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Another ancient monuments enthusiast known for his photography this week: Meet James Kitto, from the west of Cornwall. James is a site monitor for CASPN in West Penwith.

Here are his responses to our questions:

What is/was your day job? 

I have been a Primary School Teacher, here in Cornwall, for 27 years.

How did your interest in Megalithic monuments begin? 

It all began when I was 10 years old – a pupil at Wendron Primary School – and we studied a topic on Ancient Cornwall, which included a field trip to some of the ancient sites in West Penwith … from that moment, I was hooked! I was lucky to have a family that encouraged my interest – my grandparents lived on a farm in Sancreed and took my brother & I to visit several of the ancient sites in the vicinity. We were often joined by my Great Uncle Bernard – another local farmer – he rode with the Western Hunt so knew West Penwith like the back of his hand! My Great Granny was a ‘Zennor maid’ (a Berryman from Porthmeor before she was married) and she told me all about the local antiquarian Colonel Hirst, who had excavated the Courtyard House village & fogou on her parents’ land. 

Is your interest grounded in something Spiritual, Academic or something else? 

I feel a spiritual link to the ancient sites, here in Cornwall – but I’m also interested to explore the academic aspects as well – as my bookcase will tell you! 

What is your favourite time period or era? 

The Neolithic & Bronze Age periods. We are blessed with so many Neolithic & Bronze Age sites here in West Cornwall – such as: quoits, entrance graves, barrows, menhirs, stone circles & holed stones. They were the sites that first captured my heart! 

Which book has had the most influence on your interest? 

John Michell’s ‘The Old Stones of Land’s End‘ – I remember that we were lucky enough to have a copy in the school library when I was at secondary school – while my friends were looking at books on football and war, I was finding out about ancient Cornwall! 

Do you have a favourite field guide reference or gazetteer that you always take with you on site visits? 

Belerion‘ & ‘Cornovia‘ by the late Craig Weatherhill are usually to be found in my car boot, along with Cheryl Straffon’s ”Ancient Sites in West Penwith‘. 

What is the best site you’ve visited so far (however you want to define ‘best’), and why? 

What a question!! I guess the site that is most special to me is Lanyon Quoit. Another set of great-great-grandparents lived at Lanyon Farm, so the quoit has always been special to our family, through each successive generatiion. My late brother, Julian even proposed to his future wife there! Now, I am the CASPN (Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network) site monitor for Lanyon Quoit, visiting it regularly and ensuring that all is well.

Which so-far unvisited site is top of your ‘must-see list, and why? 

I have yet to visit the Stannon & Fernacre stone circles on Bodmin Moor – they are on my ‘must-see’ list though, as they are so much bigger than the smaller stone circles that I am more familiar with, here in West Cornwall – and, as a keen photographer, I am looking forward to capturing some of their magical beauty with my camera. 

Which archaeological words or phrases caused you most confusion when you first started? What is your understanding of those phrases now? 

‘Fogou’ … I pronounced it with a hard ‘o’, instead of ‘foo-goo’.  I know how to pronounce it correctly now! The word fogou is derived from the Cornish word for cave.  

What is your favourite theory about site origin/usage? 

I have always been intrigued by the purpose of fogous – I think Ian McNeil-Cooke’s book ‘Mother & Sun‘ gives a pretty convincing argument for them being constructed for ritual purposes. However, over the centuries, they may well have had multiple functions. 

What is your pet peeve with regard to Megalithic sites? 

My pet peeve is people leaving non-biodegradable & inappropriate clouties at holy wells! Grrrrrrr! 


Many thanks to James for sharing his megalithic origins with us. Look out for further instalments of ‘Meet the Antiquarists’ in the weeks to come! Don’t forget, if you’d like to feature in this series, simply contact us with your answers to the questions above. To see other articles in this series, simply enter ‘Antiquarists’ in the search box on the left (or click the handy supplied link)

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