Non Cornish qango ‘English (sic) Heritage’ has commissioned a carving of Merlin in rocks at Tintagel Castle.
The sleeping face of the legendary wizard has been carved at the entrance to Merlin’s Cave on the beach.
The new artwork is apparently the first part of a project by English Heritage to re-imagine Tintagel’s history and legends across the island site. Further works will be revealed late this spring.
From today (Ed. 11/2/16), visitors to Tintagel Castle can now see the sleeping face of Merlin, one of the most important characters in Arthurian legend, carved into the rocks on the beach.
“Tintagel is a place of landscape and legend, and Merlin, emerging so organically from the rock, sums that up perfectly. We’ve got lots more to come over the next few months and I can’t wait to see it all take shape.”
This appears to be part of planned physical and cultural vandalism. Interpretative signage (some of which may contain the native Cornish language), and increased commercialisation and tourism facilities round out the project.
Their web site states: “As part of our plan to improve the visitor experience at Tintagel Castle, visitors are now able to enjoy a new exhibition which explores the history and legends which surround Tintagel Castle and King Arthur. We have also refurbished the Beach Cafe to reflect its coastal setting and introduced a new menu. For 2016, highly imaginative new outdoor interpretation will extend right across the site bringing its history and legends to life. It will feature interactive exhibits and informative panels as well as a range of striking artworks crafted in bronze and stone.”
[What wasn’t stated was that some of that stone would be naturallly occuring and in situ.]
Comments on the BBC Facebook site when this carving was announced, ran hot: Cornish historian Craig Weatherhill note: “So now “English” Heritage (who don’t even own the site – they merely manage it) have given themselves licence to vandalise the natural environment for a bit more cheap and nasty gimmickry. Cornwall’s heritage deserves a damn sight more respect than this quango gives it. It’s a bloody disgrace!” Another reader said: “Vandalism, pure and simple. And English Heritage don’t even own the site!!!!” Others were incredulous, but offered a solution: ” Is it April fools day! What a monstrosity! I hope they have have a rock fall !” Elsewhere one Cornish speaker used some basic Cornish to express his feelings: “oh dear! why can’t EH just ‘kyjdg dhe ves’? [Non-speakers can clarify here: http://www.kernewegva.com/mollethi.html]
We make no comment on the skill or work of the sculptor, although he did accept the commission.
It is important to note that Tintagel is actually owned by the Duke of Cornwall as part of the Duchy of Cornwall ‘crown’ estate. English Heritage is merely its custodian and property manager. Did the Duchy approve these plans?
Tintagel is now one of English Heritage’s top five attractions, drawing around 200,000 visitors a year and up to 3,000 a day in the peak summer season. English Heritage (officially the English Heritage Trust) is a registered charity. It seems that tourism not heritage or protection is the new priority for this arm of what was properly called the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.
Tintagel has its own true history, vital to the Cornish national minority, telling of our ancient life, our early kingdoms and the extensive links for centuries with the Mediterranean when England didn’t exist, and in later Duchy times well-researched Duchy and Norman history. Who cares? Apparently not EH.
It is not known at time of publishing whether any of Cornwall’s cultural and historical organisations were consulted, or it is just a project run out of Swindon.
Perhaps national minority the Cornish are not alone?
Perhaps they are planning a Druids face carved into a bluestone at Stonehenge?
Following on from years of officially sanctioned vandalism in Penwith, fantasy events at Pendennis Castle, and a litany of other non Cornish activities by the charity, it seems lessons aren’t being learned.
Perhaps George Eustice MP who said in 2011 that the organisation should be replaced with “a Cornish Heritage group” if it failed to “champion and promote our heritage”, will ask questions over this in Parliament?
The Cornish public should be asking very hard questions anyway.
Editor 13 November, 2016