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Myghal Map Serpren continues his travels around West Cornwall.

The church of St. Gothian, which stands on a far older site, is found in Gwithian, just three miles North East of Hayle on the coast of Cornwall.

The settlement of Gwithian is first recorded in 1327CE when it was spelt ‘Sancti Gociani’. By 1535CE, Gwithian was recorded as ‘Gothyan’ named as it is after the Celtic Saint Guidian.

The approach to Gwithian Church

Little is definitely known about St. Gothian, who was first recorded as ‘Guidian’ in the 10th century, and not noted as the current church dedication until 1334CE.

However, a much earlier St. Gothian’s Chapel dating from 490CE was located in the extensive towans during 1827CE but returned to being inundated by the sands over time together with the ancient centre of Connerton which also lays buried beneath Gwithian Towans.

Writing in 1925, Charles Henderson, the brilliant historian and antiquarian, noted that Connor after which the now lost Connerton was named was possibly derived from the Irish ‘Conair’ meaning a ‘haven’.

This area has close associations with the 6th Century Cornish King Tewdwr (also known as Teudar Maur – ‘Theodore the Great’, Teudar, Tudor) who possibly held his court there.

Interestingly, a granite fragment from the now-lost St. Gothian’s oratory and chapel can be found on a window sill in the current church.

This is inscribed with a six-armed ‘Marigold’ cross and was recovered from a nearby wall in which it had been incorporated following the loss of the chapel.

St Gothian’s Oratory stone

The 13th Century St Gothian’s Church was subject to alterations in the  15th Century when it was enlarged and the tower and south aisle added. A further rebuilding occurred in the mid 1860s.

Standing in what is believed to be its original site in the churchyard, a Medieval Cornish Cross stands guard.

This is of granite, measures some four feet eight inches in height and has a beaded edged round head with an equal limbed cross on both faces.

The most prominent face displays a central boss, with the limbs of the cross slightly expanded and crossing through the beading to the edge of the head.

In common with many other such crosses, the upright shaft has two small projections at the neck.

So much of the history and heritage of this area and indeed of other places has been lost, in this case to the encroaching sands and also to modern ‘development’. There can surely be nothing finer than to acknowledge and treasure our human past and the natural environment around it.

When visiting Saint Gothian’s Church, it gave me much pleasure to see some of the craftsmanship of my own late father found in parts of the interior woodwork.

References:

All images obtained by the author.

We continue our explorations of the West Cornwall area, courtesy of Myghal Map Serpren (Michael, son of the Carpenter)

The extremely low water levels occurring during 2022 at Stithians Reservoir, situated around a mile west of the village of Stithians in Cornwall, served to reveal once again, an enduring archaeological puzzle as well as highlighting a crisis in Cornwall’s public water supply and crumbling public infrastructure.

Not seen since the very dry Summer of 1984, the 12 cup-marked granite slabs were once again revealed, normally being concealed beneath the waters of the reservoir.

Construction on Stithians Reservoir as it is called, and now representing the largest inland lake in West Cornwall, began in 1962 and the inundation commenced in 1967 ultimately flooding some 274 acres of farmland, three farming settlements and countless ancient sites.

This man-made lake is now surrounded by the remaining settlements bearing very Cornish names, amongst them Polmarth, Menherion, Nanpean, Penhalveor, Tresevern,  Carnmeor, Lansenmeth, Trewarth and Menerdue amongst many others, a toponymic feast.

Within the surrounds of the reservoir, these cup stones lay, normally covered with water.

Spot the cup-marked stones!

They are close to Menerdue and so perhaps should be more correctly referred to as the ‘Menerdue Stones’.

Stithians itself was recorded in 1268 as ‘Saint Stethyane’ named after the female Saint Stethyan.

Menerdue, where the stones lay, was recorded as ‘Menethdu’ in 1356 translating from the Cornish ‘menedh du’ as ‘dark’ or ‘black hillside’ and not ‘black stones’ as some have suggested. It would appear that even the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly’s Historic Environment records are incorrect in this respect recording the place as ‘Menerlue’ in a number of instances.

The dozen cup marked stones have been dated to the Bronze Age, the period 2500 BCE to 801 BCE although there is plenty of evidence that they predate even that.

