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Stannon

Stone Circle

Fieldnotes

STANNON STONE CIRCLE...a return visit.
5th October 2013.

This was my second visit to Stannon stone circle, the first being in May 2012 when it was a dull, over-cast and windy day.
I’d come back for one main reason if truth be told, and that was to see if the negativity I felt there the first time around would still be with me, but this time it was a reasonably sunny day with a light wind so I was hoping for better things.
This circle, in common with Louden circle to the south-east and Fernacre circle directly to the east nestling beneath the southern slopes of Roughtor, has been termed a ‘ceremonial’ circle. This appears to be mainly because of their size, being the three largest circles in Cornwall (aside from the Stripple Stones which is a henge site) and not based on any actual tangible evidence that they were used for this purpose.
Stannon Circle, although not strictly circular, being a mixture of curves and a selection of short straighter segments, is officially 139’-8” x 132’-10” (PastScape) in diameter but that depends entirely on where exactly you take the measurements from, and has between 70-80 stones in its setting in various shapes and sizes and either standing or fallen, but mainly on the smaller size and gives the circle an almost unimpressive look to it for one so large. There is a flattened, well bedded stone, lying off-centre within the circle which may or may not be part of the original build. The locally sourced granite stones to the south-west sector would appear to be the tallest at about a metre high with the remaining standing stones around 0.5 metres with the exception of a large magnificent leaning triangular stone directly west. Those in the north-west quadrant seem to be the most regular in height, type and spacing, with the north and south-east quadrants being rather flattened, small and unevenly spaced. I got the impression that a lot of the stones in these last named areas have suffered the most over the years and possibly been damaged/moved by farm vehicles and replaced randomly closing up many of the more regular spacing’s.

Because of my principal interest in them, the magnificent triangular stone within the setting was the first stone I concentrated on as both Louden and Fernacre circles boast the same such singular flagship stone. I carefully, as best I could taking into consideration that the circle is not truly circular, calculated the exact centre of the monument and took a compass reading. The stone is exactly due west and not slightly NW as I had previously poorly recorded due to me not marking out the centre of the circle more accurately, another reason I felt the need to return.

What hadn’t changed however from my previous field-notes or my thoughts, was the ‘ceremonial’ label that had been bestowed upon this circle and it troubles me.
The term ceremonial to my mind indicates a circle that was built and used for special occasions and because of this on my previous visit was expecting a beautifully crafted true circle with specially selected or even dressed larger stones similar to those at the Hurlers for its setting…not a mish-mash of unregulated rough stones of all differing shapes and predominantly small literally thrown together in a poor attempt at forming a true circle! Working northwards from the triangular stone it started well, but midway along the west to east northern sectors it sort of fell apart! Why? What happened to the grandeur that one would (today) normally expect of a ceremonial monument?
It wasn’t like there was a shortage of larger stones on the moor as they lie everywhere. The transportation of heavy and bulky stones doesn’t appear to have been much of a hindrance to our Late Neolithic/Early Bronze-Age ancestors as seen elsewhere, so why the totally unimpressive array of random small stones instead of those that would have made a statement of the importance of the monument? It is this that puzzles me the most.

Looking around the circle I was drawn to a section to the south-west where the setting looked somewhat different to the rest with those previously mentioned taller stones seemingly purposely erected closer together and more ‘group’ like with some smaller random stones lying around the base of them. My first thought was that ‘something’ took place in this area which seemed to be at the juncture of two straighter sections...but what?
In common with most Bodmin Moor circles, although on this occasion somewhat masked due to the build-up of the china clay banking, Roughtor is in the background overseeing all before it and I won’t be alone in thinking that it was likely to have once been revered by our great ancestors who built these circles.

As for the negativity I felt here last time, well it was more of a bereft feeling this time, but there was more. I still felt that whatever the circle had once stood for was now gone along with its builders and that saddened me, but I still felt that this circle was not understood and it was erected as part of something else and not as a ‘stand alone’ circle.

It was only when I got back home and reflected on what I’d seen and thought at the time that I began to look at things differently. Prior to my initial visit to Stannon, I’d never before left a stone circle behind feeling unsatisfied with what I’d seen and never have again since. One of my reasons for returning, as I have already mentioned, was to check out the triangular stone and it was this that set me thinking again. What special significance could the triangular stones have held to be featured so prominently in the three large circles on this part of Bodmin Moor and what could their separate positions within each circle reveal? Stannon’s triangular stone is due west in its setting, Fernacre’s due east and Louden’s due south. Oddly enough, Stannon circle itself is to the west, Fernacre is to the east and Louden to the south on this section of the moor, so their triangular stones are all on their outermost perimeters of West/East/South…and linked up, the three circles form a triangle themselves! Could this be significant or pure speculation?
The similarities the three circles share could well tell a story. Similar in size, all irregular circles, all built of mainly small stones, all having an impressive singular triangular stone and all within close sight of Roughtor. This suggests to me that they were built by the same people and part of a much greater plan and all at the same time. Were they built to interact with each other and not so important as individual circles after all? In fact why would you require three ‘Ceremonial’ circles within a short distance of each other? Why was one not enough to serve such a small area or community?
Is that why I felt the negativity with Stannon circle because it really was built for a different reason and was not a ‘stand-alone’ circle with a separate function after all? That could possibly explain the three circles apparent lack of quality construction and only roughly circular shapes, but I think I ought to stop there as I’m in danger of over-speculating again…something I can get very good at, but will nevertheless no doubt try to expand on in time! Questions, questions!
Posted by Sanctuary
12th October 2013ce

Comments (2)

interesting that you felt negativity from the circle, I grew up in the shadow of Rough Tor and have only ever felt positive (if chilly) feelings there on my many visits. xseawitch Posted by xseawitch
12th October 2013ce
Hi xseawitch,
Yes, odd isn't it because I didn't feel like that at either Louden or Fernacre. Mind you, nobody could feel like that at Fernacre as it is in such a wonderful landscape.
Posted by Sanctuary
12th October 2013ce
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