'Logan' Or 'Logging' Stones - The Pivoting Rocks of Scilly

'Loggan', 'logging' and possibly more recently 'logan' stones have been reported in Scilly for well over two hundred years.  They occur when one rock, poised on the top of another, has a fulcrum (pivot) which allows the rock on the top to 'seesaw'; often with the minimal effort applied.  These formations were natural, not man made.  Unfortunately it would appear from various historical reports that a phenomenon, which was relatively common, particularly on St Mary's, is now rare or non existent due to their destruction or wear.

What follows are descriptions from previous Scilly historians:

Robert Heath c.1750 makes brief mention of: " ponderous balancing of Rocky -Matter at the Earth's Surface" &  "Riding rocks"

The Stone(s) at Giant's Castle

Rev. George Woodley c. 1822:

“Near the head of the Giant’s Castle Bay is a rock nearly ten feet in length, seven in breadth, and above five feet thick, reclining in a slanting direction on another rock, imbedded in the earth.  This was formerly a loggan (or logging) stone, called by some a riding rock.  It was so nicely poised on the sharp edge of the rock which still supports it, that it could be put into motion by a child, six years of age, (or, as Troutbeck says, “with a man’s little finger” and would continue its oscillatory vibrations in a very perceptible manner, for a considerable time after receiving this slight momentum; yet it was calculated that the exertions of a thousand men would be insufficient, - without the aid of machinery, - to remove it from its position.  It was, however, thrown from its poise a few years since, by a number of soldiers then in the garrison here in compliance with the wanton orders of their officers, in order to decide a frivolous bet! Thus it appears that the age of chivalry is gone by, that of the Vandals and Huns is not yet utterly past.
The are some other rocks between Peninis and this part of the Island which appear to have been loggan stones; but which,  either by design or accident have been thrown from their pivots.

Memoirs of Robert Maybee c 1825:

" At time [c. 1825] a large and beautiful logan rock stood about twenty or thirty yards to the north-west of the Pulpit Rock; it was almost in the form of two plates, one turned upside down and the other places upon it, leaving a large hollow round the rock."   [Near Giant's Castle?]

A little later in his text he goes on;

"A great number of school children used to come out to Peninnis every Sunday afternoon, to get up on the logan rock; it was a flat rock and full of pits, in which the children would seat themselves, and then the boys would set it to work, and move it from two to three feet up and down; after they got it to work they would keep at it for hours at a time, and this was carried on for many years, till the masons came out from St Mary's and cut it up, as well as the rock it stood on, to make quoins [angled corner stone in a building] to build houses with."  [There are still signs today of chisel marks in many of the rocks on Peninnis showing that quarrying took place]

Historical Survey of Cornwall by W. Penaluna c.1838:

"A logging stone ,of consider dimensions stands on the south-west of the promontory on which Giant’s Castle is situated.  This rock is about ten feet long, seven in breadth, and about five feet six inches in thickness.  It bears upon another with a sharp edge, and is nicely balanced, that it will vibrate with a gentle push, and continue in a state of oscillation for a considerable time." [Whether W. Penaluna saw this stone in working order is not known.  He may have taken this from an earlier report.]

'Scilly and its Legends' by Rev. H. J. Whitfeld c.1852.

Near Giant's Castle: "Round a ledge of rock, to the right, is a fine logan or logging, stone.  I mounted to the top, while my lady companion rocked it to and fro."

The Peninnis Stone(s)

Yorkshire Gazette - Saturday 25 August 1894: 'Another Big Rocking Stone'

"Now that the holiday season is on, it may be interesting to note that there has been discovered at Peninnis, on the island of St. Mary's, Scilly, a rocking-stone by which the well known rocking or logan stone of the Land's End district is cast entirely in the shade, as it contains 4,389 cubic feet, and is estimated to weigh about 313 tons. It is so nicely poised that one person can put it into motion; and its momentum continues for a short time after the power employed is withdrawn. It is called Mr. Macdonald's Stone, because it was accidentally discovered by Mr. Macdonald and a friend who were leaning against it."

The Isles of Scilly Visitors Companion by Gibson & Sons c.1932:  [Probably on of the best, and poetic, descriptions for finding the Peninnis Logan Stone.]

"Now stand again by the lighthouse tower, face south south west and pick out , the large mass of light toned weather worn rock surface far down below us next to the sea, the famous Logan Rock.  It is in reality a detached rock amidst and closely surrounded by other solid masses all looking much alike.  It is situated west of and below the level of two big rocks which project against the skyline.  Mark its situation well, as many visitors experience difficulty in finding the spot again.
Walk down the grassy slope in a southerly direction to its base: then, looking back to the west, we have one of the grandest rock pictures at Scilly - Aye, or of anywhere.  Both outer and inner heads are massed in one view; what a scene nature has arranged for the painter - no rules of art could beat it for composition, chiaroscuro or colouring.  It is perfect, and will baffle the skill of the artist to do more than approximate to its charm on this lovely summers day.

About 20 yards south of us now is the Logan Rock.  If we follow the grassy surface south, and then west, it leads us to a rocky passage between higher masses heading for St Agnes island, and here we should find the track, for it is [was] worn almost smooth by the feet of many a pilgrim.  When we reach the open beyond we turn slightly to the left and comes to this delicately poised mass of over 300 tons, which will bend our walking cane or break a match.

Taken in connection with the rock basins, and the Tooth Rock we have just visited, it is thought by antiquarians to have been an object of veneration in Druidic days, when these 'Rocking Stones' were used in the 'test by ordeal'.

'It moves obsequious to the gentlest touch,
or him whose heart is pure. '

 And on its moving hung life or death for the trembling mortal condemned to pit his strength against the 'Yielding Logan'."


Early Guidebooks, c.1938 to c. 1948:

"Beneath Tooth Rock is Pitt's Parlour; low down, near by the sea, is the great Logan stone, 315 tons, and at least 15ft. high (to demonstrate the movement, insert an upright match and rock from the opposite side); below it its another logan stone, easier to rock, of 190 tons.  The logan stones are difficult to find but they lie S.S.W. of the Lighthouse.

Guidebooks c. 1950:

"Mention has already been made of the Logan Stone on Peninnis Head.  This is situated amongst the Rock Labyrinth below the lighthouse.  It is difficult to find and necessitates a scramble over slippery rocks, but it is well worth the effort.  From the foot the lighthouse, looking to the south, the top half of the Logan Stone can just be seen.  It was discovered in 1893 by an islander who was caught by a squall on the  headland and sheltered in a crevice in the rocks.  To his surprise and consternation, he suddenly felt the solid rock against which he was leaning, move, and more remarkable still, discovered that it could be rocked with a slight exertion of strength.

By measurement the Logan Stone is 15 feet high and is estimated to weigh 313˝ tons. To demonstrate the motion, insert a match underneath the rock on its west side and push, either from the front or from 'parlour 'behind.  A penny can be bent by the Logan Stone in this way." 


Guidebook 47th Edition c. 1982:

"In the labyrinth of rocks below the Lighthouse is the 300 ton Logan Stone which at one time rocked quite easily, matches and even coins being bent by inserting them in a crevice under the rock on the west side and pushing from the other side.  The balance was upset in the 1950's and, despite attempts to right it, the stone no longer rocks easily.


This is the 'Peninnis' Logan Stone, referred to in the later guidebooks.

Mystery Stones:


Very early postcard, can anyone identify the carn?
It says Scilly but could it be Cornwall?
Are there other stones on Scilly, Whitfeld refers to the Punch Bowl at St Agnes?


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