hurlers stone circles

the hurlers three stone circles set on a gently south facing slope in open moorland which has been extensively scarred by mining and quarrying. norden, was the first to record the hurlers in 1584, although he did not realise that they were circles, presumably because they had already been damaged. his map of the hundred of west shows a series of ten upright stones, in no particular arrangement. likewise carew, circa 1602, wrote that ‘in an open plain are to be seen certain stones, somewhat squared, and fastened about a foot deep in the ground, of which some six or eight stand upright in proportionable distance; they are termed the hurlers. and a strange observation taketh place here that a re-doubled numbering never eveneth with the first. but far stranger is the country people’s report that once they were men, and for there hurling upon the sabbath, so metamorphosed’.

in 1754, borlase made the first detailed description; by then, fourty two stones had gone from a calculated original total of eighty two. the hurlers are depicted on the os 1813 map, which shows eleven upright stones. barnatt says that by 1861, a further ten stones had gone. dymond’s plan shows only three less than borlase noted.


the hurlers were scheduled in 1929, with the first modern excavations undertaken by radford between 1935 and 1936, with the two northern circles being partially restored. some stones were re-erected, and small marker stones placed where stones were missing. further work filled in prospecting pits, and levelled boundary banks. radford’s excavations located paving within the northern circle, and a 1.8m wide strip of paving between the two northern circles (seen above); a floor of quartz crystals in the middle circle, along with some early bronze age flints. 

the stones in the northern circle are laid out in a true circle of 34.7m diameter. and are evenly spaced (except on the north west where a natural outcrop may have prevented the sinking of a stone hole) and of regular height between 1.55m and 1.07m. the stones are graded, with the tallest being on the sse.  the floor of quartz crystals found within the central circle and could have resulted from hammer dressing of the stones. the stones are set out as an irregular circle measuring 41.7m by 43.4m; there is a slight bulge on the south-east which barnatt suggests may be either due to an error in layout or the necessary avoidance of intractable granite near the surface. the stones are evenly spaced and of a regular shape and size: all have relatively flat inner faces and many have flat tops. 

barnatt describe the stone circles as not set in a straight line though the axis lies approximately nne-ssw. following restoration, the northern circle has ten upright stones, and the central one fourteen. the southern circle, which was not restored, has only two uprights. their diameters are 34.7m, 41.7m by 43.4m, and approx. 32.8m. stones vary in height from 1.07m to 1.74m, and they appear to be graded, so that the largest tend towards the south. this and the orientation of the circles may be related to an approach from the lowlands to the south. the regular shape and size of the stones, and their tendency to alternate between flat lozenge shapes (female) and slender uprights (male) suggests that they may have been dressed to shape.

the hurlers are located in an area which appears to have been the focus of ritual activity in prehistoric times. though the circles are not in a straight alignment, stowe’s pound and rillaton barrow lie on the northern horizon and to the south lies long tom, a crudely hewn stone cross which may be a christianised menhir. the hurlers are part of a complex alignment which includes the craddock moor ’embanked avenue’, the terminal of a stone row, a stone circle, passing then between the two northern circles (where radford noted paving) and on to the barrow cemetery on top of caradon hill. the pipers lying adjacent on the south-west side are very regular in shape and seem to be recent boundary stones, they could be re-used menhirs.