Cup marked stone with £1 coin to indicate scale.

Similar such man-made artifacts as these exist elsewhere and the Cornwall Archaeology Unit has recorded a total of 34 currently known sites ranging from hedge stones to the one found at Tregiffian barrow – Cruk Tregyffian – the chambered tomb found near Saint Buryan, this latter now under the careful management of the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

Similar cup-marked stones have been identified at a number of locations across the globe, in Ireland, Wales, the north of England, Scotland, Brittany, Portugal, Galicia, in the Italian Alpine valleys and Sardinia, Azerbaijan, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and in Switzerland as well as even further afield in Australia, Gabon, Mozambique, Israel, India, Mexico and the Americas

Writing in 1926, the very respected Dorothy Davison (1890 to 1984) said of the rock shelter of La Ferrassie in the Dordogne when describing the discovery of four skeletons there in the period 1909 to 1912 together with subsequent finding of  two further skeletal remains, all dating from prehistoric and indeed probably Neanderthal times, that academic examinations recorded that: “the three-cornered grave was partially covered by a slab of stone of a similar shape. The lower side of this stone was pitted with several small cup holes, apparently arranged in pairs.”

Writing a little further of the same site and when describing the discovery that the head of a child’s skeleton had been removed from its body, she wrote, “Why the head was separated from the body and covered with a slab of stone pitted with cup holes is not known.”

She continued, “At a much later time cup holes such as these were used to hold blood or other liquid offerings, but in this case it is difficult to understand why the hollows were upside-down.”

The cup-marked stones at Menerdue were ‘rediscovered’ in the 1980s and local people were well aware of their existence and even collected flint tools from the area. Later, during the drought year of 1984, a member of the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, Don Cave, again ‘rediscovered’ them together with flint tool scatters nearby and made the effort to properly record and report them.

Cup marked stone with £1 coin to indicate scale

The Heritage Environment Record informs that: “the southern-most site, identified as Group A in the published report, consists of five stone slabs numbered 1 to 5, though stones 1, 2 and 3 appear to be the broken fragments of a single large stone. This large slab was decorated with at least 48 cup-marks; some were shallow with indistinct edges and originally there may have been 50 or more on this one slab. Stone 4 was an irregular slab with at least three (possibly five – some were shallow and indistinct) randomly spaced cup-marks; stone 5 was notable in that although it presented a reasonably flat surface, the cup-marks were arranged in two lines along one edge.”

Archaeoastronomer Carolyn Kennett visited the site during July, 2022 and commented:

“What’s interesting about the pre-history at Stithians is the amount of cup-marked stones. There are batches of them but they are really condensed together in a small area.”

“It is probably the most amount of cup-marked stones in one area in Cornwall, so it is the biggest amount of pre-historic rock art that we have.”

“It is not known why the markings were made but it is likely to have been done ‘artistically’”, she continued, adding, “Cup-marking is definitely late or mid-Neolithic and into the Bronze Age they would still be doing it, but it is incredibly difficult to date these type of things.”  

Cup marked stone with £1 coin to indicate scale

“This year in particular they (referring to the water levels) are incredibly low. It’s exposing some of the medieval farmsteads that were covered over by the reservoir when it was flooded. It is really interesting to see how much has been exposed.” 

“Cup-marked stones, and other remains of buildings and roads are also known to be beneath Drift Reservoir near Penzance.”

With the Bronze Age being around 4,000 years ago and with the Neolithic period predating that, we shall probably never know of the purpose for these cup-mark cuts in stones.

Many have speculated that they were made for decorative reasons. Others have suggested they were cut as sockets for other connecting stones. Some believe they were the work of idle hands and yet more believe they were of a ritual nature. There has even been a suggestion that they were a natural phenomenon. Certainly, in other instances they are connected with ancient funeral sites.

As is the case with the fogous, these ancient mysteries will surely remain just that.

References:

  • Our Prehistoric Ancestors – Dorothy Davison, Methuen and Co. Ltd. London 1926

All images provided by the author.

Stop Press: A further site with a cup-marked stone has recently been discovered by friend of the Journal, Tom Goskar, in the far west of Cornwall. Details can be found on his website.

