The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Cornwall Coast, by Arthur L. Salmon This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Cornwall Coast Author: Arthur L. Salmon Release Date: October 13, 2008 [EBook #26907] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE CORNWALL COAST *** Produced by Dave Morgan, Chris Logan and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
From a photograph by Mr. Alexander Old, Padstow.
By Arthur L. Salmon
T. Fisher Unwin
London: Adelphi Terrace
Leipsic: Inselstrasse 20
[All rights reserved.]
Those who travel through Cornwall by cycle or motor-car will usually find very good roads, but for the most part these only touch the coast at special points; and in some cases it will be wise to leave bicycle or car at hotel or farm if the coast is to be fitly explored. The study of a map will show the tourist what to expect, and he may note the parts where, if he thinks of easy travelling alone, he will have to desert the sea. But by a judicious use of high-road and by-road he need never be far from the shore, and in some places the road that is actually best for him gives fine views of the coast. There are many excellent maps issued, but it is best to go to the fountainhead, to the publications of the Ordnance Survey. For the pedestrian those of one inch to a mile are admirable; but the cyclist or motorist will find the two miles to an inch more handy, as covering a wider range; and even those of four miles to the inch are sufficiently full for the motorist. If any special district is to be carefully explored, the one mile to an inch should be carried, but the wise rider will not content himself with a map of a single scale; he should at least carry one for [Pg 6]the entire Duchy and others for the sections.
The maps of the Ordnance Survey for Cornwall are as follow:—
One mile to the inch, large series, in sheets about 27 × 18 inches, paper (flat or folded), 1s. 6d. net; mounted, 2s.; cut into sections and mounted to fold, 2s. 6d., Nos. 139, 146–7–8, 151–2.
One mile to the inch, small series, in contoured outline, with hills shaded or coloured, Nos. 347, 353, 1s. 6d. and 2s.; 348, 354, 1s. and 1s. 6d.; 322, 336, 1s. 6d. and 2s.; 335, 346, 1s. and 1s. 6d.; 351, 359, 1s. and 1s. 6d.; 352, 360, 1s. 6d. and 2s. These may be had flat or folded.
Two miles to an inch (flat or folded, or on the new layer system), Nos. 35–6, 1s. 6d., 2s., 2s. 6d.
Four miles to the inch, Cornwall, 1s. (flat or folded).
Four miles to the inch, Nos. 21, 22, 1s. 6d., 2s. (flat or folded).
Ten miles to the inch, No. II. (flat or folded), 1s., 1s. 6d.
It should be mentioned that Mr. T. Fisher Unwin is sole wholesale agent for these maps, which may be procured from any bookseller. Fuller details of the maps are given in a special Catalogue issued by Mr. Unwin.
A. L. S.
|I.||THE PLYMOUTH DISTRICT||13|
|II.||LOOE AND POLPERRO||29|
|IV.||ST. AUSTELL TO ST. MAWES||66|
|V.||FALMOUTH AND TRURO||81|
|VI.||FROM FALMOUTH TO THE LIZARD||106|
|VII.||THE LIZARD TO HELSTON||126|
|IX.||THE PENZANCE DISTRICT||167|
|X.||THE SCILLY ISLANDS||190|
|XI.||FROM LAND'S END TO ZENNOR||211|
|XIII.||FROM HAYLE TO PERRAN||253|
|XIV.||CRANTOCK, NEWQUAY, MAWGAN||271|
|XV.[Pg 8]||THE PADSTOW DISTRICT||301|
|XVI.||TINTAGEL AND BOSCASTLE||335|
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson, Penzance
ON THE RIVER FAL83
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson & Sons
THE LIZARD LIGHTHOUSE129
Photo by Gibson & Sons
BENCH-ENDS IN MULLION CHURCH133
Photo by Gibson & Sons
MARCONI STATION, POLDHU139
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson & Sons
ST. MICHAEL'S MOUNT, FROM MARAZION161
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson & Sons
SHIPMAN HEAD, SCILLY191
Photo by Gibson & Sons
A SCILLY FLOWER GARDEN201
Photo by Alex. Old
CAVERN AT LAND'S END213
Photo by Gibson, Penzance
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson & Sons
CHURCH OF ST. PIRAN267
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Alex. Old
RUINS OF CONSTANTINE CHURCH307
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Alex. Old
A ROUGH CORNISH SEA323
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Gibson & Sons
Photo by Gibson & Sons
KING ARTHUR'S CASTLE343
Photo by Alex. Old
ST. KNIGHTON'S KIEVE349
Photo by Alex. Old
Photo by Gibson & Sons
THE PLYMOUTH DISTRICT
Britain is an emergent mass of land rising from a submarine platform that attaches it to the Continent of Europe. The shallowness of its waters—shallow relatively to the profundity of ocean deeps—is most pronounced off the eastern and south-eastern coasts; but it extends westward as far as the isles of Scilly, which are isolated mountain-peaks of the submerged plateau. The seas that wash the long Cornish peninsula, therefore, though they are thoroughly oceanic in character, especially on the north, are not oceanic in depth; we have to pass far beyond Scilly to cross the hundred-fathom line. From the Dover strait westward there is a gradual lowering of the incline, though of course with such variations and undulations as we find on the emerged plains; but the existence of this vast submarine basis must cause us to think of our island, naturally and geologically, as a true part of the great European continent, rendered insular by the comparatively recent intrusion of shallow and narrow waters. With some developments and[Pg 14] some limits, our flora and fauna are absolutely Continental, the limits being even more noticeable as regards Ireland. The extensive coast-line has played a most important part in influencing national history and characteristics. The greater or less resistance of different rocks and soils has affected not only coast-configurations, but therewith also the very existence and well-being of the inhabitants.
The very appearance of Cornwall is eloquent of its granitic structure; nothing less enduring could have survived the stress to which it is daily exposed. All softer measures have been eroded by the fierce wash of Atlantic seas; what we may consider a gaunt, bare backbone has stood the test, and the Cornish coast to-day confronts forces that would play havoc with the more yielding and gentle curves of east and south-east England. We know what the narrow seas can do on East-Anglian and Kentish shores; and the same work of coast-erosion that we there see proceeding before our very eyes must have taken place in Cornwall before the days when historians could note it. The denudations that left our stark Cornish coasts as we know them now for the most part occurred in times that are dim and legendary. We hear of the havoc by an uncertain voice of tradition; we dream of a lost land of Lyonesse, of which only the Scillies remain; but the underlying truth of such romantic rumour must be carried back to Neolithic or earlier times. Though inaccurate in detail, such legends are rarely baseless. In places, such as Mount's Bay, there is still evidence of what the sea has taken; in other parts the evidence has been washed far from sight. The fact that the shallow seas extend far westward cannot be[Pg 15] ignored; when we speak of a lost Lyonesse we are not dealing with absurdities. We must only be careful to date it far enough backward, or rather to leave it without date, which is a matter for the geologist rather than the historian to settle. It is an alluring vision on which we can linger without the sense of being actually unhistoric. We may even carry our thought further still, if we choose, and dream of some old Atlantis, now lying submerged in far greater depths beneath the waters of the ocean that perpetuates its name.
It will be seen that the peculiar shape of Cornwall has not been attained by chance, but has been the result of natural forces. In its appearance on a map there is a certain resemblance to Italy; while some etymologists, taking this appearance as a guide, have imagined that the origin of its name may be found in its horn-like figure. No other British division—using the word "division" advisedly, for Cornwall is not strictly a county—has such an extent of coast-line. Its greatest direct length is 80 miles, but the broken nature of the shore increases this very considerably; even at its juncture with Devon the Duchy is not more than 46 miles in breadth, and at its narrowest it is only six miles. Both the most western and the most southern points in England are to be found in Cornwall, at Land's End and the Lizard. The climate is delightfully equable, without extremes of heat or cold, but it is naturally humid, as Cornwall has to bear the first brunt of rain-storms that drive in from the Atlantic. To find a fitting point of departure for a pilgrimage round these coasts we have to step into Devonshire. In some sense Plymouth is the gateway of Cornwall, and a very appropriate gateway[Pg 16] it is. Of the three rivers that give Plymouth its noble estuary the Lynher is purely Cornish, and the Tamar is as much Cornish as it is Devonian, except that it rises just over the Devon border. The population of Plymouth, Stonehouse, and Devonport is so largely Cornish that the three towns, which we conveniently but incorrectly group under the name of Plymouth, have been styled the "capital of Cornwall"; and certainly no single Cornish town contains so many Cornish folk as have gathered together to assist and share in the prosperity of this Devonshire locality. The majority of visitors to the Duchy approach it by this avenue, and the old stage-coaches followed very much the same route as the present railway, but conveyed their passengers to Saltash by ferry instead of by bridge. The rail is the successor of an immemorial trackway that linked Devon and Cornwall in days when they had not been subdivided. Even in times long before shires had been dreamed of, it is certain that the river must have been an important tribal boundary. There was a British track by which Cornish tin was carried eastward to a point of nearer contact with the Continent; that point may have been the Isle of Wight, but was more probably Thanet. This track passed the Tamar at Saltash and ran to Liskeard, where it joined a tributary path from the Fosseway; after which junction it crossed the Bodmin Moors and pushed on to Truro and Mount's Bay. This has been spoken of as a Roman road, but it was certainly not of Roman construction, being far earlier in date. There is no proof that the Legions ever entered Cornwall at all, and such Roman remains as Cornwall has yielded may be attributed to British residents of Roman culture[Pg 17] and taste. Cornwall was never conquered, in the sense of occupation, either by Roman or Teuton; and the conquest of the Ivernians, or Iberians, by the Celts must have been very partial and chiefly in the nature of a military predominance, if we may judge by the comparatively short stature, dark skin and hair, that are still largely characteristic of Cornish folk.
Plymouth has another link with Cornwall, though it must be considered a fabulous one. One of the suggested derivations for the name of Cornwall is Corineus. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Corineus was one of the companions of the Trojan Brutus, who landed at Totnes and proceeded to bestow his name and his rule upon Britain. In support of this we may quote Milton, with a suggestion that he was a greater poet than historian: "The Iland, not yet Britain but Albion, was in a manner desert and inhospitable, kept only by a remnant of giants, whose excessive force and tyranny had consumed the rest. Them Brutus destroies, and to his people divides the land, which, with some reference to his own name, he thenceforth calls Britain. To Corineus Cornwall, as now we call it, fell by lot; the rather by him liked, for that the hugest giants in rocks and caves were said to lurk still there; which kind of monsters to deal with was his old exercise." He was indeed the father of Cornish wrestling, which has ever since been so popular and so excellent. The poet proceeds to tell us how Corineus wrestled with the giant Goemagog (or Gogmagog) and threw him into the sea. Drayton, in relating the same legend, hints at the true cause that enabled the smaller Neolithic Ivernians to subdue the taller Paleolithic inhabitants; it being a fact that[Pg 18] there was a difference in height great enough to be magnified by fancy and exaggeration into the myth of the giants. He tells how Gogmagog was brought forward as a champion to daunt the Trojan invaders:—
If there is any basis to this Brutus legend at all, it may be taken as denoting an invasion of higher culture, of the later Stone or early Metal Age, opposed to the greater physical strength but inferior weapons of a lower scale in civilisation. Methods and materials of war were the standard of advance then, as they seem to be still the measure of dominance now. All tradition states that the struggle between Corineus and the giant took place on Plymouth Hoe, on a spot now partly covered by the Citadel. Plymouthians so devoutly cherished the legend that they preserved the figures of the two wrestlers, cut in the turf after the manner of the famous White Horses; but either a greater scepticism or another need for the site has caused the figures to vanish long since. As Corineus, by the same tradition, became first Duke of Cornwall, it was supposed that he bestowed his name on the Duchy; but the "Corn" is not so easily identified as this, and to get at the true origin we should have to understand more definitely the derivation of the tribal name Cornavii. But it does seem that the Plymouth[Pg 19] Hamoaze can claim to be the Hamo's Port which Geoffrey of Monmouth wrongly identified with Southampton; and this proves that the fine estuary, where the pulse of national life now beats so strongly, was a haunt of navigators, defenders and invaders, in days before Britain's story had begun to be written. Britain also can never forget the part that Plymouth played in repulsing the Great Armada. It may or may not have been true that Drake was playing bowls on the Hoe when the Spanish ships were sighted; it may not be true that he said, "There's time to play the game out and to thrash the Spaniards afterwards." We can cherish this doubtful tradition or not, as we happen to be credulous or sceptical; but in any case that was the genuine spirit of the West Country in those days of stress, and that was the spirit by which the British Empire was moulded. It was a spirit born of rough seas and unruly winds, the confidence that sprang from successful struggle with peril and difficulty, the pluck that confesses nothing to be impossible. It was a spirit that loved sport, yet never shrank from war.
But the glorious memories that linger on Plymouth Hoe, perhaps the finest promenade in the kingdom, must not hinder us from passing over to the Cornwall coasts that are luring us with all their varied and exquisite beauty. We cannot stay to recall the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth Barbican, nor the wonderful siege endured by the town during the great Civil War—the fiercest siege of all that sad conflict, successfully sustained by the Plymouthians against the forces that the King's generals, backed by loyal Cornwall, could bring against them. The[Pg 20] tales and associations that belong to the "Three Towns" are of the deepest interest; and surely no other English shires have so grand a dividing-line as this mouth of the three rivers. We must not forget that Devon itself was once a part of Cornwall or "West Wales."
We may well start our journey round the coast at Mount Edgcumbe, where we find ourselves on Cornish soil, however eagerly Plymouthians may claim the Mount as one of their special beauty-spots. There is good excuse for the tradition that the Spanish Admiral, Medina Sidonia, when he caught sight of Mount Edgcumbe on his way up the Channel in charge of the Armada, was so impressed by its loveliness that he selected the estate as his own future reward of victory. It is pretty certain, however, that on this occasion the Admiral would not have sighted Mount Edgcumbe at all until after-events had begun to render him a little less cocksure of the result. But he may have seen the manor during some earlier and more peaceful visit. The Edgcumbes are a Devonshire family, coming from the neighbourhood of Tavistock; the estate came to the possession of Sir Piers Edgcumbe by his marriage with Joan Durnford, of East Stonehouse, and the present house was begun by his son, Sir Richard, in 1553. It is possible that Sidonia had been a guest of Sir Richard's in the following year, when there was a notable gathering of Admirals here. There are some defences still standing that were erected in anticipation of the Armada, and these were brought into use by the Civil War, when Royalist Edgcumbe frowned defiance at Parliamentary Plymouth across the Sound. But it was Plymouth that had the last[Pg 21] word, and Edgcumbe had to surrender in 1645. The peaceful memories of the spot are more in accord with its beauty than those of discord and bloodshed; that beauty, and the number of its distinguished visitors, had made it famous throughout Europe. The place has been noted for its hospitality and for its many guests, from the days of Cosmo de' Medici to those of our late King. During his stay at Torquay, after the close of the Franco-German War, the Emperor Napoleon III. came hither with his son; and it was only two days later that the Crown Prince of Prussia, afterwards the beloved Emperor Frederick, was here with his wife and sons, one of whom, the Kaiser, now looms so large in the imagination of Europe. But art has its associations with this spot, even more interesting than those of royalty. The elder Vandevelde is supposed to have been here, and to have painted his "Royal Charles" as the guest of Sir Richard Edgcumbe; this and other paintings of his are preserved among the art treasures. A little more certainty attaches to the visits of Sir Joshua Reynolds. He was the son of the headmaster of Plympton School—a school that can boast connection with three other famous artists: Northcote, Eastlake, and Haydon; and as a boy young Reynolds became a frequent companion of the second Lord Edgcumbe, then a lad of about his own age. The two between them painted a portrait of Thomas Smart, Vicar of Maker, who was the young Edgcumbe's tutor. The picture was executed on a piece of sailcloth, in a boathouse at Cremyll. It is probable that the portrait was done rather with mischievous than artistic intent—a boy's picture of his tutor is not likely to be[Pg 22] flattering; but Reynolds had already begun to show signs of his wonderful genius, and it may be guessed that he did the lion's share of the work. The friendship between the two lads survived to maturity, and there are many examples of the artist's ripe work at Mount Edgcumbe. There are three generations of the family from his pencil; and the marble busts in the saloon were purchased by him for this purpose, at Rome, which he first reached chiefly through his friend and patron's influence. There are also paintings here by Lely and Mascall, and there is a good deal of fine statuary in the grounds. When these grounds are hospitably thrown open to visitors, as they are so often, the educative influence of art, as well as that of natural beauty, is brought to bear on many, of whom we may hope that some are susceptible. When Sir Joshua brought Dr. Johnson to Plymouth, in 1762, we may feel sure that he took his great friend across to be introduced at Mount Edgcumbe; and we know that others connected with the same brilliant circle, such as General Paoli and Garrick, were visitors here. Garrick, indeed, celebrated the place in verse, as surpassing "all the mounts of England." Miss Burney came in 1789, on an occasion when "all 'the Royals' went sailing up the Tamar"; and she was delighted with the manor and its occupiers. There are therefore many ghosts wandering about among these Upper and Lower Gardens—the misnamed English Garden with its subtropical vegetation—magnolias, cork, bamboo: the Italian Garden with its orange-trees; the French Garden with its arbours and trellis and ilex-trees in the style of the old Empire. But the ghosts that walk here among the crowd of[Pg 23] sight-seers, or at night when the moon glitters brilliantly on the broad estuary, or when the dark, moonless expanse is pierced with lights from pier and masthead and distant Eddystone—these ghosts are not such as we dread; they are the gracious figures of old-time guests, grizzled seamen of Elizabethan glory when men dreamed of new worlds and found them: kings, nobles, poets, painters, they are all here to greet us on our approach to the enchanted regions of the Delectable Duchy.
It is said that a parish clerk, more than a century since, wrote a poem about Mount Edgcumbe in which he stated that—
The batteries are certainly there, more numerous than ever, and we may hope that they will fulfil the purpose ascribed to them. Picklecombe Fort, on the cliff below the grounds, is particularly powerful, and in conjunction with the similar forts on the opposite heights of Staddon might be able to render a good account of itself if Plymouth Sound were ever attempted. The massive breakwater might also become an effective obstacle to unfriendly navigation. This defence, built to protect the harbour from south-west and south-easterly winds, is a very fine piece of engineering. It was begun in 1812, and its construction took twenty-eight years. About four and a half million tons of limestone were brought from the Oreston quarries, and two and a half million cubic feet[Pg 24] of granite from Dartmoor. The central length is 1,000 yards, each of the wings being 350 yards, making the total length nearly a mile. The original cost was £1,500,000, to which may be added the expense on the lighthouse and on frequent repairs and renovations. The utility of the work has amply repaid the outlay. Though the surface rises several feet above normal high water, there are many times when the breakwater is swept by waves from end to end.
Mount Edgcumbe is in the parish of Maker, and there is a sensational tale attaching to the interesting and finely situated church. It is said that a former Lady Edgcumbe was brought here for burial, and the sexton, left to himself, was trying to tear the rings off her fingers, when she gave a sigh and awoke. She had been merely in a trance. Returning to her home, she lived for many years after. This tale is sometimes told of Cotehele, an earlier seat of the family; but in any case it is one of those legends that have been told of many places, in England and abroad. Maker church tower was used as a signalling station during the French wars, in connection with another at Mount Wise; there is now a regular signal station at Rame Head. The lychgate and old font deserve attention. These heights, and especially the Mount Edgcumbe woodlands, suffered severely from the great blizzard of 1891, many of the finest trees being uprooted. At the foot of Maker heights are the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand, separated by a small brook; some of the houses, built across this, claim to be in both places at once. This provides one of the most frequent and popular trips of the Plymouth pleasure-steamers, and[Pg 25] the picturesque spot, once haunted by smugglers, is now, during the summer months, a lively playground of the excursionist. It is said that Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., landed at this spot on his first attempt against Richard Crookback, his fleet having been scattered by a storm. Southward is Penlee Point, and westward Rame or Ram Head. This is the most southern point of East Cornwall, and the nearest land to Eddystone. There is an old saying—
Dodman being the extreme point of Mevagissy Bay; and, as Ray tells us: "These are two forelands, well known to sailors, nigh twenty miles asunder, and the proverb passeth for the periphrasis of an impossibility." The Head, which is nearly insular, has a chapel dedicated to St. Michael on its summit. St. Michael was widely claimed as a patron of lofty and exposed places (such as the two St. Michael's Mounts); it was considered his especial function to disperse and set at naught all evil forces of tempest and thunderstorm. Rame Church, dating from the thirteenth century, is about a mile inland; it occupies the site of a still earlier building. Whitesand Bay (generally called Whitsand), which stretches westward towards Looe, has many memories of the past to offer those who, in summer, come hither in large numbers. It was here that Drake and Howard first confronted the Armada, after the memorable but possibly fabulous game of bowls. Whether the Spaniards intended making for Plymouth or no is not quite certain; but it is certain that the English[Pg 26]men intended to prevent them. It was in the early Sunday morning that the Spaniards first caught sight of the English fleet—the royal or official squadron under Lord Howard, the volunteers under Francis Drake. Displaying his consecrated standard, the Duke Medina endeavoured to interpose between the two sections of the opposing flotilla, thinking to destroy them separately at his ease; but he was readily circumvented in his design, finding to his cost that the English vessels could sail closer to the wind than his own, and could be manipulated more quickly, while their guns carried further. His cumbrous ships also were too much crowded with men, being fitter for transport than for action; the fighters were impeded by the press, and every effective shot from the enemy's guns found many victims. The English managed to keep at a distance while they delivered their raking broadsides, which, according to the Spanish notions, was against all principles of chivalrous sea warfare. But, as Froude says, "it was effective, it was perplexing, it was deadly." Drake and Howard did not wish to come to closer quarters with their formidable foes; a near embrace of those heavy galleons, fully manned with brave men, might soon have brought disaster; the struggle would have been too unequal. It is the art of the weaker to be elusive. The engagement lasted till late on Sunday afternoon, by which time the squadrons had drifted past Plymouth Sound. Not many hours later the Capitana, England's first prize, was being towed into Dartmouth harbour, giving a welcome booty in bullion and powder. The Armada had received a first blow, from which it never recovered; though recovery might yet[Pg 27] have been possible if the winds had not fought for the English. The Spaniards' first taste of the West Country had probably satisfied them, but other death-traps lay to the eastward. The later story of the Armada belongs to distant Scottish and Irish coasts, whereon many of its finest vessels drifted; it is a story of calamity, blunder, and stubborn bravery; all the courage was not on one side of the conflict—perhaps the Spanish were as great in their failure as the English in their success.
The shores of Whitesand Bay, though so beautiful, are treacherous both to the seaman and the bather; their beaches have often been strewn with wreckage. The Bay is fully exposed to south-westerly winds, which often hurl tremendous seas upon its coast, and many a good vessel has been driven to its destruction. There are shifting sands here also, which are the source of peril to unwary bathers; and it was at this spot that Mr. E. Spender, the founder of the Western Morning News, was drowned, with his two sons; a memorial marks the spot. But many parts of the extensive bay are perfectly safe, and there are several nooks that are becoming increasingly popular with visitors from Plymouth, such as Port Wrinkle, with its coastguard station, and the pretty village of Downderry. A portion of the coast is in the parish of St. John's, and here there is a grotto excavated by a lieutenant, who is said to have cured himself of gout by this labour; the walls and entrance are inscribed with verse. Another of the Whitesand parishes is Antony East, so named to distinguish it from other Antonies further westward, which extends from the Lynher to the coast. In this is the seat of the Pole-Carew[Pg 28] family, a branch of the old Devonshire Carews. The house dates from 1721, and has some good pictures by Holbein, Vandyke, and Reynolds. Carew, the Cornish historian, who died in 1620, lived and wrote his works here.
LOOE AND POLPERRO
As we pass along the coast from Whitesand Bay towards Looe we are approaching a spot that is now prized for its exceeding loveliness, but that formerly took high rank among the seaports of the West Country. In appearance and in ancient position it must be classed with Dartmouth and Fowey, which both were likewise notable ports in days when the English navy was in its sturdy infancy—days when the national pulse beat most keenly in the south and east instead of in the north and midlands. Commerce and industrialism have largely changed all that; Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham have assumed metropolitan importance in their densely populated districts. Only Plymouth in the south-west is now of first-class consequence to the nation; and Plymouth is a parvenu compared with Looe and Fowey. The actual decline of these two little towns may not be great, but relatively it is enormous. Yet it deserves a milder term than decay, for the present-day life here is still wholesome and in a certain sense prosperous. It is a gentle and placid prosperity, very largely the happiness of places that have no history. There is the compensation of a glorious past, and there is the further com[Pg 30]pensation that such places preserve for us the best picture of what Old England truly was in days before she became "a nation of shopkeepers." It is no use to go to the flourishing commercial cities to find traces of earlier England; these cities have usually swept away the traces of antiquity they once possessed—tortuous streets are straightened and widened, quaint old houses are thrown down, the picturesque makes way for the useful; even the old churches are looked at askance, as occupying ground that might be devoted to warehouses and offices. In these quiet corners of the West such temptations have not presented themselves; population is thin, and there is little call for the destructiveness of expansion; mediævalism may still be found here, in the streets and byways, in the houses, and sometimes in the people. The chief peril is in the intrusion of the summer holiday and the "week-end." Irreparable damage is sometimes prompted by the desire to attract visitors. But those who come to the West Country are not usually such as seek for the noise and glare of the conventional watering-place. They come for natural beauty, pure air, and quietude. The recreative pleasure that they crave must be of a different kind from that with which they can daily become familiar if they please. There are theatres and music-halls in town; it does not add to the wittiness of the Pierrot or the humour of the comic singer to find them exercising their functions on a hot dusty beach, densely packed with humanity, strewn with torn newspapers, burnt matches, orange skins, and banana peelings. Yet those who feel in this manner are a minority, otherwise certain popular resorts would be less flourishing.
[Pg 31]The crowds that flock to the average watering-place may leave their toils behind them, but they apparently wish to carry their amusements. Even the jaded mill-hand asks for the congested variety entertainments of Blackpool or of Douglas, rather than for the solitudes of shore and woodland. In moments of pessimism one may fear that the very capacity of peaceful enjoyment is being killed, and that ceaseless grinding work destroys the power of resting. When the ordinary tourist visits places of peaceful solitariness he usually does so in crowds that rifle and ravish the sacredness of this solitude; he ruthlessly desecrates that which he does not understand; he never learns its secrets; the most commonplace of public parks would have responded fully to his needs and their gratification. But the West has long been a resort of that wiser, certainly better endowed, minority that seeks for direct personal contact with Nature, face to face, and not merely as seen through the glass windows of huge pavilions or from the seats of fashion-haunted promenades. Therefore the majority of Western watering-places are not yet spoiled; their physical features have often assisted to preserve them. They have not lost the quaint simplicity of their parochialism, to become national if not cosmopolitan. Constant intercourse with even the most sober of visitors must take something from the provincialism, the cherished traditions and local customs, the personal peculiarities and dialect. But there is still a good deal left; there is still the possibility of reaching Nature in her inmost sanctuaries, and at the same time winning some of those elusive and shy confidences that are the charm of locality.
In this sense Looe, or rather the two Looes, are[Pg 32] purely delightful.
When we liken the place to Fowey or Dartmouth we must grant it the
advantages of being closer to the sea; it stands actually at the mouth
of its river, instead of retired within protecting sea-gates. To some
extent it has to submit to the tender mercies of the tripper, for
Plymouth steamboats are fond of bringing excursionists here; apart
from these invasions, the spot is as peaceful as could be desired
except by the veriest misanthropist. Approached by rail from Liskeard,
the journey is made in leisurely backward and forward stages, the
engine being reversed at times; so that passengers, who are requested
not to get out till "the train is at rest," sometimes imagine
themselves to be carried back to their point of departure. It is an
amusing little line, but it serves its purpose; and indeed has a
definite usefulness in reminding us that we have come away from bustle
and hurry to a region of placid leisure and quietness. Arrived at the
journey's end, one at first wonders how the people get in and out of
their houses, so higgledy-piggledy do they appear to be piled one on
top of the other; but the mystery may be solved by exploring the lanes
and allies. Deliveries of produce are still often made by panniered
donkeys, in quaint old-world fashion. There are two Looes, East and
West, and two rivers of the same name which meet above the bridge.
East Looe belongs to the parish of St. Martin's, and West Looe to that
of Talland; both were granted a corporation in the time of Elizabeth,
and each, before the Reform Bill, returned two representatives to
Parliament. The credit of having sent twenty vessels and 315 men to
the siege of Calais is given to East Looe, but it may be guessed that
all the residents on the[Pg 33]
[Pg 35] banks of the Looe rivers joined in this great patriotic effort. Those were the days of the town's fiercest activities, though its business as a port trading with the Continent endured till long afterwards; and the pilchard-fishery was once more important than it is now. Pilchards now for the most part keep further west. There is still much fishing done, and some small coastwise shipping gives occasional bustle to the rugged little banjo-shaped pier. There was anciently a great animosity between the two Looes, as was natural with such near neighbours; and the two still nourish a lurking contempt for each other, not always successfully concealed. They are at one, however, in their scorn for the pretensions of Fowey. An intense local patriotism, that really cannot tolerate outside claims, is a feature of many Western towns; a man from the next parish is almost as much a foreigner as if he came from "the shires." The two Looes have been brought to an enforced companionship, but they are not mutually conciliatory. East Looe can claim to be the business portion of the town, having the pier and the principal shops, while West Looe is more select and residential. The debate as to the greater antiquity may be left for the two to settle between themselves, but its harbour and pier must long have given East Looe the practical precedence. At the harbour some coal and limestone are imported, and there is a shipment of fish, bark, granite, and china-clay. East Looe boasts a further relic of its past in the ancient pillory preserved at the porch of its town hall. St. Martin's, the parish church, has a Norman door, and a font that appears to be of the same date; there is also a more modern[Pg 36] church, St. Anne's, whose dedication recalls that of the chapel which formerly stood on the old fourteen-arch bridge, long since displaced. At West Looe the church of St. Nicholas was once used as a town hall and room for general entertainment, and very curious indeed were some of the amusements that used to come here. Mr. Baring-Gould tells us that when he first saw Looe it struck him as one of the oddest old-world places in England. There was a booth-theatre fitted up, and luring the folk to its dingy green canvas enclosure. "The repertoire comprised blood-curdling tragedies. I went in and saw 'The Midnight Assassin; or, The Dumb Witness.' Next evening was to be given 'The Vampire's Feast; or, The Rifled Tomb.' This tragedy was followed by Allingham's play, 'Fortune's Frolick,' adapted to the narrow capacities of the company. It was performed in broad Cornish, and interspersed with some rather good and I fancy original songs. But surely nowhere else but at Looe could such a reminiscence of the old strolling company-show of fifty or sixty years ago be seen." It is said that there are still queer things to be seen at the annual fair of May 6th, the West Looe "cattle and pleasure fair." But the contact with outside influences has had its natural effect; Looe is not quite what it once was; better approaches have been made, so that the visitor no longer drops sheer upon the roofs of the houses as he did once; the claims of local improvement and sanitation have done something to remove quaint and characteristic features. Yet there are still picturesque whitewashed houses with ragged gables and outside staircases; there are still curious old porches and delightful hanging-gardens[Pg 37] where myrtle, hydrangea, and geranium can thrive all the year round. The shops still partake of the dual character that we find in quiet villages, so that the grocer is also the chemist and the butcher is the greengrocer. In one case the grocer has not only a chemist's store but also keeps a circulating library—a charming confusion of trades that enables the visitor to do his shopping within very limited range. The fishing done here, both professionally and as a sport, is fairly considerable; the Looe fishing-fleet often goes as far afield as the shores of Ireland, but when at home the men hang about the quay in the usual fashion of their kind, getting an occasional job with visitors, but more often enjoying that dreamy laziness for which they appear supremely qualified. They have the faculty of gazing long and intently at nothing, and of disputing for hours over subjects of scarcely greater tangibility; but their capabilities and efficiency must not be measured by their customary longshore attitude. Sometimes their wrangling almost equals that of the gulls that clamour in crowds about the small harbour, and that are always on the look-out for refuse thrown from the boats or from the quaysides. A special haunt of these gulls is the little Looe Island lying off West Looe, which is about a mile in circumference and 170 feet in height. This islet, also called St. George's Isle, because a chapel to St. George once stood here, is of great value to the river-mouth as a natural breakwater, and was once of further value as an inestimable aid in smuggling. Traces of the chapel may yet be seen on the summit of the isle, and human remains found here may possibly date from an early Christian settlement; but the prevailing memories of the island are by[Pg 38] no means saintly. It was once occupied by a reprobate pair who certainly lived the "simple life" to perfection so far as locality was concerned, but whose simplicity may otherwise be doubted. These were a man named Fyn and his sister "Black Joan," who appear to have been born on the Mewstone, near Plymouth, and who were as wild as their companion seabirds. Their desperate cleverness assisted ably in the running of many an untaxed cargo; and even when a coastguard was placed on the island itself, his vigilance was quite insufficient to baffle them. The smugglers of Whitsand Bay well knew the uses of Looe island, and made frequent expeditions to it. The supposed fishermen of Cawsand did far more smuggling than they did in their avowed avocation, finding it more exciting and profitable; they were joined by many wild spirits from Plymouth, discharged navy men, loafers, and dare-devils. A special kind of galley was built to suit them, ostensibly intended for seine-fishing, but in reality adapted for high speed and easy handling; and these boats often made the journey to and from the French shores, in the face of terrible danger not only from Preventive forces, but from sea and rock. Very often the cargoes were not landed at all from these boats, but were sunk near shore, to be fetched as opportunity offered. Suspicion soon attached to these fleet Cawsand fishing-boats, and when they set forth on their apparently innocent purpose, the coastguard men were in a state of irritated expectancy; they knew too often that they were being fooled, yet their task of prevention was both difficult and perilous. The order used to be sent out that "a rocket and blue-light will be fired from the Ramehead when the[Pg 39] galleys go afloat, as a signal to Polperro." Many of the smugglers' tricks reveal invention of a high order. After their own galleys had earned too much of a risky reputation, many having been taken in the act, their owners resorted to the device of chartering French vessels, with which, under certain limits, the revenue cruisers could not interfere. It may be guessed that unscrupulous confederates on Looe island were able to play an important part in such enterprises; so that Fyn and "Black Joan" enjoyed a life of constant excitement, and an unlimited supply of the best spirits. Not many years since the floor of a barn on the islet collapsed, and underneath was discovered a cellar for the storage of such spirits. It will be seen that St. George's Isle fully deserved its share in the evil repute that formerly attached to such islands as the haunt of desperadoes; Lundy, off the North Devon coast, is another instance. It was probably in remembrance of this isle and its chapel that the Looe ship was named the George, of which it is related that, many centuries since, it attacked and captured three French vessels single-handed. But of this, and of Looe's nobler memories generally, there is small record.
