After more than a decade of Tamar Dowsers’ visits to places of interest in our area, we are still being presented with ‘hidden gems’ – and the latest is a hidden diamond. Not that the hamlet of Caradon Town is hidden from anyone – it’s just not on the way to anywhere significant. Half a mile off the Liskeard to Launceston road, and barely five from the English Border as the chough flies, Caradon Town has the air of a place that time has passed by. Yet, both our contacts and our dowsing showed that a great deal has happened here, both in the distant past and in more recent decades.
As guests of local farmer, Nick Rounsevell, who was born in the village and has lived here all of his life, we started our search in his home and the adjacent former farmyard outbuildings. This produced an unusually large number of energy lines, leys and other dowsable features – not to mention quite a few spirits, about whom local residents talked quite openly. It was nice to come to a place where we didn’t have to broach the subject obliquely, or in hushed tones.
Having had a chance to date some of the older structures, many of which go back to a time when they could have been owned and/or used by the monks of Launceston Priory, we walked to the end of Nick’s drive to find a remarkable stone-housed well. Although the surrounding area has been extensively remodelled in recent times, the masonry alone showed us that this was a seriously ancient local facility. It dowsed as having been in use as a sacred site for around 6,000 years – a smidgeon longer than the archeological megaliths a few miles away on Bodmin Moor.
The well has three crossing water lines, although we were unable to get a clear result as to whether the deepest line, at over 100ft, was part of the original shaft. Apparently, the well never dries up, even in the hottest summer. It also has two spiralling earth energy lines, plus a strong energy ley. The water and energy spirals almost overprint one another above the wellhead so, academically at least, it is about 98% holy! Given the former monastic use of this settlement, and its description as a baptistery in Victorian records, this looks to be a solid candidate for Holy Well status.
In a similar vein, we went off in search of a ‘lost’ burial ground belonging to the monks. We dowsed one potential location, in a field behind a modern bungalow, built on the site of yet another demolished building allegedly associated with the holy order. However, we received only sketchy dowsing indications there, so we decamped to a neighbouring field, where we had much stronger responses.
Quite quickly, we had half a dozen grave outlines flagged up under an old oak tree. As at least a couple of these were female, we had to assume that there were more than monks being buried here! In fact, the dowsed count of total burials in the area came to over 200 – and it seems likely that the area we had alighted upon was a more general village cemetery. There were more dowsing indications of former grave plots further down the field, and in a sheep pen under the southern hedge. Our dowsing implied that there had been ongoing burials here between around 1000 and 1500. As the field does not appear to have been ploughed in recent times, it is possible that there might be residual artefacts of interest to archaeologists in this area. Only part of the field seemed to contain burials, and Gordon Ratcliffe found the etheric outline of a boundary of what might once have been a consecrated area. Tracing the boundary through the hedge and across the road, it appeared to join up with a similar edge around the village’s last chapel – which now has a rather different function.
This is a site and a half in its own right. Dowsing indicated some form of wooden religious building dated back into the 900s. It had been replaced by a series of chapels, occupying much the same footprint – the last of which was built by the Wesleyan congregation in the 1870s, and demolished by the great grandfather of one our local contacts early in the 20th century. Today, it is the mausoleum of the Rounsevell family – and Nick has already booked his place in it! This series of rebuilds had us rather confused – and had Gordon and I tracing a former wall in the middle of the modern byway. It seems this might have belonged to the pre-Wesleyan chapel, or could even have been an exterior churchyard wall. We did get one piece of corroboratory evidence for the end wall of the chapel, which is further west than the present structure, when Nick helpfully rubbed the earth away from a stone that had once lain in the doorway of that previous building. This also explained the unusual absence of any water under the mausoleum – as the Wesleyan chapel and its predecessors had extended fifteen to twenty feet to the west, into another field, and it is there that the characteristic water diviner’s signature of an ecclesiastical building can be found.
Further up that westerly field, we also investigated a potential former domestic building, now only indicated by an incongruous patch of daffodils. We later found that our dowsing corresponded reasonably well with the outline of a stone cottage on old OS maps. This field also hosted the sites of numerous former wooden structures, including both simple houses and animal pens.
Not that long ago, Caradon Town was just that – a populous, quite self-contained community of miners, farmers, their families and all the support services required to sustain a fully-functional township in a rural area. Records from the 1800’s speak of four pubs, three chapels and numerous shops and workplaces.
Many of the village’s structures, and the people who inhabited them, have only recently slipped over the human horizon. Arguably, some have yet to fully relinquish their presence. We could only scratch the surface of the remarkable available dowsing in one visit, and Nick was also keen for us to visit the former sites of two local water-powered mills.
We have therefore been invited back for a second visit, and I am sure we will want to do that. Many thanks indeed to Nick for allowing us access to his homeland, to Gordon for setting up the event and to Yvonne Gilbert for providing us with the benefit of her considerable local historical knowledge.
Nigel Twinn, Tamar Dowsers, July 2014