By Myghal Map Serpren

Two crosses stand guard over the entrance path to the Anglican Christ Church at Lanner near Redruth. Found in Rough Street between Church Row and Bell Vean, this church building dates from 1845CE but both granite crosses are from a much earlier period and have ended their journey on this site having ‘travelled’ from elsewhere.

Lanner was first recorded as ‘Lanergh’ in 1305CE. This is derived from the Cornish language ‘lanergh’ meaning ‘clearing’ or ‘glade’.

Now one of Cornwall’s largest villages and indeed a parish, Lanner emerged as such in 1844CE as, before that time, it was part of Gwennap Parish. On 15th July, 1845CE, Saint Swithin’s Day, the new church was consecrated, later to undergo refurbishment during 1883CE.

At that time though, the two Medieval crosses now found in the church grounds were not there. They were situated elsewhere albeit not far from the Lanner or Lannarth Church.

The cross to the left of the approach is actually the remaining head of a round-headed monument which was damaged during its long history and which was fixed onto a later granite upright.

Believed to date from the Mediaeval Period – 1066CE to 1539CE – the cross head measures some 18 inches in diameter with a segment missing.

It was rediscovered in the early 20th Century in a hedge at Tredeage Farm around a mile distant and relocated to the churchyard.

It is believed unique of its type as a figure of Christ is to be found on both sides with outstretched arms, with the legs together contained within a bead.

Standing on a later upright, the whole structure stands around 5 feet 9 inches in height.

Just across the entrance path and a few feet from the first cross, stands a second wheel-headed former wayside cross, again probably dating from the Mediaeval Period.

This bears a Latin Cross on both sides of the head which measures some 15 inches in diameter.

Rediscovered from the nearby Tresavean side of Bell Farm by a Mr. Shepherd at the beginning of the 20th Century, it had been buried head down and was in use as a gate post, a common enough fate for many of these crosses.

This stands some 4 feet six inches in height of which around 2 feet is below ground level.

In his book, ‘A History of the Parish of Gwennap in Cornwall’ (1949), C.C. James, then Vice President of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd (Bardic name: Map Penseghnans,) postulates that both crosses originally came from an old chapel which was situated in Chapel Hill, Lanner.

This chapel may well have been used by pilgrims on their way from the shrine at Saint Day heading for Saint Michael’s Mount but nothing of it is left, it now being remembered only in the name of the road.

This means that both crosses are now situated in their third locations since creation having ‘wandered’ the area, as has been the case with so many other relics of their type.

REFERENCES:

  • Placenames in Cornwall and Scilly – Craig Weatherhill, Wessex Books in association with Westcountry Books, Launceston, Cornwall 2005   
  • A Guide to Cornish Place-Names – R. Morton Nance, The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies 1956
  • Cornish Church Guide and Parochial History of Cornwall – Charles Henderson M.A., D. Bradford Barton Ltd, Truro, Cornwall 1925
  • A History of the Parish of Gwennap in Cornwall – C.C. James, published by the author 1949

All images obtained by author.

By Myghal Map Serpren

Mirrose Well, on the North Cliffs between Portreath and Godrevy in Cornwall, is a spring contained by a semi-circular wall which can be found at a pretty spot near Basset’s Cove, which is also known and recorded as Spratting Cove.

Mirrose Spring despoiled by modern waste

Water emerges from the spring, crosses the cliff path and courses through a shallow valley to the cliff where it emerges as a waterfall tumbling into Mirrose Well Cove below.

Mirrose water course to the cliff edge

It has been claimed that this natural spring has no historical significance nor any traditions of being a so-called holy well. It is further claimed that its source is the nearby and similarly named Merrose Farm.

This is entirely possible but this all said, there are records of ancient enclosures to be found in the immediate vicinity of the well, set at a location some quarter of a mile East of Crane Castle promontory castle and just where Reskajeage Downs merges into Carvannel Downs.

Reskajeage Downs was recorded as  Roscadaek in 1317, Reskaseak Downs in 1673, Riskejeake Downs in 1723 and finally Reskajeage Downs in 1888. The name translates from the Cornish ‘ros Cajek’ as ‘Cadoc’s hillspur’. The downs themselves are named after the settlement of Ruschedek recorded in 1235.

Carvannel was recorded in 1302 as ‘Kaervanathel’ translating from the Cornish ‘ker’ or ‘cayr vanadhel’ as ‘broom (plants) fort’.

