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Round Wood

Introduction to site

Round Wood is a complex site that has revealed evidence of occupation and settlement through the later centuries of prehistory, as well as for its much more recent industrial heritage. Now part of the Trelissick Estate, it is situated at the tip of an east-facing promontory between Cowlands and Lamouth Creeks. The promontory was the site of a Bronze Age barrow cemetery; the sites of four burial mounds were identified as cropmarks on aerial photos, but nothing is visible on the ground today. The surrounding landscape would almost certainly have been settled from this time, if not earlier, but the earliest evidence for actual occupation is the large fortified enclosure, or round, which sits on a small conical hill at the tip of the promontory, overlooking the water.

Access to Round Wood can be obtained by following a footpath through the Trelissick Estate. This forms part of a network of footpaths around this area of the Estate. Follow the north woodland walk from the National Trust Telissick Estate car park over the timber bridge towards Tregew and Round Wood.

There is a National Trust car park at Trelissick Estate which is about a 1.3km walk from the round.

The site is free to visit, and is open any reasonable time in daylight hours.

The closest public toilets and refreshment facilities are at the National Trust Trelissick Estate.

There are regular bus services to Trelissick Gardens. Visit the Traveline website for customised sustainable transport options.

The National Cycle Network Route 3 passes the car park for Trelissick Gardens. Visit the Sustrans website for more information.

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

Carrick Roads, the wide inlet between Falmouth and St Mawes, provides the first and perhaps the best deep water anchorage for shipping entering the English Channel from the Atlantic Ocean. Inland and upstream lie the medieval ports of Penryn, Truro and Tregony and all around this extensive estuary numerous quays and landing places have been constructed over the years to serve local trades and to meet the needs of those living near the water. In modern times the estuary and the many streams that feed into it are something of a barrier to rapid transit of the area, but in earlier times water borne transport would have been readily available and far more convenient for carrying heavy or bulky goods than the overland alternatives. There are good reasons to suppose that this was certainly the case in the prehistoric period.

The enclosure, marked on historic maps as Roundwood Camp, has two substantial and widely spaced outer banks running between the two creeks cutting off the headland from the landward side. The ‘camp’ is defined by a single bank and ditch, which, despite its pronounced oval shape, is a good example of a site traditionally known as a ‘round’ – which also explains the origin of the name of the woodland. A round is an Iron Age or Romano-British defended farmstead. The site, however, displays some of the characteristics of promontory forts (also known as cliff castles), apart, that is, from its low-lying and decidedly inland ‘fresh-water’ situation. Nevertheless, it may have been much more than a simple farming settlement, and its unusual position overlooking the estuary suggests a link with water-borne trade and transport. There were well established trading routes linking Cornwall and north-west Europe during the Iron Age and a secure sheltered anchorage would have been essential for loading and off-loading cargoes of metals and other goods and raw materials. The site may incorporate many functions and phases of use and re-use, and without excavation it will be difficult to unravel all the details of its complex story.

The area continued as a predominantly rural and agricultural landscape throughout the medieval period but in the 18th century a copper smelting complex was established, and at this time the quays were constructed in front of a broad levelled terrace where a range of industrial buildings were constructed. The works were owned by the North Downs and Chacewater Copper Company, which continued in production until the mid 1780s. Ore was brought to the site by mule-trains from the mines on United Downs to be smelted on site and the quays were used for shipping out tin and copper. Vessels up to 300 tons were able to moor alongside the quays at the lowest tides. Remains of calciners, lime kilns and a smelting house are still visible, and two substantial leats which ran down either side of the headland from a reservoir to feed the smelting works can still be recognised. Leftover waste, or slag, from the processing works was used to surface the access road leading to the site from Tregew.

Roundwood was acquired for the Trelissick Estate in 1805 by Ralph Allen Daniell and the quay complex is thought to have been rebuilt around that time and used for ship building and for shipping out copper ore and landing coal and timber. Its distance from the mines, however, made this impractical and the site was redeveloped as part of the ornamental landscape at Trelissick, with some new planting, and the building of a "beautiful cottage", as reported in the West Briton in 1832. The estate map of 1821 shows both Roundwood Cottage and Roundwood House. Industrial uses, including lime burning and ship-building, continued well into the late 19th century.

Prior to World War ll the quay area was used as a coalyard and in the 1930s a boat-hire business and tea garden were established from the bungalow called Ruan Dinas. There is some evidence for military activity in the area; Canadian troops are reported to have used the area for training, and there are traces of practice trenches on the eastern and southern sides of the promontory – although it is difficult to date these precisely and it may go even further back to the First World War. It is also possible that some of the earthworks formed part of the defences for the D-Day embarkation point at Tolverne.