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Following our recent article quoting Simon Jenkins, we received an interesting email from a representative of “These Fields Have Names”, a campaign group in Cornwall protesting the destruction of the countryside while building a nearly 8-mile-long new route for the A30 near Truro. They make some excellent points about ‘appreciation’ of a site not being sufficient to save it from ‘progress’:

How do you think your publication, and your archaeologists, can help prevent any more destruction to our landscape in time before complete ecological collapse? The premise that we must fully “appreciate and preserve” our landscape, as you say, is all very well, but does not give me hope when “appreciation” has not prevented needless destruction of archeology and landscape and society and ecology in the past. The sentiment that we must “act“ to preserve things by liking what we have got, not by standing in resistance to the status quo that exists, is flawed.

It has never in history been the case that acting with appreciation of what exists causes change to happen. I am talking about massive societal change here, but maybe preserving monuments and archaeology also cannot be achieved without these defiant acts. For example some physical acts of civil resistance caused men to decide to change the status quo to include allowing women and unlanded gentry the vote. Nothing else worked.

Because of this fact, any archaeologist who wants to change the status quo, I think must “act” in civil resistance on the very sites that have already been destroyed and inside the now structural “status quo” infrastuctural sites themselves which have replaced them. Rather than stand in appreciation looking at a landscape before it is bulldozed, eg around Stonehenge, how about standing in those destroyed places? The “infrastructure” sites which right now have replaced fertile soil, trees, organic fields and rich archeology and are continuing to do so, include the A30 site in Cornwall. Our A30 is that sort of place. This is what will befall Stonehenge, this change from archeology to infrastructure, otherwise.

Image copyright Cornwall Climate Care
Image copyright Cornwall Climate Care

As is demonstrated by the images above of just one small part of the A30 works, when talking about roadworks and new roads, it’s not just the footprint of the road itself that causes damage but all the associated infrastructure and heavy machinery needed to support the actual construction of the road – which can and often does cover a much wider area. A salutary warning for supporters of the Stonehenge tunnel perhaps?

Whilst we here at the Heritage Journal cannot condone any direct action which may be construed as illegal in nature, there are many actions which can be taken legally to protest or delay development and we would encourage all lovers of heritage, be that archaeological (professional archaeologists take note!) or natural, to consider what actions can be taken to stop the desecration of our heritage in all its forms.

And a final comment on the current A30 roadworks:

Part of this road did not exist before 1991. So the 2022 one will be a bypass around a bypass around a very small village. Crazy times when first a 60 mph road is built, using and destroying landscape and fertile fields and archeology, then in 2022 a 70mph road is built around that 60 mph around a 30 mph road when public transport would have been sufficient in all cases. These fields have names.

All images courtesy and copyright of Cornwall Climate Care.

The inhabitants of Britain who dwell about the promontory known as Belerium (modern Cornwall) are especially hospitable to strangers and have adopted a civilized manner of life because of their intercourse with merchants of other peoples. They it is who work the tin, treating the bed which bears it in an ingenious manner. This bed, being like rock, contains earthy seams and in them the workers quarry the ore, which they then melt down and cleanse of its impurities. Then they work the tin into pieces the size of knuckle-bones and convey it to an island which lies off Britain and is called Ictis (St. Michael’s Mount): for at the time of ebb-tide the space between this island and the mainland becomes dry and they can take the tin in large quantities over to the island on their wagons.

Diodorus Siculus 90 B.C. – A.D. 30; Library of History, Book V, 22

Restormel takes its name from the Cornish words ‘ros tor moyl’ translating as ‘bare hilltop spur’.

The earliest known occupation at Restormel, just outside Lostwithiel in Cornwall, was a Roman fort, the banks and ditches of which can still be seen on the hill to the south west of the later castle.

The Roman fort at Restormel surviving as a rectangular earthwork. Photo courtesy of Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service.

The Roman fort was occupied between the first and fourth centuries AD housing around 160 individuals. The structure was rectangular in plan, measuring around 60 metres by 70 metres, with opposed entrances on its sides. Surrounding the enclosure were two banks and ditches whereas a similar fort at Nanstallon, west of Bodmin, had only one.

