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Firstly, the bad. We’ve previously covered the plans to create a new bridge at Tintagel.

In our view (and that of many others), it will be completely out of keeping with the look and feel of this important area of Cornish Heritage, and will create a health and safety nightmare. The Kernow Matters To Us (KMTU) group posted the following on Facebook after a recent Council Meeting to discuss the planning application:

Tintagel Castle Theme Park to Proceed

A sad day as Cornwall Council has approved plans to build a huge new bridge between the mainland and the historic site of Tintagel Castle.

The vote was 13 for and 2 against.

There has been massive & widespread objection to the expensive scheme including from ‘Kernow Matters’ who were joined by senior Councillors and countless archaeologists in stating that this adds to the ‘Disneyfication’ of one of Cornwall’s treasured archaeological sites.

Critics of the £4m project say it will damage an area of outstanding natural beauty.

But English Heritage says it will help protect the ancient site in the long run and will allow safer and easier access.

In truth, it’s all about money and English Heritage who administer the site on behalf of the Duke of Cornwall view Tintagel as a tourist cash cow.

The Secretary of State at the Department for Communities & Local Government, Sajid Javid MP is believed to be calling the decision in to examine it further following a request made by Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Unit.

Read more from Cornwall’s increasingly popular news source, ‘Cornish Stuff’

In better news, although the monument at Trethevy Quoit owned by English Heritage has been included in the 2017 Heritage at Risk Register, the 3 acre field in which the monument stands was acquired by the Cornwall Heritage Trust earlier this year, in a bid to preserve the monument setting. As mentioned in the Trust’s Annual Review 2016/17 recently released to members, a full geophysical survey is now planned for the field, along with targeted excavations to further understand and enhance the quoit and it’s position in the landscape.

 

A Personal post by Alan S.

Regular readers will know of my love for all things Cornish – in particular the prehistoric heritage of the Duchy area, which has been covered here from time to time.

I am pleased to say that, although it took much longer than originally anticipated after my first visit to the area in 2002, I am finally moving from the smoke of London to reside in Cornwall!

My nearest major monument upon arrival at my destination will be a major tor enclosure, occupied between 3700 and 3400 BC. The tor is visible from miles around and is a major landmark in the area, partly due to a 90ft Celtic Cross, erected on the summit of the tor as a memorial to Francis_Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset.

I’m talking of course, of Carn Brea, situated between Redruth and Camborne.

Valentine’s Series, Souvenir Post Card

The site was excavated in the early 1970’s by Roger Mercer, when traces of platforms for Neolithic long houses were found within the ramparts. In fact, the excavations coined the use of a new site type, ‘tor enclosure’, of which several further examples have since been identified within Cornwall.

Over 700 leaf-shaped flint arrowheads found clustered around the main entrance to the enclosure have been interpreted as one of the earliest indications of ‘warfare’, evidence that the site was attacked by warriors armed with bows and there were also suggestions that the houses had been burned down.

©Cornwall Historic Environment Service.

The hilltop has been the site of human activity through many periods since, with finds of Bronze Age tools, Iron Age (and much later) mining activity, and even a small number of Roman period finds.

There is a well on the northern slopes which is related to a folk tale of a Giant, who picked a fight with another nearby Giant, ‘Bolster’ who lived on St Agnes Beacon. This story is duplicated throughout Cornwall – the Giants of Trencrom and St Michael’s Mount for instance having a similar tale of combat.

To say I’m excited to be moving to the area would be an understatement, and I look forward to bringing  more news and stories of the Cornish prehistoric period to the Heritage Journal in future months.

 

We’ve spoken many times on the Journal about the lack of sensitivity when it comes to local opinion at heritage sites – Stonehenge being the prime example. And last year we highlighted several issues at Tintagel in Cornwall where the heritage of the site seemed to be taking a back seat to the need for cash generation for English Heritage’s (EH) coffers, and to hell with the history.

