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The Bridge of Brodgar, Orkney in 1875 by Walter Hugh Patton (1828-1895)
Source Wikimedia Commons
 
For those interested in archaeology, and ancient Britain, tonight’s program on BBC TWO from 9.00pm to 10.00pm should make fascinating viewing –
 
Orkney – seven miles off the coast of Scotland and cut off by the tumultuous Pentland Firth, the fastest flowing tidal race in Europe – is often viewed as being remote. Yet it is one of the treasure troves of archaeology in Britain. Recent discoveries there are turning the stone age map of Britain upside down. Rather than an outpost at the edge of the world, recent finds suggest an extraordinary theory… that Orkney was the cultural capital of our ancient world and the origin of the stone circle cult which culminated in Stonehenge.
 
More here.

Nine Stones Altarnun
Image credit and © Roy Goutté
 
In a new series, Roy Goutté delves into the archives to search out some interesting old Cornish archaeological articles, stories, tales and chapters in books now in the public domain that were published way back in the 19th and 20th centuries.
 

Part 2… Hero to Zero!

Archaeology is a serious subject as we well know, but now and again things do happen that make you smile.

This (as written) from The Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 1886 – 1889.

The Hero…

Re-erection of the Nine-Stones.

“On April 8th, Mr. F. R. Rodd, accompanied by Mrs. Rodd, took some men to the old circle of this name, which lies about three quarters of a mile S.E. of Fox Tor, and the diameter of which coincides with the boundary-line between Altarnon and North Hill. The stones (which happen to be nine in number), were all fallen except two: this was not to be wondered at considering none of them are more than 6 or 7 feet high, and they are not large of their kind; besides, the cattle constantly trampling round and rubbing against them hasten the effects of winds and rains. Two stones of the circle were missing; but the one in the centre, though fallen, was in place; for which a fresh pit was excavated, without, however, bringing to light any indications of there having been an interment there.

“This is but a small circle, and so not particularly valuable as a relic of antiquity yet the restoration of it none the less serves a good purpose, as tending to shew the moor-men, especially those on the look-out for gate-posts, that labour (i.e. money) is expended on their preservation: and therefore Mr.Rodd deserves the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. For this is the only practical way of carrying out the spirit of Sir John Lubbock’s Act, on these moors, where people are so scarce, and knowledge travels so slowly, that prehistoric remains may be destroyed and removed, without the discovery of such destruction, until too late to prevent it.”

The nine-stones in question are in fact the Nine Stones of Altarnun stone circle of course on East Moor just up the lane from where I live and my favourite circle. Its southern boundary is Ridge Hill.

Ridge Hill cairn as seen today © Roy Goutté

This follow-on piece in the same Journal is what made me smile… not the wanton destruction and desecration of a sacred and beautiful stone cairn of course, you understand, but the possibility that it may have been carried out by our former hero who gained such respect with his work done at the stone circle on East Moor a few hundred yards below. What an embarrassment!

The Villain?

Opening of a Cairn on Ridge Hill.

“On May 22nd, 1889, I received the following from Mr. Rodd, of Trebartha Hall:

“We have been raising a wall round the old plantation below Ridge Hill lately, and have driven an adit (a horizontal passage) through the cairn on the top, in order to get stone for the purpose. This morning I see that the men have arrived at a central rock, around which the cairn appears to have been built. The top of the cairn appears to have been disturbed at some former time, and to have been composed of a number (7 or 8) of irregularly shaped cells, or chambers, very roughly built: I cannot conceive for what purpose; we hope to go up there again with two carts and clear away stone to the centre of the ground-line: I should much like you to see what we have done.

“Accordingly on July 3rd, I accompanied Mr.Rodd and some friends, and found that a passage had been made from the circumference at the north side to the centre, and beyond the centre of the cairn, by removal of loose stones, and that the original ground-level of this portion of it was exposed to view. In the centre (or thereabouts) of the area on which the cairn had been constructed was a large slab of granite, about 5 feet long, 2 to 3 feet square, partially embedded, and apparently as laid there by nature. This block certainly seemed to have been the nucleus round which the cairn was formed, for it seemed to be the centre of some concentric circles of stones, on edge, which, at some little distance, circumscribed the block. The surface of the ground, and the faces of the loose stones all around in the “crater” of the cairn were so coloured and scarred with tar and tire from the bonfires, or beacon-tires of various generations, including the jubilee bonfire, and the molten tar had penetrated between the interstices of the stones, and permeated the soil to such an extent, that it was most difficult to determine whether the burnt earth immediately above the subsoil was due to this cause only, or was indicative of a funeral pyre. However, on excavating round the granite-slab previously divided into two parts for the more easy removal, it distinctly appeared by the depth of such darkened earth, the absence of any tar, and the homogeneity of the soil, that the ashes of the primal interment had been laid against, but not under the N.W. side of the granite block. There was no paving, fragment of pottery, or anything whatever of interest, just here, and the earth was turned over down to the “country 5″ apparently there had never been any kist-vean under the cairn; but it is possible there may have been another interment without kist-vean elsewhere below the ground level, in other parts of the cairn, where the ground has not yet been excavated.”

I wonder if Mr.Rodd (assuming it was the same person that is) was expecting the thanks of the Royal Institution of Cornwall for that little lot as well?

Note:

My thoughts every time I visit both the cairn and the circle focus on the centre stones of both and wonder is there is a direct connection. In their mindset, did whatever took place below on the moor in the living world, get replicated at the cairn in the next i.e. the Afterlife?

 

 
 
The Cove, Avebury
©
Moss
 
This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986. A number of events are taking place throughout this year.
 
The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.
 
On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes [England], a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney(University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.
 
More here.
 
