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The Kestle Rings

The rings adjoin Kestle Farm, Tregadillett, in St Thomas Parish and is situated about 300 yards from the road on the southern side of Tredidon lane, and occupies a ridge which gradually rises from the Kensey river. The old approach to it was by a trackway branching off from the Bodmin road just beyond Tregadillett. This ‘way’ first takes a winding course to the homestead of Kestle, and then passes on to the western end and entrance to the site. From the ring fence the trackway descends in a rounding sweep to Tankerslake Mill, and then on to Tredidon Lane.

Kestle Rings is described by HMBC as a very fine Iron Age ‘Annex’ type Hillfort. A small excavation was carried out in c.1901 by Mr Otho B Peter (Launceston) who reported: I sunk a trench along this track,’ (cut through the rampart to the quarry at F on plan), and found under it near the foot of the other slope of the rampart, the rough foundation lines of two walls, four feet apart, and a fireplace surrounded by blackened stones and wood ashes, on removing the backstone of the fireplace an oven was disclosed two feet wide by eighteen inches deep, full of wood ashes.  Its sides were formed by upright stones, and its bottom of burnt clay rounded like a dish.  In the loose rubble within the walls I found a well-made fragment of the upper portion of an urn of blackened earthenware, which Mr Reed (British Museum) says ‘seems to have been lathe-turned and is therefore not probably of pre-Roman date.’  The finds are in the Launceston museum.  An eroded rampart in the centre of the Finn existing enciente denotes the original bivallite nature of this fort.  The banks are under hedges and stand to a height of 3.67 m. with ditches 3.06m to 3.67 m deep.  The annexe earthworks are similar. The dig finds were as thus:

1. Two stone spindle whorls, one and three quarters inches in diameter, and the other one inch in diameter.
2. Part of a little stone hammer, or mace-head, formed out of a sea pebble, the orifice in which seems to have been made partly by picking and afterwards grinding. These may be classed with the late stone period objects.
3. A piece of flint apparently fashioned by man; it is of an unusually fine quality very much like chalcedony.
4. Nodule of iron pyrites one and a half inches in diameter, which may have been used with a flint for a strike-a-light. I was told that several of these balls had been found within the ramparts and also near the barrows on the hill opposite. This circumstance is probably the origin of the local belief that they were musket balls fired from one place to the other during a battle. Similar nodules are said to have been ploughed up within the Ring at Poundstock (and elsewhere).
5. A number of sea pebbles, all of about the same size (1.3/4 in by 1.1/2 in) and colour, and found in most of the trenches which I cut within and without the ramparts. These were, perhaps, slingstones. Some were found near the surface and others three feet, and more, below it.

The south entrance has been damaged and the north rampart is exceptionally fine.  There is some sign of counterscarp banking.  The area of the main enclosure is C1.0ha; annexe 0.5ha.  The interior has been ploughed in the past, but there has been no recent ploughing or other disturbance (HMBC), Gover records that the name Kestle first appears as CHESTELL in c.1150.  Fox describes the site as three enclosures [two concentric] and a triangular barbican on the west side, the fort is situated on an end-spur slope.  Depressions within the earthwork are probably the site of Peter’s excavations.

The earthen surrounding rampart of the Kestle Ring encloses a space of 370 feet from E to W.; and 320 feet N to S., and forms an irregular square, with corners and the side which overlooks Tredidon Lane, rounded.  From three to four hundred persons might have dwelt within it.  The present entrance is by way of a modern gateway on the S side, but the old western opening, 20 feet wide, can easily be discerned.  The ditch around outside the rampart averages 8 feet wide at its base, and both it and the 14 to 18 feet high earth wall are covered with oak coppice and ferns.  Towards the west a second embanked enclosure continues for 350 feet as an outwork to protect the entrance.

A badly preserved bronze coin was found in 1896 near the surface, in a quarry (SX288-846) adjacent to the Hillfort at Rings Wood.  The coin was pronounced Roman by H. A. Grueber, at the British Museum (B1).  The coin is stored at Launceston Museum, and the quarry is still in existence.

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