Home Is Where The Hearth Is

The houses at Chysauster generally conform to a basic plan with some minor variations and comprise an entrance, a Courtyard, a Bay, A Round Room and a Long Room. Some of the houses have an additional Small Round Room.

As most of the archaeological finds have been in the Round Rooms and Courtyards it is assumed that these were the main living areas with the other rooms serving different purposes.

As luck would have it the occupants of House 6 were out when we visited so we were able to have a quick skeet around their compact and bijou residence.

House 6 at Chysauster 7 House 6 at Chysauster 9 House 6 at Chysauster 11
7. Courtyard, Round & Long Rooms. 9. Circular Chamber. 11. Small Round Room.
House 6 at Chysauster 6 House 6 at Chysauster 8 House 6 at Chysauster 10
6. Hearth. 8. Long Room. 10. Entrance to Small Round Room.
House 6 at Chysauster 5 House 6 at Chysauster House 6 at Chysauster 1
5. Round Room. Plan of House 6.

Copyright  English Heritage

1. Entrance Passage.
House 6 at Chysauster 4 House 6 at Chysauster 3 House 6 at Chysauster 2
4. 'Back Door'. 3. Bay. 2. Small Chamber.
  1. Entrance: Thick outer walls form a passageway which leads into the Courtyard. It is generally assumed that the Courtyard was not covered, hence the name given to it.
  2. Small Chamber: This is an additional feature of House 6. The presence of a sump and the two levels would seem to indicate that the area may have been used for water collection and storage.
  3. Bay: It is thought that these would have been covered with a lean-to roof and used as a shelter for livestock.
  4. 'Back Door': Another slightly unusual feature, it is an original part of the structure and this seems to have been its only likely purpose.
  5. Round Room: This was the main living area. Due to a technical problem (i.e. incompetence) this is actually a piccy of a Round Room from one of the other houses but basically they are all the same. Every Round Room contains (contained, some have been moved at some point) a stone with a hollow in it. It is generally assumed that these are post holes for roof supports but the presence of them in the Courtyards may indicate that some of them were used as Quern Stones (stones used for grinding corn).
A Round Room with both a hearth (left) and a hollowed stone. The position of this one would seem to indicate it held a support post. Round Room of Chysauster House
  1. Hearth: The only minor variation being that some, such as House 6, still have the remains of a hearth surviving.
  2. View of Courtyard, Round and Long Rooms: The village is on the side of a hill so it is just possible to get to a point of elevation where you can see back down into some of the houses. [But please don't clamber all over the walls to get a better angle or you'll just end up knackering the site for everyone!].
  3. Long Room: The lack of finds in these rooms indicate that they may have been used for storage rather than living space. On the other hand, the Long Room in House 6 contains the remains of a stone partition. It is not a structural part of the building so was probably put in at a later date. Maybe it was stroppy Iron Age teenagers wanting some 'personal space'!
  4. Circular Chamber: This is another extra feature in House 6. Its connection to the Long Room and its raised level might indicate that it was used for storage of goods that needed to be kept dry.
  5. Entrance to Small Round Room: Note this is again elevated above the level of the Courtyard.
  6. Small Round Room: Again this is another additional feature to House 6. The floor is paved and remains of a fire and pottery were found probably indicating that this was an additional living room. Possibly a large family or maybe the original 'Granny Flat'.

So, that's Chysauster.

Well, that's a bit of it, anyway. It really is impossible to do justice to it so you're best off going to see it for yourselves.

Just to give you final taster, here is Judith Dobie's artistic reconstruction of life in Chysauster way back when:-

English Heritage artist's reconstruction of Chysauster
Copyright  English Heritage Photo Library

Or is that the photo I took last week of market day in Penzance?

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