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One of the best preserved Iron Age settlements in the country, Chysauster Ancient Village at Newmill near Penzance was home to a small group of families roughly 2,000 years ago. Now cared for by English Heritage, it offers a unique and fascinating glimpse into the life of our ancestors.
THE HISTORY OF CHYSAUSTER ANCIENT VILLAGE
The village that once stood here was made up of 10 stone courtyard houses, built in streets around central courtyards – a unique house layout which could only be found on the Land’s End Peninsula and Isles of Scilly during the late Iron Age. It is thought that in its heyday, the village would have been home to around 50 – 70 people, named Dumnonii by the Romans.
Those who lived in the village were farmers, who grew crops of cereal in the fields around the village. It is believed they also kept livestock, and exported local tin and cloth. Studies show that the villagers probably lived here for around 100 years, abandoning the site in the 3rd century when people tended to prefer living in ‘rounds’ – small settlements with a few round houses – rather than villages.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE AND DO?
Visitors to Chysauster can walk around the remains of the whole village, imagining how it might have been to live here all those centuries ago. The original village layout is clear to see, and some of the house ruins have stones with holes in them – perhaps former timber frame sockets or water channels.
Discover the ruins of the village fogou – an underground passage possibly used as a cold store or ritual, ceremonial site – near to house number 7, to the south of the village. The fogou – from the Cornish word for cave – is marked by two large capstones.
Perhaps to protect its residents from attack, Chysauster is set amid far-reaching, open countryside, and as such, enjoys views out as far as the sea from the upper village boundary.
Chysauster is also a site of great natural interest – with plenty of flora and fauna to discover throughout the year. Springtime is particularly beautiful, with colourful and fragrant bluebells and orchids blooming, and rabbits and shrews playing in the warmth of the sunshine. The wild meadow and set footpaths offer further opportunities of discovery, so don’t forget to bring your binoculars!
At the end of your walk around the village, meadow and surrounding countryside, enjoy a drink or snack from the onsite shop – and pick up a gifts or souvenir of your visit whilst you’re there. If you prefer to bring your own food, then there is a picnic area with several benches for visitors’ use.
OPENING TIMES AND ENTRY PRICES
Chysauster Ancient Village is open at varying times throughout the year. Please visit the English Heritage website for more information. Admission prices are as follows: