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Book review by Alan S> Heritage Action Site Inspector

I was recently intrigued to see a new booklet announced by Seven Stones Publishing: ‘The Stone Circles, Standing Stones and Chambered Tombs of West Penwith‘ and so promptly ordered a copy, along with ‘The Lost Stone Circles of Shropshire‘ by the same publisher.

West Penwith (the ‘toe’ of Cornwall) is an area that I’m privileged to know quite well as far as the ancient monuments of the area go, having spent multiple stone -hunting holidays there every year for the past 9 years or so.  Any new book on the area therefore immediately grabs my attention lest it can impart any new information. Shropshire, on the other hand is an area I know very little about, archaeologically.

Both paperback booklets (at 26 and 30 pages respectively, they can hardly be called books) follow a similar format. Brief introductory essays on the development of the monument types under scrutiny, then  a more local overview of the prehistoric landscape of the area in question. Finally, gazetteer sections list the monuments by type.

The Penwith volume includes some coloured photos, the Shropshire one is B/W only. Each site entry gives OS co-ordinates, a brief description  of the monument and any known folklore or historical notes about the monument. Each booklet includes a brief bibliography.

I was somewhat disappointed with the line illustration on the fly pages of the Penwith booklet; a stylised stone circle with a campfire fully ablaze in the centre, watched by an owl and a hare. A lovely, evocative image, but I’ve seen enough illegal firepits at ancient sites to know the damage they can do. Illustrations like this can only encourage what is an insidious and I repeat, illegal practice. I would hope the illustration could be amended for any subsequent reprints, and will draw the author’s attention to this review.

The list of sites in Penwith is reasonably comprehensive, but I note that both Brane and Tregeseal Entrance Graves have been omitted from the listings.  These minor omissions will apparently be corrected in the next reprint.  I cannot yet comment on the range of sites in the Shropshire volume but the author assures me all possible sources have been scoured.  I hope to put the information given to good use over the next few months, when I hope to visit the area for the first time.

The booklets could be improved by closer attention at the proof-reading stage.  My (possibly pedantic) eyes jarred several times at incorrect punctuation and grammar (e.g. there/their).  But that said, the books should prove a useful starting point for anyone wishing to explore either of the two areas.  A companion volume, Stone Circles of the Peak District is apparently forthcoming.


July 2010

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