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I.—On the Stone Circles of East Cornwall

  • H. St. George Gray


In describing the “Stripple Stones” circle and the excavations which have taken place there, it is my intention to confine my remarks very largely to them, and to bear in mind that the work of excavation was conducted with a view of endeavouring to ascertain the approximate date of construction of this ancient monument. Descriptions, however, will be given of stone circles in the immediate vicinity, two of which the writer took the opportunity of surveying in 1905 and two in 1906, the five forming a group on Bodmin Moors.



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page 1 note a “From certain depositions in the Exchequer of the reign of Queen Elizabeth (Depositions in the Exchequer, 41 Eliz.) it appears that at that time this circle was known as ‘Stripple Stones.’” (Maclean's, History of Trigg Minor, i. 24; also V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 391.) The circles on Bodmin Moors are not mentioned in Lysons's, Magna Britannia (vol. iii. Cornwall, 1814); nor in R. Carew's Survey of Cornwall, 1602; nor in Wm. Borlase's History of Cornwall, 1769. W. 0. Borlase in Nœnia Cornubiæ, 1872, makes but slight allusion to the Stripple Stones.

page 1 note b East Cornwall, with the exception of the small Duloe circle (diameters from 34 to 39 feet according to Mr. Dymond), contains all the largest circles in Cornwall. Mr. Tregelles gives the diameter of this circle as 37 and 39 feet (V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 400).

page 2 note a These distances and similar ones throughout this paper have been carefully measured and checked on the 6-inch Ordnance Sheets, each sheet by its own scale; for it is found that the scale varies slightly owing to the unequal shrinkage of the paper after printing.

page 2 note b On 2nd July, 1905, the writer visited King Arthur's Hall, and found it in much the same condition as represented in Mr. Lewis's sketch plan in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. pl. i. (The same plan is also figured in the V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 392.) The writer checked the stones with this plan, but could not find the smallest erect stone in the N. half of the B. side, nor could two of the fallen stones be found, viz. the fourth from the E. on the N. side, and the first from the N. of the W. side. On 24th September, 1906, the writer made a second visit to “the Hall” and photographed it from the S.W., with Rough Tor in the distance.

page 2 note c The last published 25-inch Ordnance Sheet, including the Stripple Stones, was surveyed in 1882.

page 2 note d Prehistoric Stone Monuments of Cornwall, by Rev. Lukis, W. C., 1885, p. 3, and pl. viii. It seems to me that Lukis made his measurement from the S.S.E. corner of the central stone.

page 3 note a This date was given me by the tenant of Hawkstor farm.

page 3 note b Brief mention is made of this new “take” in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, ix. 497, where “Stripple,” however, is spelt “Stipple.”

page 3 note c V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 390.

page 3 note d Mr. Lewis has written, “If we are to judge of the Cornish huts from the results of the excavations in the huts at Grimspound and elsewhere on Dartmoor, that period must be a very early one.” (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 4.)

page 3 note e For Mr. Lewis's angles, see “Stone Circles of Britain,” Archæological Journal, xlis. 148150.

page 4 note a Taken from the 6-inch. Ordnance Sheet the Leaze circle is 20 degrees W. of N. from the Stripple Stones, so that none of these directions is absolutely correct.

page 4 note b My plans of the Trippet Stones and the Fernacre, Stannon, and Leaze circles, have margins dne N. and S. and B. and W.

page 4 note c My thanks are due to the Director-General of the Ordnance Surveys, Southampton, for this information.

page 4 note d Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society, XI. (1890), 187219.

page 5 note a Carts going from Hawkstor farm to the main Bodmin and Launceston road (viâ the disused china clay works) traverse the middle of the circle from N. to S.

page 5 note b Prehistoric Stone Monuments of Cornwall, p. 3, and pl. viii. (“Mag. N, Mer. taken to be 20 degrees 30 minutes W. of N.” Lukis, 1879).

page 5 note c Op. cit.; and V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 390.

page 5 note d Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 7.

page 6 note a Archaeologia, lviii. 465.

page 6 note b The diameters given for stone circles sometimes differ considerably, the cause arising not only from measurements taken in a perfunctory manner but from the method of measurement. Most observers make their calculations on the ground, which is not altogether satisfactory, and precision is not arrived at in that way. If a thoroughly reliable plan is made all horizontal measurements can be made at home. In estimating the diameters of these Cornish circles on the plans the writer has found the centre and described a circle through the middle of the standing-stones as far as possible, at the same time bearing in mind the approximate position in which the recumbent stones originally stood. As would be expected, instances of aberration occur; and the central stone at the Stripple Stones is found to be excentric.