In place of such we have an interesting memorial of Looe's former use of the "cage," a companion instrument to the pillory. It is stated that "at East Looe Hannah Whit and Bessie Niles, two women of fluent tongue, having exerted their oratory on each other, at last thought it prudent to leave the matter in dispute to be settled by the Mayor. Away they posted to his worship. The first who arrived had scarce begun her tale when the other bounced in in full rage,[Pg 40] and began hers likewise, and abuse commenced with redoubled vigour. His worship, Mr. John Chubb, ordered the constable to be called, and each of the combatants thought her antagonist was going to be punished, and each thought right. When the constable arrived, his worship pronounced the following command to him, 'Take these two women to the cage, and there keep them till they have settled their dispute.'" It is therefore clear that the name of John Chubb must be added to the roll of Looe heroes; and something may also be said for the constable—if he accomplished his mission safely.
There are many beautiful walks to be enjoyed from Looe, one being along the cliffs to Downderry; still more delightful is the walk along the banks of the West Looe River to Watergate, where the luxuriant foliage and the rich undergrowth of ferns are a perpetual joy. Such wooded loveliness is of a kind that we do not usually associate with Cornwall, though it is amply to be found in different parts of the Duchy; it is more like parts of the Lyn or the Wye than what is generally attributed to Cornwall. Another beautiful walk or row is up the east river to Sandplace. Talland also should certainly be visited; it is about two miles from West Looe, of which it is the mother-parish. The church, with its campanile tower, is most finely situated among wooded hills, and contains some beautiful workmanship. There is an altar-tomb of Sir John Beville, 1574; and there are bench-ends bearing Beville and Grenville arms. The families were connected, as we are reminded by the name of the noble Sir Beville Grenville. The transept was formerly known as the Killigarth Chapel; and Killigarth, close by, was[Pg 41] formerly the Beville manor, noted in old days for its prodigal hospitality. The house has been destroyed, and a farm stands on the site, retaining the old name. A mile or two inland is Trelawne, another notable Cornish manor associated with one of the great old families. Parts of the house, which is in Pelynt parish, date from the fifteenth century, but a great deal of restoration has been done. The Trelawneys removed hither from Alternon in 1600. Mrs. Bray's novel, Trelawney of Trelawne, gives many particulars about the family and the locality; but this typical Cornish name is now chiefly recalled by the refrain of Hawker's "Song of the Western Men":—
Hawker's song, which both Scott and Macaulay took to be a genuine old local ballad, was skilfully woven around those three lines and made to apply to the committal of the Seven Bishops, Sir Jonathan Trelawney, then Bishop of Bristol, being one of the Seven. The ballad had an enormous circulation and reputation, but, being issued anonymously, brought little renown to its author. The refrain is generally supposed, and was believed by Hawker himself, to belong to a popular ballad of the days when the bishops were committed; but it seems to have been earlier still, and to belong directly to this neighbourhood of West Looe. It has been revealed that an earlier Trelawney was imprisoned in the Tower in 1627, and there seemed a probability that his life would be taken. Being much beloved[Pg 42] in the district of his home, some one was inspired to write the quatrain:—
This circulated rapidly through the Duchy, and reached London, where it is said to have procured the Cornishman's release. It is certain that John Trelawney was committed to the Tower in 1627 by the House of Commons, but was shortly released by order of the King and created a baronet. It is very probable, therefore, that this occasion was really the origin of the much-debated refrain, and that its use was revived by the committal of Bishop Trelawney, if not on other occasions and attached to other names as well. Hawker was not always sufficiently explicit as to the derivations of his poems, and he was guilty of one or two mystifications, some of which still survive in the popular guide-books (such as his story of the "Silent Bells of Bottreaux"); but he cannot be accused on this occasion, as he never asserted that his ballad was really ancient; and he certainly did fine service in embodying and perpetuating the stirring refrain. As Hawker states, he never claimed the chorus, but he did claim the ballad.
But after making all allowance for the beauties and varied associations of the Looes and of Talland, it must candidly be confessed that the great gem of the district is Polperro. From West Looe it is reached by way of Portlooe and Talland; there are daily excursions by brake from Looe in the season. Of course visitors can go by boat if[Pg 43] they prefer; the distance is about four miles. The little port was once much more inaccessible than it is now; passengers literally dropped into it by a path part of which was cut into steps; no wheeled vehicle could possibly get down. The houses cluster at the mouth of a deep ravine that runs up to the village of Crumplehorn. Approaching the place by road, Mr. Norway says that "just at first one sees nothing of the town, but all at once it bursts upon the sight as the road runs round a bend, a striking huddled group of houses, cast so strangely into a heap as to produce the impression that they must have been built originally upon the hillside at comfortable distances apart; and that by some slipping of the rock foundations the houses have slid and slid until they can slide no further, but are brought to a standstill in the very bottom of the hollow.
"The confusion of the town is immense. It is a labyrinth of winding alley often ending in a cul-de-sac. But the downward sweep of the headlands is superb; and under the towering cliffs studded with bosses of golden furze lies a little pier and harbour with the sea-foam flying sharply round the jutting peaks of rock before a stiff south-wester, while the gulls wheel shrieking overhead, and out at sea a schooner is labouring heavily." Unfortunately, the cliffs, both here and at Talland, have lately been somewhat disfigured by huge scaffoldings erected by the Admiralty for speed tests; but it takes more than this to spoil Polperro. In spite of its appearance of having slipped, many of the houses look as if they were carved out of the very rock itself, and in some cases their steps actually are so carved. Polperro, part of which is in the parish[Pg 44] of Talland and part in Lansallos, remains more lonely and primitive than Looe, for it is not touched by the railway, and its site offers little temptation to expansion. But it is becoming more and more sought after; artists have learned to love it and have introduced it to the art galleries; the inevitable sophistication must follow, just as Clovelly and Robin Hood's Bay have become sophisticated. But nothing can take from Polperro the loveliness of its position at the mouth of this seaward gorge, the beauty of the hills that surround it, the deep, restful blue of its seas. There are three piers protecting its safe little harbour, but even these are hardly enough in times of tempest, and heavy baulks of wood are let down into grooves, further to break the force of the waves. The sea has played a deadly part to Polperro folk in the past, and is ready to do so again. Old Jonathan Couch, the forefather of our present "Q," gives a striking picture of what Polperro used to be like in a storm during the days when he was doctor here, a century since:—"The noise of the wind as it roars up the coomb, the hoarse rumbling of the angry sea, the shouts of the fishermen engaged in securing their boats, and the screams of the women and children carrying the tidings of the latest disaster, are a peculiarly melancholy assemblage of sounds, especially when heard at midnight. All who can render assistance are out of their beds, helping the sailors and fishermen; lifting the boats out of reach of the sea, or taking the furniture of the ground-floors to a place of safety." Every fishing port round the coast knows what such a tempest means, and the horror, the hopeless and helpless desolation it arouses in the[Pg 45] minds of the women at home, if it should overtake their men at sea. In these aspects, at least, our shores are still primitive; they still know the primal force of wind and waves: there is no sophisticating, no taming of these. But days are not all of storm and wreckage; there are many times here when the waves lap peacefully against the old stone piers, when the air is soft and delicious, and when the women at their doors, engaged in their everlasting task of knitting jerseys for their men, can chatter of the happiest subjects without dreaming of storm or shipwreck. This is the calmer mood in which visitors generally find Polperro.
Probably not many visitors will trouble to inquire into the derivation of the name of Polperro; they will be content to know that it is Cornish. There would be something to do indeed if tourists were to ask the meaning of every place-name they meet with, and if they depended on local replies their last state would certainly be worse than their first. But an intelligent inquiry into the origin of place-names is always delightful and useful. Pol, of course, is one of the recognised Cornish prefixes; it is simply pool, the Welsh pwll, a creek or inlet or "pill." The perro is supposed to be a corruption of Peter, and the whole name would thus mean Peter's Pool, so called from a chapel to St. Peter that once stood on Chapel Hill. An earlier name was Porthpeyre, which neither assists nor contradicts such a derivation. That St. Peter should be the patron of an old fishing town is only natural. Leland speaks of the place: "a fishar towne with a peere." There are some who say that you really have to walk sideways in Polperro, the[Pg 46] streets are so narrow; but that is an exaggeration. Small as the place is, it afforded abundant material to Mr. Jonathan Couch, the country doctor who lived and died here (1788–1870), for his History of Polperro, which is a very charming book; and he further added to the reputation of the town by discovering certain ichthyolitic remains known as the "Polperro fossils." Happily he was a naturalist who recognised that the study of man is an important branch of all natural history; and geologic curiosities, interesting as they are, can hardly compete with the tales of old Polperro privateers and smugglers. Polperro built its own boats as it bred its own seamen, and both were excellent. That they were arrant smugglers was a characteristic of the times and of the locality; it is not for us to judge them. That they were men of piety is proved by the epitaph of that smuggler who prays for the pardon of the Preventive man who had shot him down:—
They were able to show a clean pair of heels not only to the excisemen but also to the King's enemies; as was proved by the Polperro captain who escaped from right under the nose of two French frigates during our last war with "that sweet enemy, France."
Lansallos, one of the mother-parishes of Polperro, has a finely placed church, useful as a sea-mark. It seems to have been in this parish[Pg 47] that a former resident had a very interesting duck-pond. It had all the appearance of being like other ponds, and the revenue officers, who sometimes dined here with their hospitable host, could see nothing in the least suspicious. But, when desired, this duck-pond could be made to swing round on a pivot, and underneath it was a most convenient recess which was an admirable storehouse for such things as it was not expedient for the Preventive men to see. The ingenuity fostered by smuggling was notorious, but surely few cleverer devices than this were ever conceived for the evasion of the King's revenue.
The traveller along the cliffs from Polperro to the Fowey estuary finds himself first in the parish of Lanteglos, known as Lanteglos-by-Fowey, to distinguish it from Lanteglos-by-Camelford. The accent, locally, is laid on the second syllable; and the name is a curious composite of Celtic and corrupted Latin. Taking the t as simply euphonious, we have the Celtic lan, first signifying an enclosure, then a sacred enclosure or consecrated ground, finally the church erected on such an enclosure; and eglos, a corruption of the Latin ecclesia, found elsewhere in Cornwall at Egloshayle and Egloskerry; the same word appearing usually in English place-names as Eccles, in Welsh as Eglwys, in Irish as Aglish or Eglish (Gaelic, eaglais). The llan or lan may generally be considered of earlier date than the eglwys or eglos. Lanteglos is a large parish, with which visitors chiefly become familiar by means of Polruan, a kind of suburb of Fowey across the river. To many persons the beauty and grandeur of the scenery will be more attractive than any antiquarian details, but there can be no harm in mentioning that the church of Lanteglos is dedicated to St. Wyllow, who is supposed to have[Pg 49] had his cell here in the early days of Cornish saintdom, and to have been murdered by a relative who was probably an unrepentant pagan. The greater number of the parishioners live at Polruan, distant rather more than a mile; the church is surrounded by fields and lanes, whose luxuriant growth of bank and hedge suggest a rich humidity of soil. In summer there is a remarkable abundance of ragged-robins by the wayside, with honeysuckles and wild-roses clustering above them in glorious profusion; here and there rises the stately spire of a foxglove. Ferns of exquisite grace and loveliness dispute the right of existence with brambles and grasses and moss; and golden grain comes close to the churchyard wall. Standing as it does in such isolation, it is surprising to find that the church is a building of considerable size; but it is never rare to discover noble churches even in greater solitude than this—our forefathers did not measure the size of their churches in relation to the probable number of their congregations. Also, the fact that a church is out of sight does not always mean that it is out of mind; and when the fine, deep-sounding peal of Lanteglos bells rings for service on Sunday mornings, a good number of countryfolk wend their way through the lanes and meadows towards it. A rugged and time-worn Celtic cross keeps guard beside the porch, having, doubtless, stood here since the days when the first Christian missionaries found these monoliths of granite serving a pagan purpose, and transformed them with rough labour into the Christian symbol. There is another such cross standing on the hill about a mile distant, looking down on the little fishing harbour of Polruan, by[Pg 50] which is also a holy well. It is not many years since Lanteglos Church was a disgrace to the country-side, by reason of the decay into which it had been allowed to fall; but that period of neglect is past, and a careful restoration has preserved the noble groining of the interior and the fine woodwork of the benches. The building, chiefly Decorated with Perpendicular tower, is specially notable for its admirable ribbed vaulting. The font is of earlier date, and near it are the parish stocks, once devoted to the confining of unruly legs. In the Lady Chapel, south of the chancel, where an abortive stairway points to the former existence of a rood-gallery, is a lovely altar, constructed mainly of pure alabaster, and the flooring before both altars is of highly polished marble. Here, too, are some fine old brasses to members of a family that has played its part in the nation's history; one member of which family, the duellist Mohun, is a prominent figure in Thackeray's Esmond. The Mohuns, coming from Dunster, settled at Hall House in this parish in the fourteenth century; it was doubtless in connection with them that the church once belonged to a Bridgwater foundation. But the Mohuns had removed to Boconnoc by the time that they achieved their greatest notoriety, in the person of Lord Charles, some of whose duels partook rather of the nature of assassination than of fair fight, the most notable being his slaying of the actor Mountford. It was in keeping with his life that Mohun should die in a combat of such fierceness that both the combatants, himself and the Duke of Hamilton, received mortal wounds. Hall House, near the Bodinnick side of the ferry from Fowey, is now a farm, embodying some remains of the old mansion. The Hall Walk[Pg 51] above this eastern bank of the river gives a magnificent view of Fowey town and harbour. Fowey itself needs to be seen from such a spot to be fitly appreciated. The house was taken and held for the King by Sir Richard Grenville, and it is said that Charles, who was here in August, 1644, was nearly struck by a ball from across the river, Fowey being at that time in the hands of the Parliamentarian Essex.
Bodinnick is just a tiny hamlet, a small cascade of houses tumbling to the riverside, with its own stone slip to meet the ferry at its foot. The road to this ferry is so steep as to be almost precipitous, and the cottages abutting on its side are embowered in fragrant bloom. There is a runnel of water at the roadside, and in one place this water is collected in a round stone basin that looks immensely old; from this it trickles forth again with coolness and musical plash. Having reached this spot, we may as well pass over into Fowey by the ferry here instead of by that from Polruan. If we had already come from Fowey to Bodinnick we should find that the ferryman would carry us back without further payment; the outward fee included a return—not like the ferry of Charon which had no return for passengers. The oars dip peacefully into the water, breaking its surface of glistening light; a delicious coolness, that phantom fragrance of water to which we can give no name, steals upward soothingly and sweetly.
Fowey, whose position is strikingly like that of Dartmouth, is named from its river, which rises at Foy-Fenton on the Bodmin Moors and passes through Lostwithiel on its journey to the mouth. Mr. Baring-Gould derives its name, as that of the Fal, from the Celtic falbh, which means the "run[Pg 52]ning or flowing," but the point is hardly clear. It is pleasant to turn from such disputations to the place itself, which has become famous in present-day romance as "Troy Town," the fanciful title bestowed by a gifted literary resident. The true street of this town may be said to be its river, where it is delightful to do one's business by water—much pleasanter than the narrow and somewhat dingy road that lies out of sight behind. Each garden has its boat moored at its foot, where the tide eternally whispers and gurgles and ripples. Sometimes the stream flows silently, though it may be with power; at other times it finds a voice by which the air is possessed and thrilled. The old stained walls, the rugged ladders by which the folk descend to their boats, are washed by the clear, pure waters; the shimmer of water enters the dwelling-rooms and is reflected on the ceilings, a fluctuating quiver of light, moved by every breeze that ruffles the surface of the stream. The small gardens are green to the edge of the walls that drop sheer to the river; these ladders and gardens are the true household gates. Here and there may be a small strip of quay, with the soil and grime of industry—perhaps the blackness of coal-dust; but the prevalent flavour is domestic. Higher up the river there may be more dissonance, where the steamboats are being laden with china-clay and stone; there is a clang of cranes, a rattle of machinery, a bustle out of unison with the placid water beneath, the dense woodland behind. Maritime doings seem to lose much of their beauty when they are dependent on steam—they cannot lose it all. For pure beauty we must go to the sailing-boat, whether it be the fisher's smack with red or tawny sail, the graceful yacht of pleasure,[Pg 53] the schooner or barque of commerce. All these are represented in this lovely harbour within its protecting sea-gates; but none of them are represented intrusively; there is plenty of room, and there are delightful creeks running up into utter woodland solitude, like that one which is the pleasantest way of reaching Lanteglos Church.
One feature of this Fowey creek is its constant clamour of seagulls.
From morning to night their voice can be heard, sometimes with a noise
of wrangling and discordance, sometimes in single cries of bodeful
complaint. Occasionally the din is such that it is difficult to hear a
friend speaking; the birds cluster and hover and swoop above with
fierce argument and angry parleying. They are so accustomed to human
presences that, even if sometimes a nuisance, they are more often a
joy. They are never molested; they have a sense of privilege—the good
women of the houses will come out and talk to them as one might to a
pet canary. Very often the house-wife throws broken food to them, and
laughs at their scramble for it—the birds' queer difficulty in
settling downward on the water, the wide sweeps they take to reach
what lies beneath, the awkward dives and tumblings when they are near
the surface. In full flight they are graceful and buoyant, with an
easy command of their passage; but in descending thus to snatch
something from the tide they often appear clumsy. When the object they
want is close beneath, they do not seem able to reach it without
fluttering and effort; whereas if they see anything from a distance
they can swoop down upon it with the greatest ease. Sometimes one will
gather some morsel from the water or exposed beach, and soar away with
it; if observed, another, or perhaps[Pg 54] two, will pursue him, trying to
snatch the booty from him. A flying bird with his beak engaged in
holding a treasure is very much at the mercy of his pursuers; his only
resource is either to outstrip his covetous comrades, or else hastily
to gobble the desired morsel in a manner that must rob it of some of
its sweetness. These gulls are peculiarly fond of settling on the
boats that are moored at the foot of the gardens; sometimes as many as
fourteen or fifteen may be seen on one little rowing-boat, all sitting
solemnly with their heads turned in one direction. A single bird will
alight first, and others follow till the boat is occupied from stem to
stern. Such of the boats as are in frequent use are seldom visited in
this way; but the birds select those that are rarely used, and the
owners of these boats do not always appreciate the selection. Some are
covered with canvas as a defence, and a few are at times decorated
with streamers of coloured rags, like those that we innocently place
in our gardens in seed-time to scare the sparrows. The gulls soon
recover from their alarm, if they ever feel any; and it is somewhat
suggestive of irony to watch a gull calmly wiping his beak on a piece
of rag intended to scare him away. Whether meant as insulting or not,
such conduct does not provoke the inhabitants to severe reprisals; the
gulls are an institution of the place, to be grumbled at sometimes but
always to be tolerated. And all the grumbling is not on one side, as
one may judge from the noise the birds sometimes make. At times the
sharp cawing of black crows mingles with the croaking, and of course
other birds have their say as well, in the bright mornings and dreamy
eves. Out beyond the mouth of the harbour there are curlews and
[Pg 57] on the lonely sea-washed crags; and in quiet weather there are more of the gulls seaward than up among the gardens. But they may certainly be regarded as the presiding genius of Fowey.
The village of Fowey—it calls itself a town—runs along in a single street on the westward bank of the river. At first sight this street is almost unattractive; it is narrow, with some awkward bends, and it gives no view of the water except an occasional peep through a low doorway. It runs to a considerable distance, and tries to increase its importance by changing its name at intervals; a few small alleys and by-roads strike off from it. One of its turnings is a sharp drop as well as a curve, perilous to all but the initiated. In some parts when a vehicle passes it is necessary to press very close indeed to the wall or in the kindly shelter of a doorway; the ample omnibus of the chief hotel spares little space for pedestrians. It may be with something of a malicious chuckle that one notices that this four-wheeled tyrant is often empty; but the malice is of evanescent nature, born of narrow escape. There are some shops, respectable if not imposing, and a goodly supply of inns; a fine church and a notable old Cornish manor-house. But all the time one has a sense that the real life of the place is the river behind these houses; even the leisurely little railway station does not seem of much consequence, though it acts as a feeder of the boats that busily ply here. Quite obviously this is no resort of mere pleasure, and it is all the more pleasurable for that; it has set itself to live sturdily, not troubling to attract the idler and the luxurious. Fowey is not altogether content to repose on its memories, though [Pg 58]these are great. Generations of those who laboured on deep waters have nestled in these riverside homesteads, these nooks and corners and precipitous byways; they were lusty fighters and dauntless smugglers; they rose for their old faith, they fought loyally for their king, and they molested his enemies when he was at peace with them. In general they were a tough and independent lot, with a considerable scorn of those who live "in England"—that is to say, beyond the Tamar; and to this day an Englishman from the shires is very much of a foreigner with them. Even the man from a parish a few miles distant is looked at somewhat askance; after long years of residence they will still think him an outsider, and they repudiate with scorn the idea that any interlopers can understand them or their ways. They do not easily initiate strangers into the local mysteries or bestow the freedom of their township. Such an attitude may be out of date in this cosmopolitan age, but it is not unpleasant to strike against it; it coexists with the kindest of welcomes, the warmest of hospitalities. Yet it must be confessed that there are moods in which these Cornish folk are neither kind nor hospitable; their roughness is very rough, their parliamentary elections are often conducted in a spirit notorious for its violence. They are not all the gentle visionary dreamers that the Celts sometimes claim to be; indeed, there is much in their very physiognomy that proclaims them in large measure to be not true Celts at all, but men of still more aboriginal blood. Where then, it may be asked, shall we find the pure Celt? Yet it cannot matter greatly, except to those who set far too much store on matters of race. The weaving of ethnologic Britain would take more skill to unravel than the[Pg 59] most learned can now attain to; it is a weft of many strands, strangely inter-knitted, and its result is infinite variety of personality. But it may be that here in Cornwall some of its earliest elements have lingered longer than in parts of the kingdom more exposed to invasion and immigration.
Both Plymouth and Falmouth may be spoken of as modern towns compared with Fowey. Its antiquity is proved by the dedication of its church to the Irish St. Finbar, who seems to have been a pupil of the Welsh Dewi, or St. David. Very many of Cornwall's saints came either from Ireland or Wales, and some from Brittany, to which the debt was repaid. Not much is known of Finbar, and that little is probably apocryphal. In 1336 the church was reconstructed and rededicated; Bishop Grandisson, who did this, may have thought that a more firmly established saint would be better, and he chose St. Nicholas, the patron of sailors and fishermen. A good part of the present building, including the north aisle, probably dates from that time; but the tower, a hundred feet high, is true Perpendicular. The groundwork has settled, causing a curious slope. The south-porch doorways appear to be late Norman. Among the monuments of the Treffrys is one erected by John Treffry during his own lifetime. Place House, the home of the Treffrys, stands close by, dominating the little town that presses around it. If its restoration had been conducted in better taste this fine old house might have been more beautiful than it is; its best features are the two exquisite fifteenth-century bay windows. The original hall and porch-room also survive, the latter being now known as the "Porphyry Room." Perhaps some[Pg 60] visitors will take a deeper interest in the residence of Sir A. T. Quiller-Couch, the "Haven," standing pleasantly by the waterside, facing the mouth of the harbour. Thousands of readers have made the acquaintance of "Troy Town" through the romances of "Q"; and Mr. Couch is not only the writer of fiction that is often delightful, he is also a fine literary critic.
We do not know a great deal of Fowey in its earlier days, but its manor passed to Robert de Mortain at the Conquest. The town sent vessels to the Crusades, and in 1340 it shared with the port of Looe in sending a representative to a Council at Westminster. But the usual test by which historians now estimate the relative consequence of old English ports is the number of vessels contributed to the siege of Calais under Edward III., and by this test, which should not be pressed too hard, Fowey would appear to have been the chief port in the kingdom. She sent as many as forty-seven ships, the largest number of any, manned by 770 seamen. Next came Yarmouth, with fewer ships but more men; and Dartmouth was third. It is interesting to recall that to this memorable expedition Ilfracombe contributed six vessels, and Liverpool one. We may take it that the whole Fowey estuary shared in the manning and maintenance of this gallant squadron. The Fowey men had certainly the defect of their qualities, being proud and stiff-necked under the successes that attended them. It is reported that Fowey was made a member of the Cinque Ports, that very elastic "five"; but its comradeship in that association was clearly of a stormy and high-handed fashion. We read that certain Fowey men, passing near Rye and Win[Pg 61]chelsea, "would vaile no bonnet," by which we may suppose is intended the customary salutation made in courtesy to a fellow-port.
Highly indignant, the men of Rye and Winchelsea sallied forth to teach the Foyens better respect, our seamen in those days being as willing to quarrel among each other as they were with the men of Normandy or Brittany. In the quaint words of the Cornish Hals, this contempt shown by the Fowey men, "by the better enabled seafarers reckoned intolerable, caused the Ripiers to make out with might and maine against them; howbeit with a more hardy onset than happy issue; for the Foy men gave them so rough entertainment as their welcome, that they were glad to depart without bidding farewell—the merit of which exploit afterwards entitled them Gallants of Fowey." Of course the Fowey men held their heads higher than ever after this, and even presumed to wear the arms of Rye and Winchelsea interwined with their own, in token of their supremacy. It was from such tough fibres that the British navy was built; those strenuous days of constant conflict and privateering were a grand tutorage for seamen, though not unexceptionable from a moral standpoint. But a town that behaved as Fowey did naturally had to suffer reprisals.
To quote again from Hals, we learn that certain Normans, with a commission from the King of France to "be revenged on the pirates of Fowey town, carried the design so secret that a small squadron of ships and many bands of marine soldiers was prepared and shipped without the Fowey men's knowledge. They put to sea out of the river Seine in July, 1457, and with a fair wind[Pg 62] sailed thence across the British Channel and got sight of Fowey Harbour, where they lay off at sea till night, when they drew towards the shore and dropped anchor, and landed their marine soldiers and seamen, who at midnight approached the south-west end of Fowey town, where they killed all persons they met with, set fire to the houses and burnt one half thereof to the ground, to the consumption of a great part of the inhabitants' riches and treasures, a vast deal of which were gotten by their pyratical practices. In which massacre the women, children and weakest sort of people forsook the place and fled for safety into the hill country. But the stoutest men, under conduct of John Treffry Esquire, fortified themselves as well as they could in his then new built house of Place, where they stoutly opposed the assaults of the enemies, while the French soldiers plundered that part of the town which was unburnt without opposition in the dark." But the country-side was aroused, and men began to gather in such force that the French invaders found it prudent to depart with some haste, and with such of their spoil as they could hurriedly carry with them. They departed, says Hals, "with small honour and less profit." It was after this attack that the twin forts were built, at Polruan and Fowey, to protect the mouth of the river, and a chain was dropped at night between the two, as was the practice at Dartmouth.
It must have been on another occasion that the wife of Thomas Treffry, as Leland tells us, "repelled the French out of her house in her husband's absence." But the great days of Fowey were nearing their end. When Edward IV. made peace with France the town declined to countenance this termination of hostilities, and continued to[Pg 63] wage war on its own account; perhaps it felt that there was much yet to be wiped off. "I am at peace with my brother of France," came the royal message; but the Fowey men were not at peace, and they said so. It is even stated that they slit the nose of the King's pursuivant, which almost made it appear that they were willing to be at war with the King of England also. Edward was not the man to be so trifled with, but the course he took was unkingly and despicable. He sent a party of men, who were clearly afraid to come nearer than Lostwithiel; and these, pretending to be harbouring some new designs against the French, invited the men of Fowey to come and take counsel with them. The Fowey men were then treacherously seized and their leader hanged; and the men of Dartmouth were fetched to take away the chain from Fowey Harbour and to snatch its ships. It may be that Dartmouth had some accounts to settle with its Cornish neighbour, but even these Devonians must have felt some grudging at such an act. This was the death-blow of Fowey's naval prosperity. She was now at the mercy of her foes, home or foreign. Yet she continued to bear herself bravely. Later, she erected St. Catherine's Fort as a defence; it is now a picturesque ruin. In the Civil War Fowey, like Cornwall generally, was loyal to her King, and though Essex took the town, it was soon retaken, with six thousand prisoners, and held for a year and a half longer. A few years later, (in 1666) the Dutch chased our Virginian fleet into Fowey Harbour, and dared to follow the vessels with the purpose of destroying them. But the Fowey forts had a word to say in the matter, and they made the place so hot for the great Dutch fri[Pg 64]gate of seventy guns, that it was glad enough to escape without finishing its errand. Such are the leading incidents in the history of this plucky little town, which formerly returned two members to Parliament. Relatively, its eminent position is entirely lost, but it has an eminence for loveliness of situation that can never be taken from it, and it can educate its sons in a glorious though chequered tradition. It has memories of occupation long before days of Cinque Port emulation. Close to Menabilly Park (Menabilly is the seat of the Rashleighs, a Cornish family of ancient repute) is a granite pillar known as the Longstone, bearing the inscription Cirusius hic jacit Cunomori filius, doubtless commemorating a Romanised Cornishman. At this manor-house, about two miles westward of Fowey, on a height above the sea, is a curious grotto built by a former Rashleigh to exemplify the mineral wealth of the Duchy. It is octagonal, and its sides are inlaid with native ores, fossils, shells, and stones. There is a further remarkable mineral collection at the house, with fine specimens of sulphuret of tin and copper, malachite, fluor, crystals, topaz, with some blocks of prehistoric tin. The coast here extends to Gribbin Head, and there is then a sharp bend inward to Par sands. Par is not particularly attractive, except for its pleasant bay; but the decay of its former mining activities is compensated for by its busy shipping of china-clays at the quays built by the late Mr. Treffry. Much of the china-clay goes to distant potteries, or is used for the whitening of cheap so-called linens; of course, much of this is despatched at the railway station which is the junction for Fowey. This is a British export which seems to be advancing by leaps and bounds; and this St. Austell district, with[Pg 65] another active port at Charlestown, is practically its centre. It is said that, in this district alone, the royalties paid to ground landlords approach the figure of £90,000 per annum, and foreign companies are keenly endeavouring to establish a footing. But the presence of the powdery clay is not alluring except to those who profit by its output, and we may leave Par and Charlestown to their industrialism. Tywardreath (the "house or town-place on the sands") claims mention for the memory of its old Benedictine priory, now vanished. To pursue the Fowey River inland, past the charming Golant and St. Winnow, is a delightful excursion with a fitting termination in the beauties of Lostwithiel; but on the present occasion it takes us too far from the coast. The loveliness of this river resembles and equals that of the Fal and of the Dart.
ST. AUSTELL TO ST. MAWES
The town of St. Austell is not exactly upon the coast, but it is only about two miles inland, and visitors may be attracted by the reputation of its fine church. It is a busy and self-respecting little town, and is the commercial centre of a district that, for Cornwall, is quite thickly populated; it is, indeed, one of the few Cornish districts in which population has really shown an increase of recent years. Much of its growing activity is due to the china-clay business; St. Austell claims to be the china-clay metropolis of the world. Most of the shipment is done from Fowey, Par, and Charlestown. The industry is becoming a recognised lucrative field for investment. Yet the immediate presence of the mines and yards is not a thing of beauty or of comfort. St. Austell Church, dedicated to a companion of the famous St. Samson, has a lofty Perpendicular granite tower, whose niches contain statues of Christ, the Virgin, and many other saintly figures. The implements and emblems of the Crucifixion are carved in the southern buttresses. Older than the tower is the chancel; and there is a Cornish inscription, Ry Du ("give to God") above the porch. In the churchyard is one of the sacred[Pg 67] stones whose names at least we find scattered in different parts of the kingdom, such as the stan (or Steyne) of Brighton, and the "folk's-stone" of a popular Kentish watering-place. This St. Austell stone, the Menagew, is said to have once stood at the junction of three manors, but its veneration doubtless dates from a far earlier period. The historian Lake tells us, "It is certain that on this stone all declarations of war and proclamations of peace were read; and although at present it is partially disregarded, a strong degree of veneration still attaches to its name. All cattle that had been impounded for a given time, and for which no owner could be found, were brought to this stone and exposed for a certain number of market days, after which, if they remained unclaimed, their sale became legal." But many visitors will probably take greater interest in the famed Carclaze Mine, situated more than 600 feet above sea-level; the pit is about 150 feet deep, and nearly a mile round. Once notable for its tin, this mine now supplies an immense quantity of china-clay and stone. Charlestown may claim to be the port of St. Austell, and is becoming also a popular residential suburb. But St. Austell has another watering-place in Porthpean, a mile or two westward, which, though it can boast of no shipping, has features that may some day bring it a wide reputation. With good sands, good bathing, a mild climate, Porthpean might easily develop into a holiday resort of the conventional but highly prosperous type. As yet its fame is hardly more than local.
South of Black Head, an eminence of about 150 feet, is the little port of Pentewan, noted for its elvan building stone, which is shipped, together[Pg 68] with some china-clay, from its excellent small harbour. Pentewan stone has a good name for hardness and durability; its qualities are well shown in the tower of St. Austell Church. In the tin works here, carried on at some depth below sea-level, were found horns of the Irish elk, not petrified, but completely metallised by the tin ore; also definite traces of buried forest. It is said also that some curious oaken canoes were discovered in the soil, but were, unfortunately, destroyed for firewood by the tinners. It is hard to estimate how many valuable antiquities have been similarly destroyed by carelessness and ignorance; but such ruin has been more often suffered by stone monuments, longstones, kistvaens, snatched for use as gate-posts and walls by heedless farmers and builders.
