Ancient Monuments

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Cliff castle known as Maen Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Sennen, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.0727 / 50°4'21"N

Longitude: -5.7082 / 5°42'29"W

OS Eastings: 134766.180161

OS Northings: 25764.952339

OS Grid: SW347257

Mapcode National: GBR DX9H.650

Mapcode Global: VH05M.0FNM

Entry Name: Cliff castle known as Maen Castle

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006757

English Heritage Legacy ID: CO 19

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Sennen

Built-Up Area: Sennen Cove

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Sennen

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a cliff castle, situated on a small headland overlooking Gamper Bay at Mayon Cliff. The cliff castle survives as a roughly-rectangular enclosed area of approximately one hectare. It is defined by steep cliffs on two sides, a boulder strewn slope on the third and a rock-cut ditch measuring up to 2.4m deep with stone revetted rampart and counterscarp of up to 2m high on the fourth. The main rampart has a massive stone wall of up to 60m long, 3.7m wide and 1.5m high. There is a well-preserved gateway lined with stone which contains a later post medieval shelter. The cliff castle defences partially overlie an earlier field system and kink to integrate an earlier lynchet into the defensive line. The outer ditch appears to have been built after the inner defensive rampart wall and the up-cast material used instead to construct the counterscarp bank.

The cliff castle was first described by Edmonds in 1845 - 50. Partial excavations between 1939 and 1949 by the West Cornwall Field Club produced evidence for the occupation of the interior including layers of charcoal and burnt material together with sherds of Iron Age pottery and medieval grass-marked wares. Their findings were re-interpreted by Quinnell who suggested the cliff castle was possibly in use not only in the Iron Age but throughout the Romano-British period and even into the medieval period, having been built between 800 and 400 BC. Although not confirmed, later surveys suggest it may have Late Bronze Age or Neolithic origins.

Sources: HER:-
PastScape Monument No:-421208

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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. 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. 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. Maen Castle is one of only two fortified sites in Cornwall to produce Early Iron Age pottery, and parallels have been drawn with other early Cornish prehistoric sites which imply it may be one of the earliest defended sites in prehistoric West Penwith.

Source: Historic England

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