In 1880, the Ordnance Survey recorded the existence of an earthen enclosure on the steep slope behind the well which was comprised of a bank some three feet high in places with a further ditch of steeper slope contained within. This was partially destroyed by a much later quarry constructed nearby which was recorded in 1887.

The second enclosure just to the West, takes the form of what is known as a ‘lynchet’, with an embankment estimated at around six feet high on the cliff side and decreasing towards the upper area.

Lynchets or linchets are earthen hillside terraces on the side of a hill often part of ancient field systems. They are common in Southern regions of the British Isles. Current thinking has it that these were constructed to grow land use for agricultural purposes but as they occur in most cases close to barrows of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages and to forts of the Iron Age, it is entirely possible they served other purposes, which may have been ceremonial.

The latter, Western enclosure has been infilled, doubtless during quarrying operations of the 19th century and subsequent work to allow for motor vehicular access.

In an article published in 1851 and now in the care of Kresen Kernow, the Cornish Library and Archive Centre in Redruth, Richard Thomas, antiquary of that period recorded, “About 1/4 mile east of (Crane Castle) are two rectangular mounds or barrows in a hollow, each is encompassed by a bank. One is 65ft long by 55 ft broad, and the other 45 ft by 45ft.”

The structures are of an indeterminate date with some believing they served an agricultural purpose. However, they remain barely extant in an area rich in cliffside heritage and with several identified historic sites as well as one having many Prehistoric implement find spots.

References:

  • Report written by Richard Thomas in 1851, Kresen Kernow, Redruth

All images obtained by author.

By Myghal Map Serpren

A very hot day during June, 2014 saw crowds flock to the ‘Frying Pan Field’ at Carwynnen near Camborne in West Cornwall to witness the archaeologically supervised return of the original ten-ton capstone to the three upright monolithic stones forming part of the Neolithic chambered tomb.

To loud applause, the portal dolmen was that day restored to its full glory by modern heavy lifting equipment following a history of collapses and years of voluntary and expert archaeological work.

The place name ‘Carwynnen’ is Cornish of course, and is derived from the Cornish language ‘ker’ or ‘cayr’ and ‘wenen’ meaning ‘fort of trees’ and a number of other historic sites or possible sites are recorded in the vicinity of the quoit.

In 1834 the structure collapsed and was re-erected by Lady Pendarves, it then being part of the Pendarves Estate. A further collapse occurred in 1967 and there the remains lay for many years.

The stones at Carwynnen, May 2012.

During the Spring of 2002 and under the leadership of the inspirational Pip Richards, the Sustainable Trust, later renamed as the ‘Sustrust’ was founded and acquired 75 acres of the former estate including the woodland and the ‘Frying Pan Field’ with the collapsed cromlech.

An educational trust made available to schools was established and as a result of a genuinely engaging community campaign and many activities, the Giant’s Quoit was accurately and sympathetically restored.

Dating from the Neolithic period, 4000BCE to 2501BCE, the ‘Giant’s Quoit’ is a  chambered tomb.

It was first recorded in 1700CE and was marked simply as ‘Cromlech’ on the Ordnance Survey map of 1839CE.

The length of chamber contained within the three upright stones is just short of seven feet, the width around five feet and the height around five feet. The capstone measures 12-feet by 9-feet and is up to a foot thick.

As a result of the archaeological examinations of the site, a Neolithic flint arrowhead, Neolithic pottery, a fragment of a polished flint knife, a hammer-stone, Bronze Age pot fragments, clay pipes, granite balls, a pestle, a Polcrebo cobble of igneous rock, a painted slate disc and even a stone musket ball have been recovered, the latter of which is believed to have been fired at the cromlech during the late Middle Ages.

The Giant’s Quoit is a much-loved local landmark and it appears on the heraldic badges of Camborne Rugby Club and Troon Cricket Club.

The large ‘Frying Pan Field’ where it is situated has undergone another name change and is now called ‘Pip’s Field’ in memory of Pip Richards who inspired the quoit’s restoration and who lived to see that day happen. Pip’s remains lay buried nearby overlooking this most ancient of sites.

References:

Images obtained by author.