About two miles inland from Pentewan is Heligan, a very fine estate, whose gardens display rare subtropical vegetation. Such vegetation is rather a boasted feature in southern and western Cornwall, and is, of course, interesting as a kind of tour-de-force, showing what the British climate at its best can do. Apart from this use, however, it may seem to some of us that such efforts are easily overdone; the native beauty of an English garden or woodland has infinitely more appeal, more freshness, more loveliness, than any grandeurs of the exotic. The glories of Kew Gardens have their charm, their utility, their educational value; but tropical growths are really as much out of place in an English landscape as a Moorish palace or a Buddhist temple would be. All who know anything of landscape gardening know that it has been a fertile field for the growth and exemplification of false taste. Yet the plea of botanical[Pg 69] interest, educational use, may be added to the attraction of rarity as a defence of all such cultivations as we find not only at Heligan and Mount Edgcumbe, but at Morrab Gardens and Tresco. Those of us who dislike them can keep away. But Heligan has a reputation also for genuine English beauty. The old mill here has been a favourite with many artists, and has become familiar in many an exhibition-room. At Lanshadron, close by, is a mutilated cross, which is perhaps unique in having an inscription around its base; the inscription being Latin. Heligan is in the parish of St. Ewe, which is usually supposed to be a dedication to St. Eustachius; but non-Celtic saints are almost as much out of place in Cornwall as exotic plants are, and St. Ewe was probably some forgotten British or Welsh missionary. A former clergyman of this parish appears to have been notable as a healer of bodies as well of souls. We read of him that "Martin Atwell, parson of St. Ewe about 1600, was a physician of body as well as soul: now and then he used blood-letting or bleeding, and administered Marius Christi and other like cordials, yet mostly for all diseases he prescribed milk, and very often milk and apples, and recovered sundry out of desperate and forlorn extremities: his liberality was very great, his affection for religion sound, and he turned out with both hands in pios usus." Certainly a most enlightened man for his time, and if we could only add that he recommended the milk to be sour we should have brought his modernity to the highest point.
Mevagissey, about six miles south-west of St. Austell, was once one of the most flourishing[Pg 70] fishing-ports on the Cornish coast, and though it has not quite maintained its relative position, it is not done with yet. The town can also boast some fame as the Aberalva of Kingsley's Two Years Ago, a book once far more popular than it is to-day. The same claim has been made for Clovelly; but though some features in the novelist's description may be applied equally to both, there are other points that can only be attributed to Mevagissey. Kingsley, who wrote the book fifty years since, says: "Between two ridges of high pebble bank some twenty yards apart, comes Alva River rushing to the sea. On the opposite ridge, a low white house, with three or four white canvas-covered boats and a flagstaff with sloping crossyard, betokens the coastguard station. Beyond it rise black jagged cliffs; mile after mile of iron-bound wall: and here and there, at the glens' mouths, great banks and denes of shifting sand.... Above, a green down stretches up to bright yellow furze-crofts far aloft. Behind, a reedy marsh, covered with red cattle, paves the valley till it closes in; the steep sides of the hill are clothed in oak and ash covert.... Pleasant little glimpses there are, too, of gray stone farmhouses, nestling among sycamore and beech; bright green meadows, alder-fringed; squares of rich fallow-field, parted by lines of golden furze; all cut out with a peculiar blackness and clearness, soft and tender withal, which betokens a climate surcharged with rain. Only, in the very bosom of the valley, a soft mist hangs, increasing the sense of distance, and softening back one hill and wood behind another, till the great brown moor which backs it all seems to rise out of the empty air. For a thousand feet it ranges up, in huge sheets[Pg 71] of brown heather, in gray cairns and screes of granite, all sharp and black-edged against the pale blue sky." The description of the town itself that follows might apply tolerably well to a number of such fishing-ports in the West Country; but Kingsley is most clearly not speaking of Clovelly, and he introduces Cornish names. That corner of North Devon must be content with figuring in Westward-Ho! and not claim Two Years Ago. There was the cholera also, which was a very terrible reality at Mevagissey in 1849, and which did its good work as well as its evil, by causing the place to be thoroughly cleansed. The truly Cornish name of the town derives from a double dedication to the Saints Meven (or Mewan) and Issey; St. Mewan being a Welsh saint, and St. Issey probably an Irishman. The place has won, and deserved, the nickname of Fishygissey, but there is none the less a real charm about it; its distance from the railway, however inconvenient for visitors, brings compensations that many can appreciate. The pier dates from 1770, but the harbour is much more recent. A fine and costly harbour constructed about 1890 was destroyed in the following year by the great blizzard, which is distinctly "the storm" in the West of England; the present quays were built in 1897. At one time more pilchards were taken here than at any other spot, but the pilchard is a fickle fish, and has no consideration beyond the choice of feeding-grounds; if better satisfied elsewhere, no sentiment interferes with its migrations. But there are still a good many pilchards taken off Mevagissey, and these are largely cured here—many under their own name, but a large number find their way to the factory of the Cornish[Pg 72] Sardine Company established in the town. It has often been debated whether pilchards and sardines are one and the same; Mr. Aflalo says they are identical. It is certain that many so-called sardines are pilchards—and some are sprats. Differences in size may be accounted for by the fact that Cornish nets have often a rather large mesh, and the smaller fish are not taken. Many such nets are made at Mevagissey. The seine, or sean-net, was that commonly used here when the pilchard schools came nearer, but is now almost abandoned for the drift-net; we shall find seines still common further west. The seine may be described as a wall of netting, buoyed at the surface and weighted below; this is dipped in the thick of the shoal, its ends drawn together, and the fish taken out with a tuck-net. The leaded bottom of the net must touch the ground or the fish will escape; thus seine-fishing is only practicable in shallow waters. With it is associated the occupation of the "huers," who are stationed on the look-out above the shore, and who signal the arrival of the schools, easily seen in the daylight. But this method is now abandoned at Mevagissey, where the fishermen go farther from port, sailing to meet the schools in open sea instead of waiting close to shore for them. In many details their drift-fishing differs from the seine. The nets are long and deep, with a fairly large mesh: the object being for the fish to become entangled as in a trap, into which they swim blindly. A dark night is the most favourable; the drift-fishers start from port about sunset, and are often back with their catch long before dawn. The fish, indeed, are frequently caught, brought ashore, and sold before daybreak; some[Pg 73] are taken off by hawkers to be sold at farms and cottages about the country-side, while others go at once to the curers, or are pressed for export. Of course, mackerel and other fish are caught, often in considerable quantity, but the distinctive Cornish fish is the pilchard, and the pilchard has had most to do with the prosperity of Cornish fishing-ports. Unless cooked by the initiated, however, who get rid of the superfluous oil, the fresh pilchard is a very bilious article of diet, and the visitor must be wary.
In Mevagissey Church there is a curious old font, probably Norman in date as it is in appearance. The tower of this church was removed for some reason, perhaps because it was out of repair; and it was slyly reported in the neighbourhood that the townsfolk had sold their bells to pay for the removal of their tower. Cornish parishes are fond of these jibes against each other. Penwarne, the seat of "One-handed Carew," is in this parish; he lost his hand at the siege of Ostend in 1601, and returning after the fight, he presented the amputated limb to his hostess, remarking "This is the hand that cut the pudding to-day." A little south is the fishing hamlet of Portmellin; and just beyond Chapel and Turbot Points reach out into the Channel. There are remains of entrenchment on the headlands, and a little inland the farm of Bodrigan perpetuates the name of an old Cornish family, once of power and reputation. The waste known as Woful Moor, and the rock on the coast named Bodrigan's Leap, both have a tale to tell in relation with the ruin of this ancient family. It seems that in the days of Richard III. Sir Henry Bodrigan was engaged in a fierce feud with the leaders of the Edgcumbe[Pg 74] and Trevanion families, and in the hour of his prosperity he pressed them hardly. When the day of adversity came and he was attainted by the newly crowned Henry Tudor, Bodrigan's enemies turned on him with vindictive zeal. Driven to bay, the desperate Bodrigan met them in a last conflict on Woful Moor, so named to commemorate his sorrow, and was so hotly pressed that he was compelled to leap from the shore, at the spot still known as his "leap." The drop was of a hundred feet, but he escaped without injury and was picked up by a vessel that lay beneath. His later story is not told; but Gilbert says that "he seems to have perished in exile. His property was divided between the two families opposed to him, and, after the lapse of three hundred and fifty years, continues to form a large portion of their respective possessions." But much water has passed by Black Head since Gilbert wrote.
There is a recollection of Bodrigan at Gorran Haven, where he is said to have built the old pier; this was rebuilt in 1888. Gorran Haven is a most attractive little fishing-village, and may have a future before it as a watering-place; at present it only draws the quietest of visitors. The beach is excellent, pleasantly diversified with crags; and there is a small outlying mass of rock known as the Guineas or Gwinges, round which a rough sea breaks finely. There is a daughter chapel here, late Tudor, dating from about 1450 and restored in 1885; while the mother-church of St. Gorran at the church-town has a pinnacled tower of 110 feet in height (late Perpendicular) with six bells. This was renovated in 1896. There are some good initialled bench-ends in the church. It is a [Pg 75]district of grain culture. Gorran men were rather made a butt of by their neighbours in the old days; they "tried to throw the moon over the cliffs," and they "built a hedge to keep in the moonlight." Such parochial witticisms may be laughed at to-day, but they often provided a stinging grievance in the past and were a handy weapon in neighbourly feuds. They were by no means limited to Cornwall, though the Duchy was very plentifully supplied. The typical instance in England is that of the unfortunate men of Gotham, whom it is amusing to find old Ray seriously defending in his Proverbs, where he says that "as for Gotham, it doth breed as wise people as any which causelessly laugh at their simplicity. Sure I am, Mr. William de Goteham, fifth Master of Michael House in Cambridge, 1336, and twice Chancellor of the University, was as grave a governour as that age did afford." All which may be very true; and doubtless the men of Gorran were no more simple than their decriers. Doubtless also they had a payment for all compliments. The local dedication seems to be to the Gorran or Goron who surrendered his cell at Bodmin to St. Petrock, perhaps because he recognised a better man.
The coast around Gorran is very grand, and reaches its culmination in Dodman Point, sometimes called the Deadman, which rises to about 370 feet. The cliff has a sheer drop to the water, which is here deep, so that large vessels can pass close inshore. The local saying linking Dodman with Rame Head has already been quoted; and it is asserted that Dodman and Rame really did meet when they both came into possession of Sir Piers Edgcumbe. This bare, gaunt headland has proved disastrous to shipping, and some will recollect that[Pg 76] two torpedo-destroyers, the Thresher and the Lynx collided with the rock here in a fog, several lives being lost through the resultant explosion. This point is the eastern gateway of Veryan Bay; in the heart of which bay lies the very small parish of St. Michael Caerhayes, or Carhays. The parish is inseparably connected with the old Cornish family of Trevanion, one of which family, Sir John, fell at the siege of Bristol in the Civil War, and left his name to the sad commemorative couplet in which Cornwall recorded those by whose lives she had to pay for their glory:—
The list was not exhaustive. Speaking of Trevanion and Slanning, Clarendon says: "They were the life and soul of the Cornish Regiment; both young, neither of them above 28; of entire friendship to each other, and to Sir Bevil Grenville, whose body was not yet buried." It would be a poor thing if the horrors of war did not sometimes allow us such glimpses of heroic friendship and valour. In the church of St. Michael's are hanging many weapons that once belonged to Trevanions, including the sword said to have been worn at the field of Bosworth by Sir Hugh, who was knighted after the battle by the conquering Richmond. There is a doorway supposed to be Saxon in this church. The present Caerhayes House, beautifully situated at the head of Porthluney Cove, is the successor of the old Trevanion mansion, and was built about a century since by Nash, the architect of Buckingham Palace and Regent Street. For the sake of[Pg 77] contrast, it is interesting to remember that the Brighton Pavilion was also Nash's work; and thus the mind can wander from this peaceful Cornish cove to that most populous of British watering-places. At Portholland is a small hamlet wedged into a tiny cleft, where those who desire the uttermost quietude might be satisfied; westward along the coast is the slightly larger fishing village of Portloe. This is in the parish of Veryan, one of the "Roseland" parishes whose name has really nothing to do with roses. Roseland, formerly Rosinis (Rôz-innis, "moorland" or "heath island"), was in its origin a very early designation of this strip of land lying between Veryan Bay and the Fal; and we find the same original in the Rosen Cliff, just above Nare Head.
Nare Head, a fine bluff of rock, is the southward point of Veryan parish and the western extremity of Veryan Bay. There is some memory of Tregeagle around this headland, but his tale belongs more fully to Dozmare Pool on the Bodmin Moors and to the Land's End district. More immediately concerning us is the story of Geraint—at least of one of the rather numerous Cornish princes bearing that name—which is associated with Gerrans Bay and Dingerrein, now opening upon us, and with the great barrow of Carne Beacon. Perhaps Geraint, Latinised as Gerennius and sometimes as Gerontios, was simply a title of chieftainship or kingship; it is certain that the name was applied to more than one British chieftain, though since Tennyson's Idylls there has been only one Geraint in the mind of the general reader. Gerrans Bay, of course, embodies the name, and so do the remains of the entrenchment or camp at Dingerrein. It is possible that[Pg 78] he whose name thus survives was truly the Arthurian champion; we may certainly give him the benefit of the doubt, and believe that this was the Geraint who married the sweet Enid, who tested her faith so harshly, and who died at Llongborth (probably Langport in Somerset) about the year 522. He is claimed by the Welsh bards as one of their heroes, and there can be no historic objection to such a claim. Llywarch Hen sang of his death—
Tennyson's version of the legend is mainly taken from the Mabinogion. We usually think of this Geraint, son of Erbin, as a fighter, but in Cornwall he appears as a saint and the father of saints; both characters, indeed, have been united in the same person, before and since. Geraint is claimed as the founder of Gerrans, as well as of St. Géran in Brittany; and Dingerrein is supposed to have been his residence, while Carn Beacon was his tomb. The last supposition is the most dubious. There is a traditional rumour that he was driven from Wales by Teutonic invaders, that he settled here near Veryan and built this stronghold, that he embraced religion and resigned his rule to his son, and died a holy man. If we accept this tale we must decide that it was another Geraint who fell fighting at Langport. The Book of Llandaff tells us that the great St. Teilo visited Geraint while on his way to Brittany, and that he hastened back from the Continent in time to ad[Pg 79]minister viaticum to his dying friend, bringing a stone coffin for the burial with him. Tradition further says that the dead chieftain was buried with his golden boat and silver oars in which he had been wont to row himself. The place of burial was Carn Beacon, and there was long an expectation that these treasures would be discovered if the barrow was opened. This was done about half a century since, but the kistvaen that was found only contained some prehistoric ashes, of far earlier date than Geraint; the gold boat and silver oars were not visible. The remains were replaced and the excavation closed. There was a later Geraint who fought against the Saxon Ina in 710. But it is almost more difficult to identify these Geraints than it is to attain any certitude about King Arthur himself.
Gerrans is close to one of the lovely creeks that run inland from Falmouth Harbour. On the coast is the little settlement of Porthscatho, which is undergoing the transformation so common in Cornwall, from fishing-village to watering-place. The artists came first, and then the tourists. The charm of the place, with its whitewashed houses and grey slate roofs, has not yet been destroyed; and Porthscatho is still a delightful haunt. Southward is Zose Point, or St. Anthony's Head, so called from the parish of St. Anthony-in-Roseland, with its beautiful restored Early English church. The Norman doorway and lighted steeple are noteworthy. Close by is Place Houses (Places are common in Cornwall), a mansion erected by Admiral Spry on the site of a priory founded by Athelstan, belonging later to the monks of Plympton. There is a lighthouse, as well as a prehistoric castle, on Zose Point, the light visible[Pg 80] for fourteen miles, and a valuable guide to vessels making Falmouth. This St. Anthony Headland dominates St. Mawes Harbour, Falmouth Bay, and the mouth of the Carrick Roads; the view is even more magnificent than that from Plymouth Hoe or Staddon Heights.
FALMOUTH AND TRURO
About a century since Lord Byron was at Falmouth, waiting a favourable
wind that would enable the sailing of the Lisbon packet. He seems to
have been detained here about a week, during which time he made
characteristic observations and embodied them in a letter to his
friend Hodgson. With some sportive malice there was evidently a spice
of truth in his remarks. He tells his friend that Falmouth "is
defended on the sea side by two castles, St. Maws and Pendennis,
extremely well calculated for annoying everybody except an enemy. St.
Maws is garrisoned by an able-bodied person of fourscore, a widower.
He has the whole command and sole management of six most unmanageable
pieces of ordnance, admirably adapted for the destruction of
Pendennis, a like tower of strength on the opposite side of the
channel. We have seen St. Maws, but Pendennis they will not let us
behold, because Hobhouse and I are suspected of having already taken
St. Maws by a coup-de-main. The town contains many quakers and salt
fish—the oysters have a taste of copper, owing to the soil of a
mining country; the women (blessed be the Corporation therefor!) are
flogged at the cart's tail[Pg 82] when they pick and steal, as happened to
one of the fair sex yesterday noon. She was pertinacious in her
behaviour, and damned the mayor." One might have expected that he
would at least have had a word for the town's beauty of position and
for its magnificent harbour; but such things were features that he
usually ignored in his letters, and his avoidance of the poetical
always amounted to an affectation. Defoe, who had been here about
eighty years earlier, found something to say about the harbour as
being, "next to Milford Haven, the fairest and best road for shipping
that is in the whole isle of Britain." Of Falmouth itself he says that
"it is by much the richest and best trading town in this county,
though not so ancient as its neighbour town of Truro." Truro might
have the honour, but "Falmouth has gotten the trade." He says further
that "Falmouth is well built, has abundance of shipping, is full of
rich merchants, and has a flourishing and increasing trade. I say
'increasing,' because by the late setting up the English packets
between this port and Lisbon, there is a new commerce between Portugal
and this town carried on to a very great value." The origin of this
trading, he suggests, was very much assisted by a species of
export-smuggling, whereby British manufactures were carried from
England to Portugal without paying custom at either end. But the
custom-house soon put an end to this, or at least greatly modified it.
Among other notable visitors it is interesting to remember that
Disraeli was here in his younger days, in 1830, detained before
starting on his own somewhat Byronic voyage to the Mediterranean; he
found the town "one of the most charming places I ever[Pg 83]
[Pg 85] saw." In days when Falmouth was a port-of-call for nearly every outward-bound vessel, many another distinguished traveller must have put in here and explored the town while the ship waited its sailing orders; but it must be confessed that the records of such visits are rather scanty, and the literary or other associations of Falmouth are not of the richest. There are some, however, that claim a mention; and although Falmouth as a town can boast of no antiquity, yet this noble estuary of the Fal lies in a centre that must have witnessed many remarkable scenes forgotten by history, and as early as man began to trust himself to the waters its harbourage must have had a profound value and significance.
Long before men had begun to speak of Falmouth, except by applying that name to the estuary of the river, the headland on the western side of the river-mouth was known as Pendinas, now Pendennis; it was evidently entrenched, for its Celtic name means the "headland fortress." There was a settlement at Penmerryn, or Penmarin, now Penryn; and the spot on which Falmouth stands appears to have been known as Pen-y-cwm, the "head of the valley," to which the syllable quic was added, thus forming the familiar Penny-come-quick, for which it has been easy to find a plausible but erroneous derivation. If this quic is merely a corruption of wick, meaning dwelling or village, it would be obvious that Saxon influence had been at work here, as in the other old name for Falmouth, Smithic or Smethic, interpreted as Smith-wick. But we know very little with certainty about the place until the Arwenack manor was acquired by the Killigrews, through marriage with its heiress, which seems[Pg 86] to have been somewhere about 1385, though some of the rather confused records tend to show that the Killigrews had connection with Arwenack earlier than this. The family came from Killigrew, meaning a "grove of eagles," in the parish of St. Erme, and they had everything to do with the founding and prosperity of early Falmouth, championing it against the rival claims and animosity of Penryn and Truro. There has been some attempt to prove that Gyllyngvase, which is the present Falmouth bathing-place, was the scene of the burial of Prince William, son of Henry I., who was drowned off Barfleur, to his father's lasting sorrow; the supposition being that Gyllyng was a corruption of William. This seems purely imaginary; there is nothing to show that William's body was ever recovered, and if it had been brought to England his father would certainly not have let it be buried in this far-distant and lonely spot. We must probably go to the Celtic for the derivation of Gyllyngvase. One of the Killigrews erected a fort on Pendinas, which, under the sanction or by the command of Henry VIII., was expanded into Pendennis Castle, which it is said that king visited. In 1552, on his return from the expedition to Guiana, Sir Walter Raleigh was entertained at Arwenack, and was much struck by the fine naval capabilities of Falmouth Harbour, laying the matter before James I., and gaining that monarch's countenance for the Killigrews' views for the furtherance of Falmouth in spite of the opposition of its neighbours.
During the Civil War Pendennis Castle was held for the King by its aged and gallant governor, John Arundel, and it afforded brief[Pg 87] shelter both to the fugitive Charles II. and to his mother, the Queen Henrietta Maria. The Sheriff of Cornwall, who saw her at this time, described her as "the woefullest spectacle my eyes ever yet look'd on; the most worne and weake pitifull creature in the world, the poore Queene shifting for one hour's liffe longer." She escaped to France, adverse winds preventing her capture by the Parliamentary fleet. It was in the following year that the young King took refuge at Pendennis, before he sought an asylum at Scilly; the approach of Fairfax warned him to fly in time. Then followed one of the most strenuous sieges of the war, John Arundel, "John for the King," defending the place for about six months, and only surrendering on honourable terms, when there was only one salted horse left as provision. This brave old defender was in his eighty-seventh year. Two hundred sick persons were left behind when the garrison marched out, under the stipulation that none of them should be compelled thereafter to fight against their king; and it is said that many died from eating too heartily after their prolonged famine. Lord Clarendon tells us that "the castle refused all summons, admitting no treaty, till they had not victual for twenty-four hours, when they carried on the treaty with such firmness that their situation was never suspected, and they obtained as good terms as any garrison in England." Pendennis was the last stronghold, with the exception of Raglan, to hold out for the Royalist cause; and it was fitting that this most gallant defence and dignified surrender should be placed to the credit of loyal Cornwall. It tallies with the brave struggle of[Pg 88] the previous century, on behalf of the old faith and the old tongue. We may not wish that either struggle had terminated differently, but they were both in keeping with the tenacious character of the Cornish people. As a striking proof of their desperate resolution, the defenders of Pendennis themselves fired the manor-house of Arwenack, in order that it might not be occupied by the Parliamentary troops, and these had to be content with such trenches and defences as they could contrive from the ruins. The mansion was never suitably restored, and there are only a few relics of it to be seen at the present day in Arwenack Street. Its beautiful avenue became a rope-walk, and the site of its park is covered with buildings. Charles II. was not specially notable for remembering those who had assisted him in the day of his trouble—indeed, there were a great many for him to remember; but it is pleasant to know that the son of the defender of Pendennis was created a peer at the Restoration, while one of the Killigrews became a baronet, and a charter of incorporation was granted to the infant town. It was enacted that the settlements hitherto known as "Smithike and Penny-come-quick" should become a corporate town under the name of Falmouth. Sir Peter Killigrew had already obtained from the Commonwealth a patent for a weekly market and two fairs, together with the rights of ferry to Flushing; and the custom-house had been removed to Falmouth from Penryn. In 1661 a quay was authorised, and two years later a church was erected, with a dedication to King Charles the Martyr. However incongruous such a dedication may now seem, it had great significance at the[Pg 89] time. By dint of effort, also, Falmouth was created a distinct parish, freed from St. Budock and St. Gluvias. All these steps were taken in face of much opposition, and against the influence of Robartes, Arundels, and Godolphins, who supported Truro, Helston, and Penryn in petitioning that "the erecting of a town at Smithike would tend to the ruin and impoverishing of the ancient coinage towns and market-towns aforesaid, not far distant from thence; and they therefore humbly prayed the King's Majesty that the buildings and undertakings of Mr. Killigrew might be inhibited for the future." Such had been an earlier petition to James I., and the same spirit of opposition pursued every development of the young town. Strife and litigation pursued the Killigrews unremittingly, until the extinction of the family in the direct line, somewhere about the middle of the eighteenth century. There is one great literary glory attaching to them. It was to Mistress Anne Killigrew that Dryden wrote his noble elegiac ode, which Dr. Johnson thought the finest in the language. With the dignity and melody that distinguished Dryden at his best, he apostrophises the lady as one who had herself courted the muses of poetry and painting—
The ode was addressed to Anne, daughter of Dr. Henry Killigrew, born in 1660, who died of[Pg 90] smallpox in 1685; she was a Maid-of-Honour to the Duchess of York. A volume of her poems appeared in the following year, with Dryden's ode as an introduction. In painting she seems to have done portraits of James II. and his queen. She was buried at St. John the Baptist, Savoy. It is Dryden's verse, and not her own, that has immortalised her.
There is no need to follow in detail the somewhat unexciting tale of Falmouth's growth. Its one event of national moment was the selection of the port, in 1688, for the sailings of the Mail Packet service, which proved to be of immediate consequence both to Falmouth and Flushing, as the families of captains and crews soon chose one or other of those places for residence, thereby bringing prosperity and a keen rivalry. The story of the packets is very notable, and has been worthily told by Mr. A. H. Norway. We may assume that it was one of Mr. Norway's ancestors who lost his life while gallantly defending his packet, the Montague, from the attack of an American privateer. At first only three packets sailed, between Falmouth and Lisbon; but the service soon extended to the West Indies, America, Barbadoes, and elsewhere. They were not only a fine training-school for seamen, but were in some sense an auxiliary to the British navy, frequently coming in close contact with the King's enemies or with privateers, in which conflicts they generally rendered a good account of themselves. They seem at first to have been supplied for the use of the General Post Office by contract, and sometimes belonged to their captains or to companies of private shareholders; but about the year 1820 they were taken over by the[Pg 91] Admiralty, with the idea that a stricter discipline was needed. The greatest days of the packets were before this transference, and their diminishing splendour terminated entirely in 1850, when the port ceased to be a packet station, the mails having been taken in charge by ocean liners. Plymouth has succeeded to the position that once was Falmouth's. It is no exaggeration to say that some of the actions of the packets and their dauntless crews recall the palmy days of Elizabethan naval prowess and exploits such as that of the immortal Revenge. The very name of the hero of that great adventure was perpetuated by one of the packets, which accomplished something worthy of his fine tradition. It is told by Gilbert how "in the year of 1777 Captain William Kempthorne was opposed off the island of Barbadoes in H.M. Packet Granville to three American privateers, two of whom were each of equal force to the Granville, and lay alongside her in a raking position. After a desperate action, in which the captain received a severe wound in the head and lost the roof of his mouth, the enemy was compelled to sheer off, and the Granville with her brave commander returned safe to England." This is only one example among many. It is said that within the three years, 1812–14, "thirty-two actions were fought between Falmouth packets and privateers, which resulted in seventeen victories for the Cornish against superior numbers of men and guns, while the remaining contests, in which also great numbers lost their lives, were in respect to valour, as glorious." One of these grand struggles may be best told in Mr. Norway's words:—
"On November 22, 1812, the Townshend packet,[Pg 92] armed with eight 9-pounder carronades, a long gun of similar calibre for use as a chaser, and a crew of twenty-eight men and boys under the command of Captain James Cock, was within a few hours of dropping her anchor at Bridgetown, Barbadoes, when the first light of morning revealed two strange vessels cruising at no great distance. These vessels proved to be American privateers, the Tom, Captain Thos. Wilson, and the Bona, Captain Damaron. The former was armed with fourteen carronades, some 18- and some 12-pounders, as well as two long 9-pounders, and carried 130 men. The latter had six 18-pounders, with a long 24-pounder mounted on a traverse, and a crew of ninety men.... This enormous preponderance of force was greatly increased in effective power by being divided between two opponents. A single enemy might be crippled by a single shot; but if good fortune rid the Townshend of one antagonist in this way, there still remained the other to be reckoned, more powerful at every point than herself.
"If ever circumstances justified surrender after a short resistance they were present in this case. It might even be thought that resistance was a useless sacrifice of life; but such was not Captain Cock's view. He held it to be his plain duty not only to keep the mails out of the hands of the enemy—which could be done effectually by sinking them at any moment—but to use every means in his power to preserve them for their proper owners, and not to abandon hope of delivering them at the office of the post-office agent at Bridgetown until every chance of doing so was gone. Now, there were still two chances in his favour: first, that he might hold out until the[Pg 93] noise of firing attracted some of the British cruisers which were probably in the immediate neighbourhood; and secondly, if that chance failed, he might run the Townshend ashore on some shore of the coast where the privateers could not follow him. Both these chances were desperate enough; but Captain Cock saw his duty clear before him, and cared nothing for the consequences. All his preparations were quickly made, and every man was at his post before the privateers came within range, which they did about 7 a.m.
"At 7.30 the Tom had placed herself abeam of the packet to larboard, while the Bona lay on the starboard quarter, and both their broadsides were crashing into the Townshend at pistol-shot distance, all three vessels running before the wind. This lasted till eight o'clock. The Americans, as was usual with them, made great use of 'dismantling shot,' i.e., chain- and bar-shot; the effect of which upon the rigging of the Townshend was most disastrous. It was not long before her sails were hanging in ribbons, and her spars were greatly damaged, and in some momentary confusion from this cause the Tom seized an opportunity of pouring in her boarders, while the Bona redoubled her fire, both of great guns and musketry, to cover their attack. After a fierce tussle the Americans were driven back to their own ship; but this success was won by the loss of four of Captain Cock's best hands, who received disabling wounds in the fight. Thereupon both privateers resumed the cannonade, maintaining the positions which they had taken up at the commencement of the action, and for another hour the Townshend endured the fire[Pg 94] of her enemies' heavy guns, the courage of her commander and crew remaining as high and stubborn as ever. But the packet was by this time so much shattered that she could with difficulty be handled. Again and again the Tom bore down upon her, and hurled fresh boarders up her sides. Time after time Captain Cock led his wearied men to meet them, and each time drove them back.
"But the post-office men were now so reduced in numbers that it was with the greatest difficulty that Captain Cock could continue to serve the guns and at the same time collect sufficient men to meet the constantly recurring boarding attacks. It was plain that this situation of affairs could not last: there was no sign of succour on the sea, and when Captain Cock looked aloft he could not but admit that in the crippled condition of his ship all chance of running her ashore was gone. The Townshend was in fact a mere wreck. Her bowsprit was shot in pieces. Both jib-booms and head were carried away, as well as the wheel and ropes. Scarcely one shroud was left standing. The packet lay like a log on the water, while the privateers sailed round her, choosing their positions as they pleased, and raking her again and again. Still Captain Cock held out. It was not until ten o'clock, when he had endured the attack of his two powerful enemies for nearly three hours, that he looked about him and realised that the end had come. There were four feet of water in the hold, and the carpenter reported that it was rising rapidly. The packet was, in fact, sinking. Nearly half the crew were in the hands of the surgeon. The rest, exhausted and hopeless of success, had[Pg 95] already fought more nobly than even he could have foreseen, and were now being uselessly sacrificed. Still Captain Cock's pride rebelled against surrender; and as he saw the colours he had defended so well drop down upon the deck, it is recorded that he burst into tears. He had no cause for shame. Such a defeat is as glorious as any victory, and is fully worthy of the great traditions of valour on the sea which all Englishmen inherit."
It would be easy to quote many such stories, which, together with the siege of Pendennis, form the heroic memories of Falmouth. Otherwise, the town's associations are chiefly provincial, not to say parochial. The abiding glory of the place is its beauty of position, and the magnificent views that it commands. Something of an old-world atmosphere still lingers around the quays. One attraction is gone; John Burton is no longer at the old curiosity shop bearing his name. Memories of the Killigrews are preserved by the curious pyramidal monument, erected in the Grove by Martin Killigrew in 1737, and now standing at Arwenack Green. Perhaps there should be some memorial of the Rev. John Collins, who, during the Commonwealth days, practised here as a physician, having been ejected from his living at Illogan. His diary proves how well he deserved remembrance. One entry tells how he "did this day administer —— to old Mrs. Jones for her ague." Then, the following day: "Called on Mrs. Jones, and found she had died during the night in much agony. N.B.—Not use —— again." We may hope he is now forgiven for his experiments. Falmouth, however, can only [Pg 96]claim him as a resident. There is little more to tell about Falmouth. Its present docks, covering an area of 120 acres, were built in 1860. There is some ship-building, some brewing, with oyster and trawl fishing; the fishery engages nearly seven hundred persons. Industrially, the town cannot hope for much, unless it should ever become a naval base; but as a residential district it is very delightful, combining the charms of sea and noble river. The Castle Drive can hardly be surpassed, of its kind; and if we proceed past the Gyllyngvase bathing-beach, there is a pleasant little lake known as the Swanpool, which was once a swannery of the Killigrews.
For antiquity as for present-day industry we must go to Penryn, which lies about two miles up the Penryn Creek and is devoted to the export of granite. The busy but not very lovely little town has very much of a granite tone about it, and can boast that it supplied the material for Waterloo Bridge; it can also boast that it was in existence before the Conquest—how much earlier is difficult to say. Its parish church was so largely restored in 1883 that it is practically new; it is dedicated to "Gluvias the Cornishman," who was a Welshman. Among the gardens at the back of Penryn's chief street are some remains of Glassiney College, founded in 1246 by Bishop Bronescombe of Exeter for secular canons and vicars. It became perhaps the most important centre of learning and literature in Cornwall, and was a nursery of the old miracle-plays or interludes—some of which still survive in the Cornish original and prove themselves to be no better, no worse, than the average of such performances throughout the kingdom. Old Cornwall, it must be confessed, did very little[Pg 97] for literature; and if we regret the extinction of the vernacular, it is not for any literary treasures that remain embodied in it. But an event that took place at Penryn is the theme of something a little better than the Cornish interludes—namely, the "Penryn Tragedy," which inspired Lillo's play The Fatal Curiosity. It is said that a Penryn man who had left Cornwall in his early days and had become rich abroad, returned to his home just as a present-day miner might return from South Africa. He was recognised by his married sister, but, begging her keep the secret, he proceeded incognito to his parents' house and asked their hospitality for the night. Unhappily the old mother caught sight of the treasure that he had about his person, and she persuaded the father to kill the man in his sleep. Next morning the sister came to share in their joy at the wanderer's return, and asked for her brother. To their horror, the wicked old couple found that they had murdered their own son. They had grace enough to commit suicide after the discovery. The same tale seems to have been conveyed to Wales, where it is related of a parish in Montgomeryshire; but a Welsh poem that tells the story rightly attributes it to Cornwall. And yet it is possible that the same event happened in Wales also; a few years since the newspapers related an almost identical incident as having occurred in Russia. Perhaps the story really belongs to folk-lore, reappearing at times under a new guise and in a new locality.
