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Romano-British
Courtyard House Settlements
   
Carn Euny
Chysauster
 
 
  Chysauster
Madron

Penwith
NGR: SW 4722 3522
 
 
The prehistoric courtyard house settlement known as Chysauster is situated on the south-west facing slopes of a shallow valley with clear views south to the sea. The remains of at least ten courtyard houses and a fogou form a nucleated settlement within a well-defined field system. The houses vary a little in size, layout and design, but, broadly, all comprise an open courtyard defined by a massive drystone wall with several internal structures, typically a round or oval dwelling house built against the face of the wall opposite the entrance, and long rooms, sometimes sub-divided into smaller chambers, constructed lean-to style against the side walls. Most of the courtyards have a covered drainage or culvert running through, which may be to bring water to the site or to drain it way in wet weather. Some parts of the interior, especially the entrances, are paved with granite slabs, and the entrances open onto a ‘high street’. It is most likely that the courtyard was open to the sky; the other structures would have been thatched or turf-roofed. The layout at Chysauster, when compared with other known courtyard house settlements, seems to have been well planned with finds evidence pointing to the main occupation phase dating to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD.

There are numerous areas of surface irregularities in the surrounding rough ground which may represent further courtyard houses or an earlier phase of settlement going back to the Iron Age. A fogou or underground chamber is sited close by; comprising a long excavated trench lined and roofed with granite slabs, these were often found in connection with Iron Age and Romano-British settlements, although their function is still uncertain. Storage, ritual or places of refuge have all been suggested. Chysauster’s fogou is in a very poor state of preservation but may originally have extended more than 16 metres in length. The surrounding area is badly disturbed and it is possible that another courtyard house once stood in this area.

Small stone walled terraces adjoining the houses are interpreted as garden plots and the settlement as a whole lies within a very extensive contemporary field system comprised of many fields terraced into the hillslope and bordered by earth and stone banks known as lynchets. The field pattern is characteristically later prehistoric or Romano-British in date, and extends towards Carnaquidden Downs to the north where earlier Bronze Age settlement and field patterns can still be traced in the moorland. The massive ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort known as Castle-an-Dinas crown the hilltop. Clearly the area has been intensively exploited since at least the middle Bronze Age.

The monument can be accessed by footpath from a car park which lies on the road between Little Chysauster and Carnaquidden Farm and is signposted. The site is in the guardianship of English Heritage and an entry fee is payable. The remains are extensive and complex; the EH guidebook has been recently revised and is a good investment to accompany a site visit.


Sources
Coe, D, 2002. Chysauster Ancient Village, Gulval, Cornwall. English Heritage Publications.
 
 
 
How to get there




The monument can be accessed by footpath from a car park which lies on the road between Little Chysauster and Carnaquidden Farm and is signposted. The site is in the guardianship of English Heritage and an entry fee is payable.

Map link


Ground & Aerial photographs

 
     

Illustrations & Plans

 
 
 

Nearby sites

Boscawen-ûn Stone Circle
Boskednan Stone Circle
Carn Euny Settlement
Men-an-Tol
Tregeseal Stone Circle
 
supported by HLF and compiled by the Historic Environment service of Cornwall Council  
last updated: 07/04/2009