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Another part of the jigsaw comes to light
Following my day at King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down on Bodmin Moor helping out with the clearance of gorse, I (extreme right above) returned a couple of weeks later to have a closer look at the stone ‘revetment’ that had made its presence known when a lower section of the inner east bank fell away. This is quite a breakthrough and possible pours water on the general archaeological belief that this monument is simply a medieval animal pound. I’ve never believed that and hopefully now this apparent revetment wall has been exposed it will encourage the powers that be to carry out a full excavation of the bank at least and a dating of the site which sadly in this day and age is still missing.
Here is the video I shot on my revisit showing the revealed stone walling and my personal thoughts on both it and the site in general. Apologies for the wind rush which accompanies the video in parts but filming anywhere on Bodmin Moor always carries the risk of this when you only have a basic camcorder with no external mic.
A guest feature by Roy Goutté.
King Arthur’s Hall viewed from the southern end of the western bank. Roughtor can be seen rising majestically in the background
On the 16th April I joined a working party from TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) of Cornwall to clear some of the gorse off the banked enclosure known as King Arthur’s Hall on King Arthur’s Down, a part of Bodmin Moor. Always a fascinating place to visit, the day turned out to be far more exciting than I ever imagined! For a more descriptive article on King Athur’s Hall go here.
The TCV crew plan their strategy for the day with Cornwall Council Historic Environment Service archaeologist James Gossip to the extreme right explaining their brief
The volunteers remit was to remove the largest and most evasive gorse that was beginning to encroach onto the standing stones that line the interior of the enclosure from the banked area but not the plant life and James was there to advise and oversee the work. Visually it was the easterly bank that was suffering the most so that’s where work began. King Arthur’s Hall is a fascinating place and the only monument like it in the UK but it has never been dated and only lightly researched officially, but a site I would dearly love to know more about. Spending time working on its banks gave me this opportunity in a most unexpected way.
The guys I was working with were a great bunch and very friendly and worked really hard. It actually surprised me how quickly the very tightly packed gorse that inhabits Bodmin Moor was dealt with and how dry the ground surface on the bank was underneath it all considering all the rain we have been getting in this area. Knowing that adders frequent the moor it was something I was well aware of whilst working my way underneath the gorse because it acted as perfect cover for them, but luckily we never encountered any.
The area we dealt with first was so dense that it was covering the top of many of the remaining upright stones as well as many fallen and angulated ones and hiding the bank behind them like a blanket. Seeing the stones becoming slowly unveiled was like a magic moment to me as this eastern bank has in the main remained hidden from sight during the many visits I have made whilst researching. The gorse roots themselves are quite long so we were told to cut them at surface level and not to pull them out of the ground because you could damage the archaeology which lay beneath. Occasionally however, the long-armed cutters we were using didn’t do their job properly and jammed as we were pulling them away and did pull on the roots. This happened on one particular occasion as the lower level of the inner bank was reached at one point and due to the extra dryness of the soil here, a small ‘landslide’ took place. It was then that the unexpected appeared, because, as the earth fell away, it exposed something I’d never seen behind the uprights before… an apparent ‘walled’ area immediately behind the standing stones looking very much like a possible revetment to the bank.
Inner-face of the eastern bank at King Arthur’s Hall at a midway point along its length. Stones 1 & 2 are two of the main façade or upright standing stones associated with this enclosure
Stones 3, 4, 5 & 6 are what appear to be a series of horizontal ‘walling’ stones exposed when the loose bank fell away. These stones lie behind the façade stones and may be a form of original revetment to prevent the bank from encroaching against the main uprights. No further investigation or probing took place as this will be left until another day. To the best of my knowledge this stonework structure has never been noted before and it would be lovely to think that I may have been there on the day that it was first discovered. Whether or not it continues around the whole site is something we will just have to wait to find out as we were not allowed to investigate further, but it is a mouth-watering prospect. Having James on site to witness it was a real bonus as well particularly as it was his first visit. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that more investigative work will now be carried out leading to a greater understanding of exactly what we have on our hands here and a possible date to go with it. Discussion on-site was that it may have well have been used as a pound in more recent times, but why go to all the trouble of hauling stones around from wherever they came to keep animals in when it would have been far easier to just erect a timber stockade to the top of the banking. There is far more to this site than what has been generally accepted I personally believe and it ‘feels’ much older.
More open view of Stones 1 & 2 showing the stonework behind
An aerial view of Stone 2 showing the horizontal low-level ‘walling’ running behind it. The dark area on Stone 2 shows exactly how far the gorse and bank had extended to, thus blotting everything beneath it out
The eastern bank and façade stones prior to gorse removal. Once a continuous row of upright stones, many of them now lie buried or angulated. This photo was taken in May 2012
The eastern bank after clearance. A very rewarding days work carried out by TCV
The difference a day makes. A small bank collapse and the inner stonework reveals itself
Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece
This excellent and thoughtful book gives a somewhat different explanation of the construction and subsequent history of the prehistoric Trethevy Quoit burial chamber in Cornwall. The author, Roy Goutté, has spent many hours studying the chamber first hand and has come to his own fascinating conclusion as to how the cromlech arrived in its present form. The reader is introduced, step-by-step, to the author’s observations and theories through historical references, photographs, diagrams and several model reconstructions of this Cornish ‘Jewel in the Crown’ structure from the Neolithic (and how it may have originally looked). His findings are thorough and convincing with certain aspects truly ground-breaking; it would take an even more thorough investigation to successfully argue against the possibilities he advances.
Roy Goutté has gone very much against popular belief which considers that the fallen stone was the backstone to the burial chamber and has an alternative use/place for it. He believes that four of the current eight stones are out of position and supplies convincing evidence to support his observations.
