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191001 | Remembering Cunaide, part 2 | Hayle Pump

Remembering Cunaide –Part 2

Remembering Cunaide Part 2, and last issue’s Part 1, written by Stephen Murley.

There was some artistic license used in part 1 by the author, but articles are based heavily on newspaper articles from c1844 and information at Hayle Heritage Centre.

Part 1 Recap

In the 5th Century AD, a 6ft long granite gravestone was erected, with inscriptions chiselled upon it, naming ‘Cunaide’ as the individual whose cremated ashes rested in a stone chamber beneath. This gravestone was erected on the embankments of a former iron-age fort in the Carnsew area of Hayle, where it eventually was lost in the midst of time before it was discovered about a foot or so beneath the ground by Henry Harvey’s workmen (from Hayle’s famous Harvey & Co) in 1843 when they set about creating the Plantation which still exists in present day Hayle on the opposite side of Jewsons.

Part 2

Undoubtedly the Cunaide gravestone stood on the grounds of the former iron-age fort at Carnsew for many years after it was erected, but by the time of its rediscovery in late 1843 it seems it was most likely sadly forgotten about. On Friday 5th January 1844, some 1,400 years after it was first placed in position, Henry Harvey (of Harvey & Co), and his workmen found it buried and in the way of his plans to turn the former iron-age-fort into the plantation that most people enjoy walking amongst

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today. Fascinated by the discovery, Henry Harvey instructed his workmen to remove the stone and place it but a few feet away from where it was found, within the wall of the path he was creating. There, to the left of the gravestone, he also erected a slate with the stone’s inscription and translation, as it was interpreted at the time.

The stone’s significance was back in the minds of the local area thanks to its rediscovery and although the stone’s engraving became increasingly harder to read by the naked eye over the years, many have studied it, including famous archaeologist and Cornish studies pioneer, Professor Charles Thomas CBE FSA. His research was recently backed up by analysis of the stone in 2018 by Archaeologist Tom Goskar FSA who used the latest 3D scanning technology to extensively analyse the surface of the stone to identify the original inscriptions, which are now less than 0.1mm in depth. His findings (see photo) revealed that Professor Charles Thomas was accurate with his interpretation of the inscription and that translation of the Latin most likely reads:  


Results of Archaeologist Tom Gosker’s 3D analysis of the Cunaide stone’s inscription. Copyright: Hayle Heritage Centre

Originally Grade 2 listed by English Heritage in early 1988, by the time the 21st century came about, the Cunaide stone was classified as ‘at-risk’ by English Heritage. Visitors and locals alike could easily find themselves mistakenly believing that the slate translation slab was the original 5th century gravestone. The Cunaide stone, right next to the translation slate, had become so naturally weathered and obscured by lichen that it blended in so well with the surrounding path wall, making it 

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easy to barely notice its existence; Its inscriptions were then nigh impossible to read with the naked eye.

Thankfully, Scheduled Monument Consent was granted late 2017 and a grant obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which secured the stone’s future. Together with Hayle Heritage Centre, Specialist Stone Conservators ‘Kelland Conservation’, and under the supervision of Historic England, on Thursday 15th December 2017 the Cunaide Stone was carefully removed from the plantation wall over the course of the day. The weather on that day will also be remembered very well, for there were numerous torrential downpours, which undoubtedly hampered the team performing their task but didn’t dampen their spirits

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and determination. The stone’s four substantial pieces were gently removed and hoisted into a trailer and transported to the Heritage Centre. There they were kept initially in a stable environment over winter before further remedial conservation work gave the stone a very careful and sympathetic clean.  A blog post, with photos of the stone being moved, can be found here   

By the time Hayle Heritage Centre reopened in April 2019, after the winter break, the Cunaide stone had been secured in a standing position on display as part of the centre’s new pre-history #hayleunearthed exhibition.  

At Hayle Heritage Centre (open April-September) you can read about the studies performed on the stone and the answers they provide, but most importantly, everyone can once again see the cleaned stone, now preserved for years to come, and pay their respects to Cunaide.


By Stephen Murley


Remembering Cunaide