A geophysical survey at Restormel has revealed only traces of internal buildings and their layout is not yet known. Other Roman forts in Cornwall have been investigated at nearby Nanstallon overlooking the River Camel and at Calstock above the Tamar valley. All three forts were sited at the tidal limits of their rivers and were probably intended to secure trade routes into Cornwall and access its valuable mineral resources.

Roman remains are uncommon west of Exeter, in what is currently Devon, and it is believed that the Romans never had a substantial presence in the region.

With thanks as ever to Myghal Map Serpren.

We continue our trip around some Cornish hamlets with a visit to Tregeare in the parish of Egloskerry.

Tregeare was recorded in 1416 as ‘’Tregayr’ translating from the Cornish language ‘tre ger’ meaning ‘farm by a fort’. From this, we can conclude that the name probably derives from the hillslope enclosure to the north of the farmstead at Tregeare Rounds.

Tregeare Rounds, once recorded as ‘Dameliock Castle’ with this being a false name, was excavated in 1902 by S Baring-Gould.

This excavation suggested that human occupation was restricted to the area between the two main ramparts where finds consisted mainly of slingstones, perforated stones, spindle whorls and pre-Roman pottery.

The terminals of the innermost bank are raised up, presumably providing vantage points for those overseeing the herding of cattle in the centre of the fort. This seems to have been the purpose for which these hillslope forts were designed, probably dating from the second and first century BC.

Tregeare Rounds was surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1976 and comprises two sub-circular univallate and concentric enclosures totalling six and three-quarter acres, and on the eastern side, a five feet high scarp forming a curvilinear outwork encompassing a further three and a quarter acres.

The inner enclosure, of 295 feet internal diameter has a bank which averages six foot six inches high and a pitch up to six feet deep, with an overall width of just over 39 feet.

The outer enclosure of 558 feet internal diameter is much stronger; its rampart averages 10 feet high, the ditch six feet deep and the overall width exceeds 65 feet.

In the southeast a sunken way across the interspace of the outwork leads to simple entrances through the main and inner ramparts though in each case a low scarp extends across the gap. The relationship of this sunken way to the outwork is uncertain and complicated by the construction of a field bank.

In the north the outer ditch incorporates one shallow causeway which may be the result of ‘gangwork’; other interruptions appear to have occurred through agricultural activity and the 1902 excavations.

A Cornish ‘hull’ is excavated into the side of one of the outer ramparts of Tregeare Rounds. This is described as an “adit 51ft long 5ft wide and 6ft high”, with soil from the excavation placed some distance away.

Cornish historian Michael Tangye describes hulls being used for underground storage of potatoes, cheese and other foodstuffs.

At one time Tregeare Rounds became associated with Arthurian legends:

The Arthurian associations of Castle Killibury stem from attempts to discover the location of Kelli wic, the name given in both Culhwch ac Olwen and Trioedd Ynys Prydein to Arthur’s residence in Cornwall. In 1900 Castle Killibury was suggested as Kelli wic for three main reasons: firstly that a hill-fort would be the most appropriate identification; secondly that the names Kelli wic and Killibury are similar; and thirdly because it was near Tregeare Rounds. This last argument is the one that tipped the balance in favour of this site, when the name alone gave it no better case to be Kelli wic than, say, Callington and Calliwith. This argument is, however, false.

See http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/n&q/artharch.htm

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

Trencrom Hill in West Penwith, Cornwall was recorded as ‘Torcrobm’ in 1758 from the Cornish ‘tor crom’ (in later Cornish ‘crobm’ because as in all other languages, evolution of a tongue occurs) meaning ‘hunched bulge’ with tor meaning quite literally ‘belly’. Learn more about the Cornish language, Kernewek here.

Finds of Neolithic axes on the slopes of the hill indicate that the hilltop was occupied during that era and it may be that the massive wall surrounding the flattish summit originated then, to be reused and strengthened during the Iron Age. This wall is up to 2.5 metres high on its external side and makes full use of the many natural granite outcrops. The fort is roughly pear-shaped in plan, 137 metres by 91 metres and there is a pair of fine entrances facing east and west with granite gate jambs. Trencrom provides superb coastal views; to the Northeast across the Hayle estuary and up to Godrevy Point, and to the South across Mounts Bay and St Michael’s Mount.