In the possession of the Penryn Corporation is a silver chalice, given by Lady Jane Killigrew "to the towne of Penmarin when they received mee[Pg 98] that was in great miserie." It seems that about this time (1633) the lady was divorced, and took refuge from her domestic troubles at Penryn, where the animosity of the townsfolk towards the Killigrews caused her to be received with great favour; she afterwards married Francis Bluett. A mistake has been made by many in attributing to her the piracy committed two generations earlier by Lady Mary Killigrew, who illegally boarded some foreign vessels lying at Falmouth Harbour and carried away treasure. There was some bloodshed over the matter, and a considerable scandal; so much, that it is said the lady was sentenced to death by the authorities, but escaped through influence. In any case, poor Lady Jane, who, whether she had been frail or not, had enough private sorrows of her own, must not be saddled with this additional load of blame for an act that she never committed.
Immediately opposite Falmouth, across the Penryn creek, the little port of Flushing, with a climate supposed to be the mildest in England, has survived to tell us of an extinguished glory. The passing of the packet service brought comparative stagnation to Falmouth; it actually crushed Flushing. It is a pleasant little place, and one cannot wonder at its popularity with the naval men who resided here. It is said to have been founded by Dutch settlers, who brought the name with them. Some few of its old houses remain, suggestive of its former life, and Flushing is left to luxuriate in the dreams of its past. The church here is modern. Flushing is in Mylor parish, and Mylor can claim a greater antiquity. There was once a royal dockyard here. The dedication is to Melor, son of St. Melyan; both father[Pg 99] and son appear to have suffered martyrdom, or were victims of political intrigue. The church was restored in 1869, but retains much of its Norman character; and one of its best monuments perpetuates the memory of the Trefusis family, whose name also attaches to the headland eastward of Flushing. Lord Clinton is of this family. Mylor is most pleasantly situated at the mouth of its own little creek, and looks up the Carrick Roads towards Truro; but before taking the journey thither, delightful in itself and delightful in its objective, it may be worth while to cross the harbour for a peep at St. Mawes, which somehow seems like an off-lying shoot of Falmouth. It is named apparently from St. Maudez or Mauditus, of Ireland, though some have asserted that the real dedication is to St. Maclovius of the Breton St. Malo. The question is rather involved, and may not appeal to many. The castle was built in 1542, about the same time as Pendennis, and both forts were supposed to have been under the special fostering care of Henry VIII., who realised the strategic importance of Falmouth Harbour. Its first Governor was Michael Vyvyan, and its last Sir Alexander Cameron. At the time of the Civil War it could not boast the fine resistance that Pendennis offered, being easily commanded by ordnance from the heights above; but as a defence on the seaward side and a protection to the estuary its position is very powerful, and must prove so should Falmouth ever become a naval base. At present the castle has little but its size to recommend it; but the little town, with its small jutting pier, has some attractiveness. An interesting ingot of tin was discovered near here, many years since, showing how the old tin-[Pg 100]workers shaped their metal for transport. Truro can hardly be said to be on the coast; but certainly no book on Cornwall can ignore this town, which is, in fact, the capital of the Duchy intellectually and ecclesiastically, however loudly Bodmin may claim to be the assize town. Partly by reason of its shape, partly perhaps from other causes, there has been little centralisation in Cornwall, and the very selection of Truro to be the cathedral city was in some sort an artificial and arbitrary arrangement. No doubt it was the best that could have been made; but old Cornwall had no such centre, and there were rival claims to be considered. It may not be incorrect to say that Cornwall of to-day has several capitals: Penzance is the commercial centre of the far west; Redruth and Camborne dominate the mining districts; St. Austell is the metropolis of china-clay; while Bodmin and Launceston perhaps more intimately represent agriculture. Truro stands apart from them all, and represents the Church. In one sense the real capital of Cornwall to-day is Plymouth, meaning by that the Three Towns, as in old days it was Exeter. But of all existing Cornish towns, none would be better qualified than Truro to play the dignified part of the cathedral city; and, with its population of about 13,000, Truro does this very well. Its honours sit well upon it, and have been accepted with becoming pride. Undoubtedly the pleasantest way of reaching the cleanly and agreeable little town is by the boat from Falmouth, and the trip is one of the recognised things that visitors to Cornwall are supposed to do. There can be no question of the journey's beauty, though when it is contended that this is the loveliest river in England, one remembers other[Pg 101] beautiful streams whose claims are at least equal. In Cornwall itself there is the Fowey River, quite as rich in loveliness, if on a smaller scale; and there is the Tamar, whose charm is so great that both Devon and Cornwall are eager to claim it. Then there are the exquisite reaches of the Dart, from its mouth to Totnes, to say nothing of its wilder course beyond, among the fastnesses of the moors. In Monmouthshire there is the "sylvan Wye." All these, and many other claimants, spring to mind and enforce upon us the foolishness of any comparisons at all. Beauty must be always complete and satisfying in itself, unless we let our thoughts be disturbed by ideas of a possible better. It is certain that the passage up the Fal, especially in suitable weather, is of very real charm, with its numerous tempting creeks and pools, its ferries and riverside hamlets, its sloping meadows and spreading woodlands. But when we speak of going up the Fal to Truro, we are speaking incorrectly; the true Fal turns eastward after passing King Harry's Reach and runs to Ruan Lanihorne; the water on which we pass to the Truro quayside is the Truro River. It has been spoken of by our late Queen, among the many visitors who have admired it. She said, "We went up the Truro, which is beautiful, winding between banks entirely wooded with stunted oak and full of numberless creeks. The prettiest are King Harry's Ferry and a spot near Tregothnan, where there is a beautiful little boathouse." Tennyson was here a little later (in 1860) after a visit to the Scillies, and he made the river trip from Falmouth to Truro. On the boat the poet was recognised, his portraits, and perhaps some knowledge that he was in the neighbourhood,[Pg 102] being responsible for the discovery. Palgrave, who was with him, writes: "Our captain presently came forward with a tray and squat bottle, and said, with unimpeachable good manners, that he was aware how distinguished a passenger, &c., and that some young men sitting opposite, and he, would be much honoured if Mr. Tennyson would take a tumbler of stout with them." The poet gave a gracious response, and willingly drank the health of his admirers. But "presently the captain reappeared, and this time it was the ladies in the cabin who begged that the Laureate would only step down among them. But the height of that small place of refuge, Tennyson declared, would render the proposed exhibition impossible. Might he not be kindly excused? The good women, however, were not to be balked; and one after another presented her half-length above the little hatchway before us, gazed, smiled, and retreated." It was well for Tennyson that he had overcome some of his early shyness, or the ordeal might have tried him considerably. There was no cathedral in those days, rising with somewhat foreign aspect from near the waterside; but its germ was there in the old parish church of St. Mary's, which now welds the ancient and the modern into one beautiful and fairly harmonious whole. It is difficult to over-estimate the value of this old church as a component part of the new cathedral; and the atmosphere that it sheds seems gently pervading the entire building, taking away the glare of its modernity, softening what might otherwise be crudity, and giving a vital sense of continuity to the worship of the bygone and the present. It may have been impossible to include more of the old church in the new edifice,[Pg 103] but we are grateful that this south aisle remains. It is generally supposed that the Cornish are a Dissenting people, yet they all took kindly to the building of this minster, and they all feel a pride in it. Gifts poured in from all parts of the Duchy to assist in its erection, and, suitably enough, very little but Cornish material was used in its construction—Cornish granite, china-stone, polyphant, and serpentine, with Cornish copper in the clock-tower. It might, perhaps, have been better if Perpendicular, the prevalent church style in Cornwall, had been adhered to, instead of a rather French-looking Early English; but even on this point opinions may be divided.
The cathedral has made Truro a place of pilgrimage for all loyal Cornish folk, and they may feel proud that in a materialistic age such an emblem of faith has been fostered and reared. Local guide-books will sufficiently explain the details, but every visitor should notice the beautiful marble paving of the choir, and the fine baptistery in memory of the missionary, Henry Martyn, himself of Truro. This revival of the Cornish see, some thirty years since, formed a link between the present generation and the old days, nine hundred years earlier, when St. German's was episcopal; further still, it takes us back to the times of the old saints, fitly commemorated here, who came from Ireland and Wales and Brittany to bring the Cornish people a knowledge of that in which they believed. The Truro cathedral is a fact, and certainly a fact of considerable significance. Its first bishop was the beloved Dr. Benson, his memory perpetuated in the Benson Transept, with its graceful rose-window. One thing is impressed upon us by this new minster—that[Pg 104] present-day architecture, when meritorious, is an imitation. The closer it keeps to old models, the better is the result. Did church-building really say its last word four centuries since?
For its greater antiquity we have to remember that Kenwyn, about a mile inland, is the mother of Truro, and this place has been claimed as a Roman station named Cenion. The Itineraries speak of the stations on the rivers Tamara, Voluba and Cenia. Tamara is the Tamar; Voluba probably the Fowey; Cenia the Truro or Kenwyn River. But it is exceedingly doubtful that Rome ever had definite stations in Cornwall at all. This does not affect the antiquity; Kenwyn was a British settlement, if never Romanised. Truro is supposed to signify the "town on the river"; its manor was held by Robert de Mortain after the Conquest, and the place seems to have had a charter as early as the days of Stephen. Its position, far retired up the river, is eloquent of times when men dreaded to settle close to the sea—the sea brought foes and deadly night attacks; it was when commerce became more important that Falmouth sprang into being. We have similar instances at Lostwithiel and Fowey, Totnes and Dartmouth, Exeter and Exmouth, as well as a striking modern instance in Bristol and Avonmouth. There was a castle at Truro, on the present site of the cattle market, but it was "clene down" in the time of Leland; there were also a Dominican friary and a house of Clare monks. As a port Truro did its best to oppose the building and growth of Falmouth, but the inevitable could only be delayed, not prevented. The town's recompense came late, but it has come. Though it welcomed the fugitive Charles II., the[Pg 105] town itself does not appear to have seen any fighting during the Civil War—it is certainly quite indefensible; but at Tresillian Bridge, about three and a half miles east, at the head of the creek so named, the desperate struggle of Cornish Royalists was brought to a close by the surrender of Sir Ralph Hopton to Fairfax.
FROM FALMOUTH TO THE LIZARD
The southward limit of Falmouth Bay is Rosemullion Head, which does not rise to any great height, but it commands fine views, on one side towards the Fal estuary, with Zose Point and the Dodman beyond, and on the other commanding the mouth of the Helford creek. The "Rose" of course means heath; and Mullion we shall meet again. Penjerrick, which lies a mile or two inland towards Falmouth, will be visited by many not only for its beautiful botanic gardens, but for its memories of the Foxes; but our own steps must now be turned towards the Lizard. Rosemullion is in the parish of Mawnan, whose church-town lies a little south of it; the dedication appears to be to a certain St. Mawnanus, but there is great difficulty in identifying him. From here to the mouth of the Fal there is a raised beach, more or less perfect; in fact, all along this Cornish coast there are plentiful signs that the shore contours have been by no means permanent. When we reach the Helford River we have come to another rival of the Fal, with creeks and inlets, wooded banks and fields, differing in size but hardly in degree of beauty. Strictly, the name Helford only applies to the little ferry town; the[Pg 107] river is the Hêl, or Hayle, and affords comfortable harbourage to many craft. There is a literary association here of some interest; for Kingsley tells us how Hereward the Wake sailed up this river to Gweek, hungry for adventure. "He sailed in over a rolling bar, between jagged points of black rock, and up a tide river which wandered and branched away inland like a land-locked lake, between high green walls of oak and ash, till they saw at the head of the tide Alef's town, nestling in a glen which sloped towards the southern sun. They discovered, besides, two ships drawn up upon the beach, whose long lines and snake-heads, beside the stoat carved on the beak-head of one, and the adder on that of the other, bore witness to the piratical habits of their owner. The merchants, it seemed, were well known to the Cornishmen on shore, and Hereward went up with them unopposed; past the ugly dykes and muddy leats, where Alef's slaves were streaming the gravel for tin ore: through rich alluvial pastures spotted with red cattle; and up to Alef's town. Earthworks and stockades surrounded a little church of ancient stone, and a cluster of granite cabins, thatched with turf, in which the slaves abode." If this is a picture of Gweek, the church must be imaginary; the nearest churches are those of Constantine and of Mawgan. This is Mawgan-in-Meneage, so called to distinguish it from the Mawgan-in-Pydar, near Newquay. The Meneage, which we find affixed to several other parish names immediately north of the Lizard, clearly derives from the Cornish mên—a stone—and denotes the "stony district"; just as Roseland signified the heath or moorland district. Whenever we find man in an early place-name, we can[Pg 108] feel pretty sure that it has no reference to the human species. Defoe, who took Helford in the way of his journey to the Land's End, speaks of it as "a small but good harbour, where many times the tin-ships go in to load for London; also here are a good number of fishing-vessels for the pilchard trade, and abundance of skilful fishermen. It was from this town that in the great storm which happened November 27, 1703, a ship laden with tin was blown out to sea and driven to the Isle of Wight in seven hours, having on board only one man and two boys." He proceeds to tell how the boat was loaded at "a place called Gwague Wharf, five or six miles up the river," by which he must mean Gweek. The captain and his mate stayed on shore for the night, not detecting signs of anything unusual in the weather; but orders were given that in case of wind the vessel should be moored with two anchors. As a matter of fact, the gale soon increased so remarkably that the man on board, with his two boy assistants, soon found it necessary not only to drop their second anchor but also two others. "But between eleven and twelve o'clock the wind came about west and by south, and blew in so violent and terrible a manner that, though they rode under the lee of a high shore, yet the ship was driven from all her anchors, and about midnight drove quite out of the harbour (the opening of the harbour lying due east and west) into the open sea, the men having neither anchor or cable or boat to help themselves." Avoiding rocks as best they could, they drifted past the Dodman and tried to make Plymouth, but the first land they made was Peverel Point in Dorset, and by seven o'clock next morning they were driving full towards the Isle[Pg 109] of Wight. One of the boys was for running the boat to the Downs, where it would almost certainly have perished; but the other lad remembered a creek in the Isle of Wight, where he thought there would be room to run the boat in. Very wisely the man yielded to his advice, and gave him charge of the helm. "He stood directly in among the rocks, the people on shore thinking they were mad, and that they would in a few minutes be dashed in a thousand pieces. But when they came nearer, and the people found they steered as if they knew the place, they made signals to direct them as well as they could, and the young bold fellow ran her into a small cove, where she stuck fast, as it were, between the rocks on both sides, there being just room enough for the breadth of the ship. The ship indeed, giving two or three knocks, staved and sank, but the man and the two youths jumped ashore and were safe; and the lading, being tin, was afterwards secured. The merchants very well rewarded the three sailors, especially the lad that ran her into that place." A very fitting sequel, for it was indeed a daring exploit. The storm was that tremendous tempest which desolated the British coasts in 1703, commemorated by Addison in his "Campaign":—
That simile, then considered the height of sublimity, had a powerful effect in furthering the writer's fortunes.
[Pg 110]Helford is in the parish of Manaccan, which lies about a mile south of it. The place was once known as Minster, which seems to evidence the existence of a monastery. The creek and valley of the Durra stream are very beautiful, and the church especially interesting. There is a fig-tree of great antiquity growing out of the tower wall. Chancel and south transept are Early English, and the south doorway very excellent Norman. About a century since the Cornish historian and versifier, Polwhele, was Rector at Manaccan, also having charge of the neighbouring parish of St. Anthony, and though he liked the place less than his former residence by the mouth of the Exe, he admitted that "in the walks to St. Anthony, the tufted creeks, the opening sea, the prospect of Pendennis Castle, there was picturesque beauty—there was even sublimity." Polwhele was magistrate as well as parson, and on one occasion the famous Captain Bligh (himself a Cornishman) was brought before him, charged with plots of treachery by the officious Manaccan constables; he had been detected surveying the harbour of Helford. Bligh appears at first to have been in a great rage, but he melted gradually, and after indulging in woodcocks for supper, with a variety of wines, parted from his host on the very best of terms. Polwhele also tells us of a brother-magistrate whom he invited to meet Whitaker, the historian of the Cornish diocese, who was at that time Rector of Ruan Lanihorne. The fellow-magistrate was a trifle lax in his opinions, and on his expressing a sceptical view, "Mr. Whitaker started up in a burst of passion. The justice turned pale, and his lips quivered with fear. Not a culprit before[Pg 111] him, at the moment of commitment, ever trembled more; and Whitaker imperiously charging him with infidelity, the old gentleman made a confession of his faith, to an extent which surprised me." He seems to have been "at best an Arian"; yet "he was on the whole a respectable man." Theology apart, one cannot help sympathising with the culprit, and rejoicing in his respectability. But times have greatly changed; men can now confess something more than Arianism without trembling with fear.
Dennis, or Dinas Head, running to the sea beyond St. Anthony, has some ancient entrenchments which were put to practical use during the Civil War, being occupied by Richard Vyvyan of Trelowarren in the Royalist cause; they were surrendered to the conquering Fairfax. The church of St. Anthony is said to have been erected as a thank-offering, after escape from shipwreck, by Norman settlers soon after the Conquest. Beyond Gillan stretches Nare Point, a bold bluff of rock, and a mile lower is the little fishing-village of Porthallow, which is attracting some of the visitors who are now coming increasingly to the Lizard district. At Porthoustock (locally often called Proustock), a little more than a mile beyond, we have come into the immediate presence of a great wreck region, for Manacle Point lies close below, and the Manacles themselves foam yonder with perpetual menace, their bell-buoy sounding a dismal but quite insufficient warning.
Ever since men began to navigate British waters, these half-covered rocks and the whole of this Lizard coast must have been a deadly peril. The number of their victims cannot be reckoned; for, as Sir John Killigrew wrote three[Pg 112] centuries since, "neither is it possible to get parfitt notice of the whence and what the Ships ar that yearly do suffer on and near the Lizard, for it is seldom that any man escapes and the ships split in small pieces." The Manacles (mêneglos, "church rocks") lie about half a mile from the shore, and extend for about a square mile; all but one are covered by the highest tides, which of course renders them the more fatal. The name "church rocks" has some connection with the far-seen landmark of St. Keverne tower. If we could give the whole list of wrecks we should probably find it rival that of the Scillies, perhaps surpass; the Manacles lie even more directly in the route of navigation. It is just a century since two vessels, the one homeward and the other outward-bound, were wrecked almost at the same moment near here. One was the transport Dispatch, returning from the Peninsula with many officers and men on board; the other was the eighteen-gun brig Primrose, bound for the seat of war. There is a graphic account in the now defunct Cornish Magazine—a magazine that was obviously too good for the public, and therefore died much regretted by its few but select admirers. It was a bitter and rough January, 1809. "At half-past three on Sunday morning the Dispatch, an old ship in bad repair, was driven on the rocks near Lowland Point, and speedily became a total wreck. While men and women were rushing through the gale with news of this disaster, and men and horses were being dashed about by the roaring sea, there came tidings that at the other end of the Manacles another ship filled with soldiers was foundering. In those days there was no Lifeboat Institution[Pg 113] with its record of gallant services all along the coast. But there were men of the sort that the grandest lifeboat crews are made of, and six Porthoustock fishermen, taking the best boat they could find, went out from their cove across the wind-torn sea towards the rocks barely discernible in the early morning light. Little it was that they could do, though, and worn out with their strivings against the wind and sea, they returned with only one boy and the news that the vessel disappeared almost immediately after she struck, at five o'clock, and all except the boy were lost." In those two wrecks that morning about two hundred lives were lost. The noble heroism of the Porthoustock men came to the ears of Government, and ten guineas were sent to each man. More than a hundred of the drowned were buried in St. Keverne graveyard, an Act having just been passed that allowed bodies cast up by the sea to be admitted to consecrated ground. Another notable wreck was that of the emigrant ship John, in 1855. This time the disaster may have been a result of carelessness, for the weather was fine; in any case, the vessel got on the Manacles. Some boats were launched and selfishly filled, but the captain apparently thought there was no cause for alarm. Those in the boats took the tidings to Coverack, but in the meantime a wind had sprung up; a message was sent across and Porthoustock men set out to the rescue. There were many children on board; the crew, unlike true Britons, thought only of their own safety; the ship was settling fast, leaving only the rigging for such survivors as could cling to it. After many gallant attempts, and three journeys to and from shore, the brave fishermen managed[Pg 114] to save all that were left on the wreck, but 196 were drowned. There was another rich harvest for St. Keverne graveyard. The memorable blizzard of 1891 of course paid its tribute of wrecks to these shores. The largest loss was the Bay of Panama, a Liverpool boat of 2,282 tons, making for Dundee with jute from Calcutta. Eighteen of her crew were lost, some being frozen to death. On this occasion a most wonderful feat of courage and endurance was accomplished by a man of Porthoustock, that village of brave men. It was important that telegraphic messages should be despatched from Helston, and a man named James volunteered to carry them. He reached Helston with infinite difficulty, and found the place practically snowed up, all communication broken. Against strong advice he resolved to push on to Falmouth, distant at least fourteen miles by road, the roads almost impassable with snowdrifts. He began his journey by pony, but soon had to leave the animal behind. Once he was near succumbing, but a rest in a wayside cottage restored him; the last two and a half miles he covered by crawling on his hands and knees, being too exhausted to walk. Falmouth was reached at last, and the messages from Porthoustock, St. Keverne, and Helston were delivered. But the tale of wrecks is not finished. In 1895 the Andola was broken here, its crew saved by the lifeboat from Porthoustock. More recent, and the best remembered of all, is the wreck of the Mohegan, in 1898. She was a boat of 7,000 tonnage, leaving Gravesend with about 150 persons on board. She struck one of the Manacles, and within twenty minutes was submerged with the exception of masts and funnel. Rescue proved very difficult,[Pg 115] but the lifeboat saved forty-four; all the remainder were lost. One of the Porthoustock lifeboat crew that did the rescuing had been also active in taking succour to the John, forty-three years earlier. It needs these records of heroism to relieve the sadness of such a chronicle.
St. Keverne, whose church stands high at rather more than a mile's distance from the sea, is a place of striking interest for its situation and its traditions. It is not easy to say who Keverne was; some, such as Leland, Whitaker, and Mr. Baring-Gould, say that he was none other than St. Piran, retaining his original Gaelic name of Kieran. But it is difficult to see why he should remain Kieran here, while he became Piran or Perran in connection with all his other Cornish churches; and there is the awkward fact that St. Piran's Day is the 5th of March, while St. Keverne's is near Advent. Dr. Borlase thought that the two are distinct persons; and, identifying St. Keverne with the Lannachebran of Domesday, he supposes a Celtic saint named Chebran or Kevran. Tin has never been successfully worked in this parish, and there was a local saying that "no metal will run within sound of St. Keverne's bell," supported by a tradition that the saint cursed the district because of the irreligion of its people. Piran, the patron saint of tinners, would hardly have called down such a curse, though he might have done so if greatly provoked. But if not metalliferous, much of the parish is exceptionally fertile and verdant, in contrast to the barrenness of the Goonhilly Downs. Without attempting to decide authoritatively as to the personality of Keverne, we may at least be amused by the curious story told about him, which brings a strong touch of[Pg 116] human nature into the record of one who is otherwise so hazy. It is said that he was visited by St. Just of the Land's End district, and that when the more western saint departed, after freely indulging in Keverne's hospitality, he carried away Keverne's drinking-cup—some say his chalice. Shortly after the departure, Keverne discovered that his cup was missing, and he guessed at once that his saintly friend had taken it. In great heat he hastened after the guest, and while passing Crowza Downs he pocketed a few large stones for future use. Presently he saw St. Just plodding along in the distance, and shouted after him. St. Just was too deeply absorbed in religious meditation to notice the cries. Finding shouts were useless, Keverne began to throw his stones, and these proved more effectual. St. Just dropped the chalice and hurried away home. Keverne had three stones left, and he satisfied his still heated feelings by hurling these after his visitor; which done, he took up his cup and proceeded homewards. It is said that these stones lay in a field near Germoe till last century, when they were broken up for road-metal, and that they consisted of a kind of gritstone common enough to the Crowza Downs, but quite unknown in the district where they lay. The field in which they lay actually bore the name of Tremen-keverne, the "three stones of Keverne"; and if we need further proof than that, we must be sceptical indeed. The tale is valuable as a picture of Celtic saintdom; no monkish fabulists would have told such stories of Latin saints. Without approving of St. Just's action, he seems nearer to us than if he had run about with his head under his arm or perpetrated any other of[Pg 117] the absurdities often attributed to the conventional Romish saints. St. Keverne's is a large church, the largest in West Cornwall, being 110 feet in length; and it was collegiate before the Conquest, afterwards passing to the Cistercians of Beaulieu. There are some curious traces of former rood-lofts which seem to speak of eastward enlargements. The bench-ends bear the symbols of the Passion. In the south aisle are the arms of Incledon, famous singer of a past century, who began his career at Exeter Cathedral when eight years old, and later became celebrated at Bath, at Vauxhall, and at Covent Garden; he was a native of St. Keverne.
In this parish, about a mile and half southward, is the delightful little fishing-village of Coverack, which is deserving and winning a quiet popularity. There is no pretension about the place, though it can boast one hotel, a modern chapel-of-ease, and the usual small conventicles. Being sheltered from the north, and with a rich soil, every cottage garden luxuriates in great hedges of mesembryanthemum; and, as we find further west, the fuchsias grow like trees. Coverack indeed is an oasis in a district much of which is stony and desolate. The down-lands around are purple in its season with the beautiful Cornish heather, and golden with gorse, while dodder grows freely over the hedges; near the shore there is abundance of squills, sea-holly, and sea-campion. The descent to the village is a sharp drop; visitors usually alight above from their coach, and walk down the steep zigzag road. It is not surprising to read that this secluded spot was formerly notorious for smugglers, but now it peacefully devotes itself to fishing, and to the entertainment of guests[Pg 118] who can appreciate quiet loveliness. Pilchards are still caught here, with the old-fashioned seine-nets; but their numbers have much decreased. We can realise what the pilchard has been to Cornwall when we read that in 1847 over 40,000 hogsheads were exported to Genoa, Leghorn, Naples, Venice, &c., estimated at more than a hundred million fish. The annual catch now is about half this quantity, and some proportion of these are retained for home consumption. When we pass Black Head we come at last in sight of the true Lizard, with the fine reach of Kennack Sands lying between; and for those who can appreciate a walk of surpassing beauty, the best thing to do is to take the path at the top of the cliffs, leading through Cadgwith to the Lizard Point. The walk takes us into the true serpentine region; at Coverack serpentine is largely blent with felspar and crystal. Perhaps in the future these sands of Kennack will be thronged by thousands of holiday-makers, but they are better as they are, haunted by seabirds and washed by tides of ever-varying aspect. Several small streams run to the sea here, and at Poltesco the sands are broken by a gorge of lonely and romantic charm, with a charming cascade, opening into Carleon Cove. There was a serpentine factory here once, but it is deserted; the water-wheel turns no longer. It may be said that this walk from Coverack along the cliffs is not easy; it is rugged, undulating, tortuous, and Cornish miles sometimes seem very long. But it repays. When we reach Cadgwith we seem to be genuinely at the Lizard. We have come to a port of crabs and lobsters, and of painters.
Cadgwith is certainly a most picturesque and[Pg 119]
[Pg 121] attractive little place, and if it does not share the luxuriant fertility of Coverack, it has the compensation of being nearer to the wonders of the Lizard. It is in the parish of Ruan Minor, and this is a dedication to a saint whose name we also find at Ruan Major, Ruan Lanihorne, and Polruan near Fowey. He also appears at Romansleigh in Devon. He seems to have been an Irishman, some say converted by Patrick, who travelled widely, and when in Brittany was accused by a woman of being a were-wolf; she said he had eaten her child. The king of that part, who favoured the saint, said, "Bring him hither. I have two wolf-hounds; if he is innocent they will not harm him, but if there is anything of the wolf about him they will tear him to pieces." The dogs came and licked Ruan's feet; and the child whom he was supposed to have eaten was discovered hidden away. However, the saint found it well to leave Brittany for Cornwall. He is said to have been buried at Lanihorne, but Ordulf, who dedicated his abbey at Tavistock to the honour of Mary and St. Rumon, professed to have brought the saint's relics to his Devon foundation and there enshrined them. It proves how slightly Saxonised that part of Devon was, and how powerful was the Celtic tradition, that Ordulf should have selected a Celtic saint for his monastery. A portion of Cadgwith is in the parish of Grade, which is supposed to be a dedication to the Holy Creed; but here, as at Sancreed and St. Creed, Grampound, we may be safe in believing that there was a living personality behind the dedication, not a mere abstraction. Churches had definite founders in Celtic days, and there was a certain St. Credan[Pg 122] who may be responsible for all these. But does the ordinary visitor care much about these questions of dedication and saint-lore? Probably not. South of Cadgwith are some of the grand caves and rock-freaks that have a more immediate appeal, and north of the hamlet some of the best serpentine is obtained. Serpentine is a blend of silica and manganese, so named from its imagined resemblance to a snake's skin; its colour varies from green to red and brownish yellow, and is often remarkably beautiful. It has been used with striking effect, architecturally, in Truro Cathedral; while with regard to its use for ornaments and decoration, the visitor has many opportunities of judging for himself.
When we remember the seas to which these shores are exposed, it is easy to understand how the coast has been eroded into its present contorted and cavernous condition. Massive rocky frameworks have resisted the action of the waves, but softer measures have yielded; the shore has been licked into hollows, basins, caves, by continuous water-action, and the process continues unendingly. One remarkable excavation of this kind is the Devil's Frying-pan, covering about two acres, which the sea enters through an archway of rock at high tides; the pit is nearly 200 feet deep. Literally, it is a cave whose roof has fallen in. Close to this is Dollar Hugo, a cave whose roof has not fallen nor seems likely to, with a magnificent gateway of serpentine. The name is sometimes spelt Dolor, suggestive of grief, but its origin is not easy to trace; Hugo seems to be a corruption of the Cornish word fogou, meaning a cave. Johns, who wrote a very interesting book about the Lizard some sixty years since, said[Pg 123] that "of all the caves that I have ever inspected, this wears the most perfect air of mysteriousness and solemnity. At the entrance it is large enough to admit a six-oared boat, but soon contracts to so small a size that a swimmer alone could explore it. Its termination is lost in gloom, but as far as the eye can discriminate the water is unceasingly rising and falling with a deep murmuring sound, which is reverberated from a great distance, and falls on the ear with a most imposing effect. The colouring of the rocks at the entrance is magnificent. The base is of a deep rose-pink; the sides rich dark brown, with blotches of bright green and rose colour; the roof purple and brown. The water is very deep and of a fine olive green, and, being remarkably clear, the light stones lying at the bottom are distinctly visible, among which at my last visit we could descry great fishes, probably bass, pursuing shoals of launces." By "launces" the writer meant what we should now call the lancelet. Just south of Dollar is the old smugglers' cave known as Raven's Hugo. Below this to the extreme point of the Lizard the coast is a series of jagged cliffs and clefts, with tiny coves and black chasms. For seaward and distant views it is best to take the head of the cliffs, but for the caverns a boat should be used, and this of course necessitates caution. We have now reached Lendewednack, the true Lizard parish and the most southerly in England. Apparently the dedication, like that of Towednack, near St. Ives, is to a St. Winoc or Gwynog. There is a church with the same name (Landevenech) in Brittany; yet there has been some attempt to prove that Winwaloe,[Pg 124] whom we find at Gunwalloe on the western side of the headland, was the founder. This seems unlikely, unless it can be shown that Winwaloe and Winnow or Winoc were the same person. The church is interesting in itself, and beautifully placed, giving traces of many periods of architecture, from Norman to Perpendicular. The font, which happily was preserved by former coats of whitewash, is Early English; it bears the inscription "Ric. Bolham me fecit." The lofty south doorway is a very good specimen of Norman; the pulpit, which is modern, is of serpentine, and there are serpentine tombstones in the graveyard. Like St. Keverne, this is a burial-ground of the wrecked. It has also been the sepulchre of persons dying from the plague, of which there was a severe visitation in 1645. It is said that, about a century later, the soil where its victims had been buried was dug to receive shipwrecked seamen, and that, in consequence, the plague reappeared. The bells have Latin mottoes and some curious bell-marks. The blending of granite with darker local stone in the tower has a rather singular effect; it makes the walls look like a chequer-board. Landewednack claims to be the last place where a sermon was preached in the Cornish tongue, in 1678; as was natural, the old language lingered longest in isolated districts of the Lizard and Land's End. It may be guessed that some of his younger hearers would not have understood the preacher, for the language had already greatly decayed. It was never a particularly rich dialect of the Celtic, and left no remains worthy to perpetuate its existence. Norden, who wrote in the middle of the sixteenth century, stated that "of late[Pg 125] the Cornishe men have much conformed themselves to the use of the English tongue, and their English is equal to the best, especially in the eastern parts. In the weste parts of the countrye, in the hundreds of Penwith and Kirrier, the Cornishe tongue is most in use amongste the inhabitants." A little later, a loyal Cornishman bewailed "our Cornish tongue has been so long on the wane that we can hardly hope to see it increase again; for, as English first confined it within this narrow country, so it still presses on, leaving it no place but about the cliffs and sea, it being now almost only spoken from the Land's End to the Mount, and again from the Lizard towards Helston and Falmouth." The inevitable happened, just as somewhat the same process has taken place in Wales, in Ireland, and in the Scottish Highlands. In these three countries the old tongue had the aid of a powerful literature. Welsh and Erse may be very long in dying out, as we hope they will be; yet nothing can prevent the people of Wales and Ireland becoming bi-lingual, and this can only have one ultimate result. Commercially, a single language is necessary to the nation, and there has never been any doubt as to which that language must be. And some of those who cling to their vernacular as a proof of their Celticism may be making a great mistake; speech is never a proof of race, and survivals of other blood than Celtic adopted dialects of the Celtic speech.