Nine Stones Altarnun at Dawn
Image credit and © Roy Goutté
 

Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members. (Part 3 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Leskernick Stone Row
SX 18707986 to SX19017991
Field workers:
Roy Goutté
Colin Green
Jacqui Rukin
Stuart Dow
Elizabeth Dale
 
And so we came to the third and final stage of our Leskernick clearance project – the Stone Row. Little did we know at the time but we were in for quite a surprise when we made what could turn out to be potentially an exciting find and if confirmed, one that could have a profound effect on our current understanding of the stone row and possibly the whole Complex itself.
 
We’ve carried out quite a few stone circle clearances now amongst other things, but for me none of them match up to what Leskernick has to offer. The rain and wind it can keep, but the surrounding landscape and the feeling of wonder it offers I’ll take all day long. I felt that ‘something’ made us welcome there and that feeling has only happened to me at one other place on Bodmin Moor even though I love all of it! Even the moor ponies that frequent the area were at ease when in our presence and to see them with their foals wandering about the Settlement like it was now their home very touching.
 
There are other parts of the moor where Rough Tor dominates the skyline and many of our stone circles lie within its gaze, but in this case there is no shadow of a doubt that it is Brown Willy that calls the tune here. Even more so is the draw that if offers when walking the stone row. I’ve never been a ‘for ceremonial and ritual purposes’ man because the term I feel over-used, but I am here, no question as it simply oozes it. As I said in Part 1 of these reports – from the very moment we arrived at Leskernick we felt we were in a special place – a place of wonder and great importance and felt we would find things not recorded here before. By the conclusion of this report you will see that there is a very good chance that we were correct in our assumptions.
 
For the full report click here (PDF).
 

 

 

The Hurlers, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
©
The Heritage Trust

 

Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members (Part 2 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.

 
A view south-east through the North Circle prior to its clearance
Just two of the three earth-fast ring stones and the centre stone visible above ground
 
Leskernick North Stone Circle
SX 18587992
 
First recorded in 1983 by Peter Herring, Leskernick North Stone Circle lies at the southern base of Leskernick Hill on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall on what is generally considered as being the end of the hills clitter line – although in reality it seems to spread out far and wide – and the start of open moorland to the south and east. Along with the South circle about 350 metres to the south-east it is the second of two known circles in this area and both within the dominant gaze of the impressive Brown Willy the highest hill on Bodmin Moor and Cornwall at 420m above sea level.
 
If not for the presence of the 3.9m long ‘whaleback’ recumbent centre stone and two prominent earth-fast ring stones, you would never know the circle existed such is the amount of partly covered clitter it is hidden amongst. Once found however, a third, but not so obvious earth-fast ring stone can then be observed, but after that, precious little. That was the situation when we arrived.
 
The Intent and Methodology of clearing the circle remained the same as at the South Stone Circle and can be seen in Part 1 of these Reports.
 
Commencement date: June 20th 2016.
 
 
TimeSeekers Field workers:
 
Roy Goutté
Colin Green
Jacqui Rukin
Stuart Dow
Elizabeth Dale
 
For the full report click here (PDF).
 
 
Standing stones in the south-west quadrant of the Avebury stone circle
©
Littlestone
 
What has long been suspected, that the earliest stone monuments in Britain were built with astronomy in mind, has now been proven. Writing in the NewHistorian, Daryl Worthington reports that –
 
Through innovative use of 2D and 3D technology, researchers from the University of Adelaide have statistically proven that spectacular stone circles constructed up to 500 years before Stonehenge, were deliberately built in line with the movement of the Sun and Moon.
 
The findings, published last week in the Journal of Archaeological Science, give fresh insight into the relationships ancient Britons held with the sky; connecting the earth to astronomical phenomena through spectacular monuments.
 
“Nobody before this has ever statistically determined that a single stone circle was constructed with astronomical phenomena in mind – it was all supposition,” said project leader and University of Adelaide Visiting Research Fellow Dr Gail Higginbottom, who is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Australian National University.
 
Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis, and Stenness, Isle of Orkney; are the oldest stone circles in Scotland, built during the late Neolithic over 5000 years ago. It has long been thought that the megaliths were laid out to reflect the cosmos, but the quantitative tests carried out by the team on the patterns of alignment of the standing stones have finally provided convincing evidence that this was indeed the case.
 
More here.
 

Leskernick North & South Stone Circles and Stone Row clearance, including the re-exposure of buried ring stones by the TimeSeekers Clearance Group Team Members (Part 1 of 3 reports). Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Leskernick South Stone Circle
SX 18817969
 
Discovered in 1973 by M Fletcher of the O.S. Archaeology Division, Leskernick South Stone Circle lies on slightly rising open moorland within a landscape of outstanding natural beauty some 400 metres to the south-east of the base of Leskernick Hill on the eastern perimeter of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. It is one of two known circles within this area and both within the dominant gaze of the impressive Brown Willy the highest hill on Bodmin Moor and Cornwall at 420m above sea level. The hill has a variable appearance that depends on the vantage point from which it is seen, rather like its close neighbour, Rough Tor.
 
From the very moment we arrived at Leskernick we felt we were in a special place – a place of wonder and great importance. It is enclosed by a series of hills, ridges and tors in all directions and just shouts out that importance. The landscape is breathtaking. To stand on the top of Leskernick Hill you can’t help but feel that you are in the centre of a world that was once a Kingdom – an enclosed world – with only a hint or speculation of a possible world beyond. The Beacon, Tolborough Tor, Catshole Tor, Brown Willy, Rough Tor, Showery Tor, High Moor, Buttern Hill, Bray Down, and Carne Down all lock you in – and beyond in the distance, Brown Gelly.
 
