Bury Down Hill Fort ~ Historical Notes by the Tamblyns of Botelet ~
Bury Down Hill Fort, on Botelet farm in South East Cornwall, is thought to be an Iron Age hill fort, established in Cornwall during the period between 800 BC and 43 AD.
The inner ramparts of the hill fort are approximately two metres high, and the moat surrounding the hill fort would have been around 2 metres deep. From an aerial view of the hill fort, an outer defensive ring is evident, it is thought that this outer ring is considerably older and could date back to the Neolithic era.
When you walk up Bury Down it is clear why it was chosen as a fortification site – with panoramic views up to Dartmoor in one direction, and across rolling fields to the sea with glimpses of West Cornwall on a clear day.
The site also benefits from access to water as there is a spring in the field just behind the fortification.
Archaeologists and historians who have visited Bury Down believe that the hill fort would most likely have been built as a meeting place for nomadic people who inhabited the land between the River Tamar and the Fowey estuary.
During the Iron Age, there was a move from hunter-gatherer to settled faring communities. The new culture required central spaces to mark as the territory and provide a place for exchange of goods and protection.
Through the Bronze Age the stability would have intensified and the hill fort would have become enclosures for a number of round houses of wood or stone with conical thatched roofs.
Bury Down has continued to play a role in more recent history; it was said to be used as a look-out point when the Spanish Armada sailed towards Plymouth in 1588, and in 1804 a beacon was erected upon the hill fort, presumably as a warning against possible Napoleonic invasion forces. David Tamblyn was stationed atop the hill fort during World War II as part of the home guard, keeping watch for signs of invasion.
The land upon which Bury Down hill fort is sited was part of the Trelawne Estate which extended across much of South East Cornwall from the 1600s through until the early twentieth century. The Tamblyn family were originally tenants farmers at Botelet. In 1912 Cyrus Tamblyn bought the land, and his descendants are the current custodians – three generations of Tamblyns live at Botelet today – David (Cyrus’s son) and his wife Barbara, their children Julie and Richard along with Richard’s wife Tia and their three children Cyra, Otto, and Nell.
Today, Bury Down is recognised as an important historical site. It is farmed very gently and much work has taken place over the past twenty years to uncover and protect the historical features.
Although Botelet Farm is privately owned, the family enjoy opening up access to the public, and each year host a number of education visits from local schools.
The current generation of Tamblyns continue their stewardship of Botelet, and welcome visitors from around the world to stay in the historic cottages and enjoy the surrounding natural landscape.
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