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Perran Round

Introduction

Perran Round, otherwise known as St. Piran's Round, consists of a large 3m high earthen bank enclosing a perfectly circular arena approximately 40m in diameter. The bank is surrounded by a deep ditch giving the site the appearance of a later prehistoric defended settlement or round. The name 'St. Piran's Round' is shown on the 1st Edition OS 1-inch map of 1809, but this may be a local tradition reflecting a long standing assumption and it is quite possible that the site was originally constructed as a Plain and Gwarry, or Playing Place, in the Medieval period, rather than as a defended farmstead in the Iron Age or Roman Period.

Perran Round can be accessed via a public byway which is signposted from the B3285. This is the public byway heading north rather than west There is a small parking area and an interpretation sign beside the entrance.

Refreshment facilities are located in the village of Goonhavern.

There are bus services to Rose Crossroads on the B3285 located approximately 100m from the round. Visit the Traveline website for customised sustainable travel options.

View our interactive Access to Monuments map to find this and other nearby sites.

Plain an Gwarries went out of popular use in the 17th century but the site is well maintained and continues to provide a dramatic arena for staging events. In recent years there has been a popular resurgence in performing the old traditional Cornish miracle plays such as Beunans Meriasek (the Life of Meriasek) and in 1996 a group of local actors and musicians, about 50 in total, gathered to perform the Ordinalia at St Piran’s Round, a cycle of three religious plays in the Cornish language which originated from Glasney College, Penryn in the 14th century.

The site is entered from the south-east along a narrow causeway across the ditch; another break in the bank opposite this on the north-west may be a later addition, created to allow a cart track to cross the site after the Plain an Gwarry fell into disuse. The earthen bank is flattened along the top to provide a walkway for access to the seven tiers of turfed benches which would have been constructed around the arena, though these are no longer apparent. Within the central area a narrow trench leading to a small hollow or pit, known as ‘the Devil’s frying pan’, may have been a dramatic device used by the actors of the miracle plays performed here, with the pit representing Hell and the underworld, from which the concealed actor could dramatically spring at the appropriate moment!

If there was an earlier chapter in the history of the site then it would probably have concerned a small agricultural settlement set within a defensive bank or rampart, positioned to exploit a range of nearby resources, terrestrial and aquatic.

Rose, the  name of the adjacent settlement, is probably derived from the Cornish place-name element ‘ros’ meaning ‘downland’, which seems to indicate that the area was not farmed but used for grazing sheep or cows.

During the medieval period the site was located in an extensive area of unenclosed roughland between 'islands’ of arable surrounding the settlements of Pencrennow and Reen to the south-west and Hendravossan to the north. The field systems which now surround the site would not have been laid out until the roughland was enclosed in the 18th century.

Like their medieval counterparts, prehistoric settlements are normally found at the centre of their field systems, and it would be quite unusual to find one set within unenclosed roughland. The question of the origin of this site can probably only be answered by excavation.