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Salt Making Site
St Keverne

NGR: SW 7960 1931
South of St Keverne and west of lowland Point is a remarkably complex archaeological landscape with artefact scatters, settlements and field systems ranging in date from the Mesolithic to the early mediæval period. Approximately 700m to the west of Lowland Point, on the very edge of a low crumbling cliff lie the remains of a small oval stone-walled structure which houses the remains of a salt-making operation dated by pottery to the early Romano-British period. The walls of the building enclose a hollow area containing the remains of two ovens with stone lined flues, one superimposed above the other and representing two phases of activity. A large amount of pottery has been recovered from the vicinity and is still appearing as the cliff edge slowly erodes; sherds can often be found on the beach below. A few of these sherds are from domestic vessels but the vast majority of them are briquetage, fragments of coarse earthenware vessels made from the local Gabbroic clay made into plain rectangular slab-sided vessels. These were filled with sea water and heated by the ovens and flues to evaporate the water and recover the sea-salt. The pottery finds indicate that this activity dates to the 2nd Century AD.

The ‘salt factory’ is part of an extensive multi-phase prehistoric and mediæval landscape which extends over the coastal terrace, up over the coastal slopes and across the plateau to St Keverne and beyond. The coastal terrace is a ‘head’ deposit of fine sand blown in at the height of the last glacial period and is of great geological interest. The slopes behind it are part of an ancient cliff line created when the sea level was much higher than it is at present. This landscape was created and sculpted during the various phases of the Pleistocene period, or Ice Age, over the last million years

Inland from the salt factory, in the direction of the settlement of Trebarveth are a number of prehistoric round houses or ‘hut circles’ within contemporary field systems. These sites have produced various kinds of pottery and, in one case, a small iron blade or knife; together this material indicates that the area was intensively occupied in both the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Other finds of flints and stone tools indicate a possible Mesolithic occupation which further extends the history of activity in this area.

The settlement of Trebarveth dates from the early mediæval period and its name derives from the Cornish for “Middle Farm” - presumably describing it’s relationships within the contemporary landscape. The settlement would have been surrounded by extensive field systems, the layout of which may have been determined as far back as the Bronze Age.

Access to the coastal sites and the hut circles further inland can be gained via the coastal path from Coverack.

Peacock, DPS, 1969. A Romano-British Salt-working Site at Trebarveth, St Keverne in Cornish Archaeology 8, pp.47-65.

How to get there

Access to the coastal sites and the hut circles further inland can be gained via the coastal path from Coverack.

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Nearby sites

Chynalls Cliff Castle
Halliggye Fogou
Kynance Gate Settlement
Lankidden Cliff Castle
Little Dennis Battery
Tremenheere Stone
supported by HLF and compiled by the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council  
last updated: 14/09/2007