Barbara Bender

adapted for the internet by Paul Basu

Close to the top of the hill is the quoit. In prehistoric times people lifted one stone on top of the other, and then levered up the top stone and propped it so that a peep-hole was created. On the evening of the Summer Solstice, if you stand to the south of the quoit, the sun goes down behind the peep-hole.

Just south of the quoit we found the remains of a small stone circle. Very ruined. But from it runs a line of stones, and this line is directly aligned on the quoit.

Below the quoit, again to the south and downslope, you can see the large pyramid stone. It lies at the top of the corridor that runs up the hill between the southern and western settlements.

There is a wall, a strange wall, that runs north and south and west of the quoit. It runs south from the quoit to the north-east corner of the western compound, it runs north from the quoit to an important tabular stone outcrop and then circles west down to the Fowey valley. There is also a short remnant of wall to the west of the quoit which comes up against the compound behind the shaman’s house (house 3). This wall is not big enough or compact enough to keep out animals. Its purpose, we think, is to ‘contain’ the western settlement. It marks the edge of the everyday world and links that world to the high places where more formal rituals took place.

Henry and Barbara walked the length of the wall. They started above the river Fowey and followed the wall as ran up the hill towards the tabular outcrop.
Wall 1
B: See how the wall starts - or ends? The wall’s very skimpy but it’s marked by a series of small transverse slabs - there’s a transverse oblong slab, then a low oblong, then another oblong, and then a pyramid. There’s nothing like it anywhere else along the wall.

H: It’s very striking - other walls peter out, this has an end stop.

B: The valley would have been wooded - the end-stop seems to mark the top edge of the wooded valley slope.

H: Moving along this first section of wall - there are fairly large boulders but no real structure - its so different to the western compound wall which is much thicker and more carefully built. You get the impression that this wall is marking out a space rather than being functional.
Wall 2
B: Above the transverse slabs the wall snakes towards a big pyramid-shaped grounder. In this stretch there are some small grounders, a bit of a multiple wall, a few uprights - selected stones. And looking back from the pyramid stone you get a sense of the valley opening up below and of the opposite hillside.
Wall 3
H: The wall swings again, and comes to a very large grounder. The interesting thing is that the wall doesn’t ride right over the grounder it goes along the edge of it, so this grounder’s being kept within the enclosed space. It’s an inside grounder.

B: Now there’s short stretch of multiple wall with small rather scattered stones. Another very large grounder, and some big solid boulders riding over the top of an almost hidden grounder.

H: Here’s one of the cleared spaces, just below the
dragon tooth stones. Maybe part of the explanation of the curving of the wall is that people are making naturally cleared spaces bigger by shifting stones to the side. Dave Hooley [English Heritage] remarked on the similarity of these cleared spaces and the ones that he’d seen on Craddock Moor.

B: I guess they’d be for cultivation. But Pete Herring [Cornish Archaeological Unit] reckons the western settlement was pure pastoralism. He’s got no time for cleared cultivated patches! It’s one of our real problems - trying to get a handle on the economy.

I like this next stretch: the wall’s tumbled, probably multiple rather than single, there are some good sized stones and then every now and again a sort of dragon’s tooth standing out from the rest - a distinctive triangular or oblong upright. And just before the wall curves there’s a fine bold upright - a truncated pyramid or a rough square! - with a lot of packed stones around it.
Wall 4
H: The wall’s curving, there’s a section of double walling, a possible entrance - or at least a gap in the wall. A nice big upright marking the end of a large grounder. The wall doesn’t ride over it. Now there’s a section with very startling uprights - three, four, five, six at least - that stand out.

B: A grounder, then a prominent upright.

H: It’s almost triangular. Look how the wall rides over the large grounders, bending and curving to meet up with them. The wall’s very distinctive here.

B: There’s a stretch of wall with some quite carefully selected stones, and then as the wall changes direction and there’s a really massive stretch of wall. It looks almost orthostatic.

H: We’ve come to a large grounder and there’s a section which is multiple but made of small stones.
wall 5
H: The wall’s changed direction and is running through a clitter flow. The clitter flow is somewhat at an angle to the line of the wall. They seem to have made a real effort to mark this section through the clitter.

B: We’re standing in the clitter flow - the stones aren’t massive, but the wall is really piled up, stones have been wedged upright. There's nothing spectacular about the shapes of the stones, just the sense of piling the stones. The northern end of the clitter is marked by a large boulder.

H: Looking westwards, you can only just see Rough Tor. It’s beginning to fade away below the horizon - you can just see three peaks.
Wall 6
H: Above the clitter the wall’s very sparse. Single boulders. It peters out at some big boulders. Just below the tabular rock there are two very large boulders, but we can’t find any sign of the wall between the boulders. There’s been a lot of quarried stone-working going on in this area.

The wall stops at the area of tabular rock. Climbing up on top of the tabular rock it picks up again, going south towards the quoit.

H: Standing on the tabular rock you can just make out the wall curving round towards the clitter below the rock, but it fades out.
Wall 7
B: moving across the hillside towards the quoit, there’s a series of single boulders. Pretty minimal.
Wall 8
B: But then, as we come onto the tabular rock again the wall disappears. It seems as though, unlike the clitter which is strongly marked by the wall, the tabular rock - the ur rock which gives birth to the clitter - is not to be touched.

H: Yes, it’s when you come off the tabular rock that you find the wall. Look: from up here Rough Tor is very clear on the horizon and, of course, Brown Willey.

H: There’s no wall on the tabular rock to the west of the quoit, but then there’s a fragmentary section running downslope to the compound behind the shaman’s house. It’s not really clear whether this wall is part of the northern wall.

B: There’s another wall that runs south from the Quoit. Again, it comes off the tabular outcrops and then it drops down to the northwest corner of the compound. These walls seem to define the edge of the western settlement.

H: I’d agree with that, and they’re marking out the quoit.

Articles List

Leskernick Homepage