3469 – Milky Quartz Crystal: ‘The White Tintagel Crystal’, or ‘Merlin’s Stone’

Physical description:
A large conical shaped opaque milk coloured quartz crystal (27cm x 13.5 cm) set into a steep sided bronze dish resting upon a circular podium supported by six conical feet.
Museum classification:
Divination, Magic and the Landscape
Dish is 44 cm diameter x 35 cm total height including crystal.

Cecil Williamson writes about this object: "The White Tintagel Crystal found at Tintagel in 1900. It is the largest specimen ever to be found in England of this type of milky white crystal and it is not surprising that before long fetish powers were attributed to the stone. Eventually it came into the possession of a Mr Bullen, a local man, who sold it to a London dealer. After an uneasy sojourn of some years in London, and by a series if quite remarkable coincidences it worked its way back to Cornwall and now rests within a mile or two of its source of origin."

A paper-cutting saved by Doreen Valiente regarding the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle refers to '"Merlin's Stone." (Merlin's cave is at Tintagel near by.)'  It is probable that Williamson displayed this object as Merlin's Stone during his time at the Museum.


The quartz seems to have been mounted and sold principally as a natural wonder - being the largest crystal of its type found in England at that time.  As Williamson suggests, further properties were attributed to it although it is not yet know what these 'fetish powers' were.  The unique properties of quartz includes, most remarkably, triboluminescence; when quartz crystal is stroked or struck vigorously with another stone it will light up.  In some forms of Traditional Cornish Witchcraft, quartz is held in high regard as being a wellspring of 'land-sprowl', a serpentine energy that pervades the Cornish landscape and that can be conjured forth or stored by witches (see Gemma Gary, Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways, Troy Books).  This sprowl can be used to attain wisdom and bring forth visions; thus the crystal can be seen as a tool for divination.  It is clear that Bronze and Iron Age peoples valued quartz highly as the grave goods at Harlyn Bay and other sites across Cornwall prove.


Research is ongoing on this item.  It is possible that the 'Mr Bullen' referred to above was the Rev. Ashington-Bullen, an Anglican clergyman and antiquarian who published extensively on the burial ground discovered at Harlyn Bay (between Trevose Head and Padstow) in 1900.  Bullen was a collector and expressed particular interest in quartz grave goods at the inhumations at Harlyn.  The London dealer or owner prior to Cecil Williamson's acquisition of the object has not as yet been identified, but a well known dealer in Tintagel crystal from the 1820s was Mr. Tregoning of Truro (see Truro Museum, Geology Displays, 2016).

Bronze, quartz
Copyright ownership: