Merry Maidens Stone Circle
St Buryan, Cornwall
Images to see a larger version
|A stone circle with Nineteen granite megaliths, the circle is 24 metres in
diameter, (perfectly round). The tallest stone standing 1.4 metres tall, and
stones are regularly spaced around the circle, with a gap or entrance at its
exact most easterly point.
This circle has many names,
Known as Dawn's Men (a likely corruption of the Cornish Dans Maen).
Also spelt Dons Meyn, Dans Maen,
Dawns-mÍn and Dans Mean. As 'Zans Meyn'
is the Cornish phrase meaning 'stone circle', this may not really be a name at
It is Also known as: Rosemodress Stone Circle,
Rosmodreuy Circle, Boleigh Circle
and Boleit Circle.
The word 'merry' may be a corruption of the word Mary, the name of an ancient
goddess and nothing to do with Christianity. She was Ma-Ri, her name signifying
a fruitful or fertile mother. But is also attributed to a legend:-
The local legend or myth about the creation of the stones suggests that
nineteen maidens were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. (Dans
Maen translates as Stone Dance). The pipers, two megaliths some distance
north-east of the circle, are said to be the petrified remains of the musicians
who played for the dancers. A more detailed story explains why the Pipers are so
far from the Maidens - apparently the two pipers heard the church clock in St Buryan strike midnight, realised they were breaking the sabbath, and started to
run up the hill away from the maidens who carried on dancing without
These petrifaction legends are often associated with stone circles, from a
period when the fear of god was promoted, and is reflected in the folk names of
some of the nearby sites, for example, the Tregeseal Dancing Stones, the Nine
Maidens of Boskednan. Similar stories relate to many others including
Hurlers and Pipers on Bodmin Moor, Stanton Drew
in Somerset and the Rollrights in Oxfordshire.
Images to see a larger version
This circle is in perfect condition some suggest too perfect in comparison to
But they may have been restored, lets explain why:-
In the Cornwall Archaeological Unit's Review of 1995-6, we find "The Merry
Maidens (SW433245) is one of the best preserved and probably the best known
stone circle in Cornwall. It came as a shock then, in June 1995, when Mike
Rosendale of Penwith District Council reported that the circle had been
vandalised; one of the stones had been uprooted and left prostrate on the
ground. Before the stone was re-erected the stone hole was excavated by Charlie
Johns and Andy Jones of the CAU. They made the surprising discovery that the
stone had originally been set at right-angles to the circle and that when
restored in the 19th Century it had been turned through 90 degrees and placed in
line with the circle. On this occasion the stone was set up again as it had been
before vandalism. It was re-erected by Andrew Marment and Marcel Deigan, under
the supervision of Mike Rosendale, on the occasion of a visit to Cornwall by
English Heritage inspectors and Field Monument Wardens from southern England".
Another report from another source reads "In 1907 an emmet (an outsider) from
England bought the farm where the Merry Maidens stone circle stands. Thinking
that the stones lessened the value of the field, the new owner ordered one of
his workers to pull them down and add them to the stone walls surrounding the
meadow". The worker, a Cornishman, protested, but the Englishman insisted: "This
is my field, and I'll do with it what I please, and you'll do as I say!"
Next day the Cornishman hitched up three shire horses to a chain and began the
task. Anyway, while pulling over the first stone the lead horse panicked, reared
up, then fell over dead. Reporting this to his master, the Cornishman asked if
he should fetch another horse for the task. "No," said the landowner. "Set the
stone back upright. We'll pull the lot of them down later." But the stone
circle was left undisturbed, and remains so to this day.
So was this the stone mentioned, or highlights more going on than we are fully
The astronomer Sir J. Norman Lockyer described a conversation about a missing
circle close by, "Mr Horton Bolitho... in one of his visits came across 'the
oldest inhabitant,' who remembered a second circle. He said, 'It was covered
with furze (gorse) and never shown to antiquarians'; ultimately the field in
which it stood was ploughed up and the stones removed", although Mr Bolitho
marked the exact position of the lost site on a 25-inch map for posterity.
The 19 stones at the Merry Maidens is the same as, or similar to, the number
of stones at other circles in the region, and some in other locations, see
Torhouse Scotland. It has been suggested that
19 would have been an important number for a people who celebrated the path of
the moon through the great lunar cycle.
As its well known by tourists and others, right by the side of a road and in
such good condition, this circle is much visited by tourists in the summer and
widely used by a variety of new age groups, including some theatricals put on by
druids, and pagan marriages (handfasting) amongst others. If you are out of
season, then you may be lucky and have it to yourself. Its worth visiting
even if it is busy.
the road, hidden in lane (about 0.4km) is a standing stone, (SW429245). Two more
are also 0.4km away at SW435248, there are a number of other stones and circles
within 10 miles.
This circle is not listed as far as I can see by either National Trust or
English Heritage on their websites. I can't find any other website covering this
site well or owner listed.
section on stone circles
The discussion on the purpose of stone circles
Merry Maidens, near Penzance Cornwall
By the side of the B3315 Land's End to Newlyn road
2 miles (3 km) to the south of the village of St Buryan
OS Landranger sheet 203, Land's End.
Google maps aerial photograph
B3315 Land's End to Newlyn road
2 miles to the south of the village of St Buryan
Gate off road
Layby next to it by the side of the road
Things To Do,
See and Photograph:
Stone circle, possibly
pageants going on, other nearby stones.
Stone walls around local fields.
What to take:
If out of season,
possibly, when busy you are not likely to see much wildlife.
Best Times to
Out of the main tourist
season, and avid pagan festival dates.
Open all the times
Special Needs Access:
Level, and gate to access.
Special Needs Facilities:
A nice site for children to visit.
Better not, as many people use it for ceremonials etc, and go barefoot,
sheep's droppings they expect but may not appreciate the dogs additions.
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