Before we even commenced our work there we had a feeling that whatever we were to find during our excavations, there would be far, far, more lying hidden than what was already known about or still present – which even then is surly just part of a much greater story! Of great surprise to us was to discover that Leskernick Hill with its Bronze-Age settlement, combined with the two stone circles, the stone row, the nearby large cairn, or in fact anything connected with the whole complex, were not scheduled. To be honest it was more shock than surprise, so before we even commenced our work, I had decided to apply for scheduling on its completion. We all felt it was the least we could do to help protect and preserve our heritage.
 
For the full report click here (PDF).
 
 
The Ring of Brodgar: Unesco World Heritage Site
Image credit Alamy Stock Photo
 
Kevin McKenna, writing in The Observer, reports that, “British archaeologists have never had it so good. The Orkney Ness of Brodgar site is changing perceptions of neolithic man. More than 600 miles south, a bronze-age find is being hailed as ‘Britain’s Pompeii’. But funds are tight.”
 
The story started, one anointed day in March 2003, with a curious stone slab on a finger of Orkney hemmed in by seas. Nick Card, of the University of Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, remembers that it was a typically cold and wet day. He was accompanied by his departmental colleague, Professor Jane Downes, and Julie Gibson, the county archaeologist. What they encountered that day has changed their lives and changed Orkney. Ness of Brodgar was a sacred place that defined the passage of time.
 
What lay beneath their feet, as they discovered bit by bit over the next 12 years, was the world’s greatest neolithic find in the modern era: a complex settlement of buildings and structures made 4,500 years ago which is turning on its head our understanding and perception of this era and its people.
 
The Council for British Archaeology has designated the last two weeks in July as Britain’s Festival of Archaeology, with hundreds of digs and visits being arranged all over Britain. The organisers couldn’t have picked a better time for their festival. Some 650 miles south of Orkney, at Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire, archaeologists are still in the first stages of wonder at an extraordinary bronze age site that they have begun to describe as “Britain’s Pompeii”.
 
More here.
 

Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Within the southern end of Leskernick South Stone Circle after its clearance
 
The South Circle
 
I am pleased to be able to deliver a short Interim Field Report on the progress the TimeSeekers clearance group are making at the Leskernick stone circles and stone row on Bodmin Moor.
 
We commenced our work on the 6th June and over a three day period had all but completed our work on the South Circle.
Sixteen recumbent ring stones were evident – most only just – on commencement but we were to discover four further buried complete ones. Sadly, six further ring stones had been removed after being broken up with just their remains left where they had once fallen. Consistent gaps between the ring stones had enabled us to detect their remains under the surface exactly where they would have been positioned. Just two ring stones were earth-fast.
 
The northern end of the circle has a wide empty stone gap with no evidence found of their demise or previous existence, but there is an unusual longish low mound running parallel to the inner arc of the circle at this point which would benefit from further professional investigation.
 
Exactly in the centre of the circle was a stone about 6 inches in diameter just poking out of the turf. On further inspection it proved to be set into the peat about 6 inches and beneath it the broken remains of a likely recumbent central upright was evident.
 
Although we only exposed a small section of each of the broken and removed stones, the remains of them all were patently obvious beneath the surface and their fall direction easily detected by the spiking of the ground – see photos.
 
We made other discoveries and one in particular cannot be revealed at this time but will of course be included in the completed Survey and Field Report.
 

 

The above photo of the southern end of the South Circle taken in April 2016

The North Circle.
 
Prior to commencement there were just three earth-fast ring stones remaining above ground and the whaleback centre stone lying recumbent. Just a handful of other ring stones could just be seen through the turf.
 
We commenced work here on the 20th June and by the end of the first day we had exposed all of the remaining ring stones and the obvious remains of removed stones after being broken up. I am pleased to announce that this was once a complete circle of 21 original ring stones with no apparent ‘gaps’ or entrances.
 
Without going into the full details at this moment or possible reasons why, it soon became obvious that the standing stones in this circle were much smaller than those in the South Circle.
 

The North Circle prior to excavation
 
 A few of the reclaimed ring stones on exposure
 
 
l6 (2)
l7 (2)

On the summit of Leskernick Hill looking westward toward Brown Willy and Roughtor

Leskernick Stone Circles and Stone Row Clearance: Press release by Roy Goutté. Images © Roy Goutté.

I am delighted to announce to The Heritage Trust that, after an application was made to Natural England by myself, consent has been granted to excavate and clear the recumbent and buried standing stones of the north and south stone circles to the base of the Bronze-Age settlement at Leskernick Hill, near Altarnun, Cornwall. Consent has also been granted to carry out the same procedure on the stone row running south-west to north-east between the two circles. The work is to be carried out by a small team of experienced Bodmin Moor clearance volunteers (TimeSeekers) under the periodic watchful eye of the area’s Historic England Heritage at Risk Officer.

The Methodology involved:

As the two stone circles and stone row beneath the southern slopes of Leskernick Hill are at serious risk of losing their identity now that 95% of the standing stones have fallen and returning to nature, the aim of the clearance would be to bring the hidden parts of the circles and stone row ‘back to life’ by sympathetically removing the vegetation and turf ‘carpet’ off the stones without damage taking place and without any soil being removed below the exposed top surfaces. The removed material is to be suitably relocated locally.

Procedure:

. Record and photograph the existing visible stones and stone mounds to be cleared prior to work commencing on both the circles and stone row. Video recording to also take place.
. Carefully cut through the turf/vegetation just beyond the exterior edge of the covered/partly covered stones.
. Carefully and without damage to the stone surfaces, peel back the turf/vegetation and reposition in previously sought out local areas requiring repair/improvement. Clean and wash stones off with clean water only.
. Buried ring stones and those in the stone row detected by probing but not identified by exterior mounding of the turf, to be exposed, recorded and photographed, but, if considered to be too deep to be left exposed and a danger to both stock and the public alike, to be re-covered.
. On completion of all work, leave the three cleared areas in a tidy condition and provide a field report and survey of the works carried out together with photographs and video links.

