By Alan S.

The final video for now from our tour of Cornish antiquities visits the Carn Euny courtyard house settlement.

Continually occupied for over 800 years, the final phase of the settlement consisted of three large courtyard houses, several smaller oval buildings and a fogou. The fogou was discovered in 1857, and excavated in the 1860s by William Copeland Borlase.

Further information:

Carn Euny – Cornwall Heritage Trust
Carn Euny – Historic Cornwall
Carn Euny – Wikipedia

We hope you’ve enjoyed these videos as much as we enjoyed making them. Previous articles in the series can be found here. If there are other Cornish ancient sites you’d like to see featured, please leave a comment.

By Alan S.

I first visited Mulfra Vean courtyard house settlement in Penwith back in 2013, when CASPN were running a clear-up at the site. At that time the site was very overgrown and difficult to understand.

Since then, CASPN have continued their regular clear-ups, and these have recently been augmented by an additional volunteer team from the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) as part of their Ancient Penwith project, one of 13 projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional funding from Cornwall Council and other sources, running over a 5 year period.

My most recent visit to Mulfra Vean was prompted by my attendance in October last year at a one-day introductory course to archaeological surveying, held by PLP. The object of the day was to prepare volunteers to participate in producing surveys of sites in Penwith, starting with Mulfra Vean. Although ill-health at the time prevented me from committing to participate in the surveys themselves, I did volunteer to assist in the digitisation of any survey drawings. As I was aware that a significant effort had now been put into the survey, I visited the site to see what progress had been made.

I was met by Jeanette Ratcliffe, the current Ancient Penwith Project Officer, providing maternity cover for Laura Ratcliffe-Warren. Jeannette was kind enough to show me the current state of the survey plans drawn up by the volunteer team to date and gave me a short tour of the site.

The settlement is currently dissected by a footpath which ascends Mulfra Hill, and the current effort is focussed to the west of the path, where one courtyard house and the possible outline of another have been laid bare. This part of the settlement was excavated in 1954 by Rev. Crofts, who sadly passed away the following year without publishing his results. Luckily Charles Thomas obtained his notes, and the results were eventually published in the Cornwall Archaeology Society journal.

Survey by Mr. W. E. Griffiths, 1954 as published in Cornish Archaeology No. 2 1963.

The features to the east of the path have long been hidden beneath dense undergrowth, but the brushcutters have recently been put to good use here, and details of the site can now be seen. First is an enigmatic double bank earthwork, which may possibly be related to medieval mining activity. To the north is another courtyard house, and this will no doubt be investigated further once the western survey is completed.

The current plan is to commence digitisation of the survey drawings by the end of January, for inclusion in a planned web portal which will show the results of all 13 projects in due course. Keep an eye on the PLP website for updates on this and the other projects.

Yet another Minister, Michael Ellis, as inadequately briefed as his Culture Secretary predecessors, has just voiced another egregious and damaging falsehood about metal detecting. Referring to a DCMS study which showed that 1.5% of adults in England had taken part in metal detecting in the last year, he said:

“This increase in detecting has contributed hugely to the extension of our knowledge of our past.”

Think about it! Out of 675,000 adults who said they’d metal detected last year, only 241 of them (one in 2,800) had a find declared as Treasure and the other 99.96% drew a blank. You’d have to be pretty gullible to believe that, and that metal detecting doesn’t involve wholesale net loss of cultural knowledge, but Mr Ellis wants you to, for reasons entirely unfathomable except by those who briefed him.


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

Few can be unaware of the massive world wide efforts The Stonehenge Alliance has made for so long to prevent further damage to Stonehenge. Not because they are paid. Not because they have a vested interest. Purely because they believe it is right that this generation shouldn’t bequeath a damaged Stonehenge landscape to future generations, long after they and all of us have passed away.

There are few more worthy – or taxing – struggles and there is no more vivid illustration of their dedication than appeared this morning: the deadline for registering to object was midnight last night and they could be forgiven for taking a well earned rest. Yet here they are at 9.00am this morning tweeting that they’re at the  Planning Inspectorate’s office waiting for it to open!


