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Carn Brea ( ) is a civil parish and hilltop site near Redruthmarker in Cornwallmarker, Englandmarker, UKmarker, famous for its long history of human occupation.

Neolithic settlement

The earliest Neolithic settlement at Carn Brea was a tor enclosure occupied between around 3700 and 3400 BC. A two acre (8,000 m²) inner enclosure was surrounded by a larger eleven acre (45,000 m²) one. The ramparts consisted of stone walls with an earth bank and ditch. Traces of fourteen platforms on which would have stood Neolithic long houses have been found by archaeologists within its ramparts along with pottery and flint artifacts.The site was excavated between 1970and 1973by Roger Mercer.A population of 100 to 150 people has been suggested. There is evidence that the occupants cleared the surroundings by burning away the undergrowth and removing stones to use the land for farming. The acid soils of the area precluded the preservation of any environmental evidence which would have provided more information on this aspect. Nearby outcrops of rock suitable for manufacture as axes would have contributed to the village's economy. Edge grinding stones, blanks and incomplete and finished axes found on the site indicate that the inhabitants were accomplished stoneworkers and traded their products to others. That the pottery found on the site appears to have come from a production centre almost 20 miles (30 km) to south in the present day parish of St Kevernemarker further supports a complex economic network in the area.

The seven hundred flint arrowheads found scattered at the site suggest that Carn Brea may have been attacked at least once. Every timber structure on the site had been burnt, the charcoal being the only organic matter that survived the acid soils. The earthworks themselves may also have been deliberately damaged by an invading power.

Iron Age settlement

In the Iron Age the site was re-occupied and minerals were mined from the hillside. A hoard of Kentishmarker gold staters found in the eighteenth century suggests trade links with the other side of the country at this time. The Ravenna Cosmography, of around 700AD, makes reference to Purocoronavis, (almost certainly a corruption of Durocornovium), 'a fort or walled settlement of the Cornovii', (unidentified, but possibly Tintagelmarker or Carn Brea).


Carn Brea Castle
The medieval Carn Brea Castle stands near the top of the hill. This was originally built as a chapel, in 1379, probably dedicated to St Michael, before being rebuilt in the 18th century by the Basset family as a hunting lodge. It is considered a Folly castle, due to the huge uncut boulders that make up part of its foundations, giving the impression of the building melting into the land. In the 1980s the abandoned building was converted into a Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant. The stolen Ford Anglia featured in the Harry Potter films was found at the Castle in 2006.
An East India trading ship was named after Carn Brea Castle, wrecked off the Isle of Wight in 1829 and involved in excise tax fraud.

At the highest point of the hill there is a 90 foot high (30m) Celtic cross. This is a monument to Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset (b. 1757, d. 1835). Basset, a mine owner, gained his titles for erecting earthworks to defend Plymouthmarker from combined French and Spanish fleets in 1779, and suppressing a miners' "food riot" in 1785. Along with others, he petitioned the House of Lords against slavery in 1828. The monument was erected by public subscription in 1836. It is inscribed 'The County of Cornwall to the memory of Francis Lord de Dunstanville and Basset A.D. 1836.'

Cup and Saucer Rock
This large flat rock is perched next to the Monument showing several deep basins (see Photograph). This rock has also been called The Sacrificing Rock (though with doubtful historical accuracy).

Smugglers' Cave
In a depression between the Monument and the Castle is the remains of the Smugglers' Cave blocked by the Council in the 1980s with rocks to stop children from entering. This tunnel is rumoured to travel from the top of the Carn down into Redruth town but is likely to have been abandoned mine workings. This may have been confused with the separate tunnel running from the castle down to St Uny’s church which was blocked off for safety reasons ca. 1970 by the castle owners.

Saint Euny's Well
This well can be found at the foot of Carn Brea below the Castle and near St. Euny's Church. It has a plaque by Carn Brea Parish Trails reading "St. Euny Well. Holy well of St. Euny visited by the Celtic Missionary 500AD". Stories about the sacred use of this well may be confused with St. Euny's Well at Sancreed (see Carn Eunymarker).


At Easter Redruth Baptist Church erects a lit cross on the outcrop behind the Castle overlooking Redruth. For many years an early morning sun rise service has been held for local Christian worshippers on Easter Sunday.

Midsummer Eve
The Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, 23 June) bonfire ceremony dates from a pagan ritual. Prayers are read in Cornish and the bonfire is lit, signalling other fires to be lit at Sennen, Sancreed Beacon, Carn Galver to the Tamar. When only the embers remain, young people leap across them to drive away evil and bring luck.

Boxing Day
The Boxing Day meet of the Four Burrow Hunt starts at the top of Carn Brea. Due to the changes in fox hunting legislation foxes are no longer hunted.

See also


  1. "About Carn Brea", Carn Brea Protection Group. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  2. "Pictures of Carn Brea", Parish of Saint Illogan. Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  3. "Carn Brea Castle", Follies and Monuments, Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  4. "Carn Brea Castle, Redruth - Cornwall", Restaurants in Cornwall, Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  5. "The Bassets of Tehidy", Cornish History Reference Files, Retrieved 2007-08-20.
  6. As shown by the stone inscription on the south of the monument. See inscription text on Basset Cross photograph


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