We feel privileged as amateur archaeologists to have been granted this permission on such a prestigious and important site as Leskernick. To stand amongst and look down from the proliferation of round houses on the southern side of Leskernick Hill to the landscape beneath where surely ceremonial and ritualistic activities took place in sight of so many ancient local landmarks, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Our great ancestors may no longer be there in person but I wonder if they ever really left, as judging by the sheer number of small earth-fast tri-stones dotted about it may also be their last resting place. To be given the opportunity to once again bring the circles and stone row ‘back to life’ and in the public gaze is why we do this. Our heritage means everything and we should do everything to keep it that way!

Two of the three only remaining standing stones and the recumbent central pillar of the North Circle. The remaining stones lie buried beneath the surface

One of the many round-house remains on Leskernick Hill

A last resting place?

Roy Goutté
North Hill
Cornwall

 

The second in a new series highlighting Cornwall’s megalithic masterpieces. Part Two: The Stripple Stones… Cornwall’s premier stone circle fights back. Unless otherwise stated text and images © Roy Goutté.

Nearly three years ago now I made a very belated first visit to a very special stone circle erected at the southern base on Hawks Tor, north of the A30 dual carriageway on Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor… The Stripple Stones (SX 14374 75215).

On private land and just a stone’s throw away from the Trippet Stones, another stone circle on Manor Common, the Stripple Stones are a rare breed indeed as they are just one of a very small number of henged stone circles built in the British Isles but… in terms of visitation compared to others, almost forgotten about!

At the time it was one of the last of two circles I still had to visit on Bodmin’s extensive collection of moors, downs and commons and potentially the most exciting. Stone circles with a ditch and bank circling them (ditch to the inside of the bank) don’t grow on trees and I was very excited at the thought of seeing one just ten miles away from my home.

I made my way to the henge via the Trippet Stones and the track leading to the western side of Hawks Tor then made my way to the top where the views are spectacular. Rough Tor, Brown Willy and Garrow Tor dominate the skyline to the north and the A30 and Colliford lake to the south.

Nearing the summit of Hawks Tor

My first view of the circle, through the lens of my bridge camera, picked out what I’d been hoping and praying to see in the stone setting… a tri-shaped stone… and it was initially to make my day as I have reason to believe they meant something special to the circle builders over the expanses of Bodmin Moor, particularly those in sight of Rough Tor!

At that moment in time the only thing missing was my ever faithful Border Collie Chief who accompanies me on all of my moor walks, but because of the dangers of adder bites on the day (there had been 13 reported in the past month) I had left him at home.

Within minutes I was approaching the henge, but with every step I took my excitement was waning. I have a habit of doing very little research whenever I plan to visit a new site other than finding out how to reach it, so that I don’t have a pre-formed opinion in my mind based on someone else’s findings.

Stood before me was the mere shadow of a former iconic Cornish jewel in the crown. Just four ring stones left standing, the rest recumbent and either lost to nature or on the way to being so. Even the apparent tri-stone I had viewed from the top of Hawks Tor was not quite what I was expecting. The ditch and bank where still discernible were covered in reeds and showed the signs of being overrun by cattle, ponies and sheep over the years. The base of two of the surviving four uprights and also some of the prostrate stones were ringed by hollows filled with water where trodden on and scraped out by stock over the years, or the uprights used as rubbing stones. It was heart-breaking to see, but worse was yet to come!

Stone 8 in the foreground broken in three pieces and Stone 9 recumbent. Stone 10 in background just one of four left standing

Stone 10. Not quite the tri-stone as I was expecting

Unbelievably, in the past, a boundary wall had been built across about a quarter of the bank, ditch and ring setting in the NE sector! I stood there in disbelief that someone years ago had actually shown such disrespect for our heritage that this had been carried out and felt compelled to video all my findings and report them to Ann Preston-Jones the Heritage at Risk officer for the area. I feel exactly the same today and always will when faced with such wanton destruction of our heritage even though it had occurred long ago in the 19th century and the recumbent stones a victim of wandering stock and shallow stone sockets in peaty soil… always a recipe for disaster. This was a rare henged circle for heaven’s sake and should have been protected much more!

The stone hedge/bank cutting through the original ditch and bank with the ‘modern’ ditch between it and the remaining ring stones

I could go on but things are different now as a wrong is finally being put right and must now be the centre of attention and the very reason for this article.

Over the past few months I am delighted to report that a transformation has taken place and I would like to think that my reporting of the condition the circle was in at the time of my visit helped play a small part in that with Ann then championing the cause further by taking up the cudgels and by doing so set the wheels in motion to reverse the trend.

I first heard of the restorative work to be carried out on the site when Ann contacted me to ask if I’d like to help out with others on an initial GPS and geophysical survey in March 2015 to determine the original position of the ditch, bank and line of ring stones where destroyed by the boundary wall. You bet I would, and thank you Ann for the invite which was gratefully accepted.

To make things complete, I then learnt that CAU archaeologist James Gossip was to be on site as was Richard Mikulski who was to carry out the earth resistance survey. I’d worked with James before on a couple of clearances and he brings such professional knowledge and enthusiasm with him that he is a pleasure to work alongside. Richard I had not met so looked forward to learning more about his work and helping him out when called for. We were joined and assisted by Caroline, Tom, Henry and Graham on the day and all joined in with the surveying and clearance work which was carried out in good humour on a very cold and bleak Bodmin Moor day. Richard explained in full detail how the geo-fizz worked and all helpers were given the opportunity to experience it practically which was much appreciated.

