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190801 | Remembering Cunaide | Hayle Pump

Remembering Cunaide

At some point in the 5th century there was an individual of such high-status, so respected and well thought of, that when they sadly passed away, the normal burial or cremation with little structure to it, such as a mound of earth, was not going to suffice.

Cunaide was an individual of such status to those locally inhabiting the Carnsew area of Hayle that they desired to make a more
significant effort to show their regards to this respected person. The only solution was to create a structured stone grave and marker that would not only stand the test of time but also require considerable effort to source and transport to the intended resting place for Cunaide.  Granite was chosen, for it was plentiful in Cornwall and hardy to the elements of nature. Despite its abundance across the county, it’s not quite readily available, thus it was sourced for Cunaide from miles away, possible Ludgvan or Trencrom. Those tasked with acquiring this granite were quite possibly taken aback in these new Christian times in the 5thcentury by the stone they acquired, for at one end (which was used as the top) was a natural vein of tourmaline and quartz which resembled a cross. Undoubtedly great effort and expense was spent moving it to its destination within the visually dominating structure of a former iron-age fort on a hill at Carnsew, with its commanding views over the estuary and bay.         

Erected within one of the ramparts of the former iron-age fort, of which in the 5thcentury was likely still of significant controlling strength over the area by way of post-Roman influence (a hoard of roman coins was found buried nearby in 1825), sweat and energy were expended to create an arched stoned structure about one foot beneath the ground that entombed the cremated ashes of Cunaide within, along with the charcoal used in the ceremony. Having satisfied themselves that Cunaide was safely secured inside the tomb, the harder work began. Using the primitive but effective tools and skills of the 5thcentury, great muscle was expended to position at the western end of the grave the 6-foot-long, 1 foot wide extremely heavy granite stone that would effectively be Cunaide’s tombstone. It’s an achievement to move such a stone even a few feet, let along the distance it originally travelled to get to Carnsew. Yet after all that, they needed to stand it up on its end with its narrowing sharper base shaft securing it within the ground.              

One more highly significant piece of work was performed on the tombstone, either before or after its erection, that of engraving the stone with words that would clearly state who this grave, of such grandeur appearance, and on which such considerable emotional effort had been spent, was erected in memory for. The person instructed with the task of engraving, dutifully performed their job on what was a highly difficult and unforgiving stone to work with. Their some 4-foot long engraving, primarily in Latin, told of Cunaide resting beneath, and their tender age of 33 years. With a job well done, Cunaide’s tomb stood in reverence for undoubtedly many years until multiple centuries of change subsequently led to the tombstone falling over, and the grave itself covered beneath soil. There it laid, most likely totally forgotten about, until some 1,400 years later ...

You can discover what has happened to the Cunaide stone since its rediscovery in 1844 by visiting Hayle Heritage Centre, as the stone now forms part of their new Pre-History Exhibition. Here you can learn about the stone’s modern-day analysis, revelations and its journey from the plantation.                                 

Please see the back page of this issue’s pump for the centre’s opening time information.

By Stephen Murley
The above is based on newspaper articles and reports with my own creative licence


Remembering Cunaide