Known as the well dedicated to St. Euny, St. Uny and also St. Eunius, this holy well, which is believed to date from Medieval period 1066CE to 1539CE, is to be found in Carn Brea village and at the foot of the historically and geographically notable Carn Brea hill, near Redruth.

The approach to the well.

Carn Brea is a hill of great prehistoric significance, with archaeological remains of a thriving hill top settlement and enclosure dating back to 3,900BCE.

Carn Brea is a Cornish place name translating from ‘carn Bre’ as ‘tor at Brea’. ‘Brea’ or ‘Bre’ is a place name in common use and means ‘hill’ in Cornish. Interestingly ‘Carn’ which is also found elsewhere in Cornish toponymy, is used in most other Celtic languages, both Brythonic and Gaelic.

Not to be confused with a holy well dedicated to the same Saint at Sancreed further west in Cornwall, Euny, Uny or Eunius is but one of the swathe of Celtic holy men and women who arrived in Cornwall from Ireland and Wales during the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries CE bringing with them, news of Christianity.

The well head.

The nearby parish church, now the spiritual home of the Cornish hard rock mining industry, is also dedicated to St Euny.

Many of these holy wells predated Christianity and are still subject of Pagan practices in these times. Votive offerings continue to be left at St. Euny’s well as they are elsewhere, and the water is often taken for spiritual practices.

In their book, ‘Ancient and Holy Wells of Cornwall’ (1894), Mabel and Lilian Quiller-Couch, Bodmin born sisters of that great Cornish author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, writing of the well of St. Eunius noted,

“At the foot of Carn Brea, and not far from the Church of Redruth, is a well dedicated to St. Eunius. A stone cross formerly stood near it. Now it is a rugged little well, with no regular building. A moor-stone covers it, and round is a sort of curb of rough granite, with an iron bar running along. At the back is a newer stone, bearing the date 1842. There used to be ascribed to the water the virtue that whoever was baptised in it would never be ignominiously hanged; but now no recollection of this exists, nor reverence for its sanctity. The water is much used, because it is considered better than “pumpen” water.”

Another well can be found on the nearby northern slopes of the hill, near the castle, originally built as a chapel in 1379. Known as the ‘Giant’s Well’ a well related folk tale tells of a giant living on Carn Brea called ‘John of Gaunt’, who engaged in a fight with a giant called ‘Bolster’ from St Agnes Beacon, some ten miles distant. The Carn Brea based giant apparently lost the fight and the many rock formations found on the top of the Carn bear his name to this day. 

As with St. Euny holy well, which now enjoys a degree of revived reverence as well as folklore, these old hill top giants are still celebrated in local processions and festivals.

Perhaps looking up from the holy well dedicated to him and from the local church, the original one in the Redruth parish, Euny would be shocked to find that pre-Christian beliefs and practices linger on despite his preaching and that of his peers!

References:

By Myghal Map Serpren.

Tehidy, the former manorial estate of the wealthy and influential Basset mining dynasty from the 11th century CE until its eventual sale in 1915CE, derives from the Cornish ‘ty’ meaning a ‘manorial centre’ and probably the personal name ‘Hidin’ and was first recorded as ‘Tedintone’ in the Domesday Survey of 1086CE and later as ‘Tihidin’ in 1170CE.

‘Ty’ was the Old Cornish form of ‘chy’- ‘house’ – and was exclusively used for names of major manorial centres such as Tywarhayle, Tywardreath and the like.

Rather remarkably, six ancient sites interpreted as rounds have been recorded in the Tehidy area alone.

These rounds were thought to have been employed as farmsteads and more than 2,500 such enclosures are currently known of in Cornwall. They are believed to have contained dwellings and ancillary buildings as well as enclosures for domesticated animals.

The one situated in the North Cliff Plantation has been variously dated as being either from the Iron Age, the period 800BCE to 42AD or the Romano-British period, 43CE to 409CE.

Its remains, which comprise banks up to seven feet in height with a slight ditch to the north side, enclose an area just over 150 feet square and the outline indicates a bivallate structure which is not round in shape, but rather square with rounded corners.

Tehidy round as recorded on Cornwall and IoS HER

A footpath bisects the round and the structure probably owes its continued existence to being forested thus preserving it from loss due to ploughing.

