Chûn Castle


Chûn Castle
NGR: SW 4050 3395

Chûn Castle is an Iron Age hillfort on the summit of Chûn Downs in Cornwall, commanding extensive views north and north-west to the Atlantic Coast and south towards Mounts Bay. Pottery evidence from excavations carried out in the late 1920s and early 1930s suggests that the main period of occupation extended from the 3rd century BC until the early 1st century AD, with a possible re-occupation in the 5th or 6th centuries AD.

It is roughly circular in plan with two impressive stone walls, each with an external ditch. Within the interior are the remains of several stone walled round houses, heavily disturbed by later activity. One of these is oval in shape and may be connected with the later phase of re-occupation of the site in the post-Roman period. Traces of stony banks may be the remains of later animal pounds. The only entrance to the site is a stone-lined passage through the larger inner rampart on the west side with an offset opening through outer rampart, suggesting a defensive function, which is reinforced by a short length of bank outside of the opening through the outer rampart providing defence in depth.

A furnace was discovered during the excavations on the northern edge of the hillfort which contained traces of tin and iron slag, indicating that mineral processing was carried out on site in the Iron Age. Apart from pottery and stone artefacts, evidence for the character of the occupation were scant however, the acid soils having eaten away all traces of organic materials such as wood, leather, bone, basketwork and woven fabrics.

Originally the entrance through the outer rampart was set in line with the inner one and the entranceway was aligned towards the Neolithic chamber tomb known as Chûn Quoit, though three or four thousand years separates the builders of these two monuments. The modification to the entrance may have been part of the later re-occupation of the site. In addition to Chûn Quoit, which is sited 250 metres west of the entrance, there are two other prominent barrows on Chûn Downs, one sited to the north-west and another to the south-west.

Nearby to the east lies the Romano-British courtyard house village of Bosullow Trehyllys which may be broadly contemporary with the hillfort, or may represent a shift in settlement patterns following the abandonment of hillforts such as Chûn Castle during the 1st century AD.

Chûn Castle occupies a central position within one of eight identifiable territories in West Penwith each of which is focussed on an imposing defended hilltop. It sits within a landscape with abundant evidence for occupation, agriculture and mineral exploitation spanning several millennia.

The monument lies in open access land criss-crossed by several public footpaths.

Gossip, J, 1999. Chûn Downs , Cornwall. An Archaeological and Historical Assessment. Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council.