It was here that I was also introduced to David Attwell of Attwell Associates (Environment & Heritage) himself a very pleasant and knowledgeable person that it was my pleasure to meet. It was David that was the first to fill me in on the details of the work to be undertaken:-

The Stripples Stone restorative works formed part of a Heritage and Archaeological Feature Protection Grant awarded to Adrian and Julie Mansfield as part of a Higher Level Stewardship Agreement. This is an agri-environment scheme administered by Natural England (DEFRA) and is a 10 year agreement. The landowners receive an annual payment in return for managing the land to meet specific prescriptions designed to benefit key habitats, species and features of interest. This includes archaeology and under the capital works programme (physical improvements required to meet the objectives of the scheme) there is an option entitled ‘Heritage and Archaeological Feature Protection Grant’. Prior to entering HLS the applicant has to complete a detailed survey of the holding and this identifies all the features of interest and their condition. Information is supplied via the county’s Heritage and Environment Record and the results of the fieldwork are fed into the formulation of the agreement helping to identify potential works. In this particular case the holdings contain some of the densest and most important monuments on Bodmin Moor and a HAP was developed by NE in partnership with the landowners, Historic England and Ann Reynolds of Cornwall Council. This included a number of elements ranging from repairs to boundaries, a beehive hut, medieval longhouse settlements and the Stripple Stones.

A brief was prepared by the landowners and NE and this was tendered in December 2014 and awarded to Attwell Associates (Environment & Heritage) in February 2015. The contract required a full project management role from applying for statutory consents to delivering the works on the ground. We put together a proposal which involved CAU (James Gossip and Ann Preston-Jones) as the principal archaeological contractor and a number of other individuals to assist in delivering the HAP package. Central to this were Adrian and Julie Mansfield given that the project needed to work alongside the farming business and they played a hands-on role throughout. Physical works initially focussed on Garrow but moved to the Stripple Stones in September 2015 following receipt of the SAM consent.

A meeting was held with Nick Russell (South West Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments) in May where the principles of the project were shared and challenged. A formal application was registered in July and approval received in late August. This allowed for the erection of up to 5 recumbent stones, erosion repairs along with the removal of a 19th century field boundary. This had been built through the monument as part of a late phase of enclosure for Higher Hawks Tor Farm. The HAP brief stipulated three stones to be erected and these were selected by the project team, guided by Ann Preston-Jones of HE.

James and Richard setting out in preparation for the survey

Following the geophysical survey and until my next invite with my small team of clearance workers from the TimeSeekers amateur archaeology group on the 1st December 2015, work commenced on the circle and the re-directing of the old boundary wall.

The initial works involved the removal of the boundary wall with the stones carefully dismantled for re-use as part of the realigned boundary. This took the hedge away from the inner circle approximately 3 metres to the east of the outer ditch edge. During the work two previously recorded stones (Lukis and Borlase) were found in situ at the base of the bank plus an additional stone within the hedge core which displayed signs of stone packing so could possibly have been an original ring stone. The two recorded stones showed signs of being split so could possibly be a former circle stone as the marks when aligned suggest they were originally a single slab.

The section of offending boundary wall during its removal and re-positioning by Adrian and Julie Mansfield with the help of David and Attwell Associates employees. Photo: David Attwell

At the same time that the wall was being removed, work began to excavate the socket of one of the three stones to be raised. This failed to establish any notable ‘finds’ (a small Mesolithic flint was found in the hedge stone socket) but once again suggested that the original sockets were very shallow given the size of the stones. The recumbent stone was moved to enable this work to progress and then carefully drawn into an upright position using strops and a nine tonne swing shovel. A layer of white sand was placed to create a distinct horizon and then granite packing stones used to trig the base before successive layers of growan (rab) and granite were set and compacted to ground level. The finished surface was slightly domed to shed water before soil and turves were laid to finish the repairs. The re-erection of the further two stones followed on using a similar methodology. All were left unprotected as a key outcome of the HLS project was to restrict grazing by fencing off the area, without the public’s view or access being denied, to primarily prevent sheep and cattle poaching the ground or applying pressure on the surviving upright ring stones.

Stone 15 prior to re-erection

Nearly there… Stone 15 arises! Photo: David Attwell

The final main work involved the re-building of the new stone hedge alignment. This re-used the original stone on the inner face against the circle whilst some newer material (extracted from foundations for new farm sheds) was built on the western face. A gap was left for a gateway on the alignment identified through the field survey which suggests a further entrance opposite the known access on the western side of the circle. This new section is 90 metres in length but in total the project repaired just over 500 metres of hedgerow which included four gateways and three sheep creeps.

I have to say, without fear of contradiction, that the planning and work carried out to this point was of the highest order and all credit must go to David and his employees, Adrian and Julie Mansfield and also to James and Ann and all those working away in the background.

Then, on 1st December, under James and David’s guidance, four of the TimeSeekers clearance group (Jacqui Rukin, Caroline Lavelle, Colin Green and myself) were then asked to help out when the time came to begin a tidy-up within the circle itself and also help to re-expose a recumbent and buried ring stone that Gray had surveyed and recorded during his 1905 excavation and survey of the site. It was a bit of a puzzle to us though as to why it had not been exposed at the time but I’m sure there were acceptable reasons given as to why not!

As it was this was an easy undertaking as the stone was only some 4” to 6” under the surface and easily detectable by the slight mound above ground being visible.