THE LIZARD TO HELSTON
Mr. Norway says that it would be hard to find an uglier spot than Lizard Town, but of course he fully admits the grandeur of the coast of which it is the small metropolis. The name, which first applied only to the most southern headland, was not given from any fanciful resemblance to a Lizard, but appears to be a corruption of the Cornish words Lis-arth, lis being the secular enclosure, the palace or court, as distinct from lan the sacred enclosure, and arth meaning high. Lizard Town is a cluster of houses, growing in number to meet an increasing popularity, of which Landewednack is the church town, about half a mile distant; it is served by motor-buses from Helston, and in time there will doubtless be a branch line of the railway here. Housel Bay, formerly Househole, is the bathing-place, with a large modern hotel standing close to the cliffs; on the east is Lloyd's signal station, and on the west the lighthouse. Vessels that used to call at Falmouth for sailing orders, or for other information, now receive these instructions by signal from Lloyd's station here, flags being employed by day and lights by night; a wireless telegraph has also[Pg 127] been established. All vessels, outward or homeward, are thus reported at this most southern point of England. At the lighthouse there were formerly two lights, whose double purpose was to warn seamen not only of the Lizard but also of the Wolf rocks off Land's End; these rocks have now a light of their own, and at the Lizard is displayed a single electric lamp, of 1,000,000 candle power, revolving, whose reflection is visible at over sixty miles' distance. It is said that when its revolutions first turned its light towards the houses of Lizard Town, some alarm was felt at this sudden searching gaze piercing into the very heart of the dwellings; it was like the vivid illumination of a flash of lightning, a great prying eye which no one could avoid. To obviate this a screen has been placed on the landward side of the lantern. The light stands about 200 feet above the sea; and in addition to this there is a fog-siren, whose tremendous voice bellows through thick weather at intervals of two minutes. West of the lighthouse is the little fishing-cove and lifeboat station of Polpeor. In old times this headland was lit by a bonfire beacon, kept burning at night; and there is a story that a Government packet, passing in the days of our French wars, noticing that the sleepy watchman had allowed the fire to dwindle to a mere smoulder, discharged a cannon-ball at the spot to arouse the neglectful watcher. It must be remembered that the Lizard is rendered doubly perilous by a sea-covered stack of rocks lying to the southward. Before oil was introduced for the lamps it is said the lantern was lit by coal-fires—a kind of first-hand use of gas. Below the lighthouse is[Pg 128] the striking Bumble Rock, and close to this the hollow known as the Lion's Den, formed by a natural sudden subsidence in 1847. This formation was an immediate object-lesson as to the manner in which these remarkable hollows, caverns, and rock-freaks have been produced in the course of time; and there can be no doubt that such natural weathering alone accounts for the Belidden Amphitheatre, east of the fine Penolver Point. Bass Point is the eastward bluff of this rugged and bare old headland, known to ancient geographers as Ocrinum, the southern extremity of the Britains.
With many visitors, to speak of the Lizard is to speak of Kynance. It
is Kynance that the guide-books and the artists have chiefly
popularised; it is Kynance that is probably the most celebrated
beauty-spot on the whole south-Cornish coast. Is it worthy of its
reputation? Some visitors give an emphatic affirmative; others are a
little dubious. To some the spot is a little spoiled by its
popularity; during the season it is like a corner of a fashionable
watering-place, covered with tourists, refreshment booths, and sellers
of serpentine. But autumn and winter bring a grand solitude when all
traces of the tripper are washed away: the storms cleanse it with
their mighty lustrations; only the white sands, the black or richly
stained rocks remain, a haunt of homeless winds and crying gulls. The
cove is encircled by a group of off-lying rocks, insular at high tide;
it is only at low water that Kynance can be explored. The Gull Rock,
Asparagus Island, the Lion, the Steeple, the Kitchen, the
Drawing-room—these names of the crags and clefts have become[Pg 129]
[Pg 131] almost as familiar as household words; while every one knows that if you post a letter in the Devil's Post-office, it will presently be returned in a great outburst of water. It is of little use for the local authorities to forbid such posting, as being dangerous to the individual who waits too eagerly near for his reply; visitors will still venture, and are sometimes drenched, if nothing worse, by the natural blow-hole for their pains. There are other places here where care must be exercised—steep sudden descents, unguarded chasms, nooks and coves where it is easy to be entrapped by the tide; even the active and skilful may get into trouble, and visitors who bring venturesome boys must be prepared for alarms. It is natural that many a parent of a family should prefer a level sandy shore for his summer resort, and Cornwall happily has many such spots to offer, where father and mother can recline restfully without constant anxiety for their boys and girls.
Passing westward from Kynance there are numberless features of the
coast that might cause one to delay; and the coastguard's walk above
the cliffs is rendered plain by the white stones that are so necessary
at night. In one place is the intervening cleft called Gue Graze,
which may be scrambled across or skirted, leading to the precipice
that rises above the cavernous Pigeon Hugo; this cave can only be
approached from the water, and then very rarely. Fields of buttercups
and clover come near to the shore, but inland lies the moorland waste
of Pradanack and Goonhilly Downs. Beyond Pigeon Hugo are two notable
headlands, Vellan and Pradanack. This brings us to Mullion, another
small metro[Pg 132]polis of what is considered the Lizard district, though we
have now left the true Lizard five or six miles behind us. This is
another region of shipwrecks, but if we can forget them Mullion Cove,
with its outlying islet, is purely delightful, and is reaping the
fruit of its charms by the establishment of hotels, boarding-houses,
and golf-links. Both Polurrian and Poldhu share some of this favour.
The coast here is quite as fine, some think even grander, than it is
around the Lizard; while the air, though temperate, has a bracing
freshness from the Downs. The true name of Mullion Cove is
Porthmellin, and it is probable that Mullion itself is a corruption of
Mellin, for the church is dedicated to Melyan or Melanus, the father
of Mylor. The church-town is about a mile distant from the Cove, and
its church, with "black-and-white" tower of granite and serpentine,
somewhat resembles that of Landewednack. The tower dates from 1500,
but portions of the remaining building are obviously earlier; it was
restored in 1870. There is a curious crucifixion over the west window,
with the figure of the Father standing behind that of the Son; and in
front of the altar are carved wooden figures which may have formed
part of a screen; one of these is supposed to represent St. Cleer, or
Cleher. The bench-ends are of rare excellence for this part of the
Duchy—in fact, they are among the finest in the West of England, and
to say that is to say much. They probably date from the fifteenth
century, and bear all manner of devices, letterings, symbols. One
series, in the western nave, gives the arms of the Passion, while
others bear fleurs-de-lis and different crosses. The gallery[Pg 133]
[Pg 135] that was formerly here has been removed. In the chancel is an inscription to the memory of Thomas Flavel, vicar, who died in 1682, being well known locally as a ghost-layer. Such duties were at one time a recognised part of a clergyman's vocation. The epitaph of this reverend exorcist is quaint enough to bear quotation:—
There is a ballad of Goethe's ("De Zauberlehrling") which tells how a magician's apprentice, who had learned enough of his master's craft to be dangerous to himself, once succeeded in raising spirits during the wizard's absence, but was quite unable to dismiss them. A similar tale is told of Flavel's servant-maid. During her master's absence at church she unwarily opened one of the books in his study, "whereupon a host of spirits sprung up all round her. Her master discovered this, though then occupied at church, closed his book and dismissed the congregation. On his return home he took up the book with which his servant had been meddling, and read backwards the passage which she had been reading, at the same time laying about him lustily with his walking-cane; whereupon all the spirits took their departure, but not before they had pinched the servant-girl black and blue." It is said that this parson used to charge five guineas for laying troublesome ghosts; but as there are no longer ghosts at Mullion, it is not advisable to attempt a revival of the business. Nor are there smugglers, though[Pg 136] the locality had once a reputation not only for smuggling but for wrecking. It may not have been often that persons deliberately drew vessels on the coast by false signals, but that this was sometimes done seems indisputable. More often still, boats may have been deceived by lights that were merely displayed as signals or warnings during operations of the smugglers. But there was little need to do anything that might lead to shipwreck; the deadly coast itself was enough. To relate the stories of even a few might be monotonous, after those of which we have already spoken at the Manacles. Of a fresher interest is the station of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, at Poldhu (formerly written Poljew), whose four highest towers or scaffolds, each over 200 feet in height, have become a prominent local landmark. It is not easy to describe these; an illustration can best convey the impression, and no immediate scrutiny is allowed to the public. The activities of this station must remain mysteries to the uninitiated, but it must be a weird and wonderful experience to ascend those white winding stairways around the iron poles during a strong wind. Poldhu has one of the fine modern hotels that come as a surprise to the rambler in the district that has hitherto been so lonely and desolate. Around the wireless station is a network of posts, wires, and lower towers.
Poldhu was chosen in 1900 as the site of a station for the purpose of establishing communication by wireless telegraphy with America, Mr. Marconi being assisted at that time by Professor Fleming, of London. No such distance had hitherto been attempted, and the employ[Pg 137]ment of very powerful magnetic waves was necessary. These were obtained, Mr. Marconi has himself told us, "by means of a generating plant consisting of an alternator capable of an output of about 25 kilowatts, which, through suitable transformers, charged a condenser having a glass dielectric of great strength." A corresponding station was erected at Cape Cod, but in the autumn of 1901 the masts and aerial at Poldhu were wrecked by a storm, and this caused delay. In November, 1901, Mr. Marconi crossed to Newfoundland with the hope of opening communication; and in December he was satisfied that he received signals from Cornwall, proving to him that messages might be transmitted by electric waves from a distance of 2,000 miles. Two months later further satisfactory tests were carried out between Poldhu and the American liner Philadelphia. In 1902 a new station at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, was put into touch with Poldhu; and at this time the four wooden lattice-towers, 210 feet in height, were raised at the Cornish station, the buildings for the generating plant being placed in the space between them. The superior equipment at Glace Bay caused the communication from Canada to be excellent, while the reverse was not so good; Canada had granted a subsidy, and England had not. But the communication was established; and a message from President Roosevelt, sent to Cape Cod and transmitted to Glace Bay, was safely received at the Poldhu station. Although the efficiency of this station was greatly increased by the addition of the numerous wires, sloping umbrella fashion, Mr. Marconi decided to establish a new long-[Pg 138]distance station in Ireland; and the Poldhu station is now used for transmitting news to vessels on the Atlantic, whereby, with the addition of intelligence received from the Cape Cod station, most of the first-class liners to America are enabled to publish daily news journals throughout their voyage—a very wonderful thing, when we remember how completely a sea voyage used to cut one away from news of home. Though it is not at the moment the foremost of the Marconi stations, therefore, Poldhu has all the merit of having been the earliest permanent wireless station; and in the near future it is probable additions will be made to its plant, so as to bring it up to the standard of the Company's station at Clifden in Ireland, when it will become available for regular commercial communications between England and America.
A little river flows into the Poldhu cove, running down from the
charming wooded estate of Bochym, mentioned in Domesday as Buchent.
There was formerly some fine old tapestry and stained glass in the
mansion, but these have gone; however, its oak room with sliding panel
and secret staircase remains, and the garden has some remarkable
tropic growths. A number of prehistoric relics have been discovered on
this estate. Close to Bochym is another old manor, Bonython; it is
said that the poet Longfellow was descended from one of the Bonythons,
who was an early settler in America. We are now in the parish of St.
Cury, or Corentin. He is a saint better known in Brittany that in
Cornwall, but it must always be remembered that the two countries
[Pg 141] very closely connected in race and tradition; also even in name, for there was a Cornouaille in Brittany which former chroniclers have sometimes confused with the English Cornwall.
The church, which is chiefly late Decorated, has a very good Norman doorway, and a most interesting hagioscope, resembling that of Landewednack, with the difference that the Cury window is a single light. Much change and mutilation seems to have taken place in this church; a former vicar found many remains of alabaster figures hidden among plaster and débris behind a slab. There is a very singular aumbry or alms-box, formed in an oak bench-end near the door. The rugged old building is finely placed, with a magnificent view over land and sea. But the ordinary visitor takes more notice of Grunwalloe, which is one of the most curiously situated churches in the kingdom, standing where the sea-spray sometimes makes a clean sweep over it. Its churchyard walls rise immediately from the sands of Gunwalloe Church Cove—at times the very graveyard has been invaded by dashing waves; and its little campanile tower is literally built into the solid rock. Thus founded on rocks, it stands old and weather-beaten, in a desolate district of sand-towans. The dedication is to St. Winwaloe, and it must be left to more learned hagiologists to decide who this Winwaloe really was, or whether he was identical with the founder of Landewednack. There are about half a dozen churches with detached belfries in Cornwall, but this of Gunwalloe is perhaps the most striking; the campanile here stands 14 feet west of the main building. It is difficult to account for the peculiarity, but of course there are stories that[Pg 142] attempt to solve the mystery. The church itself is said to have been the votive offering of a survivor from shipwreck; some, however, speak not of a single survivor, but of two sisters whose lives were saved here, and who could not agree about the exact position of the church they desired to erect as a thank-offering. The result was a compromise. There are traditions of buried treasure here, as well as of wrecked dollars; and in both cases much time and money have been spent by treasure-seekers.
It is possible that the Goonhilly Downs, which occupy the high-lying and barren interior of this Lizard district, really embody a corruption of the name of Gunwalloe, though the name is generally explained as meaning "hunting down." These downs belong to the true meneage or stony district, but in the past they seem to have been covered with thickets and wild beasts. It is still a lonely, deserted track of country, with prehistoric hut-circles and entrenchments, crossed by two good roads, now often traversed by brake and motor and cycle, leading from Helston to St. Keverne and the Lizard. Leland speaks of "a wyld moor, called Gunhilly, wher ys brood of catyle"; perhaps the cattle were the once-famous Goonhilly nags referred to by Norden. "There is a kinde of nagge," he says, "bred upon a mountanous and spatious peece of grounde, called Goon-hillye, lyinge between the sea-coaste and Helston; which are the hardeste naggs and beste of travaile for their bones within this kingdome, resembling in body for quantitie, and in goodness of mettle, the Galloway naggs." The breed seems now to be extinct, though there are doubtless living descendants; and Goonhilly[Pg 143] remains an almost treeless table-land, broken by streamlets where it meets the sea. There are many to whom this inland portion of the Lizard country may seem dreary enough, but others will be touched by its indefinite charm of breezy expanse, the beautiful colour of its Cornish heath, the loneliness of its pools and hollows, the call of its curlews, the hum of its summer bees.
Just below Gunwalloe fishing-cove are the fine Halzaphron cliffs, on which a transport was wrecked about a century since, and the bodies then buried are said to have been the last shipwrecked persons to be laid in unconsecrated ground. Public opinion rebelled against the so-called heathen burial given to such remains, and an Act was passed in Parliament sanctioning their interment in the churchyards of the parishes on which they were cast. Whatever advantage there may be in lying in consecrated earth is now freely granted; the unknown drowned are given the benefit of the doubt, and their bodies committed to the dust in Christian fashion. In parishes like these of the Lizard, and on the north Cornwall coast at places like Morwenstow, this duty of giving Christian sepulture has been no sinecure.
We come across traces of an ancient Cornish family at Carminow, the eastern creek of Loe Pool; but the most tangible relics of the Carminows now remaining are the two effigies in the church of Mawgan-in-Meneage, in which parish we find ourselves once more after having made the tour of the Lizard peninsula. Various tales are told of the Carminows; it is said they claimed descent from King Arthur—it is even said that a Carminow fought against the Romans[Pg 144] at their first landing, which would carry them far eastward of Cornwall. Hals thought that the Mawgan figures were brought from the old chapel of their manor-house, which stood here by the Carminow creek; but Blight is of opinion that the effigies were removed from Bodmin. In Loe Bar we have a formation slightly resembling the famous Chesil Ridge of Dorset, and the bar at Slapton Sands in Devon; but this Loe Bar is on a much smaller scale. Being formed of very fine pebbles, the waters of Loe Pool are in ordinary times able to percolate to the sea; but after much rain there is more water than can thus be carried off, and it was formerly the custom to cut the Bar at such times that the superfluous flood might rush through. A culvert has now been constructed for this purpose, so that the cutting of the Bar is now superseded. A writer who was at school at Helston tells us that "when the floods became serious, and the Loe too near Helston to be pleasant, there was a solemn function performed by the men of Helston, with the Mayor at their head, called breaking the Bar. The Loe was so full that a small trench cut between it and the sea let out the waters; there was then a rush of water and the Loe became connected with the sea by a deep chasm through which the tide flowed. I have never seen the Bar broken, but I have seen the deep chasm in the bar of sand with the tide flowing in and out. The natural forces which originally made the Bar restored it, and in the course of some months it became the same as before." Mr. Hind says he was told by a sailor that "when he was a boy Loe Bar used to be broken once a fortnight"; but we sometimes[Pg 145] exaggerate the things that we remember of our boyhood, and certainly the cutting can never have been as frequent as this. C. A. Johns, who knew Helston well, says that it was rarely necessary to cut the Bar more than twice a year, sometimes not even once; and further, describing a cutting, he says: "In a few hours a deep mighty river is bursting out with inconceivable velocity, and engaging in violent conflict with the waves of the ocean; as the two meet they clash together with terrific uproar, while the sea for twenty, or even thirty miles, is tinged of an ochreous hue. Even at the Scilly Islands the cutting of the Loe Bar has been notified by the altered colour of the water." As the pool belonged to the lord of Penrose, it was customary to present him with a purse containing three-halfpence to obtain his permission for the cutting of the Bar. All this is a thing of the past, but Loe Pool remains as the only sheet of water in Cornwall worthy to be termed a lake, with banks finely wooded and carpeted with flowers. In shape it is more like a broad river than a lake, and it is in fact the land-locked estuary of the Cober, cut off from full intercourse with the sea by this pebbly and sandy spit. Helston claims that it was once a seaport, with vessels sailing close up to its walls; and the formation of the Loe Bar, which destroyed all access, is said to have been one of the accidents of the doomed Tregeagle, whose story will be told later. The Pool is about seven miles in circumference, and affords some excellent fishing; it is the one great attraction that Helston can boast. When Tennyson wrote his "Morte d'Arthur," the germ from which all his Arthurian[Pg 146] Idylls sprang, and in some respects the finest portion of them, he described how the knight Bedivere carried the wounded Arthur after his last battle—
It has been sometimes imagined that this "great water" was none other than Loe Pool, and certainly the spot has a better claim than Dozmare on the Bodmin Moors; but the placing this last battle in the West at all is merely a concession to fancy, and to the desires of West Countrymen. History tells us that Arthur's last fight must almost certainly have taken place in Scotland. But Tennyson's localities are a land of dream and myth; we do better not to try to identify them—their beauty may go with us from place to place, their atmosphere bring peace and soothing to us wherever our steps may be.
It is probable that the origin of the name of Helston is the Cornish hêl, "water," as at Helford and Hayle; but some Saxon derivations have been suggested, and certainly the name was once Henlistone. It is a clean, bright little town of about five thousand inhabitants, with a broad main street. Relatively, the town was once of greater consequence than now; its earliest known charter was granted by King John, with many later charters from other monarchs. It was an active centre of mining, and became a stannary or coinage town. The Grammar School (now[Pg 147] extinct) was notable in the days of Derwent Coleridge, son of the poet, who was headmaster here at a time when Charles Kingsley was pupil; the second master was Johns, known to all botanists by his Flowers of the Field, and to all lovers of Cornwall by his Week at the Lizard. Kingsley utilised his knowledge of this corner of Cornwall when he wrote his Hereward, and there is no doubt that he derived much good from his schooling under such excellent masters as Coleridge and Johns. When writing of Helston it is customary to say a great deal about its Flora, or Furry Day, the 8th of May—a relic of old Maytide saturnalia. Though the dance through the streets to a special kind of hornpipe, in at the front doors and out at the back, is still continued, the old spirit that actuated it is dead—it has become very much of a make-believe, a show for visitors, a galvanised custom that might as well be decently buried.
If we believed the guide-books, we might imagine that Cornish folk were still a gay, childlike, merry-making people, carrying on the customs of their forefathers, cherishing the old traditions, nursing the old myths and superstitions, dreaming dreams and seeing visions. Even writers who might know better try to present them as a race apart, sharing to the full in that character of mysticism and vision which is attributed to Celtic peoples. As a matter of fact the Cornish are by no means gentle-minded simpletons nor poetic visionaries, though, of course, there may be a few of either class among them; and these nominally Celtic folk have no greater power of imagination than the natives of other English counties nominally [Pg 148]Saxon. There is a strain of difference—something that is possibly pre-Celtic—something at times sinister, passionate, incoherent; but there is nothing that is more romantic, more thoughtful, than may be found in the average countryman of the southern counties. We have all met delightful Cornish people—hospitable, kindly, lovable; but, thank God, such are to be met with elsewhere. It is not that the Cornish are to be under-valued or slighted, but they are to be defended from the foolish claims of casual visitors and the equally unwise assertions of some natives. There is one grave charge that may be laid against the people—Mr. W. H. Hudson made it in his beautiful book on the Land's End: this is a charge of cruelty, especially against birds. There could be no good in repeating this—it is never pleasant to say things that sound unkind and perhaps uncharitable—unless it be that when the people realise that certain practices are thought cruel by outsiders, they may in time come to see the cruelty themselves. There is also the supposed religiousness of Cornwall. From reading certain books we might be led to imagine that Wesley found the Cornish savages and left them Christians. He did a great deal certainly—let no one say a word against that noble-hearted man. But the aspects of Wesley's teaching that took chief root in Cornwall, as also in Wales, were just those parts on which he himself would have laid least emphasis—the excitability, the emotionalism. We do a grave wrong to Wesley in giving his name to those manifestations of frothiness and of undue familiarity with the Deity that have too often been classed as Wesleyanism. These, coupled with sectarian bitterness against the Church of Eng[Pg 149]land, may flourish if their votaries desire; but why should they take the name of one who was an earnest and sober-minded Churchman? Of course there is much in Cornwall of which Wesley or any other religious teacher might well be proud; but there are other aspects also, and plenty of room for those who shall teach the people love, charity, and tenderness towards all forms of sentient life.
From Loe Bar the Porthleven sands take us on to the busy little fishing-port of Porthleven itself, whose mother-parish is Sithney. It is becoming quite a popular watering-place, not only with Helston folk, who have only about two and a half miles to come, but with visitors from a greater distance. Porthleven is now a separate parish, with a modern church of its own, and a large Methodist chapel at Torleven that cost £3,500. Its name clearly embodies that of St. Levan, whom we shall meet again near Land's End. An association with that saint gives it a tolerable antiquity, but the place lacks any picturesque garb of the ancient, and its chief pleasantness lies about the harbour. There are fine views of Mount's Bay to be gained from the higher grounds. The harbour and docks were incorporated a century since; the pier is 465 feet long, and the basin has stout granite jetties. Granite and china-clay, fire-bricks and fish are exported here, and the fishing done is fairly extensive. The harbourage is good, but rather difficult to make in rough weather; south-westerly winds drive the seas fiercely against its mouth. As might be imagined, wrecks have[Pg 151] been plentiful here, and along the Methleigh shore are the graves of many drowned persons—interred here in days when the right to consecrated earth was denied. The coast had also an evil reputation for wrecking—not what the underwriters style "act of God," but the dark and mysterious crime of luring vessels on a rock-bound shore:—
The parish of Breage has a specially attractive church, dedicated to St. Breaca, who landed in the Hayle estuary some time in the sixth century; she was an Irish lady, said to have been the sister of St. Uni, of Euny Lelant and other churches. The church is large and shapely, but its ancient character has hardly been preserved by the redecoration that took place in 1890, though happily that restoration revealed some fine frescoes that had been covered with whitewash. One of the figures is the popular one of St. Christopher, like that of Poughill in north Cornwall; other figures are St. Michael, St. Giles, and St. Cury. The altar-slabs are old, and may once have been taken from altar-tombs. There is a good tower-arch, a five-shafted font, and excellent wagon-shaped roofs; chancel-screen and reredos are modern. Of the two bells, one, the tenor, is the largest in Cornwall, with a diameter of 54 inches; it is said that there was formerly a peal, but that the bells were recast into this single form. It is natural to find traces of the Godolphins here, their seat being so near. The national history has much[Pg 152] to say of one Godolphin only, Sidney, the Lord Treasurer, whom Macaulay treated not too tenderly; but Cornwall knows of many, and is especially loving to the memory of Margaret, the wife of Sidney, whose tomb is in the church of Breage. She has had the benefit of a memoir by John Evelyn, her faithful friend, and his account of her is a beautiful picture of womanhood. Being appointed Maid of Honour to the Duchess of York in her twelfth year, the girl retained her purity in a Court that was notoriously impure, and it was thus that she met her two friends, the young Godolphin who married her nine years later, and the older man Evelyn, who gave her devotion and tender counsel. It was in 1678 that Margaret Godolphin died, after the birth of her only child. A few days before her illness she had written to her absent husband: "If I might, I would beg that my body might lye where I have had such a minde to goe myselfe, att Godolphyn, among your friends. I believe, if I were carried by sea, the expense would not be very great; but I don't insist on that place, if you think it not reasonable; lay me where you please." To Cornwall her sorrowing husband brought her, laying her in this church of Breage, where her remembrance is of a very sweet savour; and when we recollect how fondly her lord had loved her, and how he never sought to fill the vacant place, we must needs think with greater gentleness of one who, for his age, was a patriotic and high-minded statesman. An earlier Godolphin had been one of the "four wheels of Charles's Wain." There are heroic memories clinging to the now extinct family; and it is well to find that at least the name[Pg 153] survives in vital fashion here around their old manor-house. That house is now a farm, but it retains traces of old manorial grandeur—some panelled rooms with great windows, a hall with lofty fireplace, and the fishponds of the gardens. On the seaward side of the house rises Godolphin Hill to a height of about 500 feet, giving a noble view of St. Michael's Mount and Bay. There are many remains of former mining. Tregonning Hill, close by, is somewhat higher, and its summit has a fine entrenchment with a striking inner vallum. The Latin epitaph to Margaret Godolphin upon her altar-tomb was written by Evelyn, and the same inscription was placed upon her coffin. It is followed by her favourite motto, the beautiful Un Dieu, un amy ("One God, one friend"). Evelyn knew better than to write any fulsome compliments upon her tomb.
A little westward of Tregonning is Germoe, its church dedicated to St. Germoe, or Germoc. The pinnacles of the Perpendicular tower are specially notable, while the gable-cross and corbels of the porch are of a kind rare in this part of the country. The body of the church is Decorated, but its font must be far earlier; it is rather like a huge stoup, of remarkably rude formation, and may perhaps be Saxon in date. But the structure known as St. Germoe's Chair, in the graveyard, is even more curious; it consists of three roofed sedilia, fronted by two pillared arches. W. C. Borlase thought that the erection was simply an altar-tomb, but, as another writer has said, "there is more than one story attached to this chair. One is to the effect that the saint sat in the central chair with the two assessors, one on either side of him; another legend is that the[Pg 154] priests rested in the chair; whilst a third is that pilgrims to the tomb of the saint also rested therein. Be that as it may, however, it is possible that this is a shrine, and that the body of St. Germoe rests underneath it." There is a folk-rhyme attaching to the parish:—
Pengersick in this parish has still some remains of a castle built in
the time of Henry VIII. by a man named Milliton, but there was
evidently a far older castle here belonging to the Pengersicks, and a
cluster of ancient legends gathered around the place. Cornish
imagination usually stopped short at folk-lore and gave nothing to
literature; in folk-lore it was certainly rich. One of the stories is
of a former inhabitant of the castle who had doings with a king's
daughter abroad, and when she followed him to his Cornish home, he
threw both the lady and her child into the sea. The boy was rescued by
a passing vessel (of course to return later); the woman changed into a
white hare, who one day ran in front of the man's horse, startling it
so that it rushed with its rider into the waves, and both were
drowned. White hares play a striking part in Cornish traditions.
Another story says that the castle was purchased by one of the
Millitons, who, having murdered a man, shut himself up here in terror
and remorse. A further legend speaks of another Milliton who lived
here with a wife whom he hated, and whom he often tried to get rid of,
but her wits proved equal to his.[Pg 155]
[Pg 157] At last, feigning reconciliation, he invited her to sup with him, and then suddenly told her that the wine she had drunk was poisoned. "Then we die together," she answered, "for I had my doubts and I mixed the contents of the goblets." A terrible tempest came on, and wild shrieks came from the chamber; the servants, hastening to the room in alarm, found their master and mistress lying dead on the floor, while looking through the window they could see their spirits being carried off in triumph by a winged demon. It is singular how legends of this nature should attach themselves to certain localities and persons; but the occupants of Pengersick appear to have had differences with the clergy in old times, and the priests generally contrived to blacken the characters of those who became obnoxious to them. It was a terrible power, the making or marring of future reputation.
On the coast the beautiful Praa sands stretch for a mile towards Prussia Cove, with Praa Green at their head; the sands in its season are glorified with wild convolvulus, and the gently lapping waves often have little enough to tell us of their disastrous fury in time of storm. But enough has been said on the dismal subject of wrecks. Human remains, supposed to date from the Old Stone Age, have been found at this spot; they, if they could speak, might tell us something well worth listening to. But their memories would be of a Cornwall very different from the present, and they would probably look to see St. Michael's Mount in the midst of a forest.
If we are tired of shipwrecks, perhaps we are not tired of smugglers, and we come on their footsteps in very vivid fashion at Prussia Cove, whose original name was Porthleah. The place was a[Pg 158] veritable hot-bed of smuggling long before the days of John Carter, prince of smugglers, who went by the name of King of Prussia, and gave its present name to the little cove. Some say that in boyish play-fights he always assumed the name of King of Prussia, and the title stuck. In Cornwall his reputation quite over-shadowed that of his Continental namesake; so that when the news of the battle of Jena and the defeat of the real King of Prussia reached West Cornwall, a Mousehole man exclaimed, "Misfortunes never come single; I'm sorry for that man. Not more'n six weeks ago he lost three hundred keg o' brandy, by information, so I'm towld." Carter had a brother almost equally famous, Captain Henry, and the two between them, with much able assistance, rendered this coast a very hot corner for the Preventive men. Sometimes it very closely resembled actual war, as when the smugglers, mounting a small battery, fired openly on a revenue cutter. "A smuggler chased by a revenue cutter, being somewhat pressed, ran through a narrow channel amongst the rocks between the Enys and the shore. The cutter, not daring to venture amongst the shoals, sent her boat in. And the King, with his merry men, opened fire on the boat. They loaded up the little guns so that every time they fired the guns kicked over completely backwards, and had to be replaced. The boat was driven back, and the cutter held off for the night. Next morning the fight was renewed, the cutter opening fire from the sea, while a company of riders fired from the hedge at the top of the hill on the rear of the men in the battery. This turned the tables on the smugglers, who sought shelter in Bessie Bussow's house." Nothing serious appears to have happened, how[Pg 159]ever. Bessie Bussow, who kept the "Kiddleywink" inn, has passed to immortality in connection with Bessie's Cove, which Nature seems to have contrived especially for the doings of smugglers. The tempting caverns remain, but we cannot compass much smuggling now, however much we might like to; and the coves are chiefly devoted to crabbing. Men like the Carters were heroes in the profession and gave it a certain amount of dignity; romance and picturesque colour it always had.
Perranuthnoe, a little beyond the modern Acton Castle, whose situation is of great beauty, is locally known simply as Perran; the second half of its name seems to point to an earlier saint than Piran. Perhaps there was a St. Uthnoe whose name survives also at Sithney. The fourteenth-century church is very interesting, with a granite figure of St. James over the south doorway, said to have been brought here from Goldsithney, about a mile inland. Another mile along the coast, and we are at Marazion—
It is the presence of the Mount that gives its wonderful charm to this
wide Bay, beautiful in itself, but from this feature receiving
something of the mystic and spiritual, a touch of varying
suggestiveness, a glamour of the remote and the unusual. There is
nothing else quite like it in Britain; to match and surpass it we have
to go to that other Mont St. Michel across the Channel. There is a
strange kinship in the two Mounts; but in spite of the superior
architecture of the Norman eminence, we might not perhaps be very
willing to take it in[Pg 160] exchange for our own Cornish mount of St.
Michael. It is natural that myth and tradition should haunt here and
at Marazion, whose very name has an Oriental suggestion of romance
about it. And yet the name seems to mean nothing more romantic than a
market-place; and in spite of its alternative Market-Jew, seized
eagerly by those who are trying to prove that all Britons are
Israelites, neither name must be taken to denote any connection with
Jews or Jerusalem. The oldest name was doubtless Marghas-iou,
meaning "the markets" in an early form of Cornish; and in a later form
of Cornish we have Marasion, which meant the same thing. But Camden
says that the name Market-Jew arose from the town's having a market on
Thursday, the day of Jove or Jupiter—quod ibi mercatus die Jovis
habeatur; an explanation that is probably quite fanciful. Of course,
the name has been held to prove the claim of St. Michael's Mount to be
the Ictis of the ancients, but the idea that the natives would have
carried their tin across to this incommodious little islet for the
sake of selling seems absurd, when we consider that they could have
sold it much better on the mainland. The description by Diodorus
Siculus, often quoted, has a tempting look, but it cannot persuade us
that the Mount was Ictis. He says: "They that inhabit the British
promontory of Belerium, by reason of their converse with merchants,
are more civilised and courteous to strangers than the rest. These are
the people that make the tin, which with a great deal of care and
labour they dig out of the ground. Then they beat it into square
pieces like a die, and carry it to a British isle, near at hand,
called Ictis. For at low tide, all being dry between them and the
[Pg 163] they convey over in carts abundance of tin." To suppose that Ictis was the Isle of Wight would carry us too far back, for it was only in prehistoric days that Wight was connected to the mainland so closely; and the general conclusion now seems to be that Ictis was the island of Thanet, in every sense convenient for the traffic. Our connection with the Continent has always been most intimate at this eastern corner, and the tin was conveyed along the trackways from west to east. Sea passage was a consideration in those days. That Phœnicians and other eastern merchants came to the Cornish coasts cannot be denied, and for those who came by sea from the Mediterranean Cornwall was more convenient than Kent; but the more regular centre of traffic must have been at the eastern corner, and in no case can we suppose that this steep rock would have been selected as a market-place. Marazion is different, and may have welcomed many early traders; but there is little to record of its past. It was certainly a smelting-place for tin. Formerly in the parish of Hilary, it now has a church of its own. Historically its chief incident seems to be the attack by the French in 1514; and there was also trouble here in connection with the religious revolt of 1549. The mother-church at Hilary stands so high that it is said St. Ives folk used to make a regular allowance to pay for its spire being whitewashed, that it might serve as a mark at sea. Spires are rare in Cornwall, and this one, of early Decorated style, is of special interest, having happily survived the fire that destroyed the main building in 1853. There are some curious blocked spire-lights. Outside the church is an oblong stone of some size, of which the only decipherable words are Noti-noti, with[Pg 164] some indistinct symbols. This has been interpreted as the inscription of a certain Notus; but others have regarded it as simply a Roman milestone.