Sadly, once again it seems that EH’s need for finance is over-riding any consideration for the actual history and heritage of the site at Tintagel, which was the seat for several kings of Dumnonia in the early medieval period – a fact apparently of no interest to the site’s guardians. Read the rest of this entry »

By Dr Sandy Gerrard

A recent press report in the Express & Echo should concern everyone with an interest in the archaeology of the South West English uplands.  Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and Exmoor are particularly rich and important archaeological landscapes where the impact of the past can be easily appreciated.

On Dartmoor alone around 5,000 Bronze Age houses together with hundreds of hectares of field systems and enclosures survive in close proximity to thousands of cairns, hundreds of cists and the largest concentration of stone rows anywhere in Britain. Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor together provide a unique insight into the character of life and death in prehistoric times. Nowhere else in Britain is it possible to explore and appreciate the true impact of prehistoric people on the landscape. In recent years this incredible resource has been slowly disappearing beneath a sea of gorse, bracken and purple moor grass as farming practices have been adjusted in response to subsidy changes.

According to the Express & Echo article fresh plans are being drawn up to accelerate this process by returning parts of the moor “to the wild”. It is not clear which parts the bureaucrats have in mind, but we can be sure that given the extraordinary wide distribution of archaeology that important archaeology that we have all taken for granted could soon no longer be visible. Hopefully Historic England will fight this proposal and prevail – any other outcome would be disastrous.  Any attempt to deliberately conceal our heritage from us all should be opposed with the utmost vigour. Inevitably once the archaeology was out of sight it would soon be out of mind.

If this plan goes ahead much of Dartmoor’s amazing archaeology will be lost from sight. The fate of the largely invisible stone row at Spurrell’s Cross could await many cherished archaeological sites in South West England.

If this plan goes ahead much of Dartmoor’s amazing archaeology will be lost from sight. The fate of the largely invisible stone row at Spurrell’s Cross could await many cherished archaeological sites in South West England.

 

We wrote a piece a few months ago about the heavy-handed management and ‘brandalism’ occurring in the name of ‘visitor engagement’ at Tintagel in Cornwall. Now, following recent archaeological excavations at the site, the BBC web site is proclaiming ‘The royal residence of 6th Century rulers is believed to have been discovered at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur.’

So, a known cliff castle site has uncovered evidence that it was used as a castle. Oh, and a medieval storyteller used the location as the setting for a story about the birth of a  mythical figure. Knock me sideways! Is there nothing English Heritage/Historic England (which name do we use these days?) won’t do to increase the cash flow at what is undoubtedly already one of Cornwall’s major cultural attractions? At what cost to the integrity of the site?

TintagelStatue

Thankfully, we’re not the only people thinking along those lines. Dr Tehmina Goskar, a consultant curator and heritage interpreter with over 16 years experience (we featured her partner Thomas in an Inside the Mind article a few years ago)  visited the Tintagel area earlier this year. Her critique of the experience makes for some interesting reading and raises some very pertinent points.

The key issues … are apposite not just to the situation at Tintagel but more widely concern methods of interpretation of Cornish history, medieval history, and the ways in which sites with multiple protective designations are treated by heritage agencies.

It’s a long piece, but for those of the TL;DR generation, there is a useful 10-point summary of the main points included at the start. We heartily recommend that anyone with any interest in site interpretation, Cornwall or tourism in general read the piece, and take home some of the lessons learned.

It’s always fascinating to see new entrants to the blogosphere, particularly those which focus upon heritage matters in geographical areas which interest me personally. The CornishBirdBlog appears to have been started earlier this year, and the About page tells us a little of the impetus behind the site:

After visiting 50 countries in 9 years I came home and realised that some of the best sunsets are found right on my doorstep. I want to share my walks around Cornwall and my thoughts with you. (And a little bit of local history too, the fun stuff I promise!) I should just add that I am not a professional historian, all the research is my own and I have formed my own opinions and stories from it – nothing should be taken as 100% fact.

CBBHdr

In the few months since starting, there have been many interesting stories published on the site, from tales of shipwrecks, local folklore, treasure (the latest story tells of the Rillaton gold cup), lost Cornish kings, Roman roads and other ancient trackways, Cornish crosses, standing stones and other ancient sites, and some interesting historical Cornish characters. Yes, some of the stories are well known, but others are more obscure, and deserve a wider audience.