Members of the TimeSeekers clearance group after the re-exposure of the long-lost ring stone. Left to right, Colin Green, Jacqui Ruken, Roy Goutté, Caroline Lavelle. On completion James re-turfed the sides to the stone to form a sloping surface which was very pleasing to the eye. Photo: James Gossip (CAU)

Further investigation around part of the circle where the clearance of other recumbent stones was felt necessary also detected two further buried ring stones thus adding more to James’ current survey although neither were re-exposed at the time.

There is something very special about re-exposing a buried stone that you know was once part of what we possibly perceive as being a ‘ritualistic or ceremonial’ monument and once likely to have been last handled by our great ancestors some 4,500-5,000 years ago! We often refer to these stones as being ‘sacred’ and I have to admit to feeling a tingle when they first see the light of day again and always hope that they are not too deep to leave exposed once recorded. They were meant to be seen and although no longer all standing are nevertheless there for our wonderment and why we as a group find great pleasure and privilege in re-exposing them at any given opportunity.

Without a doubt the discussions, site visits, planning, decision making, approvals, consents, putting out tenders etc is a lengthy process and maybe not appreciated by those who just want to get on with things, but has nevertheless got to be done. I asked James how it was for him as the leading archaeologist on site:-

Cornwall archaeological Unit were commissioned by David Atwell Associates to carry out a programme of archaeological recording at The Stripple Stones henge monument (located on Bodmin Moor at SX14374 75215) in advance of and during conservation work The Stripple Stones is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM CO124) and consent was therefore required from Historic England to enable conservation repairs to specific elements of the monument on behalf of the landowners Adrian and Julie Mansfield. This formed part of a Historical and Archaeological Feature Protection Grant (HAP) included within a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement with Natural England.

This work involved the survey of the existing monument, to include standing and recumbent stones, an 1885 field boundary and topographic survey of a ploughed-down barrow to support geophysics results. The initial survey helped identify the location of a probable former entrance on the NE side of the monument which had been lost as a result of the improvement of agricultural land where enclosed by the nineteenth century field boundary bisecting the monument. The conservation work included erosion repair around selected stones, where stability was under threat. These were at risk of falling as a result of damage by livestock, compounded by the poorly backfilled excavations of George St Gray in 1905.

Removal of the 19th century hedge resulted in the discovery of two stones marked on the Borlase and Lukis plan of 1879 – although one had been moved as a result of splitting it is likely to have been left close to its original position. The two stones helped confirm the theory of an entrance on the north-eastern side, ‘framing’ a causeway across the ditch (now almost entirely backfilled) in alignment with the opposing entrance. The new hedge has been rebuilt outside the monument and respecting the arc of the ditch – a new gate now hangs in position leading the eye through the north-east entrance and through the entrance on the western side. The removal of the 19th century hedge and building of the new one, expertly constructed by Adrian and Julie Mansfield and David Atwell, has helped to re-establish the monument as a complete entity once more. 

Following erosion repair and stone re-erection a team of experienced Bodmin Moor volunteers (Roy Goutte, Jacqui Ruken, Caroline Lavelle, Colin Green) were invited to take part in some further enhancement works at the Stripple Stones. Most exciting of these was the de-turfing over a peculiar ‘stone-shaped lump’ on the north-west perimeter of the monument, as visible today as it was when ‘probed’ by Tregelles in 1902 and surveyed by Gray in 1905. As suspected, removal of turf revealed a long, recumbent granite stone, exposed for the first time in hundreds of years, if not millennia.

Thanks to the efforts of the Mansfield’s, David Attwell and the Bodmin Moor Team the Stripple Stones have been transformed, giving the visitor just a sense of its original glory once again.

It was wonderful to see many of the recumbent stones that had been partially covered once again being fully exposed and hope that it is something that can be carried out on a more regular basis otherwise they will be lost to nature yet again. The new boundary wall/hedge is exceptional and matches in perfectly with the existing walling and the builders are to be applauded.

Without sounding too flowery about it, these monuments have been left for us to enjoy and marvel at by our great ancestors and should be far more respected than many currently are if our future generations are to also benefit from them. In these times of financial cuts when funding for such projects are limited, it is a great opportunity for the public to ‘get involved’ and offer their services to help clean up many of our sites as we do on Bodmin Moor. It is very rewarding and at the same time a great privilege to be able to work alongside archaeologists on monuments erected thousands of years ago! Their builders may no longer be with us but that is no excuse to let things slide and we must all jointly take over the baton and share the responsibility of becoming the custodians of these wonderful structures that we are still puzzling over after all these years.

Work is still active on the Stripple Stones and will be completed in August when a new permissive access for visitors will be available to view the monument and provided by the landowners. Adrian has kindly offered to provide access to the circle even though it lies outside of the CROW Act land. This will be achieved by an access through the fence-line to the south of the Tor which separates the two compartments.

David has informed me that in discussion with the landowners, they would prefer at the moment that we promote the route via the lane off Manor Common (NNW of the Trippet Stone Circles) which then leads onto Hawks Tor Downs where there is open access. It is still currently possible to reach the Stripple Stones via two existing gateways but involves a somewhat zig-zag route.

A detailed report will be issued at the end of the project and I will notify the Heritage Trust accordingly and pen a follow-on article which will be much more descriptive in content and the reader made more aware of the circles surroundings and setting in the landscape.

In the meantime and with the promise of warmer and dryer weather just around the corner, why don’t you all get out your maps, re-dubbin the walking boots and get out there into the fresh air to see first-hand the fantastic views from the top of Hawks Tor before descending onto the West Countries only henged stone circle… the Stripple Stones. You know you want to and all of those involved with the planning, surveying and working on the project to make your enjoyment of the circle a much nicer experience would love you to make the journey. Go safely and have fun.

