Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

EN0638: Black Head  

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HER:  Cornwall and Scilly MCO6530 (24062)

NMR:  SX 04 NW 8 (431089)

SM:  1004391

NGR:  SX0392948001

X:  203929  Y:  48001  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

Multivallate promontory fort sited on commanding rocky headland dividing St Austell and Mevagissey Bays. Sea cliffs to the E, S and W. Irregularly-shaped with at least three parallel rampart banks, with partially buried outer ditches to the NW across narrowest part of headland, elsewhere defined by steep natural sea cliffs, enclosing 3.3ha. Outermost rampart slight and ditch almost gone. Central and inner ramparts to 5.2m high with 2.1m deep ditches. Ramparts on W side much mutilated. Site now inaccessible from sea, but coastal erosion substantial since prehistory. Former low field bank traces in interior now not visible. Damaged with original entrance probably on W side. In interior at least one stone hut circle to NNW of recent rifle butts built in 1880's and modified during 1907 and 1970's. Many of surviving features associated with this subsequent reuse. Coastal grassland and bare rock. On 1st Ed. OS map (1882). Undated.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -529272  Y:  6498258  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -4.754527  Latitude:  50.299225  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  England

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Cornwall

Historic County:   Cornwall

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  St Austell Bay

Condition

Coastal erosion and damaged by rifle range. Partially and fully filled ditches and ramparts damaged to W. On Heritage at Risk Register (2015).

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Developed and coastal grassland and bare rock. Rifle range.

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Multivallate promontory fort (aka cliff castle) sited on commanding rocky headland dividing St Austell and Mevagissey Bays. Substantial sea cliffs to the E, S and W.

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Sea cliff headland site inaccessible from the sea

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  Rocky coastal headland.

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  50.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

None.

Reliability:  D - None

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Rifle range since 1880's.

Investigations

On 1st Ed. OS map (1882). Field investigation Ordnance Survey 1968, 1972. Survey National Trust 1987.

1st Identified Map Depiction (1882):  OS map
Earthwork Survey (1968):  Survey - no details.
Other (1968, 1972):  Field investigation OS.
Earthwork Survey (1972):  Survey - no details.
Other (1987):  Survey National Trust.

Interior Features

In interior at least one stone hut circle to NNW of the more recent rifle butts. Former low field bank traces in interior now not visible.

Water Source

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

In interior at least one stone hut circle to NNW of the more recent rifle butts. Former low field bank traces in interior now not visible.

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

Present causeway gap through middle of banks, and original, now damaged, entrance probably on W side.

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:   

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (West):  Simple Gap:  Damaged. Causewayed.

Enclosing Works

Irregularly-shaped with at least three parallel rampart banks, with partially buried outer ditches to the NW across narrowest part of headland, other defences provided by the steep natural sea cliffs. Outermost rampart slight and ditch almost gone. Central and inner ramparts to 5.2m high with 2.1m deep ditches. Ramparts on W side much mutilated. Site now inaccessible from sea, but coastal erosion substantial since prehistory.

Enclosed Area 1:  3.3ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  3.3ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  

Number of Ramparts:  3

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  3

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  3:  Partially and fully filled ditches.

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Cotton, M.A. 1958-9. Cornish Cliff Castles, Proc West Cornwall Fld Club, 2, 3, 119.

Johnson, N. and Rose, P. 1982. Defended settlement in Cornwall - an illustrated discussion, In ed. D. Miles, The Romano-British countryside: Studies in rural settlement and economy, BAR Brit Ser 103, 151-207.

National Trust 1987. The National Trust archaeological survey Black Head, Cornwall, ER378, Historic Environment Service, Truro.

Page, W. ed. 1906. The Victoria History of the County of Cornwall, 1, London: James Street, 453.

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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