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All Roads Lead To Carnsew | Hayle Pump

From Hayle Pump December 2012/January 2013
Carnsew….Dark Cliff…..a fifty foot high cliff of black basalt rock, which stood, and still stands, though transformed into the Plantation, on the southern shore of the Hayle estuary commanding an uninterrupted view of the harbour entrance.

More than two thousand years ago this was a Celtic hill fort, playing an important part in Cornwall’s trading with the classical world of Greece and Italy, and later in AD 722 repelling Anglo-Saxon invaders, ‘a victory at Hehil in the Devonian peninsula.

Here, at the foot of the fort Cornish Celts built their small, round dwellings, protected by the two earthwork ramparts, behind which they could retreat in times of possible attack.

Roman coins, minted around AD330 in Alexandria and Constantinople, found while constructing the Causeway, and the Cunaide Stone, a 5th century Roman memorial stone, discovered by workmen excavating in Plantation Lane in 1843, now repositioned on the Plantation, suggest that the Hill fort continued to be an important centre long after the Iron Age.

Ancient track ways, which also still exist today, though now covered with tarmac and traversed by cars, converged upon Carnsew. The higher ground track ran east, through High Lanes to Guildford and Angarrack, leading eventually to Carn Brea, and branching en route to hill forts at Castle Kayle and Carnkie.

Another track way, passing Copperhouse, continued to Gwithian. One led to Phillack, where traces of Iron Age burials and kitchen middens have been found, and from here forded the estuary to Lelant towards Madron and Mousehole.

A track led to Camborne, another to Nanpusker, then south-west towards Fraddam, which became the Pilgrim’s Way to Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. There are also track ways leading to St Erth, the ancient settlement of Pulsack, and, by way of fording the estuary, to Ludgvan and Penzance.

Today we cannot see the Hill fort, but it still exists in the form of the Plantation, landscaped, supported by walls, with archways and paths. Henry Harvey, (the owner of Harvey’s Foundry), having built his ‘Triumphal Arch’ in Foundry Lane, decided in 1845 that landscaping the Hill fort would be the prelude to building his new mansion at the crest. In 1852 the West Cornwall Railway foiled Henry’s plans by cutting a swathe through the Plantation, but his ambitions ensured the preservation of the Hill fort, still keeping its mysteries, asleep under Henry’s project.

Kath Mullinger
Hayle Community Archive