logan stone

Logan Rock

The Logan Rock is an example of a logan or rocking stone. This geological feature is near the Cornish village of Treen in the Penwith district of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom.

The rock is an eighty ton granite boulder perched on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean, on a headland one mile south of the village. The rock is finely balanced due to the actions of weathering, and prior to its restoration in 1824 it could be rocked by applying only a little pressure .

The name Logan Rock is also applied to the surrounding tip of the headland, as well as the logan stone itself. Cripp's Cove lies to the east beneath the rock. The headland is also an Iron Age promontory fort called Treryn Dinas, defended by three ramparts. A number of islands are located around the edge of Logan Rock including Great Goular, Horrace, and Seghy.


The word "logan" is probably derived from the word "log", which in an English dialect means "to rock". In fact, in some parts of the UK, rocking stones or logan stones are called logging stones. The word "log" might be connected with the Danish word "logre", which means to "wag a tail".

Some have suggested that it comes from a Cornish expression for the movement that someone makes when drunk. Davies Gilbert writes:

It may be observed that I have always used the words Loging Rock for the celebrated stone at Trereen Dinas. Much learned research seems to have been idly expended on the supposed name, "Logan Rock." To log is a verb in general use throughout Cornwall for vibrating or rolling like a drunken man; and an is frequently heard in provincial pronunciation for tug, characteristic of the modem present participle. The Loging Rock is, therefore, strictly descriptive of its peculiar motion.

It should also be noted that the name for rocking stones could be a modified form of the Danish word "logre," which means 'to wag the tail,' and this suggests possible Norse origin. Danes in particular established a kingdom in Great Britain before 1000 A.D., Norway maintained nominal control over the Hebrides in northern Scotland until the late Middle Ages, and Vikings frequently raided along the British coastal areas between 800 and 100 A.D. Thus, a Norse origin for the word Logan, while speculative, cannot be ruled out.

Story of the rock

The Logan Rock is one of the best known rocking stones for several reasons. For example, Modred, in William Mason's dramatic poem "Caractacus," addressing the characters Vellinus and Elidurus, says of the Logan Rock:

Thither, youths,
Turn your astonish'd eyes; behold yon huge
And unhewn sphere of living adamant,
Which, poised by magic, rests its central weight
On yonder pointed rock: firm as it seems,
Such is the strange and virtuous property,
It moves obsequious to the gentlest touch
Of him whose breast is pure; but to a traitor,
Tho’ ev’n a giant’s prowess nerv’d his arm,
It stands as fixt as Snowdon.

However, another reason that the Logan Rock of Treen is remembered is that it was the center of a famous drama. In April 1824, Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmith, R. N. (nephew of the famous poet Oliver Goldsmith), and ten or twelve of his crew of the cutter HMS Nimble, armed with bars and levers rocked the huge granite boulder until it fell from its cliff-top perch. Goldsmith was apparently motivated to disprove the claim of Dr. Borlase, who wrote in Antiquities of Cornwall in 1754 that:

In the parish of S. Levan, there is a promontory called Castle Treryn. This cape consists of three distinct groups of rocks. On the western side of the middle group near the top, lies a very large stone, so evenly, poised that any hand may move it to and fro; but the extremities of its base are at such a distance from each other, and so well secured by their nearness to the stone which it stretches itself upon, that it is morally impossible that any lever, or indeed force, however applied in a mechanical way, can remove it from its present situation.

Goldsmith was determined to demonstrate that nothing was impossible when the courage and skill of British seamen were engaged. The Logan Rock fell and was caught in a narrow chasm.

This upset the local residents considerably, since Logan Rock had been used to draw tourists to the area. Treen had become a lucrative tourist destination. Sir Richard R. Vyvyan was particularly unhappy. The local residents demanded that the British Admiralty strip Lieutenant Goldsmith of his Royal Navy commission unless he restored the boulder to its previous position at his own expense.

However, Davies Gilbert persuaded the Lords of the Admiralty to lend Lieutenant Goldsmith the required apparatus for replacing the Logan Rock. The Admiralty sent thirteen capstans with blocks and chains from the dock yard at Plymouth, and contributed £25 towards expenses. Gilbert also raised more funds

After months of effort, at 4.20pm on Tuesday, the 2nd of November, 1824, in front of thousands of spectators and with the help of more than sixty men and block and tackle, the Logan Rock was finally repositioned and returned to "rocking condition" (Michell 1974). Apparently the total final cost of this enterprise was £130 8s 6d. However, it is not clear how much of the remaining £105 Goldsmith had to make up out of his own pocket. For some time after, the rock was kept chained and padlocked, but eventually these restrictions were removed, and the rock was set free. However, it apparently no longer vibrates or "logs" as easily as it did before.

Tourism declined and this was blamed on the condition of Logan Rock. For a while, Treen was nicknamed 'Goldsmith's Deserted Village'. The anchor holes used to haul the huge rock back up the cliff are still visible in the surrounding rocks.


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