There is another stone, formerly outside the church but now taken within, which gives the name of Constantine Cæsar, thus establishing its date as 306. Marazion is a pleasant little place, but of course its chief interest is as the stepping-stone to St. Michael's Mount. It is well known that Mount's Bay gives many traces of submerged forest, and the old Cornish name of the Mount, meaning "the hoar rock in the wood," gives further evidence. William of Worcester tells us that it once stood six miles from the sea, in a track of country that must have been a portion of the lost Lyonesse. The archangel himself is said to have appeared on its summit in the fifth century, but we need not associate the name of the Mount with any visit of this sort, for churches on high places were constantly dedicated to the charge of St. Michael, with the idea that he could protect them from evil powers of the air. There may have been a religious cell here at a very early date, but the earliest establishment of which we are certain is the chapel endowed by Edward the Confessor, and gifted to the monks of St. Michel in Normandy. The position of the Mount caused it to become not only ecclesiastic but a secular stronghold, and it is in this connection that it chiefly claims historic notice. In the time of Richard I. it was held for King John by Henry de Pomeroi, but in no part of the country was John greatly beloved, and on the return of Richard from captivity the garrison surrendered voluntarily, Pomeroi, it is[Pg 165] said, committing suicide. During the Wars of the Roses some fugitives from the battle of Barnet gained admittance to the Mount in the disguise of pilgrims, and then, declaring themselves, held the castle against all comers. Doing his duty as sheriff of the Duchy, Sir John Arundell was killed in attacking them, and they resisted till a pardon was granted them. In those days almost the only danger in such a spot was the risk of famine; apart from that the place was practically impregnable. Yet during the religious rebellion of 1549 it twice yielded to attack, being taken for the King during the absence of its governor, Arundell of Lanherne, and retaken by the Cornish; in both cases we must suspect that the defence was half-hearted or the supplies insufficient. In the Civil War Sir Francis Basset held the Mount for the Royal cause, but surrendered after a gallant defence when his case became hopeless. The Mount is now the seat of Lord St. Levan, the representative of the St. Aubyn family, who gained possession after the Bassets; and the little hamlet of St. Michael lying at its foot is occupied by their retainers. The entire rock is only about a mile in circumference, yet room is found on the very small portion of level ground for a tennis-court, and even golf is sometimes played. Anciently a resort of pilgrimage as the shrine of St. Michael, the pilgrims that now cross by the causeway at low tide, or are rowed over to the small quay, are lovers of the romantic and the picturesque; but they are not allowed to ramble at will about the buildings. Only a part is shown, including the chapel, which is Perpendicular with some older fragments. The tower was a sort of lighthouse or beacon for the guidance of fishermen—churches[Pg 166] have often fulfilled this double purpose, a lighthouse for both worlds; and the lantern is now known as St. Michael's Chair, with a tradition that whichever of man and wife sits there first will thereafter rule supreme in all domestic matters; but the true Chair, as Carew described it, was "a little without the castle," a craggy seat on the western side of the Mount, where there was once an oratory. There was good reason why pilgrims should resort hither in the past: "Know all men that the most Holy Father Gregory, in the year from the incarnation of our Lord 1070, bearing an affection of extraordinary devoutness to the Church of St. Michael's Mount, has piously granted to all the faithful who shall reach or visit it, with their oblations, a remission of a third part of their penances." The human aspect peeps out in the mention of alms and oblations; centres of pilgrimage have always had a rich pecuniary value. Southey deals with St. Michael's Chair in one of his ballads, which reminds us that St. Keyne, whom he also treated poetically, is supposed to have visited the Mount when she came to Cornwall—to which we must add a surmise that this saint may not have been a woman at all, but was really St. Kenwyn. The Mount is only insular during high tide, yet at such times, exposed to the full force of the sea, the passage sometimes becomes impracticable; and there are many low tides when it is not safe or even possible to cross the causeway. Perhaps at any time those who see the rock from a distance can best appreciate its charm. From Marazion to Penzance there are three miles of flat, uninteresting road—perhaps the dullest bit of coast-road in all Cornwall, were it not for the beauty of the Bay.
THE PENZANCE DISTRICT
Whatever claims other places may set up, Penzance is truly the business capital of western Cornwall, the metropolis of the Land's End district. It is first and foremost a market-town. Of course, it is also a coasting port and fishing port and a watering-place; but none of these things so wholly absorb it as do the weekly markets, when countryfolk from all the neighbouring villages throng Market-Jew Street with their conveyances, their parcels and packages, their cattle, their eager chatter. These people and their forbears have made Penzance what it is; they have not sought to beautify it much—a reputation as a holiday resort has been thrust on the place by its convenience, its commanding position as the gate-town of Land's End; Penzance did little to advertise itself, but the visitors have come, and are coming, and the town is doing its best to give them a fair entertainment. Though from the coast or the sea it often makes a fine appearance, the town is one of utility rather than of adornment. It feels that its existence is fully justified, without having to resort to artificial attractions. It builds no pavilions or glass-houses or aquarium, it needs no constructed[Pg 168] lakes to retain its sea, nor towers to emulate rocks that Nature has denied. Primarily a place of business rather than of pleasure, one soon learns to admire and to respect it; there is nothing garish and little that is fashionable about it. Not many of its buildings are calculated to make an impression on the visitor, except the Market Hall that makes Market-Jew Street a rather striking thoroughfare, and the church of St. Mary, which has at least a charm of position. The Municipal buildings are a handsome piece of architecture; but it is not in these features, nor in the Morrab Gardens, in spite of their subtropical vegetation, that the charm of the town lies. That charm is a certain homely friendliness in the aspect of the place, the bustle, the soberness and geniality of its people. Further, Penzance is a good place to get away from—which sounds like a left-handed compliment, but has really quite other meaning; it is a fine centre for the whole far west of Cornwall.
As a town Penzance cannot claim great antiquity, though its district is remarkably rich in prehistoric remains. The name is pen-sans, the "holy headland"; evidently misread by the town authorities as "holy head," when they adopted the head of John the Baptist as the town arms. There was an ancient chapel standing on the present Battery Rocks, and this without doubt was the sacred headland which the title refers to. The mother-parish was St. Madron, about 2½ miles to the north-west; and it is by no means clear who Madron was. Some think he was an Irish Medhran, some a Welsh Madrun; some even assert that he was none other than the great Padarn of Wales. But in[Pg 169] 1835 St. Mary's was built at Penzance, on the site of an old chapel to Our Lady, of which some relics are preserved. The town was granted a market in 1332, a charter in 1512, and in 1614 deeds of incorporation. But the most important event in the history of early Penzance was its burning by the Spaniards in 1595. There was an old Cornish folk-rhyme which foretold that—
and perhaps this led the inhabitants to regard the enemy as invincible when they really did land, especially as their descent took place on a rock at Mousehole that bore the name of Merlin. The Spanish were left to do pretty well as they pleased, burning and pillaging Mousehole, Paul, Newlyn, and Penzance, but they thought it advisable to retreat to their galleons in Mount's Bay for the night, and next day, the countryfolk having plucked up some heart, and there being rumours of English seamen drawing near, it was found prudent to decamp altogether. A new town rose from the ashes of the old one, but there was further trouble in the time of the Civil War, and Penzance suffered for loyalty to the King. Under the circumstances we must not look for any remains of great antiquity in the town, though that which is historical antiquity is mere youth in comparison with the immemorial age that invests this farthest corner of Britain with a garb of wonder and mystery. Close to Chyandour (the "house by the water"), and not far from the Penzance terminus, is the Lescudjack encampment, or castle, which carries us back to the early settlement of the[Pg 170] shores of Mount's Bay; only about three miles inland are the huts of Chysauster, where there was evidently an extensive village in days long before Penzance was dreamed of. Whether it was that this farthest neck of land became the refuge of driven races, pushed further and further westward by new encroaching hordes, it is certain that the Land's End district offers more relics of prehistoric antiquity than any other equal tract of land can show.
When Defoe came to Penzance, he seems to have been surprised to find
it so civilised and so comfortable, "being so remote from London,
which is the centre of our wealth." That is the remark of a true
Londoner, showing an attitude of mind towards the provincial that is
not quite extinct. He says: "This town of Penzance is a place of good
business, well built and populous, has a good trade, and a great many
ships belonging to it, notwithstanding it is so remote. Here are also
a great many good families of gentlemen, though in this utmost angle
of the nation." It is clear he expected to find a village of savages.
As a matter of fact Penzance now, with its admirable train service,
seems nearer to Paddington than many places that are not half so far
off; every express that comes westward brings a savour of the great
city with it, just as each train that leaves Penzance carries material
evidence of Cornwall's existence into the very heart of old London.
All the flowers from Scilly go by this route, and the Penzance
neighbourhood has many flowers, fruits, and early vegetables of its
own to dispatch to Covent Garden, together with a considerable
quantity of fish. The railway is carried by viaduct across Marazion
[Pg 173] in 1869 a large portion was shattered by the sea, and the line had to be removed further back. Sea and winds remain as untamable as they were when men of the Stone Age broke each other's heads at Chysauster. In Alverton Street (retaining the name of the old Alwaretone estate, mentioned in Domesday) are the museums and buildings of the Natural History, Antiquarian, and Cornish Royal Geological Societies, with the Guildhall, and a public room for meetings; but the Penzance Library, containing about 25,000 volumes, many of great rarity, is kept at Morrab House. There are Schools of Art and of Mining—both subjects strongly to the front in Cornwall. Immediately below the domed market-house, once the Town Hall, is a statue of the town's most famous son, Sir Humphry Davy, born here in 1778, his father being a wood-carver. He was educated partly at Truro, and early evinced that taste for poetry and angling that never left him. After serving with a Penzance surgeon, he went to Dr. Beddoes at Clifton, where he met Coleridge and Southey, and discovered the curious effects of "laughing-gas." His further career does not belong to Cornwall, but he proved himself a true son of the Duchy by inventing the Davy safety-lamp for miners. Another great man in a different school of activity, Pellew, better known as Lord Exmouth, though born at Dover, spent much of his boyhood with his Cornish grandmother at Penzance. His gallant deeds against the enemies of his country form a stirring page in our national history, but Mr. Norway has told us of one occasion on which he ran away from a pursuer. He was a mischievous lad, and once, "having wandered with a friend up Castle[Pg 174] Horneck Avenue, he was inspired to discharge a few shots through the latticed window of a cottage inhabited by two excellent old maiden ladies. The pellets were aimed at pewter plates, and struck those only, but the insult knocked at the heart of one of the old ladies, who seized the firehook, as the nearest weapon, kilted up her gown, and gave chase. Pellew's courage dissolved at the first sight of this gaunt apparition, running as he thought no lady of her age could run. He fled like a hare; she cast away her firehook and followed; he threw away his musket and gained some ground; she caught him up again, and in Madron church-town was almost on his back, when there came a kindly hill. The old lady's wind was gone, she could spurt no more; so while the culprit fled away in shameful rout without his arms, she retreated honourably, the one person (if she could have known it) who ever terrified Pellew."
Penzance has quite a commodious harbour, as it deserves, having spent at least £100,000 on it; there is a regular service to Scilly, a good deal of coasting, much fishing, and some ship-building. The west arm of the pier is built on a vein of felspar porphyry, visible at low water. Around the harbour cluster the narrow streets of the older town, with nothing particular to recommend them; beyond this is the town's one conventional feature, its promenade. A rather dreary and unkempt mile of road takes us to Newlyn; and in this part Penzance has certainly unduly emphasised its carelessness of appearance. It need not be quite so slovenly and slipshod. Newlyn, the paradise of artists, deserves a better approach, and Penzance itself merits a fairer exit.
[Pg 175]But before passing on to Newlyn something must be said both of Gulval and of Madron. The tract of sheltered land in which Gulval lies, reaching from Mount's Bay to Ludgvan, is one of the most productive in Cornwall, being chiefly devoted to market-gardens and flowers; its rare mildness and productiveness is proved by the wealth of exotic vegetation around Gulval Church and Vicarage. In this respect the place actually rivals Tresco, and the fields of narcissi are as luxuriant as those of the Scillies. Much of this soil is worked by hand, in the good old-fashioned style, whose results always seem better than those of machinery. It is quite an idyllic corner of land, with a tangible outcome that goes to the markets in the shape of early vegetables and spring flowers. Below stretches the wide Bay, with its gem, the Mount, of which it is so glorious a setting. There is another gem close at hand, and that is Gulval Church itself, dedicated to a St. Gudval or Wolvele. The general character of the church is Early English, but there were two restorations in the past century, the last being in 1892, and a great deal of modern decoration has been added, largely in Derbyshire felspar, with excellent result. The church has been under the special care of the Bolitho family, whose monuments abound here, and it is a proof that old ecclesiastic buildings may be beautified by modern adornment, without the disastrous result that sometimes attends such attempts. Gulval holy well was one of the most famous in Cornwall, and there can be little doubt that the saint's early oratory was on the site of the church—a few traces, indeed, may remain in the walling, a successful blending of the very ancient and the[Pg 176] recent. Even more famous was the well of St. Madron or Maddern, which was quite a Lourdes in its way. The church here, probably on an older site, dates from the time of Richard I., being built by one of the Pomeroys; but little remains of this earlier building except its very curious and apparently mutilated font. The present church is chiefly Perpendicular.
In the graveyard is the epitaph of George Daniell, the founder of Madron schools in days when men built schools instead of quarrelling about them:—
Madron Feast (Advent Sunday) was always an occasion of prolonged merrymakings and dissipation. It seems to have been in this district that the last bull-baiting took place in Cornwall. A witness states that it took place in Gulval parish, in the summer of 1814: "I remember the black bull being led by four men. The crowd was dispersed early in the morning by a severe thunderstorm, which much alarmed the people, who thought it (I was led to believe) a judgment from heaven." This proves that their minds were already uneasy. It is devoutly to be wished that all those whose so-called sports cause suffering to animals may be equally on the watch for judgments from heaven. The village of old Madron is very beautiful and interesting.
Newlyn, a long mile beyond Penzance, in spite of the painters who have carried its name far and wide, is still largely unspoiled. It must be said for painters that they do not spoil a place as other visitors so often do; in fact, all change—modernising,[Pg 177] restoring, destroying—is opposed to their sense of fitness; they are champions of the picturesque and sworn foes of the jerry-builder. Newlyn remains quaint and fishy, though it has its little Art Gallery and its Rue des Beaux Arts. There are artistic industries also—copper repoussé and enamel jewellery; a new Renaissance has come to this Cornish fishing-village—its youths and maidens are learning mysteries of beautiful craft which may save them from the deadly inanities of the average British workman. When we speak of early Newlyn days, of course we mean the days of the first artistic settlement, some thirty years since; older Newlyn has little to tell, except that it was burnt by the Spanish, and that its life has always been bound up with the fortunes of the fishery. Mr. Stanhope Forbes has told us something of the place as he first knew it. "I had come from France, where I had been studying, and wandering down into Cornwall, came one spring morning along that dusty road by which Newlyn is approached from Penzance. Little did I think that the cluster of grey-roofed houses which I saw before me against the hillside would be my home for so many years." But he bewails that Newlyn is not what it was; there has been some spoliation, some pulling down of old cottages, some unsightly intrusion of the ugly and modern, though certainly less than might have been feared. It was here that Frank Bramley painted his "Hopeless Dawn" and "After Fifty Years"; here Walter Langley painted "Among the Missing," and Mr. Forbes "The Health of the Bride." It would be hopeless to attempt to name all the pictures that have carried different aspects of Newlyn life to the London exhibitions—the[Pg 178] piers, the blue-guernseyed fishermen, the brown-sailed smacks (now partly giving place to steam-drifters), the rich-complexioned old men and women, the lovely bright-eyed children, the sturdy lads, the gulls, the wonderful bay. From the first there was an excellent understanding between the painters and the people; great tact was shown by the artists, and a mutual pride sprang up between them. What is true of Newlyn is true also of St. Ives and of all the haunts around Land's End where painters have established; rarely has there been any friction, even if the artists have sometimes been regarded as amiable madmen. It is true that John Brett, the marine painter, before Newlyn's most palmy days, managed to offend the natives by his too outspoken religious opinions and his habit of laying on colour with his palette-knife. "What can you expect," asked a fisherman, "of a man who says there's no God and paints his pictures with a knife?" It will be remembered that religious differences have been a cause of strife before now between Cornish fishermen and fishers who brought laxer views of Sunday fishing from the East Country. Such things have still a strong hold on those who "do business in great waters." But there are times when politics, blown to white-heat by the Bethels, will drive even religion from the minds of the fisher-folk, as we may judge by a story told by Mr. Hudson. It was after the visit of a lady missioner, who usually reaped a rich harvest of converts; some one asked the minister how many souls had been won on this occasion. "Not one this time," he answered; "we were too busy with the elections."
The Newlyn corner of Mount's Bay is named Gwavas Lake, and it is said that it once really[Pg 179] was a lake. A little southward we get into the parish of Paul, whose name probably embodies no dedication to any St. Paul, but is a corruption of the Cornish pol—a pool or creek. Mousehole, one of the most delightful fishing-villages in England, is in this parish, far more unspoiled even than Newlyn. As has been already mentioned, Paul was burned by Spaniards, July 23, 1595, on which day, the parish register tells us, "the church, towre, bells, and all other things pertaining to the same, together with the houses and goods, was burn'd and spoil'd by the Spaniards in the said parish, being Wensdaie the daie aforsaid, in the 37th yeare of the Reigne of our Sovereigne Ladie Elizabeth, by the grace of God, of England, Fraunce, and Ireland, defender of the Faith." It seems, however, that the church was not so utterly destroyed as this might lead us to believe; much of the stonework survived, including the lofty granite tower. Most persons remember Paul as the burial-place of Dolly Pentreath, whose claim to be the last person speaking Cornish can hardly be maintained, though even she did not speak it habitually. Her married name appears to have been Jeffery, but that did not matter; when the wife was the better half her maiden name often prevailed over that of the husband, in later days than this. In 1768 Daines Barrington visited her, and was heartily abused by her in Cornish because he slyly suggested that she did not understand the tongue. He says: "She does indeed talk Cornish as readily as others do English, being bred up from a child to know no other language, nor could she talk a word of English before she was past twenty years of age, as, her father being a fisherman, she was sent with fish[Pg 180] to Penzance at twelve years old, and sold them in the Cornish language, which the inhabitants in general, even the gentry, did then well understand. She is positive, however, that there is neither in Mousehole, nor in any other part of the county, any other person who knows anything of it, or at least can converse in it. She is poor, and maintained partly by the parish and partly by fortune-telling and gabbling Cornish." The stone above her grave was erected in 1860 by "the Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, in union with the Rev. John Garrett, Vicar of St. Paul." Prince Lucien, nephew of the first Napoleon, was an eager student of philology. In 1854 George Borrow, then touring Cornwall (his father was a Cornishman), visited Paul Church, and noticed a Cornish epitaph on the walls—said to be the only inscription in the old vernacular surviving in this fashion. It may be given as a specimen of the extinct language:—
which has been thus rendered:—
Two words here prove how Cornish was affected by the Roman occupation—pobl for people, and egles for church.
When Paul was burned Mousehole suffered also, and its only house that
survived was the manor of the Keigwins, now the "Keigwin Arms," whose
appearance quite justifies the antiquity claimed for it. Borrow, when
he came here, must have[Pg 181]
[Pg 183] been struck by the similarity of the name of Mousehole with that of Mousehold Heath, with which he was so familiar at Norwich; there seems no satisfactory explanation of either name. Perhaps both embody some Celtic root. Mousehole was once called Porth Enys, the island-port; and there is a little islet, St. Clement's, lying off it. The place is in every way quieter than Newlyn; there are fewer visitors in the summer months, less bustle on the quays, less stir of fish-auctions; even the artists are rarer. All is quaintness and primitive seclusion. There may be a somewhat too aggressive savour of pilchards; but we must excuse this when we remember what the pilchards mean to these fisher-folk, who were once considered somewhat of a race apart, with a supposed infusion of Spanish blood in them. There was a quay here and a chapelry in very early days, and the place was active enough before Penzance had come forward as a port at all; it is said that there was also a small oratory on St. Clement's Isle. The fisher-folk have spent a good deal on improving their harbour. The coast is grand and cavernous. On both sides, near Newlyn and at Lamorna, there is some busy quarrying; the quarries at Lamorna supplied much of the granite for the Thames Embankment. Being a favourite trip from Penzance, the cove at Lamorna is pretty well known; it opens to the sea from a very beautiful little valley formed by the Lamorna stream, wooded with hazels and alders. There need be no complaint just here that Cornwall is treeless, though beyond and above the land stretches unwooded and desolate. But it is a grand sort of desolation; only in thick weather or fierce driving storms do we feel in a kind of lost world. At the head of the[Pg 184] Lamorna valley is an estate known as Trewoofe, or Troove, with a remarkable fogou (subterranean passage), not easy to find and not easy to enter. It runs for about 36 feet, being 6 feet high and nearly as wide, and is formed of rugged unhewn blocks. Stories tell that it successfully sheltered a party of fugitive Royalists once, and it may also have been used by smugglers of later date; but for its origin we must go farther back, and perhaps it takes us to the dim days when race was struggling with race on this far western limit of land. There are so many prehistoric relics near as to be almost bewildering, and this is surely not the place in which to discourse learnedly of them all; besides which, the utmost learning does little but reveal our dense ignorance of their real significance. Troove belonged to the Le Veales, or Levelis, family, who came over with the Conqueror, and flourished in this spot for six centuries, dying at last in the person of Arthur Levelis, who was buried at St. Buryan in 1671. The modern house retains only a few fragments of the mansion; but the doorway remains, its jambs sculptured with queer figures, and three calves' heads carved above it as the family arms. About half a mile westward is Boleigh, or Boleit, with the Pipers—two rough granite figures. When Athelstan traversed Cornwall from end to end, about the year 936, he is said to have fought his last battle against the defeated British at Boleit; not content with the whole of Cornwall, he crossed to the Scillies and took these also. It is quite possible that there was fighting here at that time, but very certainly the Pipers were not then raised as burial monoliths; they are clearly of far earlier date. In an open field near is the[Pg 185] stone circle of Dawns mên, the dancing-stones, known as the Merry Maidens; there are nineteen rough boulders of granite, and there was probably a twentieth. Naturally, there is the usual story that they were maidens who danced on the Sabbath and were thus punished, the Pipers being similarly doomed for playing the dances.
Though St. Buryan lies about three miles from the coast, it must be visited for the beauty of its church and the interest of its traditions. The church is so named after Buriena, a beautiful Irish girl who came to Cornwall to become a saint, but it is very difficult to decide definitely as to her personality. We may conjecture that she came to Cornwall about the same time as St. Piran, perhaps in his company, and that she set up her cell in a field formerly called the Sanctuary, and later the Sentry. The present church is always understood to have been founded by Athelstan, when he sighted the Scilly Isles from this high ground, and vowed that if he returned safely from their conquest he would endow a collegiate establishment here. The expedition to Scilly accomplished, he observed his vow, and founded an establishment consisting of a dean and three prebendaries, with jurisdiction over the parishes of Buryan, Levan, and Sennen. There was trouble later, because the Buryan priests claimed freedom from episcopal control; but we find the Bishop of Exeter dedicating the church here in 1238, of which some Norman arches, font, and stoup survive; Athelstan's church has quite vanished. The building is about 100 feet long, and compared with the nave the chancel is almost like a cathedral choir, thus proving its collegiate character, the stalls still remaining.[Pg 186] Much foolish restoration has done irreparable damage, but the church is still beautiful in design and detail; unhappily the screen was badly mutilated, and many bench-ends destroyed. When Blight wrote his admirable book on the churches of West Cornwall the Miserere seats could be raised; later, they were very stupidly fixed down. On the floor of the tower lies the ancient tomb of "Clarice La Femme Cheffrei De Bolleit," with an inscription in Norman-French characters of the thirteenth century, begging visitors to pray for her soul, and promising a ten days' pardon to those who do so; there can be no harm in our testing the efficacy of this offer. The tower that rises above this remarkably interesting grave is 90 feet in height, and as the church itself stands high it forms a fine landmark. Outside there is a shaftless cross of Celtic appearance, but not supposed to be Celtic in origin, though it certainly may have been adapted from a Celtic original. There is another old cross outside the churchyard gate, which may perhaps at one time have been included within the sacred pale, as traces of burial have been found. But churchyards were not often diminished in this manner, and the graves must probably be otherwise accounted for. In the church is an altar-cloth, now rarely used, worked by two maiden ladies more than two centuries since.
St. Buryan is familiar to all visitors to the Land's End, as the cars usually make it a halting-place. Even more famous, and perhaps more attractive to the conventional sight-seer, is the Logan Stone of Treryn, or Treen; but what makes this spot truly worth seeing is not the mass of poised rock, which certainly stirs[Pg 187] clumsily when pushed, but the grand headland itself, on which there is a dinas, or old entrenchment. The coast here has more beauties than can be named, but this immemorial stronghold of a vanished race, on its magnificent bluff of granite that juts from a turf-clad neck of land, is far more glorious than any logging-stone, even though it may have been displaced and replaced by a nephew of the poet Goldsmith. The little hamlet of Treen is just across the fields. Logan rocks are simply a freak of nature, in spite of the Druidic nonsense that has been talked about them; softer soils have been eroded beneath, and the rock has remained balanced. Treen is in the parish of St. Levan, but we have to pass Porthcurnow Cove before reaching that saint's immediate locality. Porthcurnow, with its fine shore and grand seas, and its memories of Tregeagle, whose doom is to sweep the sands from Porthcurnow to the farther side of Land's End, has in some sense had its romance knocked out of it by the establishment of the Eastern Telegraph Company, and the presence of about a hundred keen, sport-loving telegraphists. They have a comfortable settlement for their exile here, with excellent cricket and tennis grounds and perfect accommodation. Their duties resemble those of any telegraph instrument-room in the country, but the locality should render their leisure hours delightful. Hunt tells a tale of a Spectre Ship at Porthcurnow, but all these traditions were dying when he told them, and that is a good while ago now. The name of Porthcurnow is interesting, as it probably embodies the root of the name of Cornwall itself; and there was once a very ancient chapel here,[Pg 188] raised on a burial cairn of far greater antiquity; very slight traces remain. Perhaps Penberth and St. Loy's Coves ought to have been mentioned; but we must pass on to St. Levan, who was a very attractive saint, with an engaging touch of human nature about him. Even so, his identity is a little doubtful. The prefix St. is quite modern in Cornwall, and as this parish was once spoken of as Siluan, and is still sometimes called Slevan, it is possible that the real saint was Silvanus, and not Levan at all. Whoever he was, he had a little oratory and holy well on the cliff below the site of the present church; and he lived on a single fish each day. One day two fish persisted in being caught; and when he reached his cell he found that his sister Breaca (whose name survives at Breage) had paid him a visit with her two children. This legend goes on the usual supposition that the saint was really the Irish Levan, brother of St. Breage. Unhappily the children ate so eagerly that they were choked by the fishbones, in memory of which bream (or sometimes chad) used to be called "choke-cheeld." Mr. Baring-Gould says this caused a coolness between brother and sister. He had another unpleasantness with a woman Joanna, who lived near, who was a rigid vegetarian, and quarrelled with the saint for catching his fish on Sunday. He said that to fish was no worse than to do gardening. We may repeat these old stories, but the Cornish folk of to-day know nothing of them; they are dead, except as matter for the guide-books. St. Levan Church is snugly sheltered. It has been carefully restored and is very attractive, with a good tower, some fine bench-ends, and a beautiful screen. Outside the church is a[Pg 189] cleft boulder of granite, and there used to be a local saying that when a pack-horse should ride through St. Levan's stone the world would come to an end. A little beyond is the really delightful Porthgwarra, with its rugged stone slip and tunnels leading to the little fishing-cove. Visitors are beginning to discover Porthgwarra, and it is one of those quiet, lonely haunts where lodgings must be booked long in advance. Cornwall has a good many such—the resort of those who shun the ordinary watering-place.
THE SCILLY ISLANDS
Geologically, we are still on the mainland when we reach the isles of
Scilly; they belong to the axis of the Cornish peninsula, and are in
what may still be called, comparatively, the narrow seas. The
hundred-fathom line lies far beyond them; these waters, though
thoroughly oceanic in character, are not oceanic in depth. We may
regard the islands as the last upward thrust of the granitic backbone
that runs, at a diminishing gradient, from Dartmoor to Land's End,
while the submarine plateau follows a similar gradient. Structurally,
therefore, these isles are a continuation of Land's End, but the
granite has become less consistent and more friable; it is largely
broken into felspar, quartz, and mica, with schorl, chlorite, and
hornblende. No great elevation is attained—nothing above 160 feet;
the grandeur of the coasts, which certainly does not equal that of
North Cornwall, consists in their rugged wildness and the fantastic
weathering of their crags. Contorted formations, logans and
rock-basins, reveal the decomposition of softer measures that has been
proceeding for ages. The isles lie about 27 miles west of Land's End,
but the journey from Penzance to St. Mary's is about[Pg 191]
[Pg 193] 40 miles, and the small steamers that make the passage usually take about four hours. More often than not this passage is an uncomfortable one; the islands stand in the ocean gateway of the two Channels, and they catch whatever is going in the way of sea, while of course winds play upon them with unbroken force. It is rather surprising that their strategic importance should be neglected by the Government. There was indeed some talk of forming a naval base here, but the scheme seems to have been abandoned; yet a station with extensive harbourage could be planned without vast cost, and would be a dominant factor in controlling the navigation of the English Channel. During the Franco-German War, when the navy of Germany was much less powerful than that of France, Germany made considerable use of the Scillies as a neutral port for the convenience of vessels making the Channel; and a time may easily come when a naval base here would be of untold advantage to Great Britain, as its absence might become a positive disaster.
The archipelago occupies an area of about 30 square miles, the isles, reckoning many that are mere fragments of rock, numbering about two hundred; the principal of which range in size from the 1,600 acres of St. Mary's to the five acres of Little Ganniley. St. Mary's is about three miles long and two in breadth, with a circumference of nine miles and a population of about 1,500—about three-quarters of the entire population. It contains the capital, Hugh Town, which is more often simply styled St. Mary's, and which stands chiefly on a neck of land that appears to be rather perilously threatened by the sea. Four other islands are inhabited—Tresco, St. Martin's, St. Agnes, and Bry[Pg 194]her; they are all considerably smaller. The first to come into definite view from a vessel making the isles is St. Martin's, with its day-mark standing at a height of about 160 feet.
It must be confessed that, for their beauty, the islands depend very largely on sunshine and atmospheric effect; without the sun they can become very dreary. Meteorologic figures prove that the average summer temperature is only 58° Fahrenheit and the winter about 45°; so that there is little oppressive heat, and frost is very rare. But in spite of these figures the islands can become sultry under a blaze of sunshine; and in winter the winds are sometimes piercingly keen. No trees will grow unless protected from this wind; yet the tropical vegetation that flourishes in the open air conclusively proves the remarkable equability of the climate; while rainfall, which is seldom excessive, is quickly absorbed or evaporated. To the lover of history, legend, and romance the Scillies are a rich mine of treasure, and their inaccessibility keeps them immune from the spoiling tendencies of fashion. At one time this inaccessibility was far greater, and only those came to Scilly who had business there. It is claimed by tradition that these islets are a portion of the lost land of Lyonesse, the old-world haunt of Arthur and Tristram—a land of villages, pastures, smiling vales, now buried beneath the waves. Persons sometimes apply the name of Lyonesse to the whole of Cornwall, but this is a mistake; the true Lyonesse of legend was a tract of country lying to the south-west of Land's End, which we may connect, racially or otherwise, with the Leon of Brittany. There are many traces of submerged forest in Mount's Bay and elsewhere along the southern coast; and[Pg 195] the old Cornish name of St. Michael's Mount represents that rock as having once stood in the centre of woodland. It is impossible to say when or how the Scillies first became insular, whether by sudden cataclysm or by gradual erosion; the latter seems more likely, but tradition has preferred to speak of a sudden catastrophe, such as that which is supposed to have overwhelmed Cardigan Bay. There is a story which says that a member of the Trevilian family was only saved from the inrush of waters by the speed of his horse, which struggled inland from the pursuing waves, reaching a rocky cleft on the shore at Perranuthnoe. It is possible that slow erosion may have paved the way to some such immediate disaster, such as that caused by a great storm in 1099, when, according to the Saxon Chronicle, many villages and churches were swept away. It was this storm, accompanied perhaps by a tidal wave, that converted the estates of Earl Godwin into the dreaded Goodwin Sands; and it may have caused tremendous damage, not definitely recorded, in the West. But another tradition attributes the formation of the islands to magic. It was said, by those who placed Arthur's last great battle in the West of England, that, after the fight was over, the triumphant Mordred chased the King's despairing followers to the extreme limits of Lyonesse, where they lay "between the devil and the deep sea," like the Israelites pursued by Pharaoh. The cruel Mordred was close at their heels, rejoicing in the prospect of exterminating the last remnant of Arthur's Round Table, when suddenly the wizard Merlin appeared in his path. The magician raised his hand and summoned the elements to his aid. The earth began to heave and the rocks to split; waters came rushing into[Pg 196] immense fissures and yawning chasms. Mordred and his men turned back horror-stricken, attempting to flee from this upheaval of nature; but the ocean was too quick for them. Where there had been smiling acres of pasture and tillage, valley and moorland, waves were now seething and foaming; there was no refuge to the east or to the west; the breakers overtook them on all sides. But while they were thus overwhelmed in the ruin of Lyonesse, the followers of Arthur stood on land that had been spared. This far-west cluster of hill-summits had been changed into a group of islets; and in this home of refuge that was miraculously left to them, the fugitives settled into peaceful residence, building houses and churches. Such, the story says, is the ancestry of the Scillonians.
