Carn Brea, Redruth

Coordinates: 50°13′19″N 5°14′49″W / 50.222°N 5.247°W / 50.222; -5.247

Carn Brea, seen from Redruth. Carn Brea Castle and Monument are visible at the top of the hill.

Carn Brea (Cornish: Karnbre)[1] is a civil parish and hilltop site in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The population of Carn Brea was 8,013 at the 2011 census.[2] The hilltop site is situated approximately one mile (1.6 km) southwest of Redruth.[3] The settlements of Bosleake, Brea, Broad Lane, Carn Arthen, Carn Brea Village, Carnkie, Four Lanes, Grillis, Illogan Highway, Pencoys, Penhallick, Piece, Pool, Tolskithy, Tregajorran, Treskillard, Tuckingmill and West Tolgus are in the parish.[4]

Neolithic settlement

The Neolithic settlement at Carn Brea was a tor enclosure occupied between around 3700 and 3400 BC. A two-acre (0.8 ha) inner enclosure was surrounded by one of eleven acres (4.5 ha). 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 artefacts.[5] The site was excavated between 1970[6] and 1973[5] by Roger Mercer. The settlement had an estimated population of 100 to 150. There is evidence that the occupants cleared the surrounding land for farming by burning away the undergrowth and removing stones although the acid soil obliterated any environmental evidence. Nearby outcrops of rock suitable for making axes would have contributed to the village's economy. Edge grinding stones, blanks and incomplete and finished axes found on the site indicate the inhabitants were accomplished stoneworkers and traded their products. Pottery found on the site appears to have been made from gabbroic clay originating nearly 20 miles (30 km) to the south in the present day parish of St Keverne suggesting a complex economic network in the area.[7]

The 700 flint arrowheads found scattered at the site suggest that Carn Brea may have been attacked at least once.[5] Every timber structure on the site had been burnt, and charcoal was the only organic matter that survived the acid soils. The earthworks may have been deliberately damaged by invaders.

Iron Age settlement

In the Iron Age the site was reoccupied and minerals were mined from the hillside. A hoard of Kentish gold staters found in the 18th century suggests trade links with the other side of the country. The Ravenna Cosmography, of around AD 700, refers to Purocoronavis (almost certainly a corruption of Durocornovium), 'a fort or walled settlement of the Cornovii' (unidentified, but possibly Tintagel or Carn Brea).


Location map. Carn Brea hill with nearest villages and footpaths marked.
Basset Monument 
Cup and Saucer Rock 
Carn Brea Castle

Carn Brea Castle stands near the top of the hill. It is built on the site of a chapel built in 1379 probably dedicated to St Michael.[8] It was built in the 18th century by the Basset family as a hunting lodge.[9] It is considered to be a folly built on the huge uncut boulders that make up part of its foundations, giving the impression of the building melting into the land.[10] An East India trading ship named after Carn Brea Castle, was wrecked off the Isle of Wight in 1829 and involved in excise tax fraud.[11]

In the 1980s the abandoned building was converted into a Middle Eastern cuisine restaurant.[12] The stolen Ford Anglia featured in the Harry Potter films was found at the castle in 2006.[13] 50°13′20.85″N 5°14′41.40″W / 50.2224583°N 5.2448333°W / 50.2224583; -5.2448333 (Carn Brea Castle)

Basset Monument

At the highest point of the hill is a 90-feet high (27m) Celtic cross erected as a monument to Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset (1757–1835). Basset, a mine owner, gained his titles for erecting earthworks to defend Plymouth from combined French and Spanish fleets in 1779, and suppressing a miners' "food riot" in 1785.[14] Along with others, he petitioned the House of Lords against slavery in 1828.[15] 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."[16][17] 50°13′16″N 5°14′56″W / 50.22111°N 5.24889°W / 50.22111; -5.24889 (Basset Cross)

Cup and Saucer Rock

The Cup and Saucer Rock next to the monument is a large flattish rock with several deep basins (see Photograph). The rock has been called "The Sacrificing Rock" (although with doubtful historical accuracy).[18] 50°13′16″N 5°14′54″W / 50.22111°N 5.24833°W / 50.22111; -5.24833 (Sacrificing Rock)