A number of circular features can be traced in the interior. Three are Bronze Age cairns and there are six round house platforms in the southern part of the enclosure. Other circular features are prospecting pits. Finds of pottery show Iron Age occupation from the 3rd century BC and that the site was well used well into the post-Roman period perhaps as late as the 8th or 9th century AD.

In folklore, the hill was the lair of Trecobben the giant. Trecobben is best remembered as the friend of Cormoran, who lived on St Michael’s Mount, and whose wife Cormelian he accidentally killed. Another legend speaks of games that they played, throwing rocks across to each other – the Bowl Rock at the northern base on Trencrom being one such rock that missed its target and rolled away.  

Various attempts at tin mining have taken place on/under the hill, known as the Wheal Cherry sett, between the mid-1800s and early 1900s. None were particularly successful.

The hill was presented to the National Trust by Lt Col C L Tyringham, of Trevethoe in March 1946, his wish being that it was to be regarded as a memorial to the men and women of Cornwall, who gave their lives in the service of their country during the two world wars, 1914 – 1918, 1939 – 1945. A plaque on the hill commemorates this fact.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

Living in Cornwall, the sheer amount of prehistoric remains all around never fails to amaze me! Take, for example, the small hamlet of Dowran in the parish of St. Just in Penwith.

Dowran, such as it is, can be seen from the northeastern flightpath into Lands End Airport, and was first recorded in 1245 when it was spelt ‘Doueron’. It lies in the shadow of Bartinney Hill, atop which lies an enclosure containing eight round cairns known as Bartinney Castle.

Image © Google Earth.

The name Dowran is Cornish and is derived from the Cornish language ‘dowr-an’ meaning ‘watering place’.

Many of the fields around the hamlet and farm have their very own unique names, many of them in Cornish, Burrow Field, Hammon Moor, Henas, Croft Leskeys, Radannack, Park Skeber, The Spearn, Stalmac, Strakeshaw amongst others.

The hamlet is surrounded by ancient sites including traces of an Iron Age enclosure, an early Medieval enclosure, and evidence of a Bronze Age barrow and there have been a number of finds of Mesolithic flint tools.

On the image below, from the Cornwall Council Mapping website, the red dots indicate the Prehistoric entries on the Heritage Environment Record. As you can see, for what is relatively empty farmland, there was a lot of activity here in the past!

Image © Cornwall Council

Many fields in Cornwall are named particularly in Penwith and the late P.A.S. Pool wrote a small book on the subject called appropriately, ‘Field names of West Penwith’, published by Agan Tavas and available from their website.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

After a pandemic-induced hiatus, the ever-popular Pathways to the Past event held by the Cornish Ancient Sites Protection Network (CASPN) returns next month.

CASPN Logo

The confirmed timetable for this year’s event is as follows:

Saturday May 28th:

  • 10.00-12.30pm A New Bosiliack Trail Guided Walk, visiting Bosiliack settlement, Lanyon & West Lanyon Quoits.
  • 2.00-5.00pm Where The Spirits Dwell, a guided walk visiting Zennor Quoit, Sperris Quoit and Sperris settlement. (small charge)
  • 7.30-9.00pm Investigating Archaeology & Astronomy at The Hurlers, an illustrated talk with archaeologist Jackie Nowakowski & Carolyn Kennett looking back at the excavations.

Sunday May 29th:

  • 11.00-12.30pm From Prehistory to Present – the remarkable story of ‘King Arthur’s Tombstone’. Archaeologist Ann Preston-Jones tells an intriguing story about the site at Slaughterbridge.
  • 2.00-5.00pm A Megalithic Meander in the Shadow of Carn Galva, a guided walk visiting barrows, a circle, an entrance grave and a menhir.
  • 7.30-9.00pm King Arthur in Cornish folklore. A talk by folklorist Steve Patterson, looking at how Arthur has appeared in myth, history, literature, mysticism and popular culture.

All events are free to CASPN members. All walks (for CASPN members only) have to be booked in advance, as places are limited (and going fast!) The three talks, which will be held at the Old Town Hall, St Just TR19 7HT are also open to the public @ £5 each. Full details, including how to become a member, can be found on the CASPN web site.