All this belongs to the region of romance; history knows nothing of it. Even the name of Scilly is a puzzle, though perhaps the best authorities think that it derives from the widespread tribe of the Silures. Strictly speaking, the name Scilly only attaches to one small islet lying off Bryher, but somehow it has affixed itself to the whole group. Many derive it from silya or selli, meaning conger-eels, a favourite Cornish dish; others suggest the Celtic sulleh, or "sun-rocks," denoting the old sun-worship. It is interesting to note that there is a Sully isle lying off Glamorgan, south of Cardiff, and there may have been some connection between the two names, for Scilly was sometimes spelt Sully; there is also a Scilly in Ireland. The Romans usually called the islands Sillinæ, but Sulpicius Severus used the form Sylinancis, which Sir John Rhys associates with the Silulanus of an inscribed stone at Lydney.[Pg 197] Another name was Silura; Richard of Cirencester wrote of the Sygdilles, "also denominated the Œstromenides and Cassiterides"; the Danes spoke of the Syllingar; and in French charts the isles are "les Sorlingues." The whole question is very difficult, and this is hardly the place in which to discuss it. It is almost certain that the isles cannot have been the Cassiterides, or tin-islands; they present only slight traces of tin-working, and it is far from likely that the tin-workers of Cornwall would have shipped their metal to this isolated spot in order to find a market with foreign traders. It is more probable that the name of Tin Islands was applied by the ancients to the British Isles in general, whose number and extent were little known in those days. Rome seems to have used the isles as a place of banishment and penal settlement, and in days of early Christianity two heretical bishops were exiled here. Early in the tenth century Athelstan made a progress through Cornwall, ostensibly to conquer it as a part of Wessex; and when he reached the high land near the present St. Buryan it is said that he sighted these islands in the distance and was not content till he had visited them. He vowed to build a church on the spot where he then stood if he returned safely from the expedition. The church of St. Buryan stands as a memorial of his fulfilled vow. On the isles themselves he is said to have founded Tresco Abbey, dedicated to St. Nicholas, which became a wealthy religious establishment, though now only a few fragments remain. Later in the same century King Olaf of Norway came hither during one of the marauding cruises that made him a terror of the British shores. It is related that a hermit living at St.[Pg 198] Mary's gave him timely warning of a mutiny among his seamen; Olaf crushed the mutiny, but received a severe wound. He was carried to the monastery at Tresco, and consented to be baptized; after which he became a saint himself, and churches were dedicated to him—there is one such at Exeter. Longfellow has told us of
and he was probably not the only Norse Viking whose keel touched here. Other saints have left their mark on Scilly: Samson of Glamorgan came hither, about the middle of the sixth century, after founding a church near Fowey; he is the same Samson that we find at Guernsey, who afterwards became Bishop of Dol. The island that bears his name, rendered familiar to many delighted readers by Besant's Armorel of Lyonesse, is no longer inhabited, but bears many marks of its former population. Traces of old habitation abound; there are many barrows and one perfect kistvaen. Among other saints, Teilo seems to have been at St. Helen's. St. Agnes, like the parish so named on the mainland, is almost certainly a dedication to the Celtic Ann. It was natural that Tresco should become the ecclesiastical centre of Scilly. The abbey and all the churches of the islands were granted by Henry I. to the monks of Tavistock; at the Dissolution the abbey reverted to the Crown, and passed to the Godolphins, whose name survives at Dolphin Town. It is likely that the private history of the isles was romantic and exciting enough, but there is little to record until the days of the Civil War, when they became a[Pg 199] last refuge of the fugitive Charles II. before his escape to France. In the meantime the Governor, Sir John Grenville, had fortified the isles and held them for the King; they became a centre of active privateering. The Royalist garrison did not limit themselves to attacking Parliamentary vessels; they molested Dutch shipping as well; so that the Admiral, Van Tromp, made an attack on them, but without result. It is said that he parleyed with Grenville, trying to induce that gallant soldier to yield Scilly into Dutch hands; but Grenville was too loyal an Englishman for such treachery—he would rather the Parliament took the isles than that they should become Dutch. It was with no disgrace that he was forced to yield, at last, to such worthy opponents as Blake and Sir George Ascue. In the days of our French wars, a century since, the islands were garrisoned, and became a port of supply for British ships, as well as a rendezvous for vessels waiting convoy. A great deal of smuggling was done here, and it has been said some wrecking; but, here as elsewhere in Cornwall, the lights that were thought to be exposed with such wicked intent were often merely meant as signals to those who were watching for an opportunity to run a cargo. There was little need indeed at Scilly for any artificial increase of wrecks; Nature did her part far too well in this particular, from the disaster to Sir Cloudesley Shovel to that of the Minnehaha in the present year. A small detachment of Royal Artillery and some engineers are stationed here. Beyond this, the islands are practically defenceless, except for the protection of their rough seas, fierce inter-channel currents, and the off-lying deadly fangs of rock.
[Pg 200]The event of chief moment to modern Scilly was certainly the arrival
of Mr. Augustus Smith in 1834. The isles at that time were in a bad
way; the kelp industry had failed, fishing was poor and precarious,
smuggling could not longer be depended on for a living. Previous
"lords of the isles" had been absentees, taking little interest in the
welfare of the inhabitants; and the population had become too large to
support itself. But when Mr. Smith, a Hertfordshire gentleman, became
landlord by purchase, he came to live on his little kingdom, and to
rule as a benevolent autocrat. Just such a rule was needed, for
matters demanded a firm hand. There was some resistance, some kicking,
some difference of opinion between himself and his people; but the
strong will and the firm hand conquered in the end and a better time
dawned for Scilly. The squire sent the boys off to sea and the girls
to service on the mainland; he made new roads, improved the quay, and
even enforced a system of compulsory education. He resided at Tresco
Abbey, where the few remains of the old monastic establishment added
picturesqueness to a modern manor-house, and where he brought the
gardens into very much the state in which we still find them. It was
his wish that their character should be maintained. Tresco, in its
special style, is indeed beautiful. "The Cape geranium, the common
fuchsia, the sweet-scented verbena, and various kinds of myrtles and
veronicas, are grown as hedges to protect the crops. Looking across
Crow Sound from St. Mary's, these hedges are one blaze of colour, and
the air is heavy with their perfume. The Abbey stands in a rocky
valley looking south. The grounds are laid out in a succession of
[Pg 203] and from every nook and crevice rare specimens of cacti, sedums, and mesembryanthemums with their orange and purple bloom sprawl over the rocks and run riot among the borders. In the gardens South American aloes throw up their flowering stalks heavy with aromatic fragrance, 20 feet high, and giant dracænas wave their feathery heads in the balmy breeze. Exotic palms, the bamboo, the sugar-cane, and the cotton plant grow in the open, and tropical mosses and orchids hang from the trees. Outside on the breezy downs one may drink in pure ozone from the Atlantic, and revel in an atmosphere untainted by microbes or bacilli. Wild duck, woodcock, and plover, resting in their migratory flight, crowd the marshes, ponds, and lagoons, and the sea is alive with fish." Such was the Tresco that Mr. Augustus Smith made his home; such it is still in the hands of Mr. Dorrien-Smith. It is certain that when Mr. Smith died in 1872, and was buried at St. Buryan, he left the islands in a far better condition than that in which he had found them; and his memory fully deserves the striking monument of unhewn granite that has been raised to his honour in his island-home.
Industrially, we chiefly think of Scilly in connection with flowers. At one time there was some active ship-building, and Scilly-made boats had an excellent reputation; but steam navigation put an end to this. There was also a very lively business in potatoes, at first almost without competition; but this trade has been hit very hard by the Channel Islands, by foreign imports, and by the crushing cost of freights. Vegetable cargoes cost less from the shores of the Mediterranean than they do from Scilly; the foreigner is given every[Pg 204] advantage in his efforts to undersell the Briton, and the Briton, though fighting at home, fights with one hand tied behind. Fishing at Scilly was long in a precarious state, but is now a little better, owing to the use of steam-drifters. The isles are too far from the markets, but by catching the boat to Penzance the fishermen can now get their fish away in most cases before it has had time to spoil. With mackerel, the most profitable catch, this is very important, as the mackerel so speedily deteriorates; but a good deal of the fishery that takes place off the Scillies is not in the hands of Scillonians—Cornishmen, East Anglians, foreigners, all compete. With regard to flowers Scilly seems more happily placed, though to some extent the same difficulties apply—the distance, the cost of carriage, the competition of the untaxed foreigner. The story has been often told—how, rather more than thirty years since, W. Trevellick, of Rocky Hill, St. Mary's, sent a few bunches of narcissi in a hamper to Covent Garden as a venture, and was astonished at the return they brought him. These were simply "Scilly Whites," which had been growing wild about the cottages without any one hitherto dreaming of their financial possibilities.
The knowledge of a demand soon roused the supply; new species were cultivated, everything was done to ensure early flowering, the more sensitive kinds were protected by wattle-fences and hedges of escalonia or veronica; and from January till May every steamer to the mainland carries tons of blooms. A ton of flowers is something rather spacious; and in the height of the season as many as thirty tons are taken in one boatload. The more severe the weather on the[Pg 205] mainland, the better is the demand. The bulbs are set in narrow fields, to secure their shelter from the winds by thick hedges. As many as two hundred kinds of narcissus, daffodil, and lily are now cultivated. "The beds are renewed every third year. This is necessary to retain the vigour of the plant, as if allowed to remain too long without lifting, the bulbs crowd each other and send up barren and feeble shoots. When the bulbs are lifted they are divided, and any surplus stock either sold or replanted in fresh ground. The beds require very little attention further than being kept free from weeds, and having a top-dressing of stable litter or freshly gathered seaweed. Bulbs will not stand forcing, and are always sturdier when grown in the open." Men, women, and children find employment in the flower-fields, and in the busy time are often engaged from early morning till long after sunset. Picking must be done with great care, the blooms being gathered before they are fully opened or they will not bear carriage. A number are now sent by Parcel Post, as well as in more wholesale method. Within twenty-four hours of being plucked they are exposed in the London markets, or being offered for sale in the streets of large towns by the flower-hawkers. Some even go as far as Scotland. During 1907 as many as 1,000 tons were despatched from St. Mary's Quay, the cost of freight being £6 10s. per ton. Besides paying this heavy charge, the Scillonians have to compete with growers in the south of Cornwall, and even as far eastward as Dorset; while Continental florists can pour their produce into England at a rate that further hampers the home trade.
Things are very different now from what they[Pg 206] were when the mail arrived irregularly from Penzance, and letters were distributed from the window of the one small post-office in St. Mary's. Each of the inhabited isles has now its own postal and telegraph office; and they are also connected with the mainland by telephone, for coastguard purposes. To be at Scilly is no longer to be quite out of the world. There was a spice of romance about the manner in which the first cable to Scilly was laid—or, perhaps we should say, was not laid. By the Act that came into force in 1870 the Government had agreed to buy over on favourable terms all telegraphs that at that time were found in actual existence as working concerns. With a view to large profits, companies sprang into being, hoping to get their wires into working order, so as to be bought over on the appointed day. One such company took the Scilly Isles into its charge—not from any benevolent motives; Scilly had long been praying for telegraphic connection. A cable of the supposed right length was procured and brought to Land's End, where its shore end was fixed, and the vessel bearing it made towards Scilly. Somehow or other the conveyors found themselves five miles south of the Isles with every inch of their cable paid out. Time was precious; it would never do to buoy the end and wait for a fresh supply, and the present poor cable would not bear the strain of picking up. But there was a clever man on board. He cut the cable a few fathoms from the ship, carried its fag-end to St. Mary's, and attached it to an old Morse instrument. Outwardly, things looked all right; there was the cable attached at Land's End, and here was its other end at Scilly. The difficulty was[Pg 207] how to get messages through in time to prove that an established telegraph was working. The operator was equal to the occasion. Shutting himself in the little instrument-room, he manipulated the current and produced messages. Mr. Uren, the late Postmaster of Penzance, says, "I can testify that I saw signals which purported to have passed over the cable, printed in plain characters on the Morse slip; and on the faith of these signals the contractors issued their certificate, and the Company took over the cable. Needless to say, the whole thing was a ruse. The ruptured cable lay dead and idle at the bottom of the Channel—lost past all recovery." It was easy to explain afterwards that the fracture took place naturally; and a new cable was soon laid to the island. Such being one sample of the proceedings at the time, we may imagine that the public paid very dearly when Government took over these telegraphs, which have never yet shown a profit.
It is frequently stated, as a reason for its equable climate, that Scilly lies right in the course of the Gulf Stream. Of course this is a mistake. The true Gulf Stream does not come within a thousand miles of Britain. There is, however, a surface-current of warm water carried north-eastward from hot latitudes, and this materially affects not only Scilly, but the entire western coast. Although so mild, the climate is dry and bracing; there are no unwholesome damps. Longevity is the rule on the islands, and the single doctor has little to do beyond assisting sturdy young Scillonians on their entrance into the world. At the capital, St. Mary's, there are shops, banks, and hotels, with a public hall, a modern[Pg 208] church, and of course a fair supply of the chapels that are so dear to these fervent Nonconformists. On Garrison Hill is a fine promenade, close to Star Castle, which was erected by Francis Godolphin, Lord-Lieutenant of Cornwall in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The naval importance of Scilly was fully realised in those days. There is a Cromwellian fort at Tresco, on a narrow rock jutting into the sea. Prehistoric relics are too numerous to be mentioned here in detail, and equally numerous are traces of shipwreck. In Tresco Gardens there is one terrace devoted entirely to the figure-heads of vessels that have been cast on these shores. Almost every yard of the isles has its own tale of wreck; and in spite of the lighthouses (the Bishop, the Round Island, St. Agnes, and St. Mary's) navigators have still a lively dread of the Scillies, especially in times of fog. Two lifeboats are maintained here, manned by a dauntless crew; but it is very rarely that they can be of any use; the area to be covered is far too large. The story of the wrecks has been admirably told in the Homeland Handbook to the Scillies, a little work that also contains much excellent detail about their natural history. There is one thing that the tale of wrecks should strongly impress on the visitor. Unless he knows the locality perfectly, even a skilled boatman should be wary of rowing or sailing in and out among the isles, or of navigating around them. They are a network of sunken crags, reefs, and currents; even in calm weather there is usually more swell than appears, and the smoothest-looking water may be racing with deadly velocity. The force of an immense ocean is behind these waves. The Scillonians themselves are wonderful[Pg 209] sailors and pilots; under their guidance and in fitting seasons most of the outlying rocks can safely be visited. Perhaps the best view of the entire archipelago may be gained from the summit of Menavawr (the "great rock"), though its position is by no means central; its height is about 147 feet. It is a grand spot for seabirds—razor-bills, puffins, guillemots, shags, and gulls. Annet, one of the largest of the uninhabited isles, is positively honeycombed with birds' nests, and at times it is ablaze with colour of the sea-pink and thrift. At Rosevear gulls chiefly predominate, and at Rosevean the cormorants; Gorregan is perhaps the best spot for seeing kittiwakes, while shags often colonise numerously at Maledgan. In the clear water below these crags fish are so plentiful that whoever takes the trouble to cast is likely to reap a rich reward.
But he who would fall in love with the Scillies before seeing them had better read the first half of Besant's Armorel of Lyonesse. The novelist was at his best when he wrote these pages. There is also good literary use of the islands in Mr. Mason's Watchers. It is possible that the first arrival will disappoint; it should not be expected that Scilly can compare with the magnificent coast scenery of the mainland, or with the verdant luxuriance of richer soils. But the spot has its own special charm of effect and atmosphere, which it may not surrender at once to its casual guest. The visitor must wait till he has seen it in ruddy dawns and purple or golden sunsets, under chequered skies, or wreathed in mysteries of sea-fog. He may then come to believe that when saints of old legend touched on Islands of the Blest, situate somewhere westward of Europe, they may really have simply[Pg 210] drifted on Scilly, and have found its loveliness like that of the "island-valley of Avilion." Some small concession must be made to actuality. Large portions of the isles are treeless down, salt-marshes, sand-hills; we must not look for the wondrous native vegetation of an English country-side. Sub-tropic plants cannot wholly compensate for such a lack. But if trees are scarce, plants like the fuchsia grow to tree-like luxuriance; there is a rich abundance of ferns, while both the land and the marine flora are very rich. There is much to come for, and those who come must be willing to brave a passage that may be exceedingly unpleasant. When Dr. Benson, then Bishop of Truro, and afterwards Archbishop, paid his single visit to the Scillies, his episcopal dignity was entirely overwhelmed by the direst woes of sea-sickness. On landing, he is reported to have said that before he started he feared he would be drowned; when half-way across he prayed that he might be; and now his one thought was how in the world should he get back again.
FROM LAND'S END TO ZENNOR
The western promontory of granite to which we give the name of Land's End is not the grandest piece of coast in these parts; but it has the prestige of a deep sentiment attaching to it, and there is no other spot in England that draws visitors with such a powerful attraction. In one sense the Scillies are the true Land's End, beyond which the deeper gulfs of ocean lie; and, again, there is another land's end at the Lizard, the southernmost point of England, and yet another at Lowestoft, the most easterly. But Lowestoft looks towards the Teutonic Continent, and the Lizard towards what we may call the Latin; both remain European in their outlook. Land's End has a different attitude; it looks westward, and the migratory instinct of European races has ever taken them towards the West. It is the Bolerion of Ptolemy, the Bolerium of Roman writers, the Penwith of the Celts. Adding a Saxon affix, Simeon of Durham named it Penwithsteort, the "tail of Penwith." There is some doubt about the true meaning of Penwith; Mr. Baring-Gould gives it as "headland of blood," which it might well be as the last battle-ground of a defeated people; another interpretation says the "wooded[Pg 212] headland." To speak of it as wooded now seems inappropriate, though we cannot forget the submerged trees of Mount's Bay, nor can we say what might have been beyond when the point reached farther westward. But it is as the last land in England that we cross this windy moorland to reach the sea; and beyond, visible on days of rare clearness, lie the Fortunate Isles of our dreams. Many a pilgrimage is made through the length of Cornwall for this sole purpose—to stand here at the dividing point of two channels, the meeting of two seas, the Titanic outermost gateway that confronts the fury or the rough sport of the ocean gods. The visitors come by car-loads from Penzance or from St. Ives; not only during the summer season but throughout the year—there are always some who wish to see Land's End. They often bring the vaguest ideas of what the sight will be; our visions of Land's End before we see it are often dim, immense, mystical. Our dreams turn westward, to the land of the setting sun—to the great ocean of the unknown that hems us in, beyond which lie the promise, the golden hope, that have lured us onward from childhood, through disappointment and failure and the bitter sorrow of loss—
And so we come to the land's end—the end that is also a beginning.
When Tennyson came hither he saw a funeral somewhere near, and he has
the brief note, "Land's End and Life's End." The sun had just set in a
great yellow flare. There is no spot where sunsets seem more pregnant
[Pg 215] meaning than here, where winds are more haunted by crying ghosts, where there is a deeper significance in the "murmurs and scents of the infinite sea."
But we must come to Land's End in the right mood—with sentiment and inner vision, certainly, but without unrealisable expectations of a mighty gigantic headland, an abrupt tremendous precipice. We shall need the inner vision to contend with some jarring aspects of the reality, which are naturally more aggressive if we come during the holiday season. For the Land's End is a show-place, and we know what that entails. There is a large modern hotel here, just as we find similar edifices in some of the lovely solitudes of the Lizard and confronting the very castle of Arthur at Tintagel. Being there, we must take them philosophically—perhaps even make use of them. The cottage once boasting in the name of the "First and Last House in England" must now take a second place. There are some other aspects of even more definite vulgarisation—the presence of the tripper with his halfpenny newspaper, his bananas, and his mineral waters; there is also too much building here, and the prospect of more. Mr. W. H. Hudson makes an appeal for a national fund that shall buy Land's End and sweep away much of this. He says: "The buildings which now deform the place, the unneeded hotels, with stables, shanties, zinc bungalows sprawling over the cliff, and the ugly big and little houses could be cleared away, leaving only the ancient village of Sennen, the old farmhouses, the coastguard and Trinity House stations, and the old fishing hamlet under the cliff." It is a dream that should not be impossible[Pg 216] to realise. But the visitor who stays here after sundown, when the throng has departed, can to some extent realise it for himself. When the dusk of nightfall has veiled the defacements and deformities, he can stay on this ultimate headland alone with the immemorial rocks, the whispering wind, the brooding sea, greeted by the lights of the Wolf and the Longships, with a far twinkle from the Scillies. To the south the skies are searched by the great light of the Lizard. This, indeed, is a vision of peaceful intensity, but there are other times when there is no peace here—when winds buffet the barren downs and waves crash furiously on the caverned crags, when the sentinel rocks of the old country are a horror of wreck and death. Of such a scene it would be more easy to say too much than too little. Even Ruskin, when he attempted to describe Land's End seas in his long convoluted sentences, failed to do anything but give a series of phrases and figures that the mind follows with weariness. Such things must be sketched vividly and briefly, or language only betrays its own limitations.
The rocks to which we immediately apply the name Land's End are only about 60 feet above sea-level; there are many higher, even in the near neighbourhood, and there are some more striking. Various fanciful, and for the most part foolish, names have been applied to them, which need not here be repeated. Both here and at the finer rock of Pordenack, a little southward, the rock-formations somewhat resemble those of the Giants' Causeway in appearance. But the noblest cliff of all on this western promontory is that of Tolpedn-Penwith, to reach which we have to pass Nanjisal Cove. Its name, the "holed headland of[Pg 217] Penwith," refers to a deep cleft or fissure, which can be explored from the sea when tide and weather permit. Part of this fine bluff is known as the Chair Ladder, and has traditions of a witch, Madge Figgy, who used to take flight with her comrades from this magnificent point, and here would shriek her incantations above the roar of wind and waters. The spot was certainly well chosen. There are some hidden crags, and some that are not hidden, lying off Land's End, such as the Armed Knight, the Irish Lady, and Enys Dodman, which is pierced by a grand natural arch. Rather more than a mile out is a cluster of islets, on one of which, Carn Brâs, stands the Longships lighthouse, built in 1883 to replace one that had been privately erected; it has an occulting light of over seven hundred candle-power, visible at 16 miles. The lantern has sometimes been shattered by the force of the seas, and the tower rocks so violently that on one occasion one of the keepers went mad with terror and shot himself. When a boat had been signalled and managed to approach, the supposed corpse was slung down to it, and a fisherman accidentally touching the wound, the man revived. The Wolf light is about seven miles out, erected with immense labour and cost on a most perilous reef of rocks. Both lighthouses are often quite isolated by stress of weather.
Immediately north of Land's End is the truly charming little Sennen
Cove, with its church-town nearly a mile inland. Formerly its beach
was haunted by pixies and mermaids; now, in the summer, it becomes
quite fashionable with the presence of those who are lucky enough to
get lodgings. There is quite a competition to obtain[Pg 218] rooms at this
quaint little fishing hamlet; those who love it best prefer it when it
is left more completely to the gulls and the fisher-folk. Most of the
fishing here is still done by the seine-net, and there is still
"huing" from the cliffs to announce the arrival of the pilchards.
Sennen can boast a new breakwater, and every scrap of harbourage is
often badly needed. The church is dedicated to a saint who seems more
real than some that we meet with in Cornwall. Senan or Senanus was an
Irishman who came here some time in the sixth century. It is related
of him that one day his mother was changing houses, and the youthful
saint declined to help her; she was angry and poured some water over
him. Even a saint may dislike house-moving or spring-cleaning.
However, in this case the domestic articles very considerately moved
of themselves. Another thing told of him is, that when being carried
to burial he sat up on his bier and gave orders that his feast-day
should be March the 8th, not the 1st. This foolish tale must have been
invented later by some priest who wanted to change the festival. The
church has a good tower built of massive granite blocks, and there is
a fine granite cross in the new churchyard. Within, there is a curious
mutilated alabaster figure, apparently a Virgin and Child, and there
is an old mural painting. At the rock known as the Table Mên there is
a tradition of a great battle between Arthur and some Danish invaders,
and there is a conjecture of Danes having settled in this district.
The wizard Merlin is said to have foretold another landing of Norsemen
here, to precede the end of the world; perhaps he meant the Germans.
In the past Sennen had a bad[Pg 219]
[Pg 221] name for smuggling and piracy. Curving northward is the beautiful and partially sheltered Whitesand Bay, which has memories of some historic landings—Athelstan, Stephen, John, Perkin Warbeck; but the coast is very dangerous, and is rendered more so by off-lying rocks such as the Brisons. It is singular that Cornwall should begin and end with a Whitesand Bay. Inland rises the height of Chapel Carn Brea, which must be distinguished from the Carn Brea of Redruth; it reaches about 660 feet, but Bartinney, or Bartine, is still higher. Both are crowded with prehistoric remains, but Carn Brea is the more interesting in this respect, for its cairn, whose lower layer held the bones of some Stone Age chieftain, was crowned at the summit by a Christian oratory. It is a great pity that this chapel, probably one of the oldest religious structures in the kingdom, was not preserved. Above the Stone Age burial was a dolmen of the Bronze Age; and above this were layers that told of Romano-British civilisation. But the antiquities of this district really need a book to themselves. When we reach Cape Cornwall we are in the immediate neighbourhood of mining again, and the fine headland itself is crowned with an old mine-stack. Its formation gives Cape Cornwall the appearance of reaching even farther westward than Land's End, and the view from its summit is grandly impressive. This is the parish of St. Just-in-Penwith (so called to distinguish it from St. Just-in-Roseland). Mr. Hind thinks St. Just the dreariest town in Cornwall, and its best friends do not call it lovely; but there is a rather interesting Perpendicular church, with some earlier relics, and there is also a plân-an-guare,[Pg 222] like the Planguary of Redruth—an old-world amphitheatre, first used for sports and later for miracle-plays. The name means "place of play." It is now used for religious and other meetings. The moorland country here is barren and windswept, with disfigurations from mining; and the dismal summit of Cam Kenidzhek is haunted with queer traditions. This is the "carn of the howling wind" or the "hooting cairn," covered with traces of the immemorial past and feared in old days as a special domain of evil spirits. About a mile westward is the old Botallack mine, perhaps the most famous in all Cornwall, which reached to the sea and considerably beyond; it was long closed, and the decayed buildings had quite a romantic appearance on the wild, bare cliffs, but the revival of Cornish minings has brought a new activity. The old workings run for about a third of a mile below the sea, and it is said that the pitmen were often terrified by the roar of the waves above their heads, dashing the loose boulders of rock. But the great Levant mine, a little over a mile northward, runs for about a mile beneath the sea, being worked for tin, copper, and arsenic. Once, not many years since, the sea actually broke into its workings. This is mining, indeed, in all its grimmest reality, and the arsenic-working in particular has a bad effect on the miners. But it earns dividends. Pages might be written about the old miners' superstitions, but even underground these things have died out; even the perils are now lessened by modern science. Yet at Wheal Owles, in 1892, eighteen men lost their lives through the flooding of the workings.
Just beyond Levant is Pendeen Village, with a[Pg 223] new lighthouse on the coast. At Pendeen manor-house, now a farm, was born the eminent Cornish antiquary, Dr. Borlase, in 1695. For his age he was a tolerably enlightened archæologist, and his works on local antiquities have supplied the basis of much subsequent writing; but of course they present pitfalls for the unwary. He was Vicar of Ludgvan for fifty years. The curious fogou of Pendeen Vau was actually in the garden of his birthplace, so that he had an early stimulus to research. Pendeen has now its own church, which is of remarkable interest although quite recent. In plan and exterior it is modelled on Iona Cathedral, and was built by the Cornish missioner, Robert Aitken, who influenced his people so powerfully that the granite was both given and wrought free of cost. A castellated wall with a fine arched gateway surrounds the building, which proves that under the right impulse the people may still become church-builders—and will still attend church. Eastward of Pendeen is the church town of Morvah. This tract of coast from Land's End to St. Ives has perhaps been neglected by visitors and writers, only one spot, and that not the finest, Gurnard's Head, being really familiar. The stony barrenness of the inland country is compensated by a real grandeur of coast-line, invisible from the road and therefore often left unexplored. Morvah has traditions of mermaids, with some idea that its name may be a corruption of the Breton morverch; but we must probably seek some other derivation. Tonkin says the name simply means locus maritimus. Stories of mermaids are common enough, or rather were so, along this north shore, doubtless explained by the seals that were[Pg 224] once frequent, and would be still if not shot off by the usual insensate "man with a gun." The small church is Perpendicular, with a pinnacled tower. In this parish is the magnificent Chûn or Chywoon castle, on a hill about 700 feet high. This western extremity of Cornwall was guarded by a line of hill forts, of which this Chûn, if not the most powerful, remains in best preservation. We cannot speak with decision as to the date of their earliest use, but this stronghold of Chûn was almost certainly utilised as late as the fifth or sixth centuries, and may have seen fighting during the days when Irish invaders, even if they came as travelling saints, were not always welcomed. The first and second vallum can be traced with their ditches, and there was doubtless an inner wall. The masonry is of different character from that cyclopean piling of boulders which was all the earlier men had known of building. Of such cyclopean style, though it is a small specimen, is the Chûn cromlech, standing near. In the near neighbourhood are the Mên Scryfa (the inscribed stone), the Mên-an-tol (the holed stone), the Nine Maidens, the Lanyon Quoit,[A] the huts of Bosporthennis, the Mulfra Quoit—all being monoliths, or other survivals of wonderful interest, with the strange fascination of their mystery. Cairns, barrows, sepulchral monuments, we can understand, for death and burial are ever with us; but what was the meaning of these circles and standing-stones—who built them, and for what purpose? They are interpreted astronomically now—the latest, perhaps the correct, theory. The earliest peoples who brought any culture to these shores came from the East,[Pg 225] and we cannot tell what profundities of astrologic science they carried with them. It is generally acknowledged that when the rough Teutons came they encountered and checked a mental culture higher than their own. But we can only conjecture dimly, and leave the controversialists to wrangle.
On the moorland beyond Morvah rises the tor of Carn Galva, standing stern and solitary like a little patch of Dartmoor. On the coast is the grand sheer cliff of Bosigran, the western protection of Porthmeor Cove, with traces of prehistoric fortification; it is a noble bluff of granite, with a drop of 400 feet. Puffins nest in the crevices below. A little westward are the pinnacled rocks of Rosemergy, covered with lichens and in parts clad in ivy; the neighbouring turfy slopes are fragrant with heather and gorse. Little streams filter their way from the moorland to the coves, reaching the sea through hollows rich with ferns—there are still rare ferns to be found in the more inaccessible shelters. Just beyond is another Treryn Dinas, like that of the Logan near St. Levan; but this Treen is better known as the Gurnard's Head. It is a favourite show-place, winning perhaps more attention than it deserves in comparison with other places near it; but the rocky and turf-clad headland, with its traces of a far-distant past, is really very beautiful, reaching like a couchant beast into the waves that are sometimes of the purest blue, sometimes white with seething foam. There was an old chapel on the neck of the promontory, and near are remains of some rude granite huts. The popularity of the place has brought a modern hotel.
[Pg 226]The cove of Porthglaze with its strange turret-like rocks, the coves of Pendour and Zennor—all these are beautiful, and cannot be seen from the road; the visitor must explore them by scrambling along the cliffs, crossing summits and gorges and gullies, not deterred by difficulties that to a careless or nervous climber might become dangers. Only so can this fine coast be fully known.
In its situation the village of Zennor is like some of the wild, stony
parts of Ireland; but the cottages are too comfortable to be Irish.
Close to it stretches the stone-strewn moorland. Everywhere we have
proof of the abundance of stone, the scarcity of wood; hedges are of
rough boulders and pebbles; stiles are the charming Cornish
"gridirons"; there is a stream crossed by rugged little stone bridges.
The church is of the thirteenth century, restored in 1890; of course
there had been earlier restoration, for the tower is Perpendicular.
The dedication is to St. Sinara or Senar, a virgin probably of Irish
origin; but we know nothing about her, and little of the early
building itself, except that in 1270 the Bishop of Exeter granted it
to his college at Glassiney near Penryn, and the living seems to have
been starved. Zennor, indeed, was formerly known as the place "where
the cow ate the bell-rope," a sportive neighbourly reference to its
poverty and infertility. But the most famous feature of the church is
its carved mermaid. There are two good old bench-ends, now forming the
sides of sedilia, and of these the mermaid is one, represented with
comb, mirror, and fishy tail. The story tells that the men of Zennor
were very fine singers in the old days, and one, a squire's son who
sang in the choir, had[Pg 227]
[Pg 229] so beautiful a voice that this mermaid came all the way up from the sea-beach to hear him, Sunday after Sunday. How she did it is not explained; but at last her importunity prevailed, and the youth went away with her. She had lured him to the
The dial on the tower also bears the figure of a mermaid. There must have been some origin for such a legend; perhaps some youth was drowned off the coast, and it was imagined that a mermaid had beguiled him away. The same sea-lady appears to have been heard of later, for it is said that "a long time after, a vessel lying in Pendour Cove cast her anchor, and in some way barred the access to a mermaid's dwelling. She rose up from the sea and politely asked the captain to remove it. He landed at Zennor, and related his adventure, and those who heard it agreed that this must have been the lady who decoyed away the poor young man." But why poor? The connection may have been a happy one; the mermaid was evidently courteous in manners, though her representation on the Zennor bench-end is not exactly beautiful. Zennor Hill or Beacon rises to 750 feet in desolate grandeur, and on this high land, often haunted by foxes and badgers, is the great Zennor Quoit or cromlech, thought to be the finest in Britain. Its slab, 18 feet in length, has slipped from its rest. It is an immense titanic monument, whose story no one[Pg 230] can tell us; yet in this district these things are common, and utterly disregarded by the countryfolk. They have forgotten even the tales of the giants who used to play "bob-buttons" with them. He who wanders among these undated relics and wild stony moorlands may easily go astray; the cairns and tors are very like each other, and paths are few. Sometimes also there are blinding mists or fierce winds heavy with rain; at other times a glamour of loveliness steals over the desolate wastes, sunsets wrap them in atmospheric glory, or dreamy noons brood over them with deep calm. Between Zennor and St. Ives is the parish of Towednack, where they tried to build a hedge around the cuckoo. It is just a symbol of our craving to keep the springtime ever with us; the hedge was not high enough, and the cuckoo flew out at the top. The name of the hamlet was formerly Towynnok, which evidently embodies a dedication to St. Winnoc—probably the same saint as we find at Landewednack. The low, sturdy little tower has no pinnacles; when the folk were building it the devil came each night and pulled them down. But this parish does not touch the sea at all. Off the coast are the rocks known as the Carracks, beyond which we pass Penynys and Hor Point, and so reach the "Island" of St. Ives.
