This remarkable monument deserves more than a passing notice. The large mass of rock pointed north and south, and it used to be remarked by the quarrymen that about Midsummer the rays of the rising and setting sun poured straight through the passage under the rock; in reality the mass rested on a single point on the southern side. The apparently northern supports were not in contact with the large mass, as was often shewn by passing a thin cord between it and them. The northern rock on which it apparently partly rested was a long slab resting on other large rock masses piled on each other, but quite detached from the hill.
When a crow-bar was inserted under the Tolmen south of its main support, a few persistent efforts would cause the whole mass to vibrate. The northern end being much narrower, the rock projected in that direction, and the equilibrium would be in danger of being destroyed but for the peculiar arrangement above described; for the viabrating mass as it dipped north tilted up the long slab, which was in a line with the longer axis and thus acted as an equipoise. It is impossible to conceive that this arrangement was altogether natural. In all probability a natural confirmation of the rocks was taken advantage of to produce a desired result.
The Men Rock itself and those about it were covered in a remarkable way with deep rock basins. Other large monuments in the vicinity show evident marks of being artificially shaped.
Part of a letter in the 'Royal Cornwall Gazette' on March 18th 1869:
... the rock rests at the bottom of the quarry, precisely as it stood in its former proud pre-eminence; and the sacrificial basins, lips, and channels, described by Borlase, may now be seen as they have probably existed for two thousand years. I saw it yesterday in deep grief and mortification, for I am a Cornishman, and have Constantine blood in my veins. I don't here mention the tradition that exists throughout this district against him who injures this Tolmen. I would rather believe that his own reflections will be sufficient punishment for the irreparable loss he has occasioned to the antiquities of Cornwall.
I have taken the stone's grid reference from an 1880s map which shows its ex-location.
But the most astonishing Monument of this kind, is in the Tenement of Men, in the Parish of Constantine, Cornwall (Plate XIII.) It is one vast egg-like stone, placed on the points of two natural Rocks, so that a man may creep under the great one, and between its supporters, through a passage about three feet wide, and as much high.
The longest diameter of this Stone is 33 foot from C to D, pointing due North and South; from A to B, is 14 feet 6 deep; and the breadth in the middle of the surface, where widest, was 18 feet 6 wide from East to West. I measured one half of the circumference, and found it, according to my computation, 48 feet and half, so that this Stone is 97 feet in circumference, about 60 feet cross the middle, and, by the best informations I can get, contains at least 750 tons of Stone.
Getting up by a ladder to view the top of it, we found the whole surface worked, like an imperfect, or mutilated Honey-comb, into Basons; one much larger than the rest (bb), was at the South-end, about seven foot long; another at the North (cc), about five; the rest smaller, seldom more than one foot, oftentimes not so much, the sides and shape irregular.
Most of these Basons discharge into the two principal ones (which lie in the middle of the surface), those only excepted which are near the brim of the Stone, and they have little lips or chanels (marked in Plate XIII, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) which discharge the Water they collect over the sides of the Tolmen, adn the flat Rocks which lie underneath receive the droppings in Basons cut into their surfaces.
This Stone is no less wonderful for its position, than for its size; for although the underpart is nearly semi-circular, yet it rests on the two large Rocks E, F; and so light, and detached, does it stand, that it touches the two under stones but as it were on their points, and all the Sky appears at G.
A Correspondent writes:--
"Immediately beneath the Main (or Mean) rock, is an extensive and valuable quarry of superior granite, which has been worked to a depth of about forty feet, and close up to the bed on which the Main rock rested. This quarry has been worked by a man named Dunstan, who appears to have had a great desire to get at the valuable bed of granite on which the rock rested; and unknown to Mr. W. Hosken, the proprietor of the land, we are informed, has been working after dark, boring holes and blasting underneath the rock. He appears to have failed in his first attempt, but on Tuesday he bored a hole on the other side, and put in a charge, which, when fired, threw the Tolmen off its pivot, when it gradually, and as if reluctantly, rolled into the quarry beneath, where it now lies forty feet below the place it has occupied for centuries, to the wonder and admiration of thousands. Soon after it fell into the quarry these greedy Goths fell on it like crows on carrion, and commenced boring holes in it, intending with their rippers and wedges to split it in pieces; but, fortunately, the proprietor was informed of what had taken place, and he immediately gave orders that it should remain as it is, as it was contrary to his wish that it should have been disturbed."
To the Editor of the Times.
Sir, - You recorded last week the destruction of the great Tolmaen, in Constantine parish, near Penrhyn, which was blown up a few days ago for the sake of the granite by a man named Dunstan. Having been informed some weeks ago by the Rev. Mr. Winwood that the Tolmaen was in danger, I put myself in communication with the proprietor, Mr. Haskin, intending to offer some compensation for, or, if possible, to acquire it permanently for the nation; but I was assured that there was no reason for any anxiety on the subject.
The mischief done is of course irreparable: but every right-minded man must condemn the wanton barbarism of him who has thus destroyed, for the mere sake of the granite on which it stood, a monument which old Borlase called the 'most astonishing of its kind.'
I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
In consequence of a communication from Sir John Lubbock in reference to the destruction of the great Tolmaen in Cornwall, the Council of the Ethnological Society has named a committee to ascertain the present state of prehistoric monuments in these islands, and the best means for their preservation. The committee comprises Sir John Lubbock, Professor Huxley, Colonel Lane Fox, Mr. Hyde Clark, Mr. Blackmore, Mr. John Evans, Mr. A.W. Franks, Mr. T. Wright, Mr. H.G. Bohn, and Mr. Samuel Laing, Vice-President.
In Volume 1 of the Journal of the Ethnological Society of London (1869-70).