So if you’re interested in Cornwall’s history and heritage, why not pay the Cornish Bird Blog a visit, take a look around the archives, and leave a comment or two. Don’t forget to say we sent you!

Another Bank Holiday weekend, and another Pathways to the Past celebration with CASPN. And so it was that we set out from London at an ungodly hour for the drive to West Penwith. A few hours later, and we hit the infamous roadworks on the A30, the traffic giving every indication that the road into Cornwall was actually full and that no more visitors could be accommodated. But thankfully, after an hour or so’s delay, we were on the move again, and arrived at our destination just outside Penzance.

Sadly, we were too late for the first walk of the day, and so had some time to get unpacked and gather some provisions for the next few days before heading out for the afternoon walk, entitled ‘Round and about Little Lookout Tor’. The meeting point at Bosiliack was already quite busy when I arrived, with a good crowd already gathered. After renewing my FOCAS membership and getting reacquainted with old friends, around 45 people set off up the track to Greenburrow engine house, led by our guide for the day, David Giddings.

The industrial archaeology and traces of the connection between Greenburrow and the wider ‘Ding Dong’ mining area were discussed briefly, then we were off once again. The next stop was a kerbed cairn near to the Boskednan Nine Maidens stone circle, the first stop on a suggested processional route towards Carn Galver.

How many enthusiasts fit on a cairn? All of them!

How many enthusiasts fit on a cairn? All of them!

We continued on to the stone circle, where a quantity of material on the ground caused some confusion. Consensus was reached that it was probably dog hair, from someone grooming their pet – there was a lot of hair there. A brief explanatory note from David about the circle, it’s setting and known history then we moved on, having the much truncated outlier menhir and denuded barrows and cairns pointed out – more evidence of an important track/processional way? – before reaching the larger cairn which has been much cleared by the CASPN team. It now looks quite open, and the quartz stone which I’d previously visited last year takes pride of place.

We could now see Little Galver, our next destination and David set off across the moor, leaving the main path which we’d been following until now behind us. A parish boundary stone was pointed out as we passed a field boundary, with ‘Z’ for Zennor on one side and ‘G’ for Gulval on the other.

We then spent some time at Little Galver as there were two major points of interest here. A ‘propped stone’, which many geologists agree must have been man-made, with a small stone wedged underneath two very much larger stones, and a lookout point created by two stones leaning to make a triangle, through which the highest point of nearby Carn Galver could be seen by an observer kneeling down. Many people took turns to look through the gap and discussed the possible uses and meanings of such a feature. I’ll have to return here at some future point for a proper look around.

Propped Stone-800px
Lookout Point-800px

It was then time to descend off the moor, into the Bosporthennis valley, criss-crossed with many post medieval and Victorian field boundaries. As we descended, David pointed out that many of the boulders around us were actually the remains of a Bronze Age field system which had survived the reclamation of the moors evidenced before us. Here also was a ‘proto-courtyard house’, an early example of a possible roundhouse with a courtyard tacked on.

Again, locations of cairns, barrows, roundhouses and courtyard dwellings were pointed out, in one case the cairn having been intersected by a field boundary and outbuilding, but still visible for all that!

Our next target was the enigmatic ‘Beehive Hut’, a strange structure with corbeling and a small adjacent room, all built into a later field boundary. Was this the beginning construction of a fogou, or something else? Comparison was made with the side chamber at Carn Euny being of similar construction.

The clock was against us at this point, and it was time to make our way back to the meeting point, passing by another courtyard house (with a ruined later medieval outbuilding in it’s centre) before ascending onto the moor once more to retrace our steps, where a different approach view of the Nine Maidens was seen, the three large (recently re-erected) stones standing out, highlighted against the horizon.

All in all, a very enjoyable (if tiring after my long drive) afternoon, which opened my eyes further as to just how much heritage is all around us in this area. David is a knowledgable and entertaining guide and I’d recommend attending one of his walks if you get the chance!

