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The Boslow inscribed stone in West Penwith stands at a crossroads of very ancient trackways – the overgrown one stretching away into the distance in the photo below is the Tinners’ Way, or Old St Ives Road, which is at least 4,000 years old and links St Just to St Ives 14 miles away and across the top of the Penwith Moors. It’s also right on the boundary of St Just and Sancreed parishes.
First mentioned in the Corpus of Early Christian Inscribed Stones of South-west Britain  `the stone was found in the summer of 1877 by G.B. Millett on the moor ‘under Carn Kenidjack’, the Cornwall Heritage Environment Record describes the stone thus:
An inscribed stone is marked at the location on current OS maps. It is situated in ‘Water Lane’ above Boslow and is on the parish boundary between Sancreed and St Just. On the front of the granite stone is an inscription ‘TAET VERA’ in two lines reading downward, and a peculiar cross with a looped transom. On the rear face is an incised cross (described by Macalister as a “cross potent”). The stone measures 4ft (1.22m) high and 1ft 2in (0.36m) by 1ft 1in (0.33m) wide. A site visit by the OS revealed that Macalister’s description of the stone appears correct. It stands on the north-east side of a small (probably modern) mound. The monument is included in the Schedule.
A 3D rendered model has recently been produced by Tom Goskar, and is available to view on the SketchFab site. The stone is thought to be in its original position at the head of a stone-lined grave and bears a single name which can only be read at midday when the sun is exactly in the south: TAETVERA. This is Latinised 7th century Cornish: Taithuere, “exalter of the journey”. The grave and mound have never been excavated and therefore provide one of the oldest known intact graves with a named occupant. A ground plan can be seen in issue 30 of Meyn Mamvro magazine, issue 30.
There has been some recent discussion of the stone on Facebook, where Cornish historian Craig Weatherhill supplied the following information:
A contemporary incised cross on the southern face of the stone, and Alpha-Omega symbols under the inscription, indicate that this is the grave of an early Celtic priest, but which one? “Taithuere” could be a “name taken in religion”, e.g. Wynfrith became St Boniface; Magonus was the birth name of St Patrick; and every Pope in history has done it, too.
Was there a local priest of this era who was known for taking himself off on frequent journeys? There was: St Just himself, actually a man called Yestin, who also journeyed to his other churches at St Just in Roseland and Gorran Haven, while there are tales of his visits to St Achebran at St Keverne. Then there’s the name of this stone in 1613: Crowze East (crows Ust, “St Just’s cross”). Is this the gravestone of St Just?
Yestin (St Just) was a son of King Gerent I of Dumnonia. His other two sons were Selyf (St Selevan), and Cado who succeeded him as king. Gerent I is known to have flourished at the end of the 6th century, so the mid 7th century date for the inscription on this stone would fit a son of Gerent perfectly. Selyf had a son Kybi (St Cuby, Tregony; also the St Kybi of Llangybi, Anglesey). Celibacy was not required of ordinary priests until the 12th century.
Sadly, it seems that the stone (and grave) is now in danger from modern farm machinery as a recent picture shows that deep rutted tracks have been made very close to, and over the grave.
Discussions with the landowner and Cornwall Archaeology Service are under way, and we can only hope that there will be a successful conclusion to those negotiations that will secure the future of the stone and grave.
News reached us last week that The Portman Hunt had been written to by the National Trust amid claims it’s horses and hounds damaged Hambledon Hill after the Hunt “left the recognised bridleway and came across the hill”. A National Trust volunteer was even quoted saying “They have now twice been guilty of blatant and wilful damage to a scheduled ancient monument. What, I wonder will it take to make them actually take real notice?”
Lest the National Trust or others are unaware, wilful damage of a scheduled Ancient Monument is a criminal offence in this country. So why on earth are the National Trust pussy footing around with letters when they should be straight onto the police? A quick internet search shows the hunt isn’t exactly a paradigm of virtue so its explanation that they merely “left the track to round up some dogs.” should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.
After all its not even as if its a first offence on this site, photographic evidence of Portman Hunt members bombing about the hillfort on quad bikes exists from a previous time as you can see below.
Those of you with long memories will recall we highlighted a different hunt last year who decided riding multiple horses over a barrow was appropriate. A trend of disrespect and contempt?
