A mysterious monument whose origins are lost in the mists of time has come under new protection.

Cornwall’s smallest stone circle has been taken on by the Cornwall Heritage Trust, an independent charity.

The Duloe Stone Circle at the southern end of the village of Duloe, between Liskeard and Looe, is the latest historic site in Cornwall, to be taken under the management of the trust.

Sixteen locations, which include St Cleer Holy Well and Cross, and Treffry Viaduct in the Luxulyan Valley, are now being cared for by the trust.

The Duloe Stone Circle survives as an oval ring of eight stones measuring 11.7m long by 10.2m wide. All the stones are made of white quartz and seven are still upright. 

They vary in height from 1m to 2.4m and it has been calculated that around 35 people would have been needed to move and raise the four largest stones, which may weigh up to nine tons.

Despite much research, stone circles are still mysterious sites. In Cornwall, they generally date from around up to 4,000 years ago and they are believed to have been gathering places for communities.

Activities seem to have included performance of ceremonies and rituals, some of which may have involved astronomical observation. Others probably related to the community’s own past, to their ancestors, and to the spirits that may have been believed to frequent important places. 

The Duloe circle is now within fields but when built its position on a ridge between two deep and heavily wooded valleys was probably significant. The design of stone circles and the effort required to build them speak of increasingly sophisticated and well-organised societies.

The monument, which is free for the public to visit, was first recorded in 1801 by the antiquaries John Britton and Edward Wedlake Brayley.

The circle was bisected by a later hedge, which was removed in 1858. Three stones were re-erected in 1863 and a Bronze Age urn, containing cremated human bones, was found on the site. 

The trust will manage the stone circle on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall. 

Trust chief executive Cathy Woolcock said: “The phrase ‘small but mighty’ always comes to mind with Duloe.

“Its size – the smallness of the circle but the largeness of the stones – is at the heart of what makes it unique and the experience of visiting there so special.”

The trust recently launched an historic sites fund appeal to help it purchase and manage historic Cornish places.