page 6 note c Thus it is seen that the centre of the circle of stones and the centre from which the circle was described to ascertain the diameter of the vallum do not correspond by a distance of 3·7 feet.

page 6 note d The diameter of the Stripple Stones in “Hestingot feet” is 135·6, the Trippet Stones 100, and the Leaze circle 75. These dimensions are based on the method of calculation set forth in Mr. E. M. Nelson's pamphlet On British Stone Circles, 1907.

page 7 note a V. G. E. Cornwall, i. 390.

page 7 note b Stones VIII. XVII. and XVIII. are of course not under consideration in this respect.

page 7 note c No. VI. is in the same relative position as one of the eastern stones on Lukis's plan of 1879, but no stone is shown in his plan corresponding with No. V. of my plan, so that it is quite possible that the latter was introduced when the wall was being built in 1885. Lukis in his plan gives another prostrate stone to the S.S.E. of Stone VI. which appears to fall in the line of the middle of the modern stone wall, and as there is no trace of it at the present time it is quite probable that the stone fence envelops it.

page 7 note d This stone (No. VIII.) is shown in Lukis's plan of 1879 and in Tregelles's plan of 1902 as being in two pieces only. Midway between Stones VII. and IX. and in the line of the true circle Lukis gives another stone which has now disappeared. This missing stone appears to have fallen in a southerly direction.

page 8 note a Mr. Irakis regarded this stone as a standing one in 1879. See plan (¼ inch to 5 feet), pl. viii. of Prehistoric Stone Monuments of Cornwall.

page 8 note b By probing Mr. Tregelles claims to have found two buried stones on the line of the circle, viz. between Standing-stone No. VII. and the wall, and between Stones Nos. II. and XVI. The latter is indicated on my plan. The other is mentioned on p. 14. Probing, apart from actual digging, unless very carefully carried out, may be regarded on the whole as rather unsatisfactory.

page 8 note c The writer takes this opportunity of thanking Mr. Tregelles for having lent his original plans of Cornish stone circles for the purpose of making comparison.

page 9 note a Only two other Cornish circles have central monoliths, viz. Boscawen-ûn, parish of Buryan, near Penzance, and the Nine Stones near Altarnun, East Cornwall. A trench was cut through the former circle in 1862 by the landowner, Miss Elizabeth Came, but no relics were found. The circle of Winterbourne Bassett, 4 miles N. of Avebury, has a central prostrate stone (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xx. 282).

page 9 note b Mr. Tregelles gives 13 feet 3 inches, a foot too much (V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 390).

page 9 note c On the inner slope of the vallum on the N., and, regarded from the centre of the circle, about 4 degrees E. of true N., a piece of granite may be seen measuring 1·5 foot in width and O·75 foot in thickness; the E. side is at the present time 1·9 foot long, the W. side 2·2 feet. It has been fractured at the S. end; and it is quite possible that it may be portion of one of the stones of the circle. It is not marked on the plan.

page 9 note d On the outside of the walls a slight trench or ditch exists in both parts, about 7 or 8 feet wide.

page 10 note a Mr. Henry Balfour (Secretary of the Stone Circles Committee, British Association) visited the excavations on 28th June; Mr. C. H. Read, F.S.A. (Chairman of the Committee), made two attempts to go down from London, but was prevented.

page 10 note b Our thanks are due to the Rev. E. Vernon Collins, Rector of Blisland, for advising as to the employment of local labourers and in a variety of other ways. It appears to me advisable to register the names of the workmen employed during these explorations, as such a record might prove to be of some little importance in the event of a further examination of the Stripple Stones in the future: Tom Paul of Glastonbury (foreman); Edwin Jane, senior and junior, of Hawkstor farm; Win. Greenaway, senior and junior; John Greenaway; and another man (name unrecorded).

page 10 note c Vol. xv. 1902, 272–4.

page 10 note d See also A. L. Lewis's note, Man, 1907, 14.

page 11 note a Journal of the British Archæological Association, xxxiii. 9. “Dozmary” occurs on the Ordnance Sheets.

page 11 note b Mr. Lewis obtained them from Mr. Francis Brent, F.S.A.

page 11 note c Bequeathed to the Plymouth Museum by Francis Brent, F.S.A. This collection contains at least one flint scraper. Many of the flakes are of very small size.

page 11 note d The colour of this specimen like others of a long narrow form from Dozmare is a milky-greyish brown.

page 11 note e Journal of the British Archaeological Association, xxxvii. 31. See also the Rev. H. G. O. Kendall's article in Man, 1906, 97. Mr. Kendall also found pigmy flints at Dozmare Pool, Man, 1907, 83.

page 11 note f A similar sub-soil to this is called “calm” by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee.

page 16 note a Archaeologia, lviii. 477–8.

page 16 note b Measured along the bottom of the ditch.

page 17 note a Depth from the “central area” adjacent 4 feet.

page 17 note b Owing to the nature of the material in which the fosse had been cut it was found very difficult to determine even the approximate width of the original fosse at the eastern end of this cutting.

page 18 note a The photographs used to illustrate this paper were taken by Mr. and Mrs. St. Gr. Gray.

page 20 note a The iron-ore had. been penetrated here and 2 or 3 inches of the material beneath it.

page 21 note a Mr. Clement Reid, F.R.S., informs me that if bog iron-ore is broken up on arable land by deep ploughing it may spoil the land for agricultural purposes for many years. He also tells me that it is usually deposited on slight slopes.

page 22 note a Archaeologia, lviii. 477–8.

page 22 note b Except a slight hollow in contiguity to Cutting 10 and Stone XVII.

page 23 note a As before stated, the original excavation penetrated the iron-ore at the N. end of Cutting 4. Perhaps this was done by those who made use of the circle to ensure the entrance-way being kept dry.

page 24 note a Professor Gowland did not excavate ground in the centre of Stonehenge.

page 26 note a Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. pl. i.; Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, xiii. pl. viii.; V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 393.

page 26 note b The owner is Mrs. Collins, of Blisland Manor House.

page 26 note c Mr. Lewis mentions another stone in a N.W. direction from the circle which we failed to observe, Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 8. It is probably missing at the present time.

page 26 note d Longest sides E.N.E. and W.S.W.

page 26 note e This can be rocked backward and forward in its hole.

page 27 note a See also “Stone Circles of Britain,” Archæological Journal, xlix. 148–9.

page 27 note b A sketch plan of this circle, by Lukis and Borlase, 1879, together with plans and elevations of the stones, will be found in Prehistoric Stone Monuments of Cornwall, pl. vii. There is a more recent plan by Mr. G. F. Tregelles, 1902, in V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 390.

page 27 note c There were nine standing when Lukis made his plan in 1879, including No. II. of my plan, now prostrate. Maclean, (History of Trigg Minor, i. 24) records nine standing-stones. When Mr. Lewis visited the circle in 1891 oizly eight stones stood, as in 1905. Whereas Lukis gives twelve stones in all in 1879, it should be noted that Maclean mentions thirteen, nine erect and four prostrate J. T. Blight in his Ancient Crosses of East Cornwall (1858), 131, states that” nine stones stood erect.”

page 27 note d The stability of these stones is greatly imperilled by the treading of cattle.

page 28 note a Measurements from centre to centre.

page 28 note b Lukis gives 12 feet as the average interval between the stones, but probably he made his measurements from the edge of one stone to the nearest of the next.

page 28 note c If there was originally no gap in the circle, five stones probably belonged to this segment; but if they were equidistant from centre to centre they must have been at least 13½ feet apart.

page 28 note d Sir John Maclean was correct in giving 108 feet as the diameter of the circle (History of Trigg Minor, 1873, i. 24). Mr. Lewis gives 104½ feet (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 8, and Journal of the Boyal Institution of Cornwall, xiii. 109); the Rev. W. C. Lukis gives the same dimensions as Mr. Lewis (Prehistoric Stone Monuments of Cornwall, 3). The diameter of this circle (viz. 108 feet) is the same as Mr. C. W. Dymond gives for the southern of the three circles known as “The Hurlers,” north of Liskeard. In V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 389, Mr. Tregelles states that the circle is only 103 feet in diameter, but his own plan shows it to be 107 feet (according to the circle dotted on the drawing).

page 29 note a Nature, 21st November, 1907, 57.

page 29 note b Mr. Beynolds of St. Breward is the landowner.

page 29 note e Although Maclean mentions and describes Arthur's Hall under the parish of St. Breward, he does not seem to have known the Leaze circle. (History of Trigg Minor, i. 352)

page 31 note a See Mr. Dymond's, C. W. plan, Journal of the British Archæohgical Association, xxxv. 304.

page 31 note b See Mr.Lewis's, paper on “Prehistoric Remains in Cornwall,” Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 8; also Journal of the Eoyal Institution of Cornwall, xiii. 108.

page 31 note c See also Archæohgical Journal, xlix. 148–50.

