Ancient Monuments

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Cliff castle at Tubby's Head

A Scheduled Monument in St. Agnes, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.3092 / 50°18'33"N

Longitude: -5.2344 / 5°14'3"W

OS Eastings: 169798.932773

OS Northings: 50481.800964

OS Grid: SW697504

Mapcode National: GBR Z3.7N2F

Mapcode Global: VH125.7H39

Entry Name: Cliff castle at Tubby's Head

Scheduled Date: 12 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017017

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29668

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Agnes

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Agnes

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes Tubby's Head, a defended coastal promontory which has
been interpreted as an Iron Age cliff castle. It is located along a stretch of
exposed coastline which faces the Atlantic but which is overlooked by steeply
sloping land to the east. The earthwork defences are shown on a 1st edition
Ordnance Survey map of 1880.
The cliff castle was defended by natural rock on all sides but the east where
a 20m length of bank and earth-cut ditch runs north-south across the neck of
the promontory. The bank has average dimensions of 0.9m in height and 2.3m in
width. It is fronted by a ditch with a maximum width of 3m, the outer slope of
which is formed by the natural cliff slope. A causeway, 2m wide, across the
ditch and with a similar width gap in the bank, provides the only entrance.
The land defended within the enclosure comprises of a sloping rock promontory
with a further flat expanse of rock near the waterline; it has dimensions of
approximately 90m east-west by 50m north-south; approximating to an internal
area of about 0.45ha. A measure of occupation within the enclosure at some
time in the past is attested by the presence of a shell midden on the north
west side of the promontory, while a National Trust survey in 1985 located two
possible hut circles close to the midden.

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

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. On the seaward side the precipitous cliffs of the promontory provided
a natural defence, only rarely reinforced by man-made features. 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,
related to the broadly contemporary classes of hillfort.
The inner area enclosed at cliff castles varies with the size and shape of the
promontory; they are generally in the range 0.5ha to 3ha, but a few much
larger examples are known, enclosing up to 52ha. The area of many cliff
castles will have been reduced by subsequent coastal erosion. The ramparts are
of earth and rubble, occasionally with a drystone revetment wall along their
outer face. Ditches may be rock- or earth-cut depending on the depth of the
subsoil. The number and arrangement of ramparts and ditches varies
considerably and may include outworks enclosing large areas beyond the
promontory and annexes defining discrete enclosures against the landward side
of the defences. Multiple ramparts may be close spaced or may include a broad
gap between concentric ramparts defining inner and outer enclosures. Entrance
gaps through the defences are usually single and often staggered where they
pass through multiple ramparts.
Internal features, where visible, include circular or sub-rectangular levelled
platforms for stone or timber houses, generally behind the inner bank or
sheltered by the promontory hill. Where excavated, cliff castles have been
found to contain post holes and stakeholes, hearths, pits and gullies
associated with the house platforms, together with spreads of occupation
debris including, as evidence for trade and industrial activity, imported
pottery and iron working slag. Cliff castles are largely distributed along the
more indented coastline of western Britain; in England they are generally
restricted to the coasts of north Devon and Cornwall. Around sixty cliff
castles are recorded nationally, of which forty are located around the Cornish
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. All cliff castles with significant surviving archaeological remains
are considered worthy of preservation.

The cliff castle at Tubby's Head is in an unusual location, overlooked by
higher ground to the east, and is comparatively small in size. The monument,
including the shell midden which it contains, will provide archaeological
information on the lives and activities of its inhabitants and the landscape
in which they lived.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Chapel Porth, Cornwall, Archaeological Survey, (1985), 6
Warner, R, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Parish of St Agnes: checklist additions, , Vol. 6, (1967), 97
Title: Ordnance Survey 1st Edition
Source Date: 1880

Source: Historic England

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