Brown Willy is Cornwall’s highest hill, with a summit reaching 1,378 feet above sea level. Located among the rocky outcrops and desolate reaches of Bodmin Moor, with cairns that date back to the early Bronze Age, Brown Willy has been considered a sacred place for thousands of years.

But the true name for Brown Willy was recorded in 1280 as ‘Bronwenely’ derived from the Cornish language ‘bron wennyly’ meaning ‘swallows hill’, a much better name and far different from the Anglicised name we see now.

The summit cairn, which has never been excavated, is thought by some to be the resting-place of an ancient Cornish king.

Brown Willy’s cairn aligns with the neighbouring Rough Tor and the nearby Stannon stone circle, suggesting that their construction had some kind of astrological purpose.

The Aetherius Society even believe that Brown Willy is a holy mountain and make an annual pilgrimage here on the 23rd November.

Heavy rainfall occasionally gathers over Bodmin Moor after travelling downwind for a long distance, resulting in flash floods such as the one which occurred in Boscastle in 2004. The phenomenon is known in meteorological circles as the ‘Brown Willy Effect’.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren

Carn Galva (817ft), sometimes Galver, is the site of a Neolithic tor enclosure between Zennor and Morvah in West Penwith, Cornwall and is some 5,000 – 6,000 years old. Carn Galva sits in Zennor parish, within 1km of the coast, and provides a tremendous view of the sea to the north. 

In 1861 John Thomas Blight, the Cornish author, illustrator and antiquarian, described Carn Galva in his A Week at the Land’s End as:

“a bold and curious pile of granite rock, about 623 feet above the level of the sea, is a conspicuous object from the locality. With the golden furze, purple heath, whortleberry, and the bright mosses and lichens on the rocks, this cairn has in colour a gorgeous appearance.”

It was called Castle Anowthan from the Cornish ‘castel an oghen’ translating as ‘castle of the oxen’. Castle Anowthan was mentioned twice in the 1580s, and then lost until 1984. John Norden in 1584 described it as:

“A craggy rock on the top of a hill near Zennor, upon the north sea, sometime trenched about and built with stone, as appeareth by the ruins of the walls.” 

But no-one knew exactly where it was. Then a huge gorse fire on Carn Galva, exactly 400 years after Norden had last described it, exposed the remains of its walls, linking outcrop to outcrop, and its internal terraces. 

Investigations at Carn Galva were undertaken by Cornwall Archaeological Society over a two-week period in 2009. Field survey after the 1984 fire had revealed walling around the southern tor on Carn Galva and it was believed that the site would prove to be an Early Neolithic tor enclosure. Two trenches were opened within the enclosure. The trenching at Carn Galva confirmed the presence of a substantial enclosure wall. Although the enclosure could not be dated, it seems probable that it is of prehistoric origin and comparison with excavated tor enclosures suggests a Neolithic date. ⁠⁠

It’s certainly a “craggy rock” so, after 400 years in the wilderness – literally – welcome back, Castle Anowthan!

If Carn Galva means ‘lookout tor’, then that would logically belong to the hill’s northern peak, overlooking the sea, and it was raids from there that were potentially the greater threat, from prehistory right up until Napoleonic times. 

So, maybe the big southern peak should be ‘Castle Anowthan’. 

Toponomy

The difficulty is that the meaning of the name is not so clear. ‘Galva’ historic forms suggest ‘golva’, Cornish meaning ‘lookout’, but two ‘gallowa’ forms suggest ‘golowva’, Cornish meaning ‘beacon’. 

Hunt and Bottrell both refer to Carn Galva as a former alarm beacon site. 

‘Golow’ Cornish meaning ‘light’ and ‘va’ again Cornish meaning ‘place’ would be stressed on the first syllable, and that would tend to suppress the middle syllable, hence ‘gol’va’. 

Short ‘A’ and ‘O’ tend to be interchangeable in Cornish speech, for example, Falmouth people call their town ‘Folmuth’, so that would explain the ‘A’ in the historic and current spellings.

