Scilly Isles and Cornwall

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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Jacqui » 7:30 am

Tales of lands lost off the coasts of Britain and France abound in local tradition; the most famous, Lyonesse, was said to link Land’s End and St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall with the Scilly Isles. Medieval tradition describes a former land beyond southwest England. Is there any factual truth in this? What connection does Lyonesse have with King Arthur or the Celts?

In the Bay of Douarnenez off Brittany, there is reputed to lie the sunken city of Ker-Is which may once have had links with Mont-St-Michel. Legends also tell of a district called the Bottom Cantred off the west coast of Wales. A land of 16 great cities between Bardsey Island and the mouth of the River Teifi, the Bottom Cantred was defended from the sea by dykes which, it is said, can be plainly seen under the waters of Cardigan Bay.

The earliest written report of a lost land off the coast of Cornwall is to be found in the 15th-century Itinerary of William of Worcester. He refers to ‘woods and fields and 140 parochial churches, all now submerged, between the Mount and the Isles of Scilly’. But he does not give the drowned land a name. Moreover, midway between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles lay a group of rocks called the Seven Stones, bounding an area known in Cornish as Tregva, ‘a dwelling’. Here fisherman reported drawing up pieces of doors and windows.

In Arthurian romance, Lyonesse is the name of the homeland of the hero Tristan, nephew of King Mark and lover of Mark’s wife, Iseult. Because Mark was King of Cornwall, Carew or another author assumed that the Cornish ‘lost land’ and Lyonesse were one and the same. But medievalists believe this is an error and that ‘Lyonesse’ is a corrupt form of an earlier name given to Tristan’s country. This was Loenois, actually Lothian, in Scotland. Such a location agrees with the fact that Tristan’s own name belonged to a Pictish prince of the 8th century.

Once Cornwall’s lost land had been identified with Lyonesse, it became bathed in the glow of Arthurian legend. New connections were made. Alfred Lord Tennyson placed Arthur’s court of Camelot there, and mystics expected to see Lyonesse rise again from the waves or to behold it off Land’s End in vision.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Penny » 7:32 am

Oceanographers today say that to submerge what were once tilled fields, a rise in sea level of more than 12 feet would be needed over the past 3,000 years. This does not agree with what is known of recent sea-level changes in the Bronze Age. The theory that the ‘walls’ were fish traps, and always covered at high tide, is more plausible. If so, they are not alone in suggesting that the Scilly Isles have lost ground to the sea. Submergence must have been gradual and intermittent, not a single traumatic event such as one man might witness, remember and hand down as tradition.

It is also possible that when the monks from the abbey of Mont-St-Michel in Brittany founded the Cornish daughter-house of St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, they brought the flood story with them. Wherever the tale started, it is not hard to believe there was once a flood which, like all disasters, was improved in the telling: a little village became a town and the town eventually became a whole kingdom.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Maribel » 7:34 am

In Brittany in the Finistere department the upper part between Brest and Roscoff is called "the Leon". Near Roscoff on the Channel coast is the little town of St Pol de Leon. So Insula Tristanni could be in this area. The submerged city of Ys is said to be not far from the Island of Sein facing Douarnenez in the South part of Finistere (both the north and south part are separated by a mountain range called the Monts d'Arree).

Evidently the ancient Kingdom of Leon is not completely under water.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Boreades » 10:05 am

@Penny
Re "to submerge what were once tilled fields, a rise in sea level of more than 12 feet would be needed "

Or, a fall in the level of the land. The effect is the same. The South West of Britain has been gradually submerging, because we're still on the rebound from the last Ice Age. The whole of the land mass of the British Isles has been rising in the north and falling in the south, like a gigantic see-saw. In the north of Scotland there are many places where the former sea level is now 20 or 30 feet above the current sea level.

There are also many submerged fields in the Severn Estuary.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Penny » 6:00 pm

Boreades wrote: The South West of Britain has been gradually submerging, because we're still on the rebound from the last Ice Age. The whole of the land mass of the British Isles has been rising in the north and falling in the south, like a gigantic see-saw. In the north of Scotland there are many places where the former sea level is now 20 or 30 feet above the current sea level.

Might be an idea to get these figures checked though I don't know who or how. The see-saw effect makes one wonder how many tin mines there were in what may have been the Cornish Highlands.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Boreades » 11:57 am

Penny,

The phrase to search for is "isostatic adjustment".

Here is one paper on the subject:
http://eprints.brighton.ac.uk/7002/1/Clyde_Poster.pdf

If I am reading it correctly, it mentions raised marine terraces that are up to 10 metres above the current sea level. In Cornwall and the Scillies, the reverse is the case, with the land sinking into the sea.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Penny » 12:37 pm

Most informative, Boreades, thank you. Out of interest, does isostatic adjustment apply to anywhere else on the globe? Perhaps the effects on the British Isles are easier to measure as a relatively compact landmass but it's slightly unnerving to find the Ice Age still gets 'blamed'.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Ajai » 10:46 am

The sinking of the land may be partly why Cornish fogous are described as souterrains or underground dwellings/caves. In an area littered with old mines and shafts one might suppose that fogous would be everywhere but to date only fifteen have been found.

At any rate, no-one has quite decided their purpose, theories veer between religious function and food storage since it is highly unlikely anyone would choose to live underground. It may be that the walls and passages were originally at ground level or higher.
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Boreades » 4:23 pm

Penny wrote:Most informative, Boreades, thank you. Out of interest, does isostatic adjustment apply to anywhere else on the globe? Perhaps the effects on the British Isles are easier to measure as a relatively compact landmass but it's slightly unnerving to find the Ice Age still gets 'blamed'.


Yes, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-glacial_rebound
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Re: Scilly Isles and Cornwall

Postby Iona » 11:14 pm

Ajai wrote:At any rate, no-one has quite decided their purpose, theories veer between religious function and food storage since it is highly unlikely anyone would choose to live underground.

Miners do. In an area as intensively mined as Cornwall underground caves are unlikely to be either religious or food storage sites.
Last edited by Iona on 12:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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