Hidden amphitheatres uncovered across Cornwall

March 06th, 2015

A large-scale community project has helped to make a huge range of discoveries stretching across the entirety of Cornwall, in the form of several historic theatres and amphitheatres.


During Plen-an-Gwari Project (Cornish for ‘playing place’), pupils from local schools as well as students from Falmouth University have helped to find over 30 sites where it is likely or possible that an amphitheatre once was. Several methods were used, from using the curves of hedges to analysing aerial images.

It is reckoned that between the years of 1300 and 1500, every Cornish village had their own Plen-an-Gwari, putting on elaborate performances of plays, song and dance celebrating the saints, which could last for up to 6 days at a time. Unlike in a Greek amphitheatre, the audience would stand in the middle of the ring, with the performers placed on platforms around them, sometimes also performing in the crowd. Due to the Catholic themes of the plays, however, the performances were suppressed by the Protestant regime, with many decimated and left to ruin by the reign of Charles II.

Today, two of these have managed to remain, at St Piran’s Pound and St Just, though the newly discovered ruins are set to be sites of key interest for those interested in Cornwall’s history. For those planning on Cornwall cottage holidays, these newly-discovered amphitheatres will add to the already long list of things to see and do during their stay.

Image: Marco Alioli under creative commons