Smugglers' Cave
Smugglers' Cave

In a depression between the monument and the castle are the remains of the "Smugglers' Cave". It was blocked with rocks by the council in the 1980s to stop children entering. The tunnel is rumoured to extend from the top of the carn into Redruth town, but it is probably an abandoned mine working. It may have been confused with another tunnel from the castle to St Uny's church which was blocked for safety reasons around 1970 by the castle owners.[19][20] 50°13′19″N 5°14′50″W / 50.22194°N 5.24722°W / 50.22194; -5.24722 (Smugglers' Cave)

Saint Euny's Well

Saint Euny's Well is at the foot of Carn Brea below the castle 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 its sacred use may be confused with St Euny's Well at Sancreed (see Carn Euny).


At Easter Redruth Baptist Church erects a lit cross on the outcrop behind the Castle overlooking Redruth. For many years a Christian sunrise service has been held on Easter Sunday.

The Midsummer Eve (St. John's Eve, 23 June) bonfire ceremony originated as 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.[21]

The Boxing Day meet of the Four Burrow Hunt starts at the top of Carn Brea.[22][23] Due to the changes in fox hunting legislation foxes are no longer hunted.

See also


  1. "List of Place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel" (PDF). Cornish Language Partnership. May 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-11.
  2. Office for National Statistics, Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics, Area: Carn Brea parish
  3. Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 203 Land's End ISBN 978-0-319-23148-7
  4. Cornwall; Explore Britain
  5. 1 2 3 Mercer, R.J. (1972). "The Excavation of the Neolithic Settlement, Carn Brea". Cornish Archaeology. Cornwall Archaeological Society. 11.
  6. Mercer, R.J. (1970). "The Neolithic Settlement on Carn Brea: Preliminary Report". Cornish Archaeology. Cornwall Archaeological Society. 9: 54–62.
  7. St. Keverne Local History Society. "The Prehistoric use of Gabbroic Clay from St Keverne". Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  8. "About Carn Brea" Archived 1 January 1996 at the Wayback Machine., Carn Brea Protection Group. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  9. "Pictures of Carn Brea" Archived 1 January 1996 at the Wayback Machine., Parish of Saint Illogan. Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  10. "Carn Brea Castle", Follies and Monuments, Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  11. "Some frauds of a very peculiar and extensive nature have been discovered". The Times. 18 July 1829. p. 4.
  12. "Carn Brea Castle, Redruth – Cornwall", Restaurants in Cornwall, Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  13. "The Scotsman: Harry Potter's stolen car appears at castle". The Scotsman Publications Ltd. 19 May 2006. Retrieved 30 October 2006.
  14. "The Bassets of Tehidy", Cornish History Reference Files, Retrieved 20 August 2007.
  15. "Parliamentary Intelligence, House of Lords". The Times. 3 June 1828.
  16. As shown by the stone inscription on the south of the monument. See inscription text on Basset Cross photograph
  17. "Tuesday's Post". Jackson's Oxford Journal. 17 September 1836. A chaste and elegant monument from the chisel of Westmacott put up in parish of Illogan, Cornwall, to the memory of the late Lord De Dunstanville
  18. Curran, Bob (2005). Celtic Lore & Legend: meet the gods, heroes, kings, fairies, monsters and ghosts of yore. New Page Books. p. 36. ISBN 1-56414-786-X.
  19. (Tangye 1981)
  20. (Historic Environment Service 2006, p. 3)
  21. Noall, Cyril (1963). The Cornish Midsummer Eve bonfire celebrations. Federation of Old Cornwall Societies. Publications. Federation of Old Cornwall Societies. OCLC 30233069.
  22. "Bridgewater Mercury: This could be the last time". Newsquest Media Group. 3 January 2003. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2006.
  23. "Smallholder: Ban? What Ban?". Newsquest Media Group. 28 December 2005. Retrieved 30 October 2006.


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