The Hurlers stone circles
NGR: SX 25866 71556
On the gentle south-facing slope of Minions Moor, a landscape
heavily scarred by mining and quarrying, stand the three great stone
circles known as the Hurlers. Folk tales explain that the stones
represent local people turned to stone by a humourless deity for
playing the game of hurling on the Sabbath. To the south-west are a
pair of standing stones known as the Pipers – presumably Hurling was
played to a musical accompaniment.
Although not set out in a straight line, the centres of the circles
trend towards the ridge to the north, with the still impressive bulk
of Rillaton Barrow on the near horizon and the summit of Stowe’s Hill
with it’s Neolithic tor enclosure and the striking natural granite
formation known as the Cheesewring on the skyline. Dating to the early Bronze Age,
the Hurlers lie in a remarkable ‘ceremonial landscape’ of stone
circles, stone rows, standing stones, cists and cairns. A particular
feature of the monuments in this area is their tendency to ‘refer
to’ significant tors and horizon features, especially the tor enclosure on Stowes Hill and the group of large barrows on Caradon
Hill. The numerous alignments apparent in this area suggest that the
Hurlers may have been part of an important processional route.
The area has been extensively disturbed by mining and only the
central circle has a large proportion of its stones in-situ, but
this is because they were reset after the site was excavated by
Raleigh-Radford in 1935-6. Fourteen stone uprights survive in the
central circle, with fourteen markers for missing stones, placed in
empty stone sockets during restoration works. Originally all the
circles are said to have contained twenty nine stones (though the
central circle is considerably larger than the other two) and it was
Carew who noted the “...strange observation that a re-doubled
numbering never eveneth with the first”. The inner faces of the
stones are smooth and regular and most of the stones are flat topped
and graded so that the tallest stones are to the south, which may
support the idea of a processional route through the circles leading
towards the north. This is also the case with the north circle and
possibly also the south circle - though this is now in a very poor
and incomplete condition. It has been noted that flat lozenge shaped
stones tend to alternate with more slender uprights and it has been
proposed that the former represent the feminine principle whilst the
latter represent the masculine. Excavations revealed a quartz
crystal ‘floor’ within the central circle and the small granite
block currently sited within the circle may originally have marked
the true centre.
Two standing stones known as the Pipers lie to the south-west of the
Hurlers flanking a modern boundary bank. ‘Outliers’ such as these
are a common feature of stone circles in Cornwall and further afield
and they are likely to be prehistoric in origin, re-used as a
prominent landmark when the boundary was first established.
Interestingly, both the Pipers and the Hurlers fall on an
approximate alignment between the ‘embanked avenue’ and stone circle
on Craddock Moor and the prominent barrow group on Caradon Hill. The
Pipers may thus represent a ‘portal’ giving access to the Hurlers
from the west.
The Hurlers can be reached by level tracks from car parks located on
the north and south sides of Minions village. Close to the northern
car park, Houseman’s engine house is now a base for the Caradon
Countryside Service and contains displays on the archaeology,
history and ecology of the surrounding moors.
Barnatt, J, 1980. Lesser Known Stone Circles in Cornwall in Cornish Archaeology
Johnson, R. and Rose, P, 1994. Bodmin Moor: An Archaeological Survey.
Vol.1: The human landscape to c1800. English Heritage. ISBN 0953
Martin, L, 2004. The Hurlers, Cornwall. Report on Geophysical
Survey, February 2004. English Heritage.
Payne, R. 1999. The Romance of the Stones:
Cornwall's Pagan Past. Alexander Associates. ISBN 899526 66 8
Ground & Aerial photographs