This one is Trethevy Quoit, a very well preserved megalithic stone tomb which sits on the edge of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, close to the village of St Cleer.
Built from granite, the Quoit is what’s known as a portal dolmen, the simplest form of chambered tomb, constructed from stone uprights (portals) with a smaller stone to the rear supporting a large capstone. Standing at approximately nine feet high, originally the whole structure would have been covered with earth. This particular type of tomb dates from the Neolithic period, between 3700 and 3500 BC, and archaeological investigation has shown that it was used as a community burial site for a very long period of time.
Trethevy is one of the finest examples of a portal dolmen in the country and, apart from no longer being covered in earth, it stands today almost exactly as it would have done 6,000 years ago. One of the upright stones has fallen inwards, but luckily this wasn’t a supporting stone so whenever this collapse happened it didn’t bring the rest of the structure tumbling down with it. Like many of the ancient monuments dating from this period, there’s some speculation that the Quoit is astronomically aligned and a hole at its highest point has led to the theory that astronomical observations may have taken place here.
Locally, Trethevy Quoit has two nicknames – the Giant’s House or King Arthur’s Quoit. Quite how it came by the name “Giant’s House” is a bit bewildering as at only nine feet high it’s a bit too small to be accommodating a giant. A document dating from 1598 described it as “a little howse raysed of mightie stones standing on a little hill within a fielde”. No mention of giants there!
There are many places scattered throughout the UK claiming to be the final resting place of the legendary King Arthur, who sleeps with his knights in some mystical place until one day, in the country’s hour of darkest need, they will all wake up again and come to the rescue. Such places can be found as far afield as Scotland, Wales and even Richmond Castle in Yorkshire. If anywhere has a strong claim to Arthur though it must surely be Cornwall, home to Tintagel Castle, his legendary birthplace. I’ve always been fascinated by Arthurian myths and legends and all the different associated places, but I think we can forget about any future help from the Knights of the Round Table. There have been plenty of “darkest hour” moments without so much as a glimmer of Excalibur’s manifestation.
So, Trethevy may not be the site of the mythical Avalon, but even so it’s an impressive little ancient monument and something of an icon of the Neolithic period.