We’re now in the Planning Inspectorate’s waiting room. In roughly a fortnight we will know how many representations were compliant. But the signs so far is that our World Wide Team #SaveStonehenge has done rather well. THANK YOU everyone who has objected and supported us thus far.…/a303-…/



The family of a detectorist who has passed away has appealed on a forum for other detectorists to come and identify his 400 finds, much like those shown below. Which is strange, because surely detecting finds can all be instantly looked up on the Portable Antiquities database where they’ve been fully documented by experts. That’s the whole point of Britain’s system isn’t it?

Or is it? No-one will ever know if his collection or the many collections like the ones above were reported and documented along with their find spots. But one can guess. The fact the images were hastily removed when highlighted suggests the forum moderator knows the answer. Of course, PAS will tell you most finds are reported to them so images like this and hundreds of thousands of others are not to be fretted about..

Unless you ask them in private!


[Thanks for this to Paul Barford.]



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

24 years ago, on 8th July 1994, English Heritage and the National Trust mounted “The Great Debate”, an international conference on Stonehenge. Sir Angus Stirling, Director General of the National Trust, spoke for both organisations, saying:

“We have concluded that the only feasible on-line route [for the A303] which meets the essential requirements of this World Heritage Site, is a long bored tunnel starting East of New King Barrows and finishing to the West well past the monument, that is the restoration to its grand and natural setting that is the National Trust’s and English Heritage’s duty. There is no historic site in England where we shall uphold that duty with greater resolve and determination.”

You have until the end of today if you wish to tell the Inspector you still support those words: the only feasible on-line route [for the A303] which meets the essential requirements of this World Heritage Site, is a long bored tunnel” – and neither time nor circumstances could ever make it otherwise.

“Alternatively, if you trust Chris Grayling to drive a great gash of concrete & tarmac through our most precious prehistoric landscape in a sensitive & considered manner, and leave behind an enduring monument to our age that will do us credit, then don’t bother.”  -Tom Holland.



World Heritage Committee, 2018:


Why should Chris Grayling, English Heritage, Historic England, The Highways Agency and the hapless National Trust get away with saying otherwise? .

You have until the end of tomorrow to show the Inspector and The World that Britain doesn’t want to flout UNESCO’s expert views on how heritage should be protected!


The timeless view they want to remove from all but a few. Stonehenge c.1832 / 1843,  Mezzotint by David Lucas after John Constable.

Soon, after many centuries, to see Turner’s timeless view you would need to break your journey, pay to park and walk a long way to Turner’s position – assuming you have time, money and are not unwaged, unaware, disabled or a child.

So the view will effectively be lost to 99% of travellers despite it having the ability to exert a profound civilising influence, acting as an arresting window into our prehistory and engendering respect, care, study and perhaps lifelong interest in our ancient heritage, particularly in young people. (See the compelling Reclaiming Prehistory by our member Tombo which we published in 2004).

Please tell The Inspector (by the end of Friday) why this direct attack on our ancient past must not happen.


Stonehenge from Amesbury Road” – from JMW Turner’s sketchbook, 1811

If you intend to formally object to the short tunnel please hurry, time is now very short. Please stress that you are opposed to the loss of a precious cultural asset, the classic view of the stones, at the hands of the very bodies entrusted with its protection.

The distant prospect of the stones from the very spot Turner stood has thrilled countless millions of people, British and overseas, children and adults, for millennia. Its loss, using the patently forced and un-needed excuse that it would unify the landscape, is a bitter reminder of the mis-quoted quotation: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

If the worst did happen Turner’s 200 year old sketch would stay safe but would surely take on a new significance as a timeless, silent rebuke to our generation.

Everyone knows the hillfort’s setting is in peril but few know of Whittington, 3 miles away. For 2 years “Metal Detecting Holidays” has run 16 tours based there, mainly for Americans (paying £1,499 each). They say they “register older finds with PAS” but PAS’s map, below, shows only 7 finds at Whittington and very few in the surrounding area (and none of the finds showcased in the press by the company).


But shouldn’t about 300 Americans searching 12 days each have found about 2,500 recordable finds? Any suggestions dear Reader?



Meanwhile, back at the surroundings of poor, unlucky Oswestry’s hillfort detecting is banned! Here’s the CBA’s Director surveying the no entry signs…..

If detecting was banned to ensure no important archaeology comes to light those involved needn’t have bothered. Mostly such evidence isn’t reported! Sad, isn’t it, that our country self-harms so comprehensively yet finances a quango that denies it! Maybe post-Brexit there’ll be no money not just for things like the NHS but also for follies.



More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting


January 2019
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