Tehidy North Cliffs Plantation with view of remaining rampart bases

Michael Tangye in his paper in the journal ‘Cornish Archaeology’ volume 10, 1971 published by the Cornwall Archaeological Society informs, “Doidge, in his 1737 map, shows two fields here near to the round as ‘Little Parkangear’, and ‘Great Parkangear’ (parc an ger).”

As is pointed out, this translates from the Cornish ‘parc an ger’ to ‘enclosed field of the round’.

Mr. Tangye observes that as this round is a mere half a mile from Crane Castle on the nearby cliff edge of Reskajeage Downs, it is entirely possible that it was constructed as a replacement.

Rounds in Cornwall are frequently compared to the ‘raths’ or ‘ring works’ of Wales and the ‘raths’ or ‘ring forts’ of Ireland.

Footpath through the north side of the remaining earthwork

Sadly, so many rounds have been lost to the ravages of time and plough and exist now merely as ‘crop marks’ the images of which are visible in aerial photography.

Many have indeed been incorporated into fields with their earthen ramparts replaced by rather more modern hedging.

References:

All images obtained by author.

By Myghal Map Serpren.

Cliff castles, such as that at Crane, are thought to be the coastal equivalents of hillforts, currently believed to have been sites having high importance, where local people were able to gather. 

Crane Castle is situated one and a half miles South West of Portreath on a cliff edge at Reskajeage Downs just adjacent to Carvannel Downs.

From its site, views may be enjoyed of the Downs inland, Basset’s Cove, sometimes called Spratting’s Cove below, the North Cliffs and the seascape of the Celtic Sea.

It is located in an area of considerable archaeological note with a large number of artefact find spots and historical site remains recorded across the Downs.

Ordnance Survey 1900

Toponymy

Research conducted by the late Craig Weatherhill, a recognised expert on Cornish toponymy (and friend of the Heritage Journal), established Crane was recorded in 1260 as ‘Caervan’ translating from the Cornish ‘ker’ or ‘cayr vran’ as ‘crow’s or Bran’s fort’. Earlier studies by others came to the conclusion that the name ‘Crane’ is probably a corruption of Cornish ‘car’ (or ‘ker’) hen, meaning ‘old fort’ or ‘abandoned fort’.

Reskajeage Downs was recorded as  Roscadaek in 1317CE, Reskaseak Downs in 1673CE, Riskejeake Downs in 1723CE and finally Reskajeage Downs in 1888CE. The name translates from the Cornish ‘ros Cajek’ as ‘Cadoc’s hillspur’. The downs themselves are named after the settlement of Ruschedek recorded in 1235CE.

Carvannel was recorded in 1302 as ‘Kaervanathel’ translating from the Cornish ‘ker’ or ‘cayr vanadhel’ as ‘broom (plants) fort’

The Castle

The remains of this Iron Age (800BCE to 42CE) cliff castle which overlooks Basset’s Cove has been eroded away by the sea, so that the inner of the two earth and stone ramparts now sits on the edge of the cliff.

Crane Castle as seen from Basset’s Cove looking South West

Early written references to the Crane Castle occurred in 1530CE and 1635CE when ‘Castelle Cliff’ was recorded in connection with a wreck on the nearby coast.

The Cornish antiquarian, geologist and naturalist, the Rev. Dr. William Borlase (b.1696CE Pendeen d.1772CE Ludgvan) writing in the 18th century of cliff castles CE and having visited Crane recorded thus:

“The remains of one are very remarkable, about half a mile N.W. of Tehidy, the seat of Francis Basset Esq. They stand now on the very brim of the cliff and much more than what is now standing is fallen with the cliff into the sea. This entrenchment consisted of two ditches and consequently two Valiums. The inner and principal ditch next the cliff is now but ninety paces long and twelve feet wide at the bottom, which being very even, and full of grass is generally called the Bowling Green; it runs east and west at each extremity ending in an inaccessible cliff, enclosing formerly a cape of land which ran into the North Sea, and its Northern point turning around to the West formed a pool where vessels might have had some shelter whilst this cape remained entire.”

