Stannon Stone Circle
Stannon stone circle
NGR: SX 1257 8002
Stannon stone circle is located at the edge of the rolling expanse of Stannon Moor, just above a river valley which marks the upper limit of modern cultivation. The site is currently somewhat overshadowed by the china clay works, and its landscape situation is obscured, but until the 20th century the area around the circle would have been dominated by the western summit of Rough Tor to the east, with its tor enclosure. The Stannon – Roughtor area contains one of the most remarkable concentration of upstanding monuments dating to the early prehistoric period. Two other stone circles lie close by: Louden is just 850m to the south-east while Fernacre is 2km away, due east of Stannon and south of the Roughtor summit. Stannon appears to have much in common with these two circles; they are all very large, by Cornish standards, and all are made up of a large number of small upright stones. Stannon has between 64 and 68 stones laid out in an irregular ring. Originally there may have been as many as 82 stones. Fernacre also has a large number of stones in its make-up, Louden fewer, yet the three circles are the largest in Cornwall and could have been amongst the first to be built. All are irregular in shape and may have been laid out by eye rather than using a central peg and rope to survey an accurate circle as was probable with the more regular circles.
Numerous cairns are sited on Stannon Down, mostly in clusters, and there are four small upright stones to the north-west of the circle that appear to be part of an alignment through Stannon towards the Louden circle. A number of straight alignments have been identified between circles and other monuments in this area; a line from Stannon circle via Fernacre circle passes close to the large cairn on the northern summit of Brown Willy for example. A line from Roughtor’s northern summit through Fernacre circle passes through the cairn cemeteries and natural tor on the summit of Garrow Hill. With map and ruler you will be able to discover several other similar alignments. There is also a convincing astronomical alignment from Stannon to Rough Tor around May Day and Lammas time when the sun rises through the gap between the two summits of the tor. At the equinoxes the sun also rises over the tip of Brown Willy.
There is little good dating evidence for the construction of stone circles in Cornwall and they are, by analogy with other areas, assumed to date to the early Bronze Age. The relationship between the stone circles and the cairns, field systems and round houses is problematical, but it seems that they are unlikely to be closely contemporary. Nevertheless, broad patterns of site distributions can be proposed and it is possible to define ritual and ceremonial landscapes beyond the settlements and fields.
The monument stands at the edge of open moorland to the south of the Stannon china clay works and can be accessed by the road that leads to the clay works from Harpur’s Downs to the west. From Stannon it is possible to walk to all of the other monuments mentioned above.
Barnatt, J, 1982. Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments. Turnstone Press Limited. ISBN 0 85500 129 1
Payne, R, 1999. The Romance of the Stones: Cornwall’s Pagan Past. Alexander Associates. ISBN 899526 66 8