drawing borlase book 1769Carwynnen Quoit was first noted in 1700 by the Welsh antiquarian Edward Lhuyd on his travels around Cornwall. It was first illustrated in 1750 by William Borlase. An engraving by John Grieg made from a drawing by William Couling shows it to be an impressive monument.

During a recent visit to the Society of Antiquaries Library in London, Jacky Nowakowski found some new and unpublished sketches of Carwynnen Quoit. These were drawn by nineteenth century Cornish artist and antiquary John Thomas Blight. Two inked sketches show elevations of the monument which are rather cartoon-like in character. But another is a pencil sketch of a plan of the monument with measurements! There is also a pencil sketch of one of the uprights which shows some strange decorative markings on the stone. The drawings are unfortunately undated, but, they must have been produced during visit by Blight to the site some years after the quoit had been restored by Lady Pendarves in 1834. Cornish writers Selina Bates and Keith Spurgin, who researched JT Blight’s fascinating and tragic life for their wonderful book The Dust of Heroes (2006), suggest that the drawings may well have been drawn early in the 1850s at a time when Blight’s artistic output was prolific as he visited many of the county’s ancient sites and antiquities.

In 1856 an engraving of Caerwynnen Quoit (sic) was published alongside one of Lanyon Quoit in Blight’s book, Ancient Crosses and other Antiquities in the West of Cornwall. This very stylised representation of Carwynnen would have been based on these ink and pencil sketches which are now the earliest free-hand images we currently have of the monument.

A mid-18th century sketch by William Borlase shows a Lanyon Quoit-style, table-like monument, its flat granite top supported by three uprights. The 19th century reconstruction was along similar lines, although a section of the capstone had broken off when the monument fell, one of the supporting stones was reduced in height and the arrangement of all the uprights changed. Portal dolmens are usually distinguished by massive capstones upheld by slender uprights creating the impression of a “floating” roof (cf Lanyon Quoit, Madron or Pentre-Ifan in south-west Wales) over an open chamber, but the question of whether these apparently “open” chambers were originally embedded within a mound remains unresolved.

The Gorsedd procession to Carwynnen Quoit 1948

There are numerous references in local guidebooks to the mystery that is Krommlegh Garwinnon, or, as it is otherwise locally known, the Giant’s Quoit. We know from photographs we have collected that in the twentieth century, local groups visited this local landmark: the Camborne Old Cornwall Societyin 1925 and the Cornish Gorsedd in 1948.

Newsclipping of the 1948 Gorsedd at Giant's Quoit