Chapel Carn Brea, Chapel and Beacon site on the cairn, St Just Sites

Record ID:  91361 / MNA104309
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: Scheduled Monument
NT Property:  St Just Sites; South West
Civil Parish:  St. Just; Cornwall
Grid Reference:  SW 3858 2806
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The site of a medieval chapel built upon the summit cairn of Chapel Carn Brea (site 91360). Also used as a beacon during and after this period. There are no traces of the chapel.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • SEA BEACON (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HERMITAGE (RELIGIOUS) (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHAPEL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FINDSPOT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)


The OS record a site of a chapel built upon the summit cairn of Chapel Carn Brea (OS, 1963). The Chapel appears to be first mentioned in 1302 after the murder of its hermit. In 1396 the "prebend or chapel of St Michael of Bree" is recorded when it lay in the gift of the Prior of St Michael's Mount.

At this time, the chapel received "bykenage" from the fishermen of "Porthangwin and Porthuste"(now Known as Porthnanven and Priest Cove, in St Just parish. Pool writes that the payment of "bykenage" indicates that there a maritime beacon or light was maintained at the chapel. He also suggests that the hermitage at Chapel Carn Brea ended at the Reformation but the light may have been retained by secular initiative (Pool, 1964).Hague believes that this beacon would have been used by seagoing vessels and maintained by subscription from local harbours (Hague, 1968).

The chapel standing on the cairn was ruinous by the eighteenth century and is illustrated and described by various authors, whose observations are all given by Pool (1964). Hals recorded that the chapel measured 14ft by 10ft. These are the maximum measurements given by any of the antiquarians and are stated to be external dimensions. It had an arched doorway on the south side.

Pool records that some sources suggest the chapel may have been a two storey building, with the chapel itself in the upper floor and the hermitage built into the lower storey. Borlase's description (c1750) appears to refute the possibility that a hermitage beneath the ruins was still visible in the eighteenth century (Polsue ed 1872). Pool says the hermitage may have been entirely separate. Adams suggests that the ruins surviving in the eighteenth century were part of the hermitage and that the chapel was built above (1968).

The remains of the chapel were destroyed to obtain stone for a barn in 1816 (Lukis and Borlase, 1885).. Polsue, writing in the later nineteenth century, described "the whole structure (as) a shapeless ruin" (Polsue, 1872, 294). WC Borlase's work on the cairn beneath showed that little disturbance of the cairn had taken place with the chapel's construction. Medieval pottery, glass and two ridge tile fragments, possibly of 15th century date were found (Borlase, 1893;Pool,1964). The dedication to St Michael mirrors that of remote hilltop chapels elsewhere in Cornwall such as Rame Head, Roughter, Roche Rock and St Michael's Mount. Archaeological Comments - Site:91361*0Ther are no visible traces of the chapel, but a study of local farmsteads for possible re-use of materials might repay investigation.


  • SZC10152 - Document: W Copeland Borlase. 1882. MS Laregan Museum List.

  • SZC10606 - Monograph: Cornwall Archaeological Unit. County SMR Printouts.

  • SZC2169 - Monograph: H O Hencken. 1932. The Archaeology of Cornwall and Scilly.

  • SZC2374 - Article in serial: J H Adams. 1957. Medieval Chapels of Cornwall. 3. 1.

  • SZC2557 - Article in serial: P A S Pool. 1969. Note on Chapel Carn Brea. 8.

  • SZC3051 - Monograph: W C Lukis, W Copeland Borlase. 1885. Prehistoric Stone Monuments - Cornwall.

  • SZC3844 - Map: Nigel Thomas. 1990. 25000.

  • SZC3924 - Article in serial: J H Adams. 1968. Chapel Carn Brea. 31.

  • SZC5584 - Monograph: D Gilbert. 1838. Parochial History of Cornwall. 2.

  • SZC6636 - Article in serial: Anon. 1880. 13.

  • SZC6725 - Monograph: T Taylor. 1916. The Celtic Christianity of Cornwall.

  • SZC6833 - Monograph: W Copeland Borlase. 1893. The Age of Saints.

  • SZC8602 - Article in serial: P A S Pool. 1964. The Hermitage Chapel of St Michael of Brea, St Just in Penwith. 24.

  • SZC875 - Article in serial: D B Hague,. 1968. Early Lighthouses in Cornwall. 7.

  • SZC926 - Microform: W Borlase. Parochial Memoranda.


Other Statuses and References

  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • HER/SMR Reference (External): SW32NE/46
  • Heritage Coast
  • National Monuments Record Reference: SW32NE/20

Associated Events

  • ENA302 - Archaeological Intervention, Further Antiquarian Excavation, St Just
  • ENA305 - Field Survey, Field survey of Chapel Carn Brea, St Just Sites
  • ENA308 - Field Survey, CAU Survey of Chapel Carn Brea; St Just Sites

Associated Finds

  • FNA888 - POT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Related Records

None Recorded