This is a map of the ancient sites and alignments in West Penwith and in neighbouring areas. Click here to see it.
The Lizard, Isles of Scilly, Kerrier and East Penwith: these areas form a backdrop to the visual and geomantic landscape of ancient West Penwith.
Penwith is a distinctive, mostly cliff-bound, island-like area, with a magical atmosphere and a Cornish ruggedness to the land and its residents.
Trencrom Hill and St Michael's Mount act as geomantic gateposts to the peninsula. Nowadays, Penwith is at the end of the road, far from metropolitan England, but in ancient times it was a central marine node on the Atlantic seaboard.
What does the map show?
It shows the known ancient sites of West Penwith in Cornwall, together with the straight-line alignments between them (commonly called 'leylines'). These alignments demonstrate that ancient sites were very deliberately located, constituting an integrated system covering the peninsula. Why this was so, and why they did things this way, we are yet to find out.
Map and landscape alignments were first identified by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s-30s and John Michell in the 1960s-70s. They are not energy-lines or energy-leys, which are different. They are simply sites that are aligned with each other.
All alignments on this map are accurate to within three metres, with a few exceptions at five metres. Outside this level, a place close to the alignment is not accepted as valid. Alignments have a minimum of four sites on them - mostly more - though there are three-site exceptions (discussed on another page
Alignments have been drawn from a list compiled by Ray Cox of Meyn Mamvro, using research done over decades by contributors to Meyn Mamvro. Many new alignments were also discovered during the making of the map and added to the list. All alignments have all been carefully checked by the mapmaker, Palden Jenkins, and by Cheryl Straffon and Ray Cox (click to see who we are)
. The map will be updated as new information and ideas come in. You're invited to submit additions, suggestions and modifications.
In megalithic times, long-distance travel and goods transport was often by sea and river, since much of Britain was forested, ancient trackways were not easy over long distances and horses had not yet arrived.
Penwith was then more centrally-placed than it is now. It stood at a marine junction for boats travelling from Brittany and Iberia in the south, from the English Channel and Bristol Channel eastwards, and from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the Hebrides in the north. Its main harbours were at St Michael's Mount and St Ives.
Its rich deposits of tin, gold and copper made Penwith strategic and prosperous, extending its reach through chains of traders as far as Germany and the Mediterranean of the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.
Following the Roman occupation of Britannia in CE 43, through the Saxon, Viking and Norman invasions up to the Middle Ages, Cornwall was not romanised or anglicised as early or as much as the rest of England. Neither was Cornwall subjected to quite the same oppressions that the Welsh, Irish and Scots experienced from the English over the centuries. This permitted a certain cultural continuity in Cornwall. Cornwall is an under-recognised nation within the United Kingdom.
How the map was made
Google Maps was chosen over other alternatives because of its accuracy, editability, public availability and zero costs.
First, sites were carefully entered on the map, using precise locational data sourced from megalithic.co.uk, themodernantiquarian.com, and from books, the journal Meyn Mamvro, Ray Cox's list, personal communications, research and site visits.
Ray Cox's list of alignments was then meticulously entered on the map. In the process, 20% of alignments in the list were scrapped, since they were found to be insufficiently accurate.
New alignments emerged and, once checked by Ray and Cheryl, they were entered on the map, more than doubling Penwith's known alignments. Every few months new alignments are found, and existing alignments are also reviewed.
A few more details
Quite a few sites marked on the map are no longer present on the ground - they have been destroyed or moved, mainly by farmers and landowners, sometimes by miners. Their locations have been identified by studying historical records, field evidence and other sources, and through archaeological and dowsing work done by a variety of intrepid researchers who beaver away at such things over time.
Many now-destroyed sites were mentioned by an antiquarian of the late 1800s called William Borlase, and by others. Some were removed as recently as the 1970s-80s. Even today, battles continue over mobile phone masts, cattle damage and questionable conservation measures.
Establishing alignments through distinct points such as menhirs, stones, crosses and quoits is straightforward. Some sites such as ancient settlements are larger and less distinct, so we don't rate them so highly as defining points on an alignment, although they're noted.
In the case of stone circles, enclosures, rounds and some barrows and cairns, alignments sometimes tangent their perimeter rather than cutting through the centre of the site. We are yet to find out why.
An early discovery was that of a direct alignment of three hills - St Michael's Mount, Trencrom Hill and St Ives Head - which, perceptually and energetically, form West Penwith's eastern boundary. Many other discoveries evolved from there, including the emergence of a range of visible classes of alignments. These are outlined in the More on the Map and Findings sections of this site. Some seem to be 'backbone alignments' - longer-distance alignments linking higher-magnitude sites, giving the overall alignment system a certain structure. Most alignments are local to West Penwith though - these have been grouped into major and lesser alignments.
These differing alignments are marked in different colours (see map key
). This classification is neither final nor conclusive - it's a working hypothesis and a way of making sense of a profusion of alignments.
The finding of new alignments was partly a logical process and partly intuitive. It's logical to look for alignments radiating from certain major sites such as St Michael's Mount, Boscawen-ûn or Lanyon Quoit. Intuitively, alignments also revealed themselves, often 'by chance'. So it's partially a left-brain and partially a right-brain process.
There isn't a neatly rational system or pattern to these alignments, to our modern way of thinking, such as grids or geometrical shapes, yet there is still a coherence to it all, with hints of both an organically-arising and a thought-through, planned order.
Gratitude to the following people and organisations for the part they have played in the making of this map:
- the late Alfred Watkins and John Michell for sparking the geomancy movement in UK, and especially to John for his work around 1970-74 - see his book The Old Stones of the Land's End Peninsula;
- Cheryl Straffon, Raymond Cox and contributors to Meyn Mamvro for all their work, and to Cheryl and Ray for checking the map, providing information and offering considered opinions;
- the many researchers who have contributed data, insights and ideas to the study of West Penwith's ancient past;
- two major web-resources: megalithic.co.uk and themodernantiquarian.com, both of which have been important sources of precise locational data. They are extensively linked to on the info-popups on the map for reports on individual sites;
- Google Maps, DigitalGlobe, Getmapping plc, Infoterra Ltd, Bluesky, Landsat and Terrametrics for the digital mapping and satellite photography that forms the base of the map.
Thank you all