Ancient Monuments

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Chysauster courtyard house settlement, fogou, round cairn and part of a prehistoric field system

A Scheduled Monument in Madron, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.1611 / 50°9'40"N

Longitude: -5.5397 / 5°32'22"W

OS Eastings: 147288.980999

OS Northings: 35006.632938

OS Grid: SW472350

Mapcode National: GBR DXP8.5B9

Mapcode Global: VH059.X6RT

Entry Name: Chysauster courtyard house settlement, fogou, round cairn and part of a prehistoric field system

Scheduled Date: 3 February 1984

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006726

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 37

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Madron

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Gulval

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument, which falls into three areas, includes a courtyard house settlement, fogou, round cairn and part of a prehistoric field system situated on the upper slopes of a long ridge called Carnaquidden Downs. The settlement survives as at least ten courtyard houses, each approximately 30m in diameter defined by stone built walls of up to 2.1m high; a partially buried and blocked fogou of up to 16m in length; and part of a prehistoric field system with lynchets up to 1m in height, as well as boundary banks incorporating a round cairn, walls and trackways. Eight of the courtyard houses form two distinct rows. The surviving garden plots and field system indicate the agricultural nature of the settlement.
Chysauster has been partially excavated on several occasions, including by Borlase in 1873 revealing drains, paving, hearths stone roof and door post socket stones and finds included Iron Age pottery, fragment of slate, water worn pebbles of quartz, a lump of tin ore and a copper alloy spoon possibly for eating shellfish. Some of the houses were reconstructed and the fogou was blocked for safety reasons. A possible second fogou recorded in the mid-19th century is now believed to be a sunken way leading to the settlement. The remains of a Bronze Age burial cairn were also revealed built into a field system wall.
The main courtyard house complex, fogou and parts of the field system are an English Heritage Guardianship site.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-423417

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The courtyard house is a building form developed in south west England in the Roman period during the second to fourth centuries AD. It was usually oval or curvilinear in shape and took the form of a thick coursed rubble wall containing rooms and storage chambers. A small central and generally unroofed area - the courtyard - was enclosed by this wall, and the rooms within the wall and the main entrance opened into it. Excavations of courtyard houses have revealed paved and cobbled floors, stone partitions, slab-lined and slab-covered drains, threshold and door pivot stones and slab-lined hearths, together with artefactual debris. Excavations have also shown that some courtyard houses developed from earlier phases of round houses on the same site. The national distribution includes over 110 recorded courtyard houses, mostly on the Penwith peninsula at the western tip of Cornwall. A single complete example from the Isles of Scilly extends the south west limit of their distribution. Courtyard houses are unique within the range of Romano-British settlement types, showing a highly localised adaptation to the windswept conditions of the far south west of England. Fogous are underground passages up to 30m long and 2m wide, usually with side passages and/or chambers. Fogous date to the Iron Age and continued in use into the Roman period although there is little evidence for the initial construction of any after the end of the Iron Age. Approximately 12 fogous are known to have surviving remains, their national distribution being restricted to the far west of Cornwall, in West Penwith and around the upper Helford River. They are often associated with courtyard house settlements. The original functions of fogous are not fully understood; safe refuges, entrances, storage areas and ritual shrines have been proposed as possibilities, with particular emphasis on the refuge theory. They form an extremely rare and distinctive class of monument and are important sources of information on the unique nature and pattern of settlement that developed during the Iron Age and Roman periods in south west England. Despite partial excavation, restoration and some reduction in the height of some of the structures through cultivation Chysauster courtyard house settlement, fogou, round cairn and part of a prehistoric field system represent the largest and best preserved example of this rare type of settlement. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, social organisation, agriculture, domestic arrangements, ritual practices and overall landscape context.

Source: Historic England

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