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Burras is a small hamlet situated between Redruth and Helston in Cornwall.

Recorded as ‘Berres’ in 1337, the name is derived from the Cornish language ‘ber-res’ translating as ‘short ford’. It is sometimes known as ‘Burhos’ and there is a ‘Burras Farm’ and a ‘Burhos Farm’.

A 19th-century milestone survives in the hamlet. It is a painted dressed granite monolith with a pyramidal head, triangular in plan shaft over a square in plan base and is inscribed on the left side:  ‘REDRUTH 5 MILES’ and the right-hand side inscription: ‘HELSTON 5 MILES’

The road bridge over the River Cober which runs through the hamlet dates from the early 19th century and is a listed structure comprising granite rubble with roughly-hewn granite monoliths as lintels. It is a two-span bridge of primitive lintelled construction with iron railings. The railings are threaded through iron stanchions between terminal granite monoliths at either side of the bridge while the lintels are linked by iron cramps.

Burras Menhir can be found at Lezerea Farm a short distance south of the river. This impressive Bronze Age standing stone measures 12 feet 5 inches in height and is a listed monument.

It may not stand in its original site and local historian Michael Tangye in 1971 records the re-erection of the stone in a large pit during the early 1900s by the brothers Pearce with the use of a steam engine, in the presence of Sir George Smith, the owner of the land. 

Traces of one of several Iron Age Rounds in the area has been identified by crop marks just a few fields to the south-east.

Toponymy by the late Craig Weatherhill.

With thanks to Myghal Map Serpren.

Some four years ago now, we asked “What next for London Stone?”  It appears that at long last that question will been answered, as from this Friday 13th London Stone will be on display in its new temporary home at the Museum of London whilst redevelopment of the site at 111 Cannon Street goes ahead.


The stone will be displayed in the Museum of London’s War, Plague & Fire gallery, and will remain at the museum while work is carried out to rebuild its previous home on Cannon Street.

The stone’s origins are bathed in myth, and it is said to hold the fate of London in its hands should it ever be removed or destroyed. Let’s wait and see…

A couple of years ago, we took a Heritage Drive through Herts, Cambs and Essex, on the way passing the Leper Stone at Newport, a short distance south from Saffron Walden in Essex. We recently had an opportunity to revisit the area and take a closer look at the Newport Stone.

The stone, which is the largest standing sarsen in Essex, is situated on a grass verge on the east side of the B1383, just north of the village of Newport. The River Cam flows just a few metres further to the east. I’ll admit up front that the origin and age of the stone is in some doubt – was it raised in prehistoric times, or  is it medieval? The St Mary and St Leonard’s Hospital was a lay establishment founded nearby by Richard de Newporte during the reign of King John (1199-1216) and was thought to have been a leper hospital, but no definite proof of this exists. Nevertheless, the stone is said to have been used as a ‘trading point’ for the hospital, where goods or alms would be left for the victims. There is a small depression on top of the stone where money may have been left washed in water or vinegar as payment, though it has to be said that many similar ‘plague’ stones with depressions in the top have identical stories behind them, many without any basis in fact. In this case, the hospital did exist, and stones from part of the old hospital can still be seen built in to the modern wall by the footpath.

Newport Stone from the south, showing the older blocks in the wall alongside.

Newport Stone from the south, showing the older blocks in the wall alongside.

There is of course no surefire way of dating the stone and its current setting, but the fact it is set upright (an unusual position for glacial erratics to come to rest) points to it’s having been purposefully placed. I can find no record of any excavation though it is likely that the stone has been disturbed, and possibly moved, not least when the modern road was laid. Perhaps it was originally placed as a marker stone for an easy crossing across the Cam? Unfortunately there is no mention of the stone on O.S. maps from the mid 1800’s up until at least 1923, though the site of the hospital is marked. So either it’s a comparatively recent placing, or the O.S. ignored/missed the stone and concentrated on the hospital site.

An interesting item in the Essex Field Club Journal from 1884 (v4 p95) suggests that the area exhibited signs of habitation, in the form of worked tools, from before the last Glacial period i.e. before the stone would have been deposited by the glaciers:

Mr. Greenhill thought, with those who had taken up the study, that there was no longer any question as to the comparative age of these implementiferous deposits compared with the Glacial period. During the winter he had travelled down by road to Saffron Walden, to examine all possible sections in the Lea and Stort Valleys with this object only in view, and at Newport, in Essex, he had found an implement which equalled in elegance of form anything that was upon the table that evening. It was now in the possession of the Head Master of Newport Grammar School. He (Mr. Greenhill) immediately went to the spot where this implement was obtained*, and satisfied himself that it had come from a position under what was there known as the Chalky Boulder Drift. There was plenty of proof that the men who used these implements were living, at least, in inter-glacial times, and, indeed, in pre-glacial times. The implements which he had brought to the meeting were entirely pre-glacial—that was to say, they dated before the last Glacial period.

I wonder whether the implement in question is still held at the school?

Newport Stone from the north.

Newport Stone from the north.

Speaking of marker stones, the village has another stone of note slightly further south near to the train station. In this case the stone is puddingstone, a conglomerate stone which was often used to mark crossing points at rivers. indeed there is the theory of a prehistoric ‘Puddingstone Trail’, set forth by Dr Rudge and his wife based upon their research into puddingstones in the 1950’s. They suggested that a “Puddingstone Trail” predating the Romans may have been waymarked stretching from Grimes Graves in Norfolk to Stonehenge in Wiltshire. More information on the Puddingstone Trail may be found on the Megalithic Portal web site.


February 2023

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