Outer and inner ramparts of Crane Castle sadly scarred by walkers

In view of its precarious situation, although apparently not much changed from the observations made in the 18th century CE, and with the effects of erosion made worse by human footfall – the rather over-marketed ‘South West Coast Path’ passes immediately adjacent bringing large numbers of tourists on foot and bicycle – the years 2012CE to 2013CE, saw the site subjected to an archaeological examination conducted by the Cornwall Historic Environment Service and agents assisted by volunteers, which included a geophysical survey amongst other work.

To engage the local community in the project, the National Trust organised field trips by pupils from local schools.

The interior of the castle and the headland on which it was constructed now lay far below forming the so-called Crane Islands, taken there by coastal erosion, and representing an area of over 12 acres lost.

Those defences which remain comprise two slightly curving banks and there is no longer evidence of an entrance which has doubtless been lost in cliff falls.

The inner rampart is around 23 feet in height from the lowest point of the ditch in front and measures some 233 feet.

The inner ditch is around six feet wide and has become known as the ‘Bowling Green’ referred to as such by Dr. Borlase.

The outer rampart is around 10 feet in height and some 260 feet in length in front of which is the first ditch which is around five feet deep and six feet in width.

Much quartz stone has been discovered infilling the ditches and so it is entirely possible that this was used as outward rampart facing and designed to impress those approaching.

The design of the two ramparts and accompanying ditches suggests a killing zone between the two, a place where assailants could easily be entrapped and subjected to defensive fire.

Between the ramparts at Crane Castle known as the ‘Bowling Green’

A rim of a finely made bottle thought to have been imported from Gaul shows activity at Crane Castle with foreign shores in the early Romano – British period.

Local historian Michael Tangye has speculated that Crane Castle was ultimately abandoned in favour of the round found in what is now the nearby North Cliff Plantation of the nearby Tehidy Woods with the distance between them being around half a mile.

Mr. Tangye also describes a rectangular enclosure which extended southwards out from the two ramparts and which has earthen banks with a possible ditch. It is thought though, that this enclosure is later in date than the cliff castle and probably of the Post Medieval period.

References:

  • The Antiquities of Cornwall –  Rev. Dr. William Borlase, printed by W. Bowyer and J. Nichols for S. Baker and G. Leigh, T. Payne and Benjamin White, London, 1769

All images supplied by the author.

By Myghal Map Serpren

The village of Illogan is found two miles northwest of Redruth. Named after Saint Ylocan, Illogan Churchtown was recorded as Egloshallow in 1700CE, translating from the Cornish ‘eglos hallow’ meaning ‘marshes church’. Ylocan is a Celtic name found in Cornwall, Brittany and Wales.

It is thought that the site occupied by the current Church of Saint Illogan and Saint Edmund was actually constructed on a far earlier ‘lann’.

This much is confirmed as late as 1795CE when this is recorded on a map of the Manor of Nancekuke.

A ‘lann’ is an enclosure and particularly one of a religious nature. Often incorporated in placenames in Cornwall and Wales, these enclosures which varied in size are dated to the early Medieval period 410CE to 1065CE.

Many lanns were constructed on pre-Christian sacred sites and as built, normally contained a chapel and priest, a small community and a cemetery. Some went on to develop as full monastic communities whilst most remained serving their local population.

Down the generations, the outline of this original lann has been considerably affected although the remaining church grounds still occupy around five acres bounded by roadways with such wonderful Cornish names as Langwedh and Nance.

Records of a church building on the site were made in 1235CE which refer to Ecclesia of Eglossalau.

In 1478CE and when visiting the then Dominican Friary in Truro, William Worcester (1415CE-1482CE), topographer, antiquary and chronicler, records that he was informed that the church at Illogan housed a reliquary containing the bones of Saint Ylocan.

Chapels of Saint John, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Constantine were named as being on the site in 1449CE.

By 1680CE, the ancient lann is shown as being home to not only the church but also an adjacent ‘plen an gwarry’ – Cornish for ‘playing place’ – some of which exist to modern times and some which are commemorated in place names around Cornwall. In such a place, not only were games played but religious plays were performed, often in the Cornish language for the benefit of the local people.

By 1844CE and with a growing population due in part to the tin and copper mining industry, the old church was considered too small and a larger one planned.

