Ancient Monuments

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St Piran's Round

A Scheduled Monument in Perranzabuloe, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.3482 / 50°20'53"N

Longitude: -5.1233 / 5°7'23"W

OS Eastings: 177891.787695

OS Northings: 54475.803882

OS Grid: SW778544

Mapcode National: GBR Z9.S1CX

Mapcode Global: FRA 0843.ZV6

Entry Name: St Piran's Round

Scheduled Date: 30 May 1933

Last Amended: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016168

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29628

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Perranzabuloe

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Perranzabuloe

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument, known as St Piran's Round, includes a circular defended late
prehistoric enclosure, or round, with a surviving bank and wide outer ditch
located about 1.5km behind the coastal sand dunes east of Perranzabuloe; it
was later adapted for use as a Plain an Gwarry, a `playing place' or
amphitheatre for the performance of medieval mystery or miracle plays.
The interior of the enclosure is about 45m in diameter and it is defended by a
single earthen rampart surviving 3m high around the entire circuit, except
where entranceways occur, and a ditch 2.5m deep and 3m wide. The outer near
vertical scarp of the rampart forms the inner face of the ditch which is
continuous around the rampart except for the causewayed southern entrance
where the ditch terminates either side of a 4.5m wide entrance gap. The
earthworks comprising the monument appear to have been modified, probably in
medieval times, for the use of the site as a Plain an Gwarry. Consequently,
the rampart is flat topped with a walkway 2.5m wide, probably to allow access
to the seating which would once have been supported on the bank. Other
interior features comprise a trench and connecting hollow pit on the north
east side of the arena known as the `devil's spoon'. This was designed to help
with dramatic effects during the play, for example representing hell, form
which the devil could appear at appropriate momenmts.
A secondary entranceway, opposite to the original causewayed south entrance,
was cut at some time in antiquity, possibly for the cart track which ran
through the site after it ceased to function as a Plain an Gwarry.
Excluded from the scheduling are all fencing, iron posts, and stanchions,
signposts, paving stones and the mock wooden gateway facade at the southern
entrance; the ground beneath all these features is however included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Rounds are small embanked enclosures, one of a range of settlement types
dating to between the later Iron Age and the early post-Roman period. Usually
circular or oval, they have a single earth and rubble bank and an outer ditch,
with one entrance breaking the circuit.
Excavations have produced drystone supporting walls within the bank, paved or
cobbled entrance ways, post built gate structures, and remains of timber, turf
or stone built houses of oval or rectangular plan, often set around the inner
edge of the enclosing bank. Other evidence includes hearths, drains, gullies,
pits and rubbish middens. Evidence for industrial activities has been
recovered from some sites, including small scale metal working and, among the
domestic debris, items traded from distant sources. Some rounds are associated
with secondary enclosures, either abutting the round as an annexe or forming
an additional enclosure.
Rounds are viewed primarily as agricultural settlements, the equivalents of
farming hamlets. They were replaced by unenclosed settlement types by the 7th
century AD. Over 750 rounds are recorded in the British Isles, occurring in
areas bordering the Irish Seas, but confined in England to south west Devon
and especially Cornwall, where many more examples may await discovery. Most
recorded examples are sited on hillslopes and spurs.
Rounds are important as one of the major sources of information on settlement
and social organisation of the Iron Age and Roman periods in south west
England. Consequently, sites with significant surviving remains will normally
be considered to be of national importance.

St Piran's Round is a well preserved example of its class and will retain
archaeological evidence for the monument's construction, the lives of its
inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived. The monument also exhibits
features of medieval date resulting from its use as a Plain an Gwarry.
Although many parishes in medieval Cornwall are believed to have had Plain and
Gwarry, few survive. The example of St Piran's Round is especially unusual in
that many of its original features remain visible and correspond to those
shown on an 18th century plan.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Borlase, W, Natural History of Cornwall, (1758), 298
Borlase, W, Parochial Memoranda, (1760), 164
Warner, R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parish of Perranzabuloe, , Vol. 2, (1962), 72
Title: Ordnance Survey
Source Date: 1813

Source: Historic England

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