Roy Goutté
North Hill
Cornwall

 

Harold St. George Gray’s Surveyed Plan of the Stripple Stones 1905.

Note the walling running through the north-east section of the bank, ditch and ring stones but has now thankfully been removed and re-aligned.

 

The first in a new series highlighting Cornwall’s megalithic masterpieces. One: Boscawen-un Stone Circle. Unless otherwise stated text and images © Roy Goutté

Boscawen-un Stone Circle
(SW 41222737)
 
The stone circle at Boscawen-ûn is considered to be one of Cornwall’s most popular prehistoric ceremonial centres as well as one of extreme aesthetic beauty. It lies beneath the southern slopes of Creeg Tol, enclosed by a later raised circular bank which, built in the 19th century to replace an earlier boundary that went straight through the circle, is an early example of archaeological conservation. The circle appears to have been carefully positioned within the landscape in such a way as to relate with key prehistoric landmarks, both natural and contemporary. To the north-west the rounded hill of Chapel Carn Brea fits neatly between the slopes of Leah and Creeg Tol. An unusual Neolithic long cairn lying on its southern slopes and an entrance grave on the summit are highlighted from the centre of the circle whilst to the south-south-east the dual menhirs of The Pipers and the Merry Maidens stone circle can be seen just below the skyline. The only glimpse of the sea is also in this direction at Boscawen Cliff. A positional change of the circle by just a few metres would render these sites invisible. (Historic Environment Service of Cornwall 2007).
 
And what a magical site it really is. Erected in the Bronze-Age the circle consists of an off-central leaning granite standing stone with what is believed to be two crude stone axes carved at the northern base of it and encircled by nineteen other upright standing stones, eighteen made of grey granite and one of white quartz. It is somewhat elliptical in shape with an axis of 24.9m and 21.9m. At the north-eastern edge of the circle two main ring-stones (7 & 8) have a cist type structure between them consisting of two reasonably large prostrate stones along with two smaller ones.
 
There is a wide gap in the west of the circle which suggests the loss of a stone, but on saying that, this gap may represent, as with the nearby Merry Maidens stone circle, an entrance. The centre stone is 2.7 metres high, but because of its strong inclination to the north-east, the tip is now about 2 metres above the ground. It is thought by some researchers that the off-central stone could represent the male phallus and the quartz stone representative of the female powers of the circle. We are all entitled to our views. There is reason to believe that the circle was not the first construct and it may be that the tall central stone was erected first in the 4th millennium BC followed by the stones 7 and 8 with the cist-like layout between them, and finally the circle itself. The two ring stones 7 and 8 which flank said cist are as close to a matching pair that you could get, both having opposite but identical slopes to their tops like a pair of book ends and straight inner sides. This would appear to be a deliberate act and once a stand-alone feature. Of course this then leaves the question…why would the circle then be built off-set from the ‘centre’ stone after using stones 7 and 8 as initial markers if it was indeed erected first?
 
 
Stones 7 and 8 and the ‘cist’ arrangement give the appearance of being a separate construct
 
William Camden the 16th century antiquarian and historian described the stone circle as, “In a place called Biscaw Woune are nineteen stones in a circle, twelve feet from each other, and in the circle stands one much larger than the rest.” Born in London, and educated at Christ’s Hospital, St. Paul’s School, and Oxford, Camden was in 1575 appointed Second Master in Westminster School, and Head Master in 1593, Camden spent his vacations in travelling over England collecting antiquarian information. His great work, Britannia, was published in 1586, and at once brought him fame both at home and abroad. It is a work of vast labour and erudition, written in elegant Latin. In 1597 Camden was made Clarencieux King-at-Arms which, setting him free from his academic duties, enabled him to devote more time to his antiquarian and historical labours.
 
It is very interesting that Camden does not mention the central stone leaning at an angle and that is important because it is the first thing observed and mentioned by all later antiquaries, authors and anyone visiting the circle for the first time. It suggests that in his time it was but a normal upright so we have to be careful how we interpret it today. In 1749 William Stukeley thought it may have been disturbed by someone looking for treasure resulting in the lean commencing. Measurements given over the years since Camden’s time by different antiquaries and archaeologists indicate that the lean has been gradually increasing. There could be a certain amount of truth to Stukeley suggestion, but not the whole reason surely as something that seems to have been overlooked is the ferocious winds that can cause havoc down in the far west of Cornwall. “Cornwall is exposed to the full force of the prevailing south-westerly winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean.” (Wikipedia, Geography of Cornwall). The stone leans to the north-east and the prevailing wind is from the south-west, so put two and two together, coupled with the possibility of treasure seekers digging away at the base of the stone and what have you got? Certainly a disaster waiting to happen that’s for sure!
 

A claim that keeps cropping up is that a direct line drawn from the quartz stone (18) through the centre stone passes straight through that collection of prostrate stones between stones 7 and 8. This simply isn’t true because a direct line goes directly between stones 9 and 10! Yet another claim is that the central stone was designed to lean towards that same collection of stones, but it doesn’t do that either as it actually points between stones 8 and 9! (See ground plan). Another well-known author states that the central stone is quartz which makes you wonder if they’d ever visited the circle at all!

The central stone as seen from the quartz ring stone
Photo by kind permission of A Brookes  ©
 
  

A cist between ring stones 7 and 8?

With regard to the axe carvings to the base of the leaning centre stone, I Cooke (Mermaid to Merrymaid, Journey to the Stones) wrote in 1987, “I visited the circle just after the summer solstice in 1986 and arrived shortly before dawn with the purpose of making some drawings. As the sun rose, I could see two very sharp and most unnatural shadows low down on the northern face of the pillar. On closer examination they turned out to have been caused by the sides of two elongated triangular ‘axe-heads’ which had been cut into the stone… the axes faced the direction from where the sun would rise on the long summer days and they could only become visible during that time for a few hours after dawn.”

