Carn Brea is a granite hilltop in Cornwall England which was inhabited by Neolithic gatherers and farmers from 3700 to 3400 BC. A huge number of flint arrowheads and a suffusion of ancient timbers turned to charcoal suggest that the hill was the site of an ancient battle. Later, during the iron age, the hilltop was the site of a mine and an imposing stone hill fort which contained various pits for storing metals. In fact, in the eighteenth century a hoard of gold coins minted by the Cantiaci—a Kentish tribe–was discovered hidden in one of the pits.
In 1379, a Gothic chapel was erected at the site and dedicated to Saint Michael. The small chapel was substantially rebuilt and repurposed as a hunting lodge by the Basset family (local nobles who were heavily involved in mining and politics). The tininess of the little castle/lodge gives special emphasis to its unique folly construction: the masonry is integrated with huge natural granite erratic boulders which make up the building’s foundation. The effect is that the castle is growing out of the ground like something from a fairytale—an impression which is augmented by the Gothic architectural style. During the golden age of sail, the castle was used as a navigation beacon and a light was always kept lit in a room visible from the coasts.
The pictures I have used so far give a strong impression of the solitude and wildness of the lovely Cornish landscape, however, these final images forcefully reveal that the castle now sits in the middle of gentle suburban England. Since contemporary Cornish folk have little need for light houses and hunting lodges and chapels to Saint Michael, the gothic keep has been repurposed once again—as a middle eastern restaurant!