Ancient Monuments

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Redcliff Castle, later prehistoric cliff castle 550m south west of Bedruthan

A Scheduled Monument in St. Eval, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.4871 / 50°29'13"N

Longitude: -5.0333 / 5°1'59"W

OS Eastings: 184922.972917

OS Northings: 69651.81187

OS Grid: SW849696

Mapcode National: GBR ZG.SF15

Mapcode Global: FRA 07BR.YQX

Entry Name: Redcliff Castle, later prehistoric cliff castle 550m south west of Bedruthan

Scheduled Date: 20 January 1953

Last Amended: 11 August 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021006

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32976

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Eval

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Eval

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes a later prehistoric cliff castle situated on a
promontory projecting west into the Atlantic north of Mawgan Porth. The
site has level and moderately sloping ground on top of the promontory, and
steep high cliffs with a narrow ridge projecting seaward below. In plan
the cliff castle is roughly crescent-shaped, its irregular outline
reflecting the indented course of the cliffs. It measures up to
approximately 200m across north-south by 75m east-west. Around the
landward side it has two concentric ramparts, each with an external ditch,
running north-south across the neck of the promontory with a slight
outward curve.
The ramparts are visible as rounded banks of earth and stone; there is
evidence for the use of large grounders or basal facing stones. The banks
are 4m-5m wide and 1m-1.5m high. The two ditches both have fairly flat
bases, but differ in their proportions. The inner (west) one is around
6m-7m wide and 1m deep. The outer ditch is wider, at 9m-10m across, and
deeper, varying from about 2m to 3.5m deep. For some 20m towards its south
end, the sides of the outer ditch are formed of exposed, steep faces of
cut bedrock. The entrance to the cliff castle runs east-west through the
centre of its enclosing earthworks, passing over the ditches on a causeway
4m-7m wide and around 0.7m-1m high. The interior slopes west with the
natural gradient, undulating slightly.

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.

Despite limited modification of its enclosing earthworks, and coastal
erosion, Redcliff castle, 550m south west of Bedruthan survives well. The
underlying old land surface, and remains of any structures or other
deposits associated with this and with the upstanding earthworks and
ditches, will also survive. The presence of both rock- and earth-cut
ditches, and the evidence for the use of stone grounders in the ramparts,
illustrate well the variations in construction among monuments of this

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pattison, S R, 'Annual Report of the Royal Institution of Cornwall' in On Some Earth-Works Near Newquay, On The North Coast of Cornwall, , Vol. 31, (1849), 36
AM7, (1951)
Kirkham, G to Parkes, C, (2001)
MS at RIC library, Truro. Date approx, Henderson, C, Notebooks of Parochial Antiquities, Notebooks of Parochial Antiquities, (1920)
SW 86 NW 3, Fletcher, MJ, Ordnance Survey Index Card, (1969)
Title: Cornwall Mapping Programme
Source Date: 1995

Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Map
Source Date: 1880

Title: St Eval Tithe Apportionment
Source Date: 1842

Source: Historic England

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