In Cornish, ‘carn’ means a crag or tor, but it can also mean an artificial cairn. Everyone pronounces it wrongly though. It’s not like ‘barn’ or as they say that in English, ‘bahn’. The ‘A’ is like ‘cat’ but very slightly drawn-out, and the ‘R’ is pronounced.

Considering the views north and south from the top of Carn Galva/Castle Anowthan,  the Iron Age cliff castle of Bosigran Castle can be seen off to the northwest, up on its 333ft cliff – the tallest vertical cliff there is in West Penwith. 

In the event of a seaborne raid approach, an alarm beacon from there would be easily seen on Carn Galva, where another could be lit. 

That, in turn, would warn most of Penwith, as several hill forts are visible from Carn Galva – Chun (which could signal to Caer Bran), Faugan Round, Lesingey and Castle-an-Dinas – which then signal to Trencrom and Carnsew Fort, even as far away as Tregonning Hill – Castle Pencaire. 

The whole peninsula would be on alert within minutes!

The late Craig Weatherhill, whose research notes these are remarked,

“If you place your hand on the ground on top of Carn Galva, you can feel the beating heart of West Penwith!”

Toponymy by the late Craig Weatherhill.

Folklore:

William Bottrell relates the tale of a friendly Giant of Carn Galva, who accidentally kills his human best friend, and subsequently dies of grief.

Links:

Davies, Simon R. (2010). The early Neolithic tor enclosures of Southwest Britain. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.   

Jones, Andy M (2019) Excavations at Carn Galva and Bosporthennis Quoit, West Penwith in 2009, Cornish Archaeology 58, 2019, 27–49

William Bottrell (1870) Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1

The Pipers are two stones in adjoining fields, just south of Boleigh Farm in West Penwith, Cornwall.

The Pipers, © Tim Clark

They are considered as ‘outliers’ for the Merry Maidens circle, associated by the ‘standard’ legend of dancers and musicians petrified for dancing on the Sabbath.

Extract from Cornwall Sheet LXXVIII.NE & SE, Surveyed: 1876, Published: 1887


First recorded by William Hals (1655-1737) as “two admirable great stones in perpendicular manner”, the northeastern stone developed a dramatic lean at some unknown period prior to 1865. The stone measures just over five metres high from base to tip.

The southwestern stone, 80 metres away in the next field is more upright, and at 4.7 metres tall is noted as ‘the tallest surviving menhir in Cornwall’ in the HER. This discrepancy is due to the slant of the northeastern stone, which while at over 5 metres is the longer, it is shorter from ground to tip.

Use of stones to commemorate Iron Age tribal leaders and kings (such as the Men Scryfa), and their connection with personified divinities in earlier times, strengthened beliefs that the stones themselves were the petrified remains of human beings – beliefs later used by Christian preachers to frighten their rural flock from attending, or organising, ceremonies at megalithic monuments.

As well as the ‘petrified musicians’ tale, another local story recounts how there was a great and bloody battle at Boleigh. The dead from the battle were subsequently buried in a long trench close by, the two massive long stones representing the two chieftains in front of their armies – the Cornish King Howel and the victorious Anglo-Saxon King Aethelstan.

No associated burials have yet been found.

St Breock Downs Monolith is under the thoughtful guardianship of the Cornwall Heritage Trust. This menhir or prehistoric longstone, which was originally about 16 feet high, is known as Men Gurta.

Weighing about 16.5 tons it is the heaviest standing stone in Cornwall.

The word menhir is a combination of two words found in the Cornish language, ‘men’ or ‘maen’ meaning ‘stone’ and ‘hir’ meaning  ‘long’.

A menhir is a large upright standing stone and they are found singly as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones. Their size can vary considerably; but their shape is generally uneven and squared, often tapering towards the top.

Menhirs are widely distributed across Europe, Africa, and Asia, but are most numerous in Western Europe, in particular in Ireland, Great Britain and Brittany. They date from the late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, roughly from 3000 to 1200 BC.

The purpose of menhirs remains unclear.

Over the centuries there have been many conflicting theories about why they were erected and how they were used.

Most archaeologists today accept that they had a wide range of functions: marking the boundaries of territory; meeting points; grave markers or fulfilling a religious and ceremonial role.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

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