Carn Brea Castle

Has been described as a Possible Pele Tower

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCarn Brea Castle
Alternative NamesCarnbrea; Carnbre; Karnbre
Historic CountryCornwall
Modern AuthorityCornwall
1974 AuthorityCornwall
Civil ParishCarn Brea

Carnbrea Castle is a small irregular building about 60 ft long and 10 ft wide. Only part of the building is ancient the masonry of which is very crude and the modern part has probably been built on ancient foundations (Lysons). Carnbrea Castle is mostly C18 building of folly type, now used as a private house. The NW side incorporates heavy boulder masonry for about 3.0m above ground level but there is no distinct building line between this and the obvious later work. The plain pointed arched doorways have no dateable features (F1 NVQ 24-MAR-70). Carn Brea Castle was used as a hunting lodge by the Bassets (See SW 64 SE 17 for medieval deep park) (Henderson). Carnbrea Castle is first mentioned in 1478 (Worcestre). The building stands on a narrow, irregular ledge of rock which results in varying levels of floors for different rooms. Only part of the masonry is original and Borlase records former outworks at the north end (Borlase). Renovation of the castle, including the complete gutting of the interior, has revealed varying styles of stonework and a number of hidden features which are shown on C18 and C19 drawings. In the small turret at the west end, accepted as the earliest section, a small window has been exposed looking west. At the base of the north wall of the east wing a previously blocked arched recess has been opened into a cellar, which is mentioned in C19 accounts as being the only means of access. A few feet to the west is the open, lower end of a Medieval garderobe. The location of the Medieval chapel remains uncertain but is probably represented by the upper two rooms in the east wing. In both the north and south walls are two arched windows with interior stone sills which appear to be of Medieval date (Mercer, Tangye). (PastScape)

First mentioned by William Worcestre in 1478, the medieval Carn Brea castle was described by Hals in the early C18 as "built four square of lime and stone about 40 feet high and 20 feet square"

It is constructed on a natural rock outcrop, resulting in irregular layout and levels, as noted by Borlase in the 1750s. Henderson says that the castle was used as a hunting lodge in the medieval period. Tangye suggests it may also have contained a chapel at this time. Though partly rebuilt and extended in the C18 and C19 as a hunting lodge the structure retained some medieval features noted by later visitors. Wynne noted in 1755 that "Mrs Basset has lately erected a small pleasure house on this hill in ye appearance of a fort, where an ancient British (fort) formerly stood". Swete visiting the castle in 1780, found it fully "modernised" by "the last Mr Basset". In the later C19 the castle was further altered, with a new south wing. Its use as a beacon for shipping was recorded in 1898 when this was stated to have been stipulated in the lease for a long time previously, the tenant agreeing to show a light in the north facing window. The castle continued to be let to various tenants, with periods of disuse and disrepair in the 1950s and 1970s, until renovation and extension in 1975-1980 as a restaurant. Post-medieval features revealed in the course of the latter restoration include blocked apertures and recesses. The OS fieldworker in 1970 says the NW side incorporates heavy boulder masonry in the lower 3.0m, but with no clear break between this and the later fabric. (Cornwall & Scilly HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Leland records it as associated with a park and it is clear this was a hunting lodge, built to add dramatic interest to the hunting. It is within an Iron Age hill fort but this is not a fortified site.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSW686408
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Copyright Jon Law All Rights Reserved
Copyright Jon Law All Rights Reserved
Copyright Jon Law All Rights Reserved
Copyright Jon Law All Rights Reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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  • Higham, Robert A., 1999, 'Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 136-43
  • Salter, Mike, 1999, The Castles of Devon and Cornwall (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 19
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 17
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1
  • Henderson, Charles (edited by Rowse, A.L. and Henderson, M.I.), 1963 (original written 1935), Essays in Cornish history (Clarendon Press) p. 162
  • O'Neill Hencken, H., 1932, The Archaeology of Cornwall and Scilly p. 128
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 2 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 505-6 online copy
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1814, Magna Britannia Vol. 3 Cornwall online transcription
  • King, Edward, 1804, Munimenta antiqua or Observations on antient castles (W.Bulmer and Co) Vol. 3 p. 139-40 online copy
  • Borlase, William, 1769, Antiquities, historical and monumental, of the county of Cornwall p. 350-1 (plan)


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 69
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 190 online copy
  • Harvey, J.H. (ed), 1969, Itineraries (of) William Worcestre (Clarendon Press) p. 21


  • Preston-Jones, Ann and Rose, Peter, 1986, 'Medieval Cornwall' Cornish Archaeology Vol. 25 p. 135-185 online copy
  • Tangye, M., 1976 Feb 20, Cornwall Archaeological Society: newsletter p. 5
  • Mercer, R.J., 1970, 'The Neolithic Settlement on Carn Brea: Preliminary Report, 1970' Cornish Archaeology Vol. 9 p. 54, 62

Guide Books

  • Tangye, M., 1981, Cam Brea. Brief History and Guide (Redruth)


  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk South West Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 23 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 22 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 17 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 34 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 32 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 16 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South West (London: English Heritage) p. 36 online copy
  • Hals W. 17?? MSS