Volume XI: Cornwall

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Current Display: Boscastle (harbour) 1, Cornwall Forward button Back button

National Grid Reference of Place of Discovery
Present Location
On windowsill in Boscastle Visitor Centre (SX 0978 9133)
Evidence for Discovery
Dredged out of the harbour at Boscastle, along with other objects, following flooding in 2004
Church Dedication
Present Condition
Broken but stable; worn; situation good

Stone bowl with a squarish base which halfway up widens and expands to a more rounded cross-section; the rim is rounded. On opposite sides, close to the top, is a small hole, cut through the thickness of the bowl, but now filled with lead. On one side, the stone has been broken above the hole. The bowl is undecorated, but has traces of whitewash or similar on the top and in places on the sides. In the bottom, the hole tapers markedly and has traces of lead (?) in it.


Appendix A item (stones of uncertain date)

The item was first taken for an ancient font when it was removed from the harbour silt following flooding in 2004. Charles Thomas (pers. comm.) supported this interpretation on the basis of its similarity to the alleged fonts from Tintagel churchyard and island, Tintagel 2 (Ills. 2714) and Tintagel 3 (Ills. 2756) (see below). However, as there is no chapel or other ecclesiastical site in the immediate vicinity of Boscastle harbour, this theory has little to support it and alternative possibilities need to be considered. Bowl-like stone artefacts of this sort are often wrongly ascribed an ecclesiastical origin (Worth 1967, 3901; Thomas, A. C. 1967a, 11719): for example, there is a fine collection of mortars of presumed medieval date in the churchyard at St Enodoc, near Padstow (Cox 1912, 99).

An alternative interpretation of this bowl was plausibly suggested by Heulyn Lewis of North Cornwall District Council, when carrying out research for the information panels in the visitor centre where the bowl is now housed. Lewis pointed to the existence of another very similar stone bowl displayed in Boscastle, beside the War Memorial. This is recorded as a corn measure (Maclean 1873, 61718); being approximately 55 cm (2122 in) in diameter and 30 cm (12 in) deep, it is said to have a capacity of 16 gallons, or two Winchester bushels. The bowl is plain, but apparently otherwise similar to a definite corn measure in Bodmin Museum (Maclean 1873, 192). The bowl from the harbour is smaller than either of these, but a similar use seems possible. The hole in the bottom might rule against a similar storage or measuring function, but Carl Thorpe (pers. comm.) has suggested that the hole in the bottom of the harbour bowl might be a later feature, perhaps cut to allow the stone to be used in the water, with a rope tied through it, as a weight or anchor. A further hint of the bowl's domestic origin is provided by the small holes cut through the stone on opposing sides, which look as though they were intended to take a handle like that of a bucket. One has broken, perhaps as a result of wear.

If allowable, this then makes the interpretation of other simple bowls like those at Trethevey (Tintagel 5, Ills. 2779) and Treslothan (Camborne 3, Ills. 2489) or even that from Tintagel Island (Tintagel 3) questionable.


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