surviving examples of fieldworks nationally. The earthwork part of the promontory fort, with Civil War fieldworks, known as Little Dennis survive well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the settlement, agricultural practices and strategic importance of this headland throughout its complex history.

Source: Historic England

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