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Helsbury Castle (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

Below are the descriptions found in the Cornwall Historic Environment Record
PRN No 17789 (Site Number)

Helsbury Castle is marked on current OS maps (b4). It is visible in air photos (p2) and was plotted as part of the National Mapping Programme. It is described in an Royal Institution of Cornwall report of 1850 as a near circular camp of a single bank and ditch with outworks to the north-east.
The diameter of the interior circle is about 460 ft (140m) and the length of the arched outwork 400 ft (122m) by 200 ft (61m) broad, this being the
entrance to the camp. (B1). A field visit by the Ordnance Survey revealed that the main work is generally well preserved although part of the southern rampart and eastern entrance have been damaged by quarrying. The outerwork is ploughed down and its entrance is no longer discernable. To the north-east of the outerwork are numerous irregularities, possibly surface
quarrying (h2) (17789.01). A sherd of decorated (probably) Iron Age pottery was handed in to Cornwall Archaeological Unit by Jennie Stopford
which was found in a disturbance from a large badger barrow. In the centre of the hillfort is a large rectangular enclosure, the site of St Syths
chapel (17790). During 1988 the ramparts of Helsbury Castle were cleared of dense vegetation by the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (b8). The name Helsbury is first recorded in 1284 when the name was spelt 'Hellesbury' (b6). It is a combination of Cornish and English elements; hen-lys 'ancient court', 'ruins' and bury 'fortification (b7). 3-year management agreement to 9/1/98.

PRN No 17790 (Site Number)

The 'remains of St Syth's chapel' are marked on current OS editions (b5). A small rectangular enclosure in the centre of Helsbury Castle (prn 17789) is known as 'the chapel' (b2). This enclosure is visible on air photos (p1) and
was plotted as part of the NMP. According to Henderson, the name St Syth's seems to rest only on the authority of Lysons (b1). And it was more probably dedicated to St Michael (b4). Fletcher, however, disputes this but says
that no authority can be found to resolve the dedication. As the parish name is derived from the parish church of St Michael it would seem to be unusaul to have a second St Michael in the vicinity. The Michaelstow Beacon would relate to the parish rather than the chapel (h2). Maclean says that 'on top of the hill are ruins of a small quadrangular enclosure measuring 85ft by 65ft within which are the remains of a small building. A few years ago, excavations were made within the building by Rev E.T. Gibbins but nothing distinctive of a chapel was discovered'. However Maclean goes on to say 'there on the site circular headed arch cut in a solid piece of granite of an octagonal form externally, having a span of 2ft 6 inches and a height of 10 inches. The edges being chamfered and also part of the head of another
arch, of a wider span with mouldings of the third pointed period (b3). A field visit by the OS revealed that the remains of the chapel comprise 8.0m, by 6. 0m stone footings up to 0.8m high internally with large granite quoins. At 2 corners there are foundations of a possible tower at the w end. The two s egmental doorheads are as described by Maclean and also a 1.0m long carved granite stone which may have been a door jamb. There are no recorded rights of burial and the enclosure bank around the chapel is
probably protective rather than indicative of the extent of a burial ground (h2). Recent visits by field monument wardens indicate that architectural
fragments are still present
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