The Clock Tower

Bar the original church tower (shown above) which remains, the original church building was demolished and a new one constructed in accordance with plans drawn up by James Piers St Aubyn (1815CE-1895CE), noted architect. This was opened in November, 1846CE, and dedicated to St Illogan – Ylloganus or Euluganus – and St Edmund.

Many items were removed from the earlier building and placed in the latest church including brass memorials to James Basset, of the powerful local Basset family mining dynasty whose enduring history in the area is richly remembered throughout the entire site.

The earlier 14th-century church tower went on continuing in its service, containing the church bells, but also as a navigation marker (scheduled by the Admiralty at Trinity House) for vessels voyaging to and from the nearby Portreath – then a busy mining port servicing the export of minerals from the many local mines. Indeed, it was mainly for those navigational reasons that it was allowed to remain.

The cemetery surrounding the current buildings exists as a reminder of the many great names associated with the parish and wider district.

It is home to the final resting places of Cornwall’s fifth largest landowner of that time with holdings estimated at 16,969 acres, Gustavus Lambart Basset (1834CE-1838CE) and his wife following marriage in 1869CE, Charlotte Mary nee Elmhirst (c.1840CE-1898CE), the penultimate Basset family member to own the nearby sprawling Tehidy Park and its mansion which was sold off following some 700 years of Basset ownership by their son, Arthur Francis Basset in 1915 owing to reduced income from mining.

Gustavus and Charlotte’s graves, next to the church.

Meanwhile, just a few yards south east of the original tower can be found the Basset family vault, part of the original church with descending steps now covered and sealed over.

The Bassett Family Vault

In another corner of the graveyard is the grave of Thomas Merritt (1863CE-1908CE), that great tin miner turned musical composer whose hymns and carols are sung around the world to this day.

Thomas Merritt’s grave

Standing almost in observance of these memorials, together with those of many generations past including the graves of those who lost their lives in the wars and since, and at around a height of six feet above ground level, a granite, wheel-headed cross situated within the Illogan Churchyard is thought to be bedded deeply in its original site, surrounded as it is by the substantial cluster of crumbling headstones marking the demise of the great and the good, the humble and meek from the 19th century to times modern.

This Medieval cross is marked with a Latin Cross on one face and a Maltese Cross on the other and is orientated north-west and south-east.

The antiquarian, Arthur G. Langdon, writing in his ‘Old Cornish Crosses’ published in 1896 recorded that, “It is most probably very deeply buried, as the sexton informed me that when digging a grave by the side of it he uncovered the lower portion of the shaft to a depth of 5 feet without finding the bottom.”

Perhaps it remains an immortal, albeit mossy reminder to all that none can escape the great leveller.

References:

  • Old Cornish Crosses – Arthur G Langdon with an article on their ornament by J. Romilly Allen F.S.A. (Scot), Joseph Pollard, Truro 1896

All images obtained by author

by Myghal Map Serpren

Wayside crosses such as the one aptly named White Cross on Whitcross Hill (or White Cross Hill depending on the age of the map) near Piece, Carnkie, Redruth, were mainly erected between the 9th and 15th centuries CE as Christian wayside markers, possibly placed on routes between settlements or indeed on funeral processional routes.

The placename ‘Piece’ is of course an English word and is a reference to a piece of land, a plot or smallholding. In comparison, the placename ‘Carnkie’ is Cornish, deriving from ‘carn ky’ translating as ‘dog’s tor’.

Now found just to the north of Seaview Terrace and placed into the Cornish hedge, the cross was rediscovered in 1930 by Tom Williams. He had found it laying horizontally incorporated into a nearby stone hedge.

By 1947 and with a nearby field named ‘Cross Field’ in the Tithe Apportionment Map of 1840, the Old Cornwall Society caused the stone to be re-erected in its current location, protected as it is from passing vehicles by a small length of footpath and kerbstone.

Rather sadly, the cross’s head has incurred considerable damage, but it is clear that it has Latin Crosses in relief on both faces.

With an overall height of some three feet, the cross was at the centre of drama during June 1993, when it was the subject of attempted theft by persons unknown using a vehicle with heavy lifting equipment.

Fortunately, this attempt was thwarted and the artefact remains, with the cross on its exposed face freshly painted by a representative of Carn Brea Parish Council with Scheduled Monument Consent making it something of a local landmark for passing motorists, perhaps harking back to its original purpose.

References:

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