There is also a dire warning at the end of the book regarding the present threat to the monument. Such threats to our scheduled monuments should not be ignored and the author’s analysis of how the chamber now stands shows not only its inherent vulnerability but also the ever-present threat it faces from the agricultural machinery and livestock encroaching upon it; this threat is most vividly shown in the accumulative erosion of the Quoit’s protecting and supporting bank.
A thoroughly enjoyable read and a theory to set the mind working. Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece is a thoughtful, well-analysed and down-to-earth exploration into one of the most stunning structures from our prehistoric past.
Paperback, 50 pages with over 30 photographs and diagrams.
Available from www.trethevyquoit.co.uk for £8.70 (which includes postage and packing within the UK). Australia: £11.40 inc p&p. Europe: £10.43 inc p&p. USA: £11.36 inc p&p.
Image credit and © Roy Goutté
The Heritage Trust will be holding its Outreach Event in Cornwall this year. The event will extend over two or three days either side of the summer solstice on Friday, 21 June and will include visits to Trethevy Quoit, The Hurlers, Cheesewring, Rillaton Barrow and Craddock Moor stone circle.
There is no charge to attend, just an opportunity to share ideas and socialise with likeminded people. Mr Roy Goutté, author of Trethevy Quoit: Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece, will be our guide at Trethevy and will be pleased to discuss his findings of the quoit while there.
Please follow our Forthcoming events thread over the coming months for updates and further details.
Ground damage and disruption at Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall
Narration and video by Roy Goutté
Earlier this month we ran a feature by Mr Roy Goutté on the disruption (and potential damage) caused by horses/ponies and vehicles to the ground immediately surrounding Trethevy Quoit in Cornwall. The video above shows startling and dramatic new evidence of that recent damage.
A guest feature by Roy Goutté. Text and images © Roy Goutté.
Trethevy Quoit summer 2012
On the 31st of January 2013 I made an unscheduled visit to Trethevy Quoit, a portal dolmen sited in a field adjacent to the tiny hamlet of Trecarne just off the south-eastern fringes of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. Grid Ref: SX259688. Accompanying me was an English Heritage at Risk Project Officer. Prior to this we had spent time on Craddock Moor discussing the possibility of remedial work being carried out on its stone circle which had fallen into disrepair and was slowly being consumed by the peat beneath and the gorse and brush above! The visit to the quoit, just some two miles away, was a very welcome time filler for the officer who had time to kill before her next appointment.
Over the past two years I had spent many hours at the quoit researching for my new book Trethevy Quoit… Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece and had on many occasions during those visits sat on the lush grass of the quoits empty field and looked on in wonder at what our great ancestors had bequeathed us, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was to cast my eyes on that day. Horses… and plenty of them!
Without a care in the world it would seem, horses and ponies had been allowed to run free in the field without making any attempt whatsoever to protect the monument. Not even the simplest of electrified animal fencing had been installed which was simply inviting disaster. Due to our overly wet winter in Cornwall, and the horses galloping around like mad things, the ground had become so churned up that the grass in places had been replaced by mud and was no longer visible! Naturally the English Heritage Officer was as equally appalled as I was and immediately took notes and photographs to report back with.
Today (the 16th February) I made a return visit and was even more horrified. The horses had either been removed or out being ridden for a few hours, but the field area around the quoit was much, much worse than it had been before with huge tractor tyre tracks around it and hoof prints encroaching up to and onto the low remaining banked cairn surrounding the base of the quoit. It was in danger of becoming unstable if this was to continue as the side orthostats/slabs of the tomb rely on the banked cairn being there to keep their base in place! The consequences of this banking becoming dislodged or destroyed didn’t bear thinking about!
Tractor tyres and hoof-prints cutting up the ground to the north of the quoit with hoof-prints embedded in the banked cairn holding the side flanking stones in position
And the same to the southern side showing the banked cairn being encroached upon
I contacted English Heritage immediately and have left it in their hands. I stressed the importance of an immediate visit and emailed them a series of photographs. I also shot a video showing the damage that had been done and offered them any assistance I can as I live locally.
I find it unbelievable that in these supposed enlightened times a landowner can be so irresponsible as to allow horses to trample all around and over a banked cairn of a Scheduled Monument without making any attempt whatsoever of safeguarding it first. It beggars belief that in this day and age, someone can be so lacking in respect or concern for our heritage.
The quoit has stood in this field for some 5,000+ years and we have been allowed free access to it for as long as memory serves. It is Cornwall’s finest remaining fully standing cromlech and it is irresponsible acts such as this that can remove that access to us, but worse still, see the ultimate demise of Cornwall’s real jewel in the crown… our Megalithic Masterpiece… Trethevy Quoit.
The gold lunula from the Gwithian area, Cornwall © The Trustees of the British Museum
BBC News Cornwall reports that -
A Bronze Age necklace found in Cornwall in the 18th Century has returned to the county after being housed at the British Museum for more than 150 years. The necklace, known as Penwith lunula, has been loaned to the Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance. The crescent-shaped gold collar is thought to date back to the early Bronze Age – possibly to 2500 BC. It was discovered in the Gwithian area of the county in 1783 and recorded by local man John Price.
Trevethy Stone, Cornwall, by Charles Knight (circa 1845). Also known as King Arthur’s Quoit, The Giant’s House and Trethevy Quoit
The new Cornwall Heritage Trust website is now up and running -
Cornwall Heritage Trust was founded in 1985 to help preserve important sites in Cornwall and to protect and promote the Duchy’s rich heritage. We own or manage some of the most iconic and important historic places in Cornwall. We are proud to have HRH The Prince of Wales Duke of Cornwall as our Royal Patron and the Rt Hon The Viscount Falmouth as our President.