William Borlase mapped the circle in 1754 showing eighteen stones standing and one fallen and sometime in the next one hundred years a Cornish hedge (stone wall) was constructed through the circle. The hedge is first mentioned in 1850 by Richard Edmonds and around 1862 the owner of the land, Miss Elizabeth Carne, had it removed and the hedge around the circumference of the site we still see today, built. This is, as such, an early example of the preservation of an archaeological monument. In 1864 the area around the stone circle was first studied in depth. The excavation reports show that the central stone was already inclined. A burial mound was discovered near the stone circle, in which urns were found. From this time originates one of the first illustrations of the circle, which John Thomas Blight sketched and included in his book Churches of West Cornwell. He also drew a plan of the burial mound and sketched one of the excavated urns.

John Thomas Blight’s 1864 sketches of the Burial Mound, Urn and Circle

Interestingly, at the time, a circle with 19 ring stones were not thought uncommon in Cornwall. In his Antiquities Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall (1754), W Borlase says that Boscawen–un is just one of four circles in Penwith with 19 stones, the others being the Merry Maidens (now thought to have been 18), Tregaseal (now thought to have had 21/22) and Boskednan (now thought to have had 22). However, although not mentioned, there was once another now lost. At this time, although Gulval was to be incorporated into the parishes of Penzance, Madron and Ludgvan in 1934, it was within the district of Penwith in 1754 and researching has discovered yet another 19 stone circle there. In his 1819 book The Circles, or Historical Survey of Sixty Parishes or Towns of Cornwall, author William Penaluna says: “In this parish of Gulval, there is an elliptical ring, formed wholly of perpendicular stones. These stones were originally nineteen in number, all placed at nearly equal distances from one another, but not with any particular regard to exactness. Of these stones, thirteen only remained erect, when Dr. Borlase wrote; the other six, having been thrown down, lay on the ground near the places in which they once stood. No rule seems to have been observed in the selection of these pillars or stones, with regard either to their height or their magnitude. They vary from one another in a promiscuous manner, leaving us wholly at a loss to conjecture the end for which they were collected, and placed in their erect positions.”

Casting an eye around the area of the Boscawen-un circle with the help of a detailed map, it is comparatively easy to pick up on some local landmarks whether they be naturally occurring or placed there by man. In the near distance are two tall standing stones to the north-east in the field west of Boscawen Noon Farm built into a hedge alongside the farm driveway and the other one to the north. But to get a fuller picture check out the plan of Boscawen-un below and the directions of principal landscape features around it.

Alignments, which always seems to be of interest to some but nonsensical to others, are a very important part of the megalithic and mystical scene and can keep discussion alive for hours on end, even though sometimes it can get somewhat over-heated! To me, this is one of the most interesting parts of our hobby trying to decipher what monuments such as Boscawen-un stone circle are all about and why they are placed where they are in the landscape, because, if truth be told, we are really no further significantly advanced about their use and placement than we were in the days of the likes of John Aubrey and William Stukeley! Plenty of assumptions but little concrete proof… and maybe there never will be!

Boscawen-un stone circle showing the stones together with directions of principal landscape
features from the approximate centre of the circle

Directions to Boscawen-un stone circle:

The more easy-going route avoiding what can be deep cover, nettles and undergrowth if you are walking. Travelling westwards on the A30 past Penzance toward Land’s End and just prior to the turning right to Sancreed, you will see an upright rectangular double-brown sign at the entrance to a driveway on the left with Boscawenoon and Chyandwens Farmhouse written on them.

The driveway and public footpath to the farmhouse

Park up sensibly to avoid blockages

Not only is it a driveway but also a public footpath up to the aforementioned properties. If driving a car make your way up this driveway very nearly to the farm until reaching a very nice long pull-in on the right adjacent to a tall pointed standing stone (previously mentioned) built into the hedge/wall with a large farm building just a little further on to the left. Park sensibly to avoid blocking farm vehicles from passing. From there, continue on foot down the driveway passing some farm buildings on the left and follow the driveway around to the right and past a house on the left. Continue on and you will shortly come to a divide in the driveway with a vertical sign between the two declaring that Boscawen-un is straight ahead!

The divide… take the path to the right

You’ve arrived… a magical moment awaits!

Take the path to the right which is like a high-hedged alleyway. Midway along you will come to a stile on the left showing the right of way but don’t go over it keep straight on up the alleyway until reaching the Boscawen-un stone circle entrance sign and gate on the left. You have arrived and once through the gate the circle awaits you!

If you prefer to take the ‘ramblers route’, then drive/walk on past the driveway entrance to Boscawenoon on the A30 for about half a mile until you reach a small pull-in on the left (2 cars) with a gated entrance and a small sign. A rough path takes you to the circle but it can be heavy going in the summer months if the undergrowth has not been kept down. Whatever route you choose to take, go carefully and enjoy your visit. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 
The Hurlers stone circle, Cornwall
©
The Heritage Trust
 
The Cornwall Heritage Trust reports 3 November 2015 that the Reading The Hurlers project has received £33,700 from the British Heritage Lottery Fund –
 
Saltash U3A has recently been awarded £33,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), for an exciting project called Reading the Hurlers.  The community geo-archaeological project focuses on the early Bronze Age site of the Hurlers stone circles, near the village of Minions, Bodmin Moor.  As part of the project, volunteers will undertake a geological survey and produce a profile of the area’s granite resources which will aim to identify the sources of granite which the standing stones of the Hurlers were quarried from.
 
More here. See also our earlier features on the Hurlers by keying the word into the search box above.
 

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