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Merry Maidens Stone Circle

St Buryan, Cornwall

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A stone circle with Nineteen granite megaliths, the circle is 24 metres in diameter, (perfectly round). The tallest stone standing 1.4 metres tall, and stones are regularly spaced around the circle, with a gap or entrance at its exact most easterly point.

This circle has many names,

Known as Dawn's Men (a likely corruption of the Cornish Dans Maen). Also spelt Dons Meyn, Dans Maen, Dawns-mÍn and  Dans Mean. As 'Zans Meyn' is the Cornish phrase meaning 'stone circle', this may not really be a name at all.

It is Also known as:  Rosemodress Stone Circle, Rosmodreuy Circle, Boleigh Circle  and Boleit Circle.

The word 'merry' may be a corruption of the word Mary, the name of an ancient goddess and nothing to do with Christianity. She was Ma-Ri, her name signifying a fruitful or fertile mother. But is also attributed to a legend:-

The local legend or myth about the creation of the stones suggests that nineteen maidens were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. (Dans Maen translates as Stone Dance). The pipers, two megaliths some distance north-east of the circle, are said to be the petrified remains of the musicians who played for the dancers. A more detailed story explains why the Pipers are so far from the Maidens - apparently the two pipers heard the church clock in St Buryan strike midnight, realised they were breaking the sabbath, and started to run up the hill away from the maidens who carried on dancing without accompaniment.

These petrifaction legends are often associated with stone circles, from a period when the fear of god was promoted, and is reflected in the folk names of some of the nearby sites, for example, the Tregeseal Dancing Stones, the Nine Maidens of Boskednan.  Similar stories relate to many others including Hurlers and Pipers on Bodmin Moor, Stanton Drew in Somerset and the Rollrights in Oxfordshire.

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This circle is in perfect condition some suggest too perfect in comparison to others nearby.

But they may have been restored, lets explain why:-

In the Cornwall Archaeological Unit's Review of 1995-6, we find "The Merry Maidens (SW433245) is one of the best preserved and probably the best known stone circle in Cornwall. It came as a shock then, in June 1995, when Mike Rosendale of Penwith District Council reported that the circle had been vandalised; one of the stones had been uprooted and left prostrate on the ground. Before the stone was re-erected the stone hole was excavated by Charlie Johns and Andy Jones of the CAU. They made the surprising discovery that the stone had originally been set at right-angles to the circle and that when restored in the 19th Century it had been turned through 90 degrees and placed in line with the circle. On this occasion the stone was set up again as it had been before vandalism. It was re-erected by Andrew Marment and Marcel Deigan, under the supervision of Mike Rosendale, on the occasion of a visit to Cornwall by English Heritage inspectors and Field Monument Wardens from southern England".

Another report from another source reads "In 1907 an emmet (an outsider) from England bought the farm where the Merry Maidens stone circle stands. Thinking that the stones lessened the value of the field, the new owner ordered one of his workers to pull them down and add them to the stone walls surrounding the meadow". The worker, a Cornishman, protested, but the Englishman insisted: "This is my field, and I'll do with it what I please, and you'll do as I say!"  Next day the Cornishman hitched up three shire horses to a chain and began the task. Anyway, while pulling over the first stone the lead horse panicked, reared up, then fell over dead. Reporting this to his master, the Cornishman asked if he should fetch another horse for the task. "No," said the landowner. "Set the stone back upright. We'll pull the lot of them down later."  But the stone circle was left undisturbed, and remains so to this day.

So was this the stone mentioned, or highlights more going on than we are fully aware of.

The astronomer Sir J. Norman Lockyer described a conversation about a missing circle close by, "Mr Horton Bolitho... in one of his visits came across 'the oldest inhabitant,' who remembered a second circle. He said, 'It was covered with furze (gorse) and never shown to antiquarians'; ultimately the field in which it stood was ploughed up and the stones removed", although Mr Bolitho marked the exact position of the lost site on a 25-inch map for posterity.

The 19 stones at the Merry Maidens is the same as, or similar to, the number of stones at other circles in the region, and some in other locations, see Torhouse Scotland. It has been suggested that 19 would have been an important number for a people who celebrated the path of the moon through the great lunar cycle.

As its well known by tourists and others, right by the side of a road and in such good condition, this circle is much visited by tourists in the summer and widely used by a variety of new age groups, including some theatricals put on by druids, and pagan marriages (handfasting) amongst others. If you are out of season, then you may be lucky and have it to yourself.  Its worth visiting even if it is busy.

Across the road, hidden in lane (about 0.4km) is a standing stone, (SW429245). Two more are also 0.4km away at SW435248, there are a number of other stones and circles within 10 miles.

This circle is not listed as far as I can see by either National Trust or English Heritage on their websites. I can't find any other website covering this site well or owner listed.

See also

Our section on stone circles

The discussion on the purpose of stone circles


Planning Grid

Location:

Merry Maidens, near Penzance Cornwall

By the side of the B3315 Land's End to Newlyn road

2 miles (3 km) to the south of the village of St Buryan

Grid Reference:

SW433245         OS Landranger sheet 203, Land's End.

Map Link:

Multimap

Google maps aerial photograph

Getting there:

B3315 Land's End to Newlyn road

2 miles to the south of the village of St Buryan

Access:

Gate off road

Parking:

Layby next to it by the side of the road

Facilities:

None

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Stone circle, possibly pageants going on, other nearby stones.

Stone walls around local fields.

What to take:

Nothing special required.

Nature highlights:

If out of season, possibly, when busy you are not likely to see much wildlife.

Best Times to Visit:

Out of the main tourist season, and avid pagan festival dates.

Address:

Lamorna

Penzance

Cornwall

Postcode:

 

Telephone:

 

E-mail:

 

Website:

 

Opening times:

Open all the times

Charges:

None

Photo Restrictions:

None

Other Restrictions: None
Special Needs Access: Level, and gate to access.
Special Needs Facilities: None
Children Facilities: A nice site for children to visit.
Dogs Allowed: Better not, as many people use it for ceremonials etc, and go barefoot, sheep's droppings they expect but may not appreciate the dogs additions.

Other useful websites:

http://www.historiccornwall.org.uk/a2m/bronze_age/
stone_circle/merry_maidens/merry_maidens.htm

http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/
cornwall/ancient/Merry-Maidens.htm

CIN Page Ref:

merry_maidens

Date Updated:02/08

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