The modern archaeological industry is built upon the premise that sites selected for destruction should be recorded before they are destroyed. Following excavation the record is then deposited and the site is consequently “preserved by record”. At Mynydd y Betws the Bancbryn stone alignment was promised such treatment. Sadly whilst the first part was apparently completed the second was not. Carmarthenshire County Council have over the years been repeatedly asked for a copy of the excavation report and whilst most of these requests went unheeded recently a response was received.
“I have not had sight of any such report as part of my investigations, although I do not consider that it has undermined the fact that works have been carried out with due diligence within the development site, and that the condition imposed on the planning consent, and the reason for it, has been discharged in a way that is, on balance, proportionate and pragmatic”.
Basically they are saying that a report was not produced but this does not matter. What happens next time a developer says they will not fund the post-excavation. Carmarthenshire County Council have already set a dangerous precedent. For a site to be preserved by record there needs to be record otherwise the site has simply been destroyed and no amount of fine words will alter that fact.
To be clear a preliminary report was produced, but this included no photographs or drawings of the excavated areas. Instead photographs and drawings were limited to the areas beyond the excavation. How many modern excavation reports include only images of the areas beyond the area being investigated and none of the excavation itself?
An anonymous contributor writes:
“Sorry dear” I muttered quickly to my wife just after I entered the field at Castlerigg a few months back. My eye had caught the arc of a foreign teenager leaping from stone to stone. As I strode across the 50 or so yards to the circle, I took in the full visage; 15 or so teens with a couple of teachers, 7 or 8 of the teens climbing on several of the stone, having their photos taken, leaping up on the stones and then off them. The teachers chatting between themselves, obviously content to find something, anything to divert their charges attention enough so they could find 10 minutes respite. I shattered their peace fast and hard.
“WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? GET DOWN OFF THE F’ING STONE. THESE ARE NOT A PLAYGROUND, THEY ARE AN ANCIENT SITE, SHOW SOME F’ING RESPECT.”
The 3 closest too me looked shell-shocked and one almost fell off the stone he was perched on. I stood and glared as they cleared off and then pivoted looking for more offenders. 2 on the far side hadn’t heard me or the alarm calls of their compatriots and were lazily enjoying their day. I set off at a rate of knots, my gander well and truly up, however the teachers protective nature had kicked in and I was headed off at the pass by one whilst the other gathered the horde and led them away from the circle and the dishevelled manic hippy articulating wildly.
And that should have been that with the mumbled apologies of a shocked teacher disappearing into the distance, except, the day had a slightly bitter twist for me. A well dressed chap who’d been stood watching the debasement when I turned up, sidled over to me and said “I’m glad someone said something, disgraceful behaviour”. Well yes indeed, I’m very glad I said something. But I’d have been happier still if he’d said something first. if he’d stepped up out of his British reserve and said “Stop it. Your behaviour is unacceptable”.
That’s our takeaway. Don’t stand by and tut whilst people climb on stones, drop rubbish, draw on stones with chalk, leave offerings or even carve their name in a stone. Step forward, defend your heritage, be the person that stopped it today. There won’t always be an enraged hippy to do it for you.
This time it’s at The Long Man of Wilmington (yet again!) …..
It seems that no permanent damage was done this time (or has it?) but it might be expected that people who object to fracking would have more respect for scheduled monuments and be aware that damaging copycatting may be generated. We were in two minds whether to give it publicity but felt that we should, lest they thought they’d done no harm. They probably have – and they certainly haven’t helped the anti-fracking campaign!
Protestor Mike Laloë said, “We did our homework to make sure we didn’t do any damage to The Long Man. What we did was totally legal and the police were really supportive.” We doubt that.
We get accused of being anti-wind farms – indeed, anti development. We aren’t. That would be unrealistic. The country can’t be kept as a museum. In fact, all we’re opposed to is occasional developments which blight ancient heritage sites to an exceptional degree. Our conviction is that there are a few sites which are just too precious to be harmed at all by the twenty first century and that the planning system doesn’t have the concept of “sacrosanct” written into it, and should. The surroundings of Oswestry Hill Fort and the World Heritage landscape at Stonehenge are two prime candidates for “sacrosanct status”. Here are another two (not directly involving ancient sites but illustrating the point very well) …..
