Mulfra Quoit

Megalithic Tomb - Cornwall

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SW 45190 35368 (GPS 35min)
Visited June 2000 No magnetic anomalies

The Mulfra Quoit stands near the summit of Mulfra Hill, and on a day with better visibility than the one of our visit, probably has spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Some of the stones that formed the burial chamber are missing, so it is difficult to get an idea of its original form. The two possibilities seem to be either a four slab stone box with capstone as at Chun Quoit, or a Portal Tomb arrangement having a second set of side slabs to the SW sealed with a "entrance" slab. 
When a plan of the Mulfra Quoit is compared to that for the Chun Quoit (see below), it is obvious that the simple addition to Mulfra of another side slab at the SW would create a structure very much like that of the Chun which stands only 5km away to the WSW.

We noticed that the underside of the capstone at Mulfra has a centre section that is raised by several centimetres. If the capstone were to be tilted to rest on the surviving slabs, it looked as though this raised section would fit between the side slabs and engage on the top of the NE slab. Whether this feature is worked or natural, it would have served to stabilise the structure of the chamber and lock the capstone in place.

William Borlase (1) published the engraving and plan of Mulfra shown below in 1769, it is worth comparing the extent of the remaining cairn material shown in the illustration with our photos of the Quoit. Borlase writes, "The Stone-Barrow with which this Cromleh is surrounded is about two feet high from the general surface, and 37 feet three inches in diameter." As can be seem from our photos, nothing of this substantial mound remains today.

Borlase gives the original size of the capstone as nine feet eight inches by fourteen feet three inches, this included "a piece evidently clove, or broke off from it , and lying near it". The capstone fragment was not in evidence during our visit and has probably shared the fate of the cairn material that was extant in Borlase's time. Borlase dug into the ground area enclosed by the stones going down twenty inches until he hit the "natural, stony stratum which lies on the Karn, not moved since the deluge". He found various layers of coloured earth which led him to believe that a pit had originally been dug in the interior.
W.C.Borlase, writing over a hundred years later (2), largely repeats his forebear's account of the Quoit and dispels a report "by the author of the Land's End District" that the Mulfra Quoit was felled by a lightning strike during a thunderstorm in 1752. Borlase states that his forebear visited the Quoit on the 23rd of October 1749, and "at that time the Cromlech was in precisely the same state as present." 
W.C.Borlase describes how in the winter of 1871 he investigated "a low cairn of stones, about thirty feet in diameter, and two feet high, on the northern brow of the hill on which this Cromlech stands", the only finds being charred wood and a smooth pebble. Another cairn lying to the west was checked but was found " to have been previously overhauled."
Later authors treat Mulfra as very much the poor relation of the Cornish Quoits, Hencken (3) dismisses it along with Chun as "nothing but an enormous cist in a round barrow". Daniel (4), although including a plan drawing of Mulfra in his survey of Chamber Tombs, scarcely mentions more than the name of the Quoit, classifying it as a "typically rectangular" chamber.

1. Borlase W. Antiquities Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall, Bowyer and Nichols, London 1769
2. Borlase W.C., Naenia Cornubiae, 1872 Longmans.
3. Hencken H., The Archaeology of Cornwall and Scilly, 1932 Metheun.
4. Daniel G.E., The Prehistoric Chamber Tombs of England and Wales, 1950 Cambridge University Press.

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