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The Doniert Stone, also known as King Doniert’s Stone, is one of two ancient carved stones which stand together in an enclosure beside the road linking the A38 to Minions and Upton Cross, on the south-eastern side of Bodmin Moor. The two stones are parts of early mediæval crosses, perhaps of late 9th century date.
The Doniert Stone is the decorated pedestal for a large memorial cross and is panelled on all four sides with a mortice cut into the top, probably to take a cross shaft and cross-head, each piece cut from an individual block of granite. Three sides of the stone are carved with beautifully designed interlace patterns while the fourth is cut with an inscription bearing the name of the last recorded Cornish King. The inscription reads “Doniert rogavit pro anima” which translates as “Doniert begs prayers for the sake of his soul”. Documentary sources refer to a King Dumgarth who drowned c AD875 and with whom Doniert has been identified.
The second stone on the site, know as “the Other Half Stone” is a decorated cross-shaft. A mortice in the top indicates that this stone was designed to have either a cross-head socketted into the top or a further length of shaft and then the cross-head. The decorated panel on the front is an eight cord plait and the back has broken off but the two sides are uncarved, suggesting that the monument was never completed.
Both stones, as we see them nowadays, are only small fragments of original stone crosses, and there can be no doubt that when first set up, these were impressive monuments. Assuming that the Doniert Stone does indeed commemorate a Cornish King, one can only speculate on its purpose, standing as it does beside a track only 12 miles from Hingston Down where in 838 the Anglo-Saxon King Edgar had defeated a combined force of Danes and Cornish, thus decisively bringing Cornwall under English control.
Similarly designed cross-shafts can be seen at nearby St Neot Church and St Just in Penwith in Cornwall, as well as at Copplestone near Crediton and Exeter (in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum) in Devon. In South Wales, ‘composite’ and interlace-decorated crosses like these are found at Nevern and Carew, although whether there is any relationship between the two groups is uncertain.
In the seventeenth century local miners prospecting near the crosses broke into an underground chamber beneath the stones. Despite various theories suggesting that the chambers might represent a chapel or vault associated with the stones it seems far more likely that they relate to mining activities in the area.
The field adjacent to the one in which these two crosses originally stood is identified as “Two Cross Downs” on the 1840 Tithe Map, probably in reference to these two crosses. The name also gives a clue to their original setting. Though now within a small enclosure surrounded by farmland, the stones would once have stood on open downland, like nearby Long Tom. At this point, tracks heading east across the downs towards Kit Hill, west to St Neot and Bodmin, south-west to Dobwalls and thence to Lostwithiel and Fowey, south to Liskeard and north up the Fowey Valley all crossed, making the location a significant one.
The Doniert Stone and the Other Half Stone can be visited at any time. A small layby allows easy parking beside the road.
Langdon, AG, 1896. Old Cornish Crosses. Cornwall Books.
Langdon, A, 2005. Stone Crosses in East Cornwall. Federation of Old Cornwall Societies. ISBN 0 902660 32 2