It was good to see archaeologists debating the rights and wrongs of “brandalising” monuments recently on the BAJR forum as it’s an issue that needs resolving, once and for all. It was prompted by this at Cardiff Castle and the question “Anyone concerned about the ethical implications of this for the Roman sections?”
It was very cleverly arranged so that it doesn’t actually touch the wall (and only the bits of wall at the bottom are original Roman) so it’s a useful discussion subject as it’s at the pretty harmless end of the spectrum. Consequently, most of the comments were positive – “Yeah its all good! No damage…just brilliant advertising!” and “it could be said to promote and integrate our historic culture and historic environment into our modern lives” and “I can’t even believe anyone might think this is a bad thing….”
However, others took a more cautious view: “As this is a Grade I Listed Building, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a registered Historic Park and Garden as well as a conservation area it would seem to be at odds with legislation, policies and guidelines. A new Historic Environment bill is currently working its way through the Assembly which will bring in tighter controls on the misuse and abuse of our nationally important monuments.” Another person suggested it was all a matter of context: “The setting of Cardiff castle is in the middle of a vibrant city centre with all sorts going on around it. if they’d hung a giant rugby ball off the top of Tinkinswood neolithic burial chamber it’d be a whole different story I am sure.”
It’s certainly the case that if it’s a bad thing at all, it’s a lot less bad at Cardiff Castle than Tinkinswood and that judged purely on it’s own merits it’s hard to see it as a bad thing at all at Cardiff. However, we can’t get away from our long held conviction (and campaign) that brandalising any monument should be avoided because of the danger of damaging copycatting elsewhere. We’re convinced that anything which erodes the sacrosanct nature of monuments in general contributes ultimately to vandalism at heritage sites. A while back Fathers 4 Justice spray painted the Uffington White Horse purple. They must have gained the impression it was fair game.
Yes you heard right, if you live in Ireland, pop along to your local garden centre and if you are lucky they might stock a bag of compost made by Westland Horticulture. These helpful chaps have been systematically destroying a unique bronze age trackway to make compost for the last ten years! Don’t worry about getting into trouble with the authorities, the Irish National Monuments Service haven’t issued a preservation order, or recorded it in the Irish Register of Historic Monuments, despite being notified in 2005. Yes you heard right again, this offer has been running for ten years with full government knowledge and no-one’s stopped it yet!!
Of course you’d hope common decency would have stopped Westland Horticulture from destroying our shared cultural heritage in the name of a quick Euro, but apparently not…
Someone has scrawled “AA 2015” on one of the stones of Britain’s third largest stone circle, Orkney’s Ring of Brogdar.
A spokesman for Historic Scotland said “Fortunately incidents such as this are rare, and we continue to work with the local community to educate people on the significance of these prehistoric sites.” All very well, but it’s a fair bet it was a visitor not a local and the locals probably need no educating on the subject. In any case, Historic Scotland and it’s predecessor bodies have been “educating” the public since 1885 and it doesn’t seem to have got through to the likes of Andy Alexander or whatever the little toe-rag’s name is. So you have to wonder if more could be done beyond vague promises to educate people – certainly at the “Hollywood” sites where the sheer numbers of visitors increases the statistical likelihood of attacks. (The Nine Ladies stone circle has recently suffered similar vandalism).
“Punishment” is a form of education that shouldn’t be neglected. In Britain if you’re caught you can theoretically get up to 5 years in jail but of course no-one ever gets much more than a fine. Even bulldozing a circle at Priddy resulted in a non-custodial sentence. Abroad, though, if people are caught damaging particularly precious monuments the penalties can be much more severe. Last year a Russian who carved a letter K on the Colosseum in Rome (which is less than half the age of the Ring of Brogdar) was fined £15,800 and a couple of years ago a man was jailed for 18 months for urinating against the Alamo (a monument that’s one twentieth of the age of the Ring of Brogdar!)
We received some bad news yesterday of yet another attack on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor. As you can see in the photos someone has carved a few bits of graffiti into the fallen stone at the circle. The police have been informed and we hope the offender is swiftly found. If anyone has any information on the identity of the culprit they should notify Derbyshire Police.
[Edit: It looks like the majority/all of this damage actually took place back in July, but may have been added to recently]