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By Alan S.

Another stop on our video tour of Cornish antiquities sees us climb up onto Chun Downs to visit the Neolithic burial cairn of Chun Quoit.

Wath this space for more videos to come. Previous videos in the series can be found here.

By Alan S

I recently had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Sandy Gerrard on a field trip to visit two possible stone rows in West Penwith, Cornwall. Below is a short report of our visit.

The first row visited was Treveglos at Zennor. This purported row consists of three uprights.

Having scoped out the site a couple of weeks previously, the row was found easily enough, due to the large stone at the SE end of the row acting as a gatepost, above the level of the surrounding fields.

The other two upright stones were on field boundaries heading to the NW in adjoining fields and were easy enough to spot. A recumbent stone was also found in the field near to the gatepost, looking as if it had fallen to the west from a position just slightly out of alignment with the other three. However, the area has many earth-fast stones, and this alignment could well be a co-incidence.

Sadly, upon closer inspection it appears that the NW-most stone is erected upon an Iron Age field boundary, the middle stone bears characteristic tare and feather drill marks suggesting that it must have been erected sometime after 1800AD, and is erected upon what seems to be medieval field boundary. The large stone to the SE has been drilled for use as a gatepost, but given its height may well have Neolithic origins as a standing stone.

We then moved on to the holed stones on Kenidjack Common, near the Tregeseal stone circle. I was last here a couple of years ago and reported on them then.

Sandy confessed that they resembled nothing he’d seen on any other row, and was quite nonplussed. The fact that all of the stones are set at differing angles to the line of the ‘row’, and that none of the holes in the stones are targeted at anything specific only added to his confusion. The outlier appears to be set upon a bank – either a field boundary or possible dried-up watercourse.

This particular row requires further investigation, the Rev. J Buller having described them thusly in 1842:

Each has a hole perforated through its centre of about six inches in diameter. The edges of the holes are rounded as if they had been intended, and had been used, for a rope to pass through ; and had they lain near a sea beach it might reasonably have been concluded that their use was to moor a boat. They lie in a straight line nearly E. and W. There is a space of about twelve feet between the two western most, thirty three feet between the two centre stones, and nine feet between the two eastern ones, by which also it will be seen that one of the two last is broken in half, and the violence which effected it probably caused it to be removed three feet further towards the east. Originally there was in all probability a space of twelve feet between those at each end, and thirty feet between the two centre stones. They are from five to six feet long, four feet wide, and about one foot thick…

The spacing of the stones has been changed in the intervening years, and doubtless their orientation has also changed. Given this fact, it is unlikely that a definitive interpretation will ever be obtained.

The conclusion on the day was that neither row is likely to be Neolithic in origin, but Sandy will publish the full results of his analysis on his Stone Rows website in due course.

By Alan S.

Our video tour continues with the remaining circle at Tregeseal, in the shadow of Carn Kenidjack, the ‘Hooting Carn’.

Look for more videos in this series in the coming weeks.

Easter has been and gone, and in timeworn tradition, Cornwall is now ‘open for business’ to tourists once again. The ancient village of Chysaucester was open for the season again from the weekend, and I took a quick run down to see what was going on.

The atrocious weather we have been having meant that visitors to the site were being warned to take extra care as there is a lot of surface water on the slopes of the village at the moment and some areas are very muddy indeed.

My first stop after the entrance booth was to the education hut, where a ‘Living History’ exhibition was put on by local re-enactors. Wool was being spun, clay was available for children to have a go at modelling their on pots, various tools and implements were on view and I met Jasper ‘the Iron Age dog’ – who was very friendly and well behaved! The group have a Facebook page Dark Age Cornwall to discuss what everyday life may have been like for inhabitants of villages like that at Chysaucester.

Moving on up to the main street, I noticed a new wooden intrusion poking over a wall at the top of the hill, which wasn’t there on my last visit.

Over the winter English Heritage have built an observation deck to give an elevated view, principally over House 6, but from where the rest of the village can also be seen. Hopefully it is incomplete – a dark green woodstain would help it to blend into the background and be less intrusive.

The site was quite busy with visitors, but as can be seen from the wideangle shot below of House 4, the ground water was quite bad, so I didn’t stay long in order to minimise my footfall.

On the way back down the hill, I stopped at the fogou, and the effects of the winter could plainly be seen as daylight is now showing through where the ‘filling’ that was used to block the fogou (for Health and Safety reasons some years ago) has been washed away by the rain.

Chysaucester fogou, taken through the railings and showing the clear erosion at the back

When told about the erosion, the site custodian said that the area will be fenced off shortly to avoid people trying to get into the fogou via the back entrance. Only time will tell as to whether English Heritage will do the right thing and excavate/open up the fogou, or if they will decide to refill it again.

By Alan S.

Moving on, the iconic Lanyon Quoit is an ‘Image of Cornwall’ that many people outside of the Duchy will immediately recognise.

The quoit fell in the early 1800’s and was restored in 1824. Before the restoration, it was said a man on horseback could ride beneath the capstone. This is no longer the case, as you can see.

Look for more videos in this series in the coming weeks.

By Alan S.

For our next look at the ancient sites of West Penwith we visit the (reconstructed) Merry Maidens circle, near Lamorna.

Other sites nearby include the Pipers, Gun Rith and Boscawen Ros standing stones.

Look for more videos in this series in the coming weeks.

By Alan S.

Our next video visit is to a couple of sites close to both the Men an Tol and Bosiliack Barrow previously shown. Boskednan Downs is the site of a restored stone circle with outlier, and several cairns as well as being an area of intense tin mining since prehistoric times.

If there’s a specific site you’d like to see covered in this series, please leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

by Alan S.

In another of our series of video tours of a selection of the ancient sites of West Cornwall, this time we take a look at the Bosiliack Barrow, a small Neolithic (3000-2500 B.C.) Scillonian entrance grave consisting of a 16 foot (5m) diameter circular mound of stones. The kerb of larger slabs is pierced by a passageway that faces the rising of the midwinter sun.

The barrow can be found situated to the north-east of Lanyon Farm, a short walk north from Lanyon Quoit.

If there’s a specific site you’d like to see covered in this series, please leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

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.

 

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