page 32 note a In 1905 the writer had recorded only five prostrate stones. On 24th September, 1906, he made a second visit to the Leaze circle for the purpose of photographing it from the W.N.W. (pl. iv. fig. 3), and found that large bushes of gorse had been burnt in various parts of the circle. This burning revealed another large prostrate stone on the S.S.E. which had previously been entirely hidden by a large clump of old gorse. Mr. Lewis evidently had not noticed it, as he mentions only one fallen stone (No. VI. of my plan). The additional stone has now been included in the plan in its approximate position (the writer had no tape with him unfortunately and had to fix its position by pacing). It has been numbered XVI. Mr. Tregelles gives this stone in his plan of the circle, but it is not correctly placed (V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 390).

page 31 note b The Rev. “W. C. Lukis gives “about 12 feet apart “for the stones (as originally placed) of the three circles called “The Hurlers,” about 5 miles N. of Liskeard.

page 31 note c Mr.Lewis, gives 83½ feet (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 8, and Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, xiii. 109). A plan of this circle is not given by Messrs. Lukis and Borlase in Prehistoric Stone Monuments, etc. published by the Society of Antiquaries of London; Mr. Tregelles in his plan shows the diameter as 80 feet (V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 390).

page 33 note a The De Lank river flows close to Fernacre farm and between it and Brown Willy.

page 33 note b All measu: ements are taken as the crow flies.

page 33 note c The writer had visited this circle previously on 3rd July, 1905.

page 34 note a See also “Stone Circles of Britain,” Archæological Journal, xlix. 148–50.

page 34 note b Figured by Lukis and Borlase in Prehistoric Monuments of Cornwall, 3, 30, and pl. vi.

page 34 note c My thanks are due to the Director-General of the Ordnance Surveys for this infoimation.

page 35 note a Stone LVIII. probably belongs to the ring.

page 35 note b Mr. Lukis in 1879 said that the circle consisted of ten fallen and forty-five erect stones. He stated that the diameter of the circle was 140 feet, but his plan shows it to be about 147 feet.

page 35 note c Mr. Tregelles in his plan (V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 394) gives a buried stone close to my Stone XXV. and to the N.W. of it; and another between my N”os. XLVII. and XLVIII. He, however, does not give my Stones XXX. XXXI. LXIX. LXX. and LXXI.

page 35 note d Mr. Tregelles in my opinion gives too great a height for many of the stones. He may have estimated the height of the stones above the depressions, whereas my heights are from the general level of the moor to the top of the stones.

page 35 note e V. C. H. Cornwall, i. 394.

page 35 note f Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. 6.

page 36 note a The summit of Brown Willy is about 2¾ degrees N. of E. viewed from the centre of the Fernacre circle.

page 36 note b All measurements as the crow flies.

page 36 note c The roadway leading to Stannon farm passes 250 feet to the N. from the centre of the circle.

page 37 note a See also “Stone Circles of Britain,” Archaeological Journal, xlix. 148–50.

page 37 note b The two peaks of Rough Tor with a lower one between range from 20 degrees to 24 degrees N. of E. Possibly the sun rises between these peaks at some special season of the year; but the writer has been unable to ascertain if this is so.

page 37 note c Lukis and Borlase did not make a plan of this circle. Mr. A. L. Lewis made a small sketchplan which is given in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, xxv. pl. ii., and a larger plan has been made by Mr. Trcgelles.

page 38 note a This flattening appears to me to be rather too strongly emphasised in Mr. Tregelles's plan of the circle. (V. C. H. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 394.)

page 38 note b Mr. Tregelles shows seventy.

page 38 note c In the E. half of the circle Mr. Tregelles in his plan shows a buried stone (No. 29) which we failed to discover. On the other hand he appears to have missed No. XXXIV. of my plan, and to have drawn his No. 36 at the wrong angle. In the W. half he has omitted a standing-stone on the W.N.W. (shown, however, in Mr. Lewis's earlier sketch-plan), and most of the stones on his plan from Nos. 39 to 56 do not appear to be delineated in their correct relative positions. Mr. Tregelles appears also to have missed one or two stones in this part, whilst, owing to the thickness of the gorse, we did not find his No. 47 just outside the circle on the S.W.

page 39 note a These rings could easily have been made true circles by means of a central pole and a cord for radius.

page 40 note a The stones of the Stannon circle are rather larger and more uniform than those of Fernacre.

page 40 note b Proceedings of the Somerset Archæological Society, lii. pt. 2, 4250, and plan.

page 40 note c Journal of the British Archæological Association, xxxiv. 31–6.

page 40 note d Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society, N.S. ii. 55, ei seq.

page 40 note e V. C. B. Cornwall, i. plate facing p. 382

page 41 note a Mr. Tregelles gives the diameters as 146, 145, 138, 103, and 80 feet respectively.


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