BOLAIT, THE FIELD OF BLOOD.
TRADITION asserts that it was on the spot, so called in the parish of Burian, that the last battle was fought between the Cornish Britons and Athelstan. This is, in some measure, confirmed by the discovery of flint arrow-heads, in considerable quantities, from time to time, in and near this "field of slaughter."
We have little beyond the evidence of tradition to guide us in regard to any of the triumphs of Athelstan in Cornwall. It appears tolerably certain that this Saxon king confined the Cornish Britons to the western side of the Tamar; thus breaking up the division known as Danmonium, and limiting the territory over which the kings of the west ruled.
Scattered over Cornwall, we have the evidence, in the names of places, of Saxon possession. In all probability these were the resting-places of portions of the Saxon army, or the district in which fortified camps were placed by Athelstan to restrain a turbulent people. Be this as it may, the battle at Bolait is said to have raged from morning until night, and then, overpowered by numbers, the Cornish who still survived fled to the hills, and thus left Athelstan the conqueror.
It was after this fight that Athelstan, seeing the islands of Scilly illumined by the setting sun, determined, if possible, to achieve their conquest. He then recorded his vow, that he would, if he returned victorious, build a church, which should be dedicated to St Buryana. Of this church Hals writes as follows:-
"BURIAN. --,This church was founded and endowed by King Athelstan, about the year 930, after such time as he had conquered the Scilly Islands, as also the county of Devon, and made Cornwall tributary to Isis sceptre. To which church he gave lands and tithes of a considerable value for ever, himself becoming the first patron thereof, as his successors the kings of England have been ever since; for which reason it is still called the royal rectory, or regal rectory, and the royal or regal peculiar; signifying thereby that this is the church or chapel pertaining to the king, or immediately under the jurisdiction of him, as the supreme ordinary from whom there is no appeal; whereas other peculiars, though exempt from the visitation or jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop within whose see they stand, yet are always subject to the provincial Archbishops of Canterbury or York, or other persons.
"This church or college consisted of canons, Augustines or regular priests, and three prebendaries, who enjoyed the revenues thereof in common, but might not marry; and the lord chancellor of England of old visited this peculiar--which extended only over the parishes of Burian, Sennen, and St Levan--for the king.
"One of the Popes of Rome, about the time of Edward III., obtruded upon this chords, the canons and prebends thereof, a dean to be an inspector and overseer over them,--whom he nominated to be the Bishop of Exon for the time being,--who for some time visited this church as its governor, as the lord chancellor did before; which encroachment of the Pope being observed by Edward III., as appears from the register of the writs, folio 40 and 41, 8 Edward III., rot. 97, this usurpation of the Pope was taken away."