Introduction to site
The prehistoric courtyard house settlement known as Chysauster is situated on the south-west facing slopes of a shallow valley with clear views south to the sea. The remains of at least ten courtyard houses and a fogou form a nucleated settlement within a well-defined field system. The houses vary a little in size, layout and design, but, broadly, all comprise an open courtyard defined by a massive drystone wall with several internal structures, typically a round or oval dwelling house built against the face of the wall opposite the entrance, and long rooms, sometimes sub-divided into smaller chambers, constructed lean-to style against the side walls.
Access and Facilities
Chysauster is signposted from the A30/Eastern Green/Branwell Lane roundabout near Penzance and also from the A30 at Crowlas.
The monument can be accessed by a footpath from an English Heritage car park. This car park has on-site toilet facilities, and bicycle storage.
The site is in the guardianship of English Heritage. It is open seasonally and there is an entry fee. There are refreshments available from the on-site shop.
A guidebook is available to purchase from English Heritage either online or from the gift shop at Chysauster.
There are no public transport links directly/close to the area of the site. There are bus services to the neaby village of New Mills. Visit the Traveline website for customised sustainable transport options.
View our interactive Access to Monuments map to find this and other nearby sites.
Most of the courtyards have a covered drainage or culvert running through, which may be to bring water to the site or to drain it way in wet weather. Some parts of the interior, especially the entrances, are paved with granite slabs, and the entrances open onto a ‘high street’. It is most likely that the courtyard was open to the sky; the other structures would have been thatched or turf-roofed. The layout at Chysauster, when compared with other known courtyard house settlements, seems to have been well planned with finds evidence pointing to the main occupation phase dating to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries AD.
There are numerous areas of surface irregularities in the surrounding rough ground which may represent further courtyard houses or an earlier phase of settlement going back to the Iron Age. A fogou or underground chamber is sited close by; comprising a long excavated trench lined and roofed with granite slabs, these were often found in connection with Iron Age and Romano-British settlements, although their function is still uncertain. Storage, ritual or places of refuge have all been suggested. Chysauster’s fogou is in a very poor state of preservation but may originally have extended more than 16 metres in length. The surrounding area is badly disturbed and it is possible that another courtyard house once stood in this area.
Small stone walled terraces adjoining the houses are interpreted as garden plots and the settlement as a whole lies within a very extensive contemporary field system comprised of many fields terraced into the hillslope and bordered by earth and stone banks known as lynchets. The field pattern is characteristically later prehistoric or Romano-British in date, and extends towards Carnaquidden Downs to the north where earlier Bronze Age settlement and field patterns can still be traced in the moorland. The massive ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort known as Castle-an-Dinas crown the hilltop. Clearly the area has been intensively exploited since at least the middle Bronze Age.
- Coe, D, 2002. Chysauster Ancient Village, Gulval, Cornwall. English Heritage Publications.