Dramatic Scenes On North Cornish Coast
50 tonnes of headland soil moved
Trevelgue Head (Porth Island) was closed to public access earlier this week to enable an airlift of material to repair an ancient Bronze Age barrow on the island near Newquay... continues...
Trevelgue Headland is a public open space owned and maintained by Restormel Borough Council. It is one of the most heavily defended headlands in Cornwall, but as a result of natural erosion and visitor pressure, it is probably also one of the most heavily eroded. Natural erosion at the narrow middle point of the promontory, where the majority of the defences are concentrated, has left part of the headland as an island, known as Porth Island.
The entire headland is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and lies in designated Areas of Great Historic and Scientific Value. It contains an impressive promontory cliff-castle, dating to the Iron Age, and two Bronze Age barrows.
As a result of natural erosion and visitor pressure, the archaeological sites on Trevelgue Head have been heavily eroded. In 1999, English Heritage produced a management plan, which identified the various problems and suggested a programme of remedial works.
The cliff-castle or promontory fort is defined by a spectacular series of large earth and stone ramparts which cut off the headland and embrace the remains of an extensive Late Iron Age settlement and lies adjacent to a contemporary field system. It defended an east-west headland 700m long and protects, on its south side, the excellent natural harbour of St Columb Porth.
The heavily damaged Bronze Age barrow dates back to around 2,000BC.
Bronze Age barrows are burial mounds, often with a stone core covered over with earth. The barrows may contain cists (stone-lined box) which contain cremated bone or burials. Such sites traditionally date between 2000BC-1600BC.
The earliest documented archaeological explorations of Trevelgue Head took place at the beginning of the nineteenth century when the barrows on the headland were opened up by Canon Rogers in 1840. This was apparently followed by further antiquarian ventures reported in the local press in the 1870s. A more thorough examination of two barrows was undertaken by William Copeland Borlase also around this time and in 1872, a detailed account of his discoveries was presented in the book Naenia Cornubiae.
Other archaeological work
Interest in the significance of later prehistoric activity on the headland was ignited by the discovery of what was described in the 1890s as a small "prehistoric bronze foundry".
During a visit by H.O'Neill Hencken to the cliff castle in the early 1930s a surface scatter of "numerous pieces of Iron Age pottery...and quantities of flint chips" were collected. Erosion of midden deposits, containing metallic ores and slags, which appeared, in part, to form the make-up of the extensive defensive ramparts, threatened the stability of these impressive earthworks. Provisional arrangements for an archaeological excavation were made in 1934 but did not happen.
Finally, he Cornwall Excavations Committee (on behalf of the Royal Institution of Cornwall) invited C. K. Croft Andrew to carry out some limited archaeological excavations on the island during the summer of 1939. Evidence for occupation dating from the 3rd century BC to the post-Roman period (c.5th or 6th centuries AD) was uncovered. The outbreak of war in September 1939 halted work on the site.
Andrew's excavation took place entirely on the Island. Four trenches were excavated into the western two ramparts and two further trenches to the west where a round house was excavated.