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