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arthur rollrights

It seems to come around so quickly, but next month will see the 10th annual Pathways to the Past event, a weekend of walks & talks amongst the ancient sites of West Penwith in Cornwall, organised by CASPN. And by pure chance(!), I’ve managed to book my next holiday to the area to coincide with the event once again.

CASPNlogo

This is what the weekend will involve:

Saturday May 28th

Vounder Gogglas: an ancient traders’ track
A guided walk with Cheryl Straffon & Lana Jarvis following part of a long-distance trading route from Sancreed Beacon to Caer Bran and Chapel Euny wells.
Round and about the Little Lookout Tor
An unusual guided walk with archaeologist David Giddings to visit the Nine Maidens circle and cairns, Little Galva view point and propped stone, and Bosporthennis beehive hut.
The power of place: reconstructing Cornwall’s prehistoric environment
An illustrated talk by Paul Bonnington based on findings from environmental archaeology about the placing of sites in the landscape.

Sunday May 29th

Mining in Cornwall
An illustrated talk by Adam Sharpe.
In the footsteps of giants
A guided walk with archaeologist Adrian Rodda around Chûn Downs.
The geomantic network in West Penwith

To round off the weekend, Palden Jenkins shares his ideas about why the prehistoric sites are located where they are.

Whilst I’m unlikely to be able to attend all the events personally, I’ll certainly try to get along to one or two of them, and will report back later.

Fuller details of each event, including timings, location and cost can be found on the CASPN Events page.

CASPNt-shirt

We’ve written many times in the past about situations where, whether by arrangement with the site custodians, or illegally via vandalism, ancient sites have been damaged (temporarily in most cases) in the name of ‘marketing’.

Over the past couple of weeks, a new furore has arisen in Tintagel Cornwall, over a new carving of the ‘face of Merlin’ into the cliff face below Tintagel Castle.

Tintagel Merlin1

Apparently, the sculpture is not much larger than life size and takes some effort to locate, being seen only from the base of the cliff. “So what?” you may ask? Well, English Heritage (EH) say this is

“part of ongoing re-interpretation and investment at the site. The new artwork is the first part of a project by English Heritage to re-imagine Tintagel’s history and legends across the island site. Further works will be revealed late this spring.”

The ‘further works’ planned include a large statue of Arthur, a Sword in the Stone sculpture and a scultured stone bench commemorating the legend of Tristan & Yseult. Leaving aside the artistic merit of the sculptures, the moves are being seen locally as ‘false history’, an attempt at further ‘Disneyfication’ of the village and castle site in a direct move to increase tourist footfall, maximising tourism income, and to hell with any authenticity as to historical fact.

Regardless of the local opposition, there is a much bigger issue to be resolved here. Cornish historian (and friend of the Heritage Journal) Craig Weatherhill commented:

“this is just one of 28 visual display proposals for the site, one being an 8.5ft statue of Arthur in late (not early!) medieval gear, to stand on the clifftop on The Island! The Cornwall Archaelogical Unit assess that 9 of these will have a neutral effect on archaeology and visual amenity, but that 19 have minor to moderate negative impacts. ANY negative impact on the archaeology and visual amenity of such an iconic, important and spectacular site should have been refused permission… Of the carving, the CAU says that it will have an irreversible physical impact on the natural environment. i.e. vandalism.”

With the withdrawal of government funding and the need for EH to become ‘self-sufficient’, should they be allowed to sacrifice or change the authenticity of a site in this way in the search for additional income? And if so, where does that leave our heritage, not only at Tintagel but at all the other sites up and down the country that EH are responsible for?

Further Info:

English Heritage: Merlin’s Face

Cornwall Archaeological Unit: Environmental Impact Assessment

English Heritage: Tintagel Castle

Daily Telegraph: EH accused of vandalism 18 Feb 2016

The Cornishman: Vandalism, or Art? 17 Feb 2016

Archaeodeath: Putting Merlin to Death? Tintagel, Art and the Death of Imagination 15 Feb 2016

Kernow Matters To Us: Campaign group web site

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