Some years since, when the average man spoke of Cornwall he was
thinking of St. Ives—and perhaps of Tintagel. These were the two
places whose names had taken the public imagination, the one being
typical of the Duchy's romance, the other of her everyday life. But in
those days love of the picturesque had not quite overcome a dislike of
fishy and other smells. Walter White frankly told his readers not to
disenchant themselves by going into St. Ives; he recommended admiring
it from a distance. The town's name was familiar in popular songs, and
it was known as a prosperous fishing-port. Then the artists arrived,
and—perhaps more important still—a much improved railway service. At
the present day the reputation of St. Ives is assured, yet it is
certainly less popular as a holiday resort than some other places in
Cornwall; those who come here usually prefer the suburban district of
Carbis Bay. Newquay has attained an easy supremacy in popularity; Bude
is following in its wake; while South Cornwall has Looe and Fowey, the
Lizard, Penzance, with numerous small coast-side hamlets for the
delight of quieter guests. But St. Ives maintains its position as a
typically Cornish town; its past is[Pg 232] thoroughly interesting, and its
records ample; it is a striking and in some respects fascinating link
between the bygone and the present. Old St. Ives seems to derive
entirely from the little headland known as The Island. It was just one
of those places that the ancients loved to fortify, almost insular and
easily defensible. The dry-stone defence known as the Two Edges was
probably constructed by men of the Stone Age; it is certainly
pre-Celtic. Other strongholds of the same date may be found at
Gurnard's Head, at Trencrom, and at Bosigran, to name only a few. The
Island may have been really insular when first fortified. There are
remains of an old chapel of St. Nicholas on the point of the headland,
and it is difficult to say whether this must be associated with the
name of St. Ia; there is also an oratory of St. Leonard, known as "the
Chapel," close to the stone pier. We may fairly conclude that both
these are later than the cell of St. Ia, which was on the site of the
present parish church. This saintly woman must on no account be
connected with the dedications of the Cornish St. Ive (pronounced Eve)
near Liskeard, or the St. Ives of Huntingdonshire. She appears to have
reached Cornwall late in the fifth century, coming in the company of
the Irish prince, Fingar, who renounced his kingdom in order to preach
Christianity. Fingar is claimed as a convert of St. Patrick. St. Ia is
said to have floated to the Island, anciently named Pendinas, on a
miraculous leaf, by which is clearly meant a coracle of the kind still
to be seen in parts of Wales. Her comrades went on to evangelise other
parts of Cornwall, but she remained here, living in a beehive-hut of
the style called "Picts' houses," and doing her best to soften[Pg 233]
[Pg 235] the faith and manners of the rude inhabitants. It is said that she was martyred by a local king or chieftain, Tewdrig, or Theodoric. She resided here long enough to impress her name permanently on the locality, whose earliest Latin name that we can trace was Parochia Sancte Ye, while the Cornish name was Porthia. The existing church stands on the site of an oratory which was either her own foundation or was erected soon after her death by loving disciples. Till 1409 St. Ives, being only a small fishing hamlet, belonged ecclesiastically to Lelant; but at that date the people petitioned the Pope, through their lord of the manor, Champernowne, that they might have a separate church: "As it had pleased the Almighty God to increase the town inhabitants and to send down temporal blessings most plentifully among them, the people, to show their thankfulness for the same, did resolve to build a chapel in St. Ives, they having no house in the town wherein public prayers and Divine service was read, but were forced every Sunday and holy day to go to Lelant church, being three miles distant from St. Ives, to hear the same, and likewise to carry their children to Lelant to be baptized, their dead to be there buried, to go there to be married, and their women to be churched." In response to this appeal the Pope directed the Bishop of Exeter that the chapels both of St. Ives and Towednack should be made parochial, "with font and cemetery, but dependent on Lelant." The people set to work at once, bringing the necessary granite from Zennor by boat, roads being then quite unfit for transit of heavy burdens. Completed in 1426, the church consists of chancel, nave, and two aisles, with a [Pg 236]tower 119 feet in height. The roofs are of decorated wagon-form, with figures of angels at the springings of the braces. The Trenwith aisle was added a little later. In the original church was an organ, very fine for those days; it was destroyed in 1648 by the Puritans. There are some very good bench-end carvings, not all in their original position, and there is a Trenwith brass with the figure of St. Michael ludicrously restored. Many other objects of interest may be noted, both within and without the church, including a fifteenth-century cross in the churchyard, thrown down by the Puritans and re-erected.
Historically, St. Ives has played no great part, but what may be called its domestic annals are singularly varied and full. The chief events that can be called historical are a landing of the French at Porthminster during the reign of Henry VI., and the anchoring of Perkin Warbeck in St. Ives Bay, in 1497, when he was proclaimed as Richard IV. St. Ives was also concerned in the Western Rebellion of 1549, when the Cornishmen rose on behalf of their ancient religion. There was a question of language also, as well as of faith, as we may see from the articles of complaint:—
"We will not receyue the new Servyce, because it is but lyke a Christmasse game, but we wyll have our olde Servyce of Mattens, masse, evensong and procession in Latten as it was before. And so we the Cornyshe men, whereof certen of us understa'de no Englysh, utterly refuse this newe Englysh.... We wyll have holy bread and holy water made every Sundaye; Palmes and ashes at the times accustomed; Images to be set up again in every church, and all other aunceint olde Ceremonyes used heretofore by our Mother the Holy Church. Item we wyll have everye preacher in his sermon and every Pryest at his masse, praye specially by name for the soules in purgatory as owre forefathers dyd."
[Pg 237]This rising, which began in Devonshire, rapidly spread throughout Cornwall; it was, indeed, the fiercest and most serious of all the risings against an enforced Reformation. It ended in disaster; many Cornishmen were killed either in the field or by hanging afterwards; among whom was John Payne, mayor or portreeve of St. Ives. Of the religious aspect of the quarrel nothing need be said; but it is certain that the compulsory introduction of the English Bible and Prayer Book proved the death-blow of the Cornish language. It did not die at once, but it speedily began to languish, and two centuries later was practically extinct. During the Civil War St. Ives sided with the Parliament, and its church, therefore, does not contain the letter of thanks from King Charles that is so commonly seen in Cornish churches. The little town was always strong in local patriotism, and sturdily nursed its own interests as a fishing port; yet a study of its Borough Accounts proves that it could be generous at times, and these accounts are such delightful reading that a few extracts must be quoted. They begin with the year 1573; the quaintness of diction and the "indifferent spelling" add piquancy and remoteness to some of the entries.
Many of these have to do with expenses towards the keep of foundlings, burying of the dead by the parish, and other charities; thus, a very few years from the commencement, we have:—
"Pd. Eliz: Rodger to keepe a base childe founde by the p'rishe and for half of a pecke of blye, XVIIId.
"Pd. Alce caraway who releeveth certaine children of the parishe, VId.
"Pd. a poore man of Morestowe whose house was burnte and his wiefe distracted of her witts, XIId."
[Pg 238]The charitable doings of these good St. Ives folk were evidently very numerous and very varied; but these entries are not all of almsgiving. Thus, in the same year as above, we have the following:—
"Easter Quarter. Impmis pd. for two dele boordes to make a newe seate to the vicar, IIId."
"Item paid to the younge felow which is our clarke, IIs."
Many of the entries have to do with licensed beggars, or shipwrecked seamen, or the raising moneys for the deliverance of foreign captives; but the variety is endless and delightful. Thus, after reading of a shilling bestowed upon "a man of Irelande that had his barke stollen by pirats," we have the record of a similar sum paid "ffor a paire of breches ffor John the lasar." This John seems to have cost the parish sundry amounts for his breeches and jerkins; but in 1596 it would appear that St. Ives was quit of him, if it is he to whom the following refers:—
"Pd. to a cople of women that shrowded ye lazar John Nyclis: and ther breake faste yt tyme, VIs."
Immediately after this eightpence is given "to a pore lame sowldior hurted in the quenes servyce in yrland having a lisens." The town could make merry at times, as we find when sixpence was paid "for a pynte of Secke when our burgesse Mr. Harrys was chosen"—which is very moderate compared with Falstaff's payments for the same liquor. In 1626 we read that special harbour-dues[Pg 239] were levied to pay for the repair of the "peere or Kay of St. Ives"; in which dues there were special charges for English vessels and somewhat higher for "Alients." The writer is of divided mind as to the spelling of pier, for he passes from "peere" to "peor." It is interesting to note that "All alients for roulinge on the sande te paye pr tonn IId."; which does not refer to any merry sport of rolling on the sands, as sometimes practised by exhilarated visitors, but to rolling of fish. It was doubtless a useful provision that "noe garbadge of ffishe or stinkinge ffishe should be cast above full sea marke att neape tide on the sande." What with the queer wordings and the defective punctuation, it is sometimes difficult to fathom the exact purport of entries. Thus, about the year 1629, we have mention of two shillings given "to a poore distressed scholler that came to our towne from Germanie the 27th of ffebruarie to seeke passadge home from Ireland." Query, where was the poor "scholler" going? In 1640 the famous silver wishing-cup was presented to the town by Sir Francis Basset, being about a foot in height; it was really drunk from in old corporation festivities, but the wine was latterly dipped from it in a ladle. It is inscribed as follows:—
A little later we read of sixpence paid "to one that did whipp the mayde that would drowne herself"; from which it is clear that the town[Pg 240] did not encourage suicide. Just below is, "Item, more to six distressed Bristoll men their vessell being taken att Sea, 4s. 6d." There are many such entries, of which St. Ives may well be proud.
But these accounts also bear record of less peaceful proceedings. Under the year 1681, after an entry of four shillings received from "ffower offendors for their breach of the Saboth," we have a chronicling of disturbance caused by St. Just men, and a fine on them "for their riotous assembling into the Borough." A little later is the item: "Pd constables to putt St. Just men to Lanceston, £6 9s. 6d."; also 5s. "paid Mr. Robinson to dress their wounds." It is pleasant to think that the St. Ives folk were such good Christians. In 1685 the borough paid some attention to the condition of its drum: "Pd Henry Anthony for new making the Towne drum 2s. 6d." Later, there is a payment to Henry Barber for beating the same. Immediately after there is much to-do about some sugar stolen by a man named Teage; sugar was a costly luxury in those days. One of the items is this: "Spent by Mr. Trentwith, Mr. Robinson, my self & Mr. May, at St. Earth, Gwynear, Camborne and other places to discover the Sugar stollen by Teage being out two dayes, £1 3s. 6d." It is amusing to notice how the writer's modesty held good until he had recorded the names of Trentwith and Robinson, after which it rebelled and insisted on taking precedence of Mr. May. This Teage business caused a deal of trouble, and many witnesses were carried to Launceston as evidence against him, at great expense; yet the borough did not scruple, shortly afterwards, to expend a shilling "for poynts to whip the boyes veiweinge the parish bounds,"[Pg 241] and another shilling for the drummer on that occasion. In 1681 there was trouble with the vicar who served the three parishes of St. Ives, Towednack, and Lelant, about the payment of tithes; the vicar seems to have been non-resident, and often attended to his pastoral duties at inconvenient times. In 1690 King William's victory at the Boyne cost the borough a pound in merry-making, to which we may add the following entry of 5s. 6d. "for a Tar Barrell and Syder." In the same year an itinerant beggar seems to have won alms from the authorities under a false ticket:—
"Given ffrancis Browne by consent who brought a Let pas by that name, but afterwards his name apeared to bee ffrancis Jackson 1s. 0d.
"Pd. the Cryer to whip him and for thongs 1s. 1d."
Under the year 1693 we are reminded of perils, now happily impossible, that then lurked around these shores. There is an entry of half-a-crown paid to William Thomas "for his labour to goe to ffalmouth to give an account that two ffrench privateers lay in our bay"; and a little later another half-crown was given "to ffower poore boyes that were taken by a ffrench privateer." The beginning of 1698 seems to have been especially devoted to charities; we have record of sums given to two distressed men and their children whose houses were burnt; to two poor Irishmen cast away at Zennor; to a poor traveller and his wife, a seaman who had lost his hand, a captain who had lost all his goods by wreck, and a poor disbanded soldier. Also, four shillings given to two "poore soldiers which came from Silly." It has generally been understood that Scillonians[Pg 242] object to their name being spelt in this manner; yet we have a later entry of expense "examining the Silly Soldiers." One is tempted to quote much further from these alluring records, and they certainly assist us considerably in understanding the old-time ways of living, as we ramble about the tortuous byways, nooks and corners of St. Ives. In the letter the accounts are strictly local; in the spirit they may be taken as typical of almost any West Country town of that date, and they have the frequent touch of humanity that relieves bare figures from monotony.
In connection with the flourishing condition of Methodism at St. Ives, it is important to remember that John Wesley paid the town as many as twenty-seven visits, beginning in 1743 and ending in 1789. There was already a society of his followers here when he began his visits, but they were very unpopular with the majority of the townsfolk, who accused them of sympathy with the Pope and the Jacobites. Wesley's own reception was very mixed; he received some countenance and a good deal of mob violence. Not only the vicar and curate of St. Ives were against him, but he had a still more formidable opponent in Dr. Borlase, the antiquarian vicar of Ludgvan. When a parishioner tried to persuade Borlase that Wesley's preaching was doing good, he exclaimed, "Get along; you are a parcel of mad, crazy-headed fellows." Yet two years after his first visit Wesley was able to describe St. Ives as "the most still and honourable post (so are the times changed) which we have in Cornwall." But when he paid his fifth visit, in 1750, it is clear that opposition had not died out. He tells us that: "Having first sent to the mayor to inquire if it would be offensive to[Pg 243] him, I preached in the evening not far from the market-place. There was a vast concourse of people, very few of the adult inhabitants of the town being wanting. I had gone through two-thirds of my discourse, to which the whole audience was deeply attentive, when Mr. S. sent his man to ride his horse to and fro through the midst of the congregation. Some of the chief men in the town bade me go on, and said no man should hinder me, but I judged it better to retire to the room." We may be sure it was no personal shrinking, but a regard for the public peace, that caused the preacher's decision. Twenty years later he wrote: "Here God has made all our enemies to be at peace with us, so that I might have preached in any part of the town. But I rather chose a meadow, where such as would might sit down, either on the grass or on the hedges—so the Cornish term their broad stone walls, which are usually covered with grass." Of his last visit he says that "well-nigh all the town attended, and with all possible seriousness. Surely forty years' labour has not been in vain here." The numberless meeting-houses and Bethels throughout Cornwall bear at least one form of testimony to the enduring fruits of that "forty years' labour."
There are other things besides Methodists at St. Ives; there are painters and pilchards. The colony of artists here is almost as famous as that of Newlyn, and there are at least sixty different studios. Pictures from St. Ives have won world-wide fame; in fact, artistically, Cornwall would have long since become stale were it not for its inexhaustible charm. The painters bring something of a Latin Quarter element with them, and are by no means limited to British in nationality.[Pg 244] Mr. Stanhope Forbes says: "I remember finding in a house at St. Ives where I was calling, four painters of four different nationalities. In that town Zorn, the well-known Swedish artist, painted his first oil picture, which now hangs in the Luxembourg, and for it his palette was set by an equally celebrated American painter who at that time resided there."
The studios are specially thronged during the winter months, as the climate allows much open-air work; in the summer many of the painters fly to other hunting-fields, leaving Cornwall to the tourist. The Cornish have grown accustomed to the painters by this time, and cease to regard them with wondering curiosity; they are recognised as having distinct local uses. Many of the pictures now displayed in exhibitions bespeak a close intimacy between the painters and the fishermen. But the pilchards are of still more importance to the little huddled town where the fishers live; and these usually begin to arrive about August, when the huers have already taken up their position on the high places around, in order to signal the first sighting of the shoals. The huers are on watch from August till late October, and it is the method of taking by seine that renders their signalling of great importance. The exact position of the fish must be ascertained before the seine-nets are dropped to enclose them. The takes are sometimes enormous, but seasons greatly vary, as the fish are governed by laws of feeding whose operation we cannot easily trace. The average annual taking of pilchards in Cornwall is estimated at 20,000 hogsheads. Gulls in countless numbers hover above the fishing-boats, and swoop down for their share in the spoil;[Pg 245] sometimes, however, scared away by the more powerful gannets, with whom they dare not dispute. At times the gulls are a distinct nuisance and something more to the fisherman; they will snatch fish from his very boat, and the constant loss must be very considerable; yet there is a superstitious idea that the gull is the fisherman's friend—an idea in which we might rejoice more if it led the men to be equally humane towards other living creatures. The same mercy is by no means shown to the gannet. But a more serious enemy of the men is the dogfish, who tear their nets; and the fishers are taking their revenge by trying to popularise this fish as an article of food, under the name of the "flake." Besides the prevalent fishing with seines, there is much drift-fishing from St. Ives, taking place at night; the boats being dotted about within and outside the bay, with their headlights showing like twinkling stars. The St. Ives men are not dependent on pilchards only, happily for them; in winter their seines take many mullet, which are mostly sent to Paris. The shore-seine used for these is comparatively small; it is coiled and passed round the school, and the two ends then drawn ashore. Here, as elsewhere, the men are usually parcelled into companies—a kind of limited share-company; they take turns in shooting the nets, and profits are shared. The control of affairs by husband and wife is a different sort of share-company; the wife is supreme mistress at home, but the man becomes "boss" as soon as he gets his sea-boots on. Many mackerel are often brought to St. Ives, and the men go still further afield after herring; but somehow the catch of the pilchard seems the most distinctively local feature, and the fish, once[Pg 246] common much further east, is still an important actuality to all the Land's End fishing ports. The typical Cornishman has always been a fisher or a tin-miner; and both still flourish.
Picturesque and artistic St. Ives clusters narrowly about the harbour and on the neck of the Island; the more modern residences and lodging-houses stretch above Porthminster Beach, with a popular development at Carbis Bay. More inland suburbs are chiefly devoted to the mining that has suffered so many vicissitudes—flourishing, then decadent, and now flourishing again. One such centre is Halsetown, a mining settlement founded something less than a century ago by James Halse, of the old Cornwall Hals family; he was a solicitor and a mayor of St. Ives, intimately connected with the mines. But in this rather unattractive quarter we are less likely to think of Halse than we are of Sir Henry Irving, who spent his childhood here. The reputation of a great actor becomes very much a phantom affair after a few years; but as we still associate the name of Garrick with a brilliant period of the Georgian age, so the name of Irving must always be linked with the later brilliant period of the Victorian. To the younger generation of theatre-goers he is fast becoming like a half-mythical demigod—one of those whom the elder folk mention with regretful shakings of the head when newer favourites are lauded. The actor was not born in Cornwall, but in Somerset; his mother, however, was a Cornish woman named Behenna, and one of his aunts was Mrs. Penberthy, wife of Captain Isaac Penberthy, whose captaincy of course referred to his position as overseer of [Pg 247]mines here at Halsetown. Hither Irving was brought in his fourth year, and his memories of Cornwall remained vivid to his dying day. "I recall Halsetown," he said, "as a village nestling between sloping hills, bare and desolate, disfigured by great heaps of slack from the mines, and with the Knill monument standing prominent as a landmark to the east. It was a wild and weird place, fascinating in its own peculiar beauty, and taking a more definite shape in my youthful imagination by reason of the fancies and legends of the people. The stories attaching to rock and well and hill were unending; every man and woman had folk-lore to tell us youngsters. We took to them naturally—they seem to fit in wisely with the solitudes, the expanses, the superstitious character of the Cornish people, and never clashed in our minds with the Scriptural teachings which were our daily portion at home. These legends and fairy stories have remained with me but vaguely—I was too young—but I remember the 'guise dancing,' when the villagers went about in masks, entering houses and frightening the children. We imitated this once, in breaking in on old Granny Dixon's sleep, fashioned out in horns and tails, and trying to frighten her into repentance for telling us stories of hell-fire and brimstone. The attempt was not too successful." Mrs. Penberthy was a Methodist and a teetotaler, of deeply religious instincts; yet the boy's life with his cousins was evidently free and uncramped. The uncle was strong, somewhat passionate, but lovable. If there was some sternness in the home atmosphere, there was also plenty of affection, and that is the most vital point. "Halsetown gave me a good physical start in life, at any rate," said the actor. "I attribute much of my endurance[Pg 248] of fatigue, which is a necessary part of an actor's life, to the free and open and healthy years I lived at Halsetown, and to the simple food and regular routine ordered by my aunt. We rambled much over the desolate hills, or down to the rocks at the seashore. There was plenty of natural beauty to look for, and I suppose we looked for it. I know the sea had a potent attraction for me. I was a wiry youth, as I believe, when the time came for me to join a London school."
The Knill monument mentioned by Irving claims a little more attention. John Knill, born at Callington in 1733, after being articled to a Penzance solicitor, became collector of Customs at St. Ives, and in 1767 was chosen mayor. A few years later Government sent him to Jamaica to inspect the ports; he was private secretary to the Earl of Buckinghamshire, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland; and in late life he became a practising solicitor at Gray's Inn, as well as magistrate for the county of Middlesex. He died in London, 1811. Long before this date he had erected his own mausoleum on Worvas Hill, near St. Ives, and to this his remains were brought. Among many legacies, his will directed that certain ceremonies should be observed once every five years, on the festival of St. James the Apostle; £10 to be spent "in a dinner for the mayor, collector of Customs, and clergyman, and two friends to be invited by each of them, making a party of nine persons, to dine at some tavern in the borough; £5 to be equally divided amongst ten girls, natives of the borough and daughters of seamen, fishermen or tinners, each of them not exceeding ten years of age, who shall, between ten and twelve o'clock of the forenoon of that day,[Pg 249] dance for a quarter of an hour at least, on the ground adjoining the mausoleum, and after the dance sing the 100th Psalm of the old version, to the fine old tune to which the same was then sung in St. Ives Church; £1 to a fiddler who shall play to the girls while dancing and singing at the mausoleum, and also before them on their return home therefrom; £2 to two widows of seamen, fishermen or tinners of the borough, being sixty-four years old or upwards, who shall attend the dancing and singing of the girls, and walk before them immediately after the fiddler, and certify to the mayor, collector of Customs, and clergyman, that the ceremonies have been duly performed; £1 to be laid out in white ribbons for breast-knots for the girls and widows, and a cockade for the fiddler, to be worn by them respectively on that day and on the Sunday following." These observances have been duly performed, the last date being 1906, when many visitors attended to witness the proceedings.
A little eastward of Carbis Bay is Lelant, the mother-parish of St. Ives. Its full title is St. Uny Lelant, and the dedication is to the Irish Eoghain or Euinus, whom we find in Brittany as Uniac. There are other traces of him in Cornwall, as at Redruth and Sancreed; and it is probable that he arrived in Cornwall about the same time as St. Ia, but the fullest traditions of him relate to his Irish life. The word "Lelant" is explained as Lan-nans, the "valley-church"; in old books we still find the parish named as Lanant. The stronghold of Tewdrig, who murdered St. Ia and other saints, is supposed to have been on the coast here, its traces concealed by the sweeping sands that very nearly made an end of the village entirely, as they[Pg 250] really did destroy its one-time harbour. A number of skeletons of prehistoric date were discovered when cutting for the railway to St. Ives, proving the early occupation of these coasts. Norden, writing more than three centuries since, says that Lelant was "sometyme a haven towne, but now of late decayed by reason of the sande which has choaked the harbour and buried much of the landes and houses; many devises they use to prevent the absorption of the churche." But the cultivation of the sand-rush, arundo arenaria, has done what the other "devises" failed to do; and the rushy towans have now provided an ideal golf-course, which prospers though the little town is somnolent. It is here that St. Ives visitors do most of their golfing, and the ground is described as "a natural seaside course, with charming views in all directions. The holes are rather short and tricky, and put a premium on local knowledge. Last, but not least, Lelant can boast a climate absolutely ideal for golf in winter." Lelant Church is interesting, but has lost its fine old bench-ends and screen. It is connected with the memory of a former vicar, Parson Polkinghorne, who was a renowned ghost-layer, a redoubtable fox-hunter, and a skilled hurler. His exorcising formula is said to have commenced with the words "in Nommy Dommy," and we are told it was in Latin throughout—as we may believe from this specimen. But the days of the exorcist are over now—there are no ghosts to lay, or only such as will not be laid.
There is a ferry at Lelant, taking the traveller across the Hayle creek to sandy Phillack, one of the mother-parishes of Hayle. This is the narrowest section of the Cornish peninsula, and from Hayle[Pg 251] River to Mount's Bay is only about four miles across; a good road makes the journey from sea to sea. It is just a neck of land dividing north from south, and persons susceptible to climatic change say that the difference can be noticed when they get half-way across. Hayle, a little waterside town of less than two thousand inhabitants, is not particularly attractive. There is a charm in the endless sand-blown dunes that stretch on both sides of the estuary, but dismal weather can make them desolate, and wild weather converts them into a howling waste; while Hayle itself, with some small shipping and industry, is a place that the lover of beauty does not often care for. But it is not altogether to be despised, and it is conveniently situated on the main Great Western line. This Hayle district was once the great landing-place of saints from Ireland, who came here rather numerously about fifteen centuries since; those who came from Wales usually landed near Padstow or came to Cornwall by way of Devon. One such Irish saint was Gwythian, who built his oratory a few miles north of Hayle, and the remains of this rugged little church have lately been rescued from the sands, with a special service of commemoration held over it. The Irish saints brought their style of building with them, and such relics as those of St. Piran and St. Gwythian are exactly similar in style to the oldest memorials of the same nature in Ireland. The masonry was of the simplest—a mere laying of rough stones together without mortar. Some have supposed this oratory of St. Gwythian to be the earliest religious building surviving in Britain, but it is very difficult to say anything definite. If the little church really survived as the saint left it its claim would be a good one, but, like St. Piran's,[Pg 252] it is more likely to be a century or two later. Visitors must not expect to learn much about the saints or about the monuments from the countryfolk, either here or anywhere else in Cornwall. With luck they may get a few quaint notions and superstitions out of the older people; but the younger folk are educated in a different manner now—universal school systems tend to uniformity and usually to a deadening of the imagination. For the legends and traditions of the country-side it is necessary to go to the guide-books, which are themselves often misleading. If a traveller were to go through Cornwall compiling a book that should contain solely what he saw and heard, it would be something quite different from the ordinary handbook, and those who only know the Duchy by reading about it would be chiefly struck by its omissions. The people, here as elsewhere, no longer care much for the traditions of their forefathers; and the delightful literary works that belong to topography are the result and the supply of a culture in which the ordinary men and women of the localities have small share. The visitor should carry the best literary guide he can procure with him, otherwise he is likely to learn little of the country's lore and its antiquities—unless now and then he applies to a clergyman or perhaps an intelligent schoolmaster. The days of oral tradition have passed for ever. We need not complain when we remember that written literature is a result of this decease.
FROM HAYLE TO PERRAN
A good road runs from Hayle to Gwythian, skirting the Phillack towans, and then passes onward to Portreath. For the most part it keeps near the sea, so that the cyclist need not feel he is losing everything worth seeing; but the pedestrian, if he does not mind a few rough places, will do better still by taking the cliff path. Camborne and Redruth, lying some miles inland, are not likely to tempt the traveller, unless he be a mining expert intent on studying newest methods, or unless he be a lover of Rugby football, of which, in the proper season, he might see some good games. Cornwall, having deserted hurling for the more modern development of the ball game, has won high position, and these two mining towns are the chief centres of the sport. Something other than football, however, attracts most of those who come to Cornwall, and one such attraction ought to be the lovely view of St. Ives Bay to be enjoyed from the Godrevy headland. The reef of rocks lying off this eastward point of the bay has been a deadly trap for navigation, and the lighthouse, on an island close to the mainland, was first erected in 1857. One early wreck on these crags is connected with memories of the beheaded Charles I. On the[Pg 254] day of his execution a fierce storm broke on the coast, easily interpreted by loyal Cornishmen as a judgment of God. A vessel containing the royal wardrobe and other furnishings was riding at the time in St. Ives Bay, being bound for France, and this was driven by the tempest on the Godrevy rocks. Of the sixty persons on board all were lost with the exception of a man and boy; these, with a wolfhound, swam to the islet on which the light now stands and were carried to St. Ives as soon as the storm permitted their rescue. With all the assistance that a powerful light can give the Godrevy stones are still perilous. The lighthouse is finely placed and its white tower is a conspicuous mark along the coast. The eastward projection of this headland is Navax Point. A little beyond is the deep and narrow gorge of Hell's Mouth—not the only spot so named in Cornwall—whose dim caverns and beach are said to be more frequented by seals than any other part of the Cornish coast; but the seals will soon be a thing of the past—they are foolishly and cruelly shot by men whose instinct is to shoot everything. The caves were once haunted by smugglers also, and their operations were admirably seconded by Nature. There is a sprinkling of little islets along the shore here, one of which is Samphire Isle. About a mile inland, on the left of the road, is Tehidy House, with its parks and plantations of nearly one thousand acres, said to have once reached to the foot of Carn Brea. This is the seat of the Bassets, one of the most memorable of Cornish families, having played a great part in the Duchy's history. The Bassets were among the earliest Norman settlers in England and can be traced in Cornwall as early as the time of Robert de Mortain, half-[Pg 255]brother of the Conqueror. They do not appear to have gained a permanent settlement in Cornwall, however, till the reign of Henry II., when Thomas Baron Basset, of Hedendon, Oxfordshire, married Adeliza de Dunstanville and so took root at Tehidy. The family intermarried with the best local families—Grenvilles, Trelawneys, Godolphins, Rashleighs, Prideaux. Francis Basset, who was associated with Grenville in the glorious victory of Stamford Hill, Stratton, was knighted by Charles I. after the fight of Braddoc Down. Some of his letters to his wife at this time are preserved, and they compare with Bevil Grenville's for touching simplicity and whole-hearted affection. His joy at the victories, which seemed to have established the Royal cause on a firm basis—at least in the West—is expressed in several of these. "Peace," he exclaims, "and I hope perpetual. Sadd houses I have seen many, but a joyfuller pleasanter day never than this. Sende the money, as much and as soone as you can. Sende to all our ffriends at home, especially, this good news. I write this on my saddle. Every friend will pardon the illness of it, and you chiefly, my perfect joy." To this he adds in a postscript: "The Kinge and army march presently for Plymouth. Jesus give the King it and all. The King, in the hearing of thousands, as soon as he saw me in ye morning, cryed to mee, 'Deare Mr. Sheriffe, I leave Cornwall to you safe and sound.'" The letter is addressed "To my Lady Bassett, at her Tehidy, joyfull. After the success near Lostwithiel." It was not long, however, before this joyfulness was turned to mourning. Grenville and many another gallant Cornishman fell in battle; stronghold after stronghold gave way before the irresistible Fairfax; and Basset[Pg 256] himself, after a brave defence of St. Michael's Mount, had to yield and withdraw to a kind of exile at Scilly. This dauntless loyalist was closely connected with the town of St. Ives, which he represented in Parliament, and to which he gave the silver goblet mentioned in the previous chapter. Tehidy House, which was enlarged and nearly rebuilt in 1865, is beautifully situated and contains an excellent collection of pictures, including specimens by Reynolds, Vandyck, Lely, and Gainsborough. A later notability was Francis, Baron de Dunstanville and Basset, of Tehidy, born at Walcot in 1757, whose virtues were so greatly appreciated by the Duchy that his monument was erected on the summit of Carn Brea, where it stands as a striking landmark, rising 90 feet from its pedestal; this was placed in 1836. The top can be reached by an inner stairway, and commands a magnificent view of land and water. With the death of Lord Francis the title de Dunstanville became extinct. Carn Brea cannot actually be said to belong to the coast, being several miles inland, but it is a dominant feature in any view from a far distance, and it claims a visit partly on account of this monument and partly for its prehistoric remains. This mass of granite, rising to a height of about 740 feet, bears traces of immemorial occupation that have been both a delight and a puzzle to antiquaries. Those familiar with the works of the artist Cruikshank will remember that the giant Bolster used to take this hill with one stride from St. Agnes Beacon, and in addition to this tale of giants there was the usual chatter about Druids and Druidic monuments in connection with Carn Brea. It is safest to leave the Druids alone—they are at a discount[Pg 257] now; the place is interesting enough without them, and the view from the summit is magnificent, reaching as it does from sea to sea. Clusters of hut circles and signs of neolithic military entrenchment are very obvious, and a number of pure gold coins have been discovered here. There is also a mediæval castle, restored, and, of course, the inevitable logan-stone. Nearer to Redruth is one of the Cornish "places of play" (plân-an-guare), known as Planguary. These rounded hollows, such as the famous Gwennap Pit, were formerly used for sports and dramatic performances; they played an important part in the social life of the past, and Cornwall had its own speciality in miracle-plays or interludes. Carew tells us that "the Guary Miracle is a kind of interlude compiled in Cornish out of some Scripture history. For representing it they raise an earthen amphitheatre in some open field, leaving the diameter of the enclosed plain some forty or fifty feet. The country people flock from all sides to see and hear it, for they have therein devils and devices to delight the eye as well as the ear. The players speak not their parts without book, but are prompted by one called the ordinary, who followeth at their back with the book in his hand and telleth them softly what they must pronounce aloud. The dramas were acted at one time for several days together and were similar in character to the English mysteries of the same period."
The parish of Illogan was the birthplace of the engineer Trevithick, who was born here in 1771. His father, a prominent manager of local mines, was a Methodist, often visited by Wesley. The boy, educated at Camborne, was bright and precocious; he is said on one occasion to have[Pg 258] irritated his master by offering to do six sums to his one—a proposition which no pedagogue is likely to appreciate. He was powerfully developed physically, and at eighteen could lift ten hundredweight. In 1794 he became engineer at the Ding Dong Mine, where he introduced many improvements; and a few years later he was busily engaged in designing a genuine steam-carriage, which was finished and made its first short trip on Christmas Eve, 1801, carrying the first passengers ever known to have been conveyed by steam. Locally this contrivance was known as the "puffing devil," or as "Cap'n Dick's Puffer." The next step was to produce an engine running on rails. This was done in 1804, when Trevithick completed a machine which carried ten tons of iron, five wagons, and seventy men for a distance of nine and a half miles, the speed being about five miles an hour. Clumsy and slow as it was, this was a very marked advance on anything that had previously been accomplished. But the engineer's genius for invention was not balanced by adequate business capacity, and he lacked the means of perfecting and forwarding his devices; they had to wait. He went to Peru in 1817, and suffered heavy losses through the war of independence. At this time he was nearly drowned in the Magdalena River, but was rescued by a Venezuelan officer, who drew him ashore with a lasso. It is pleasant to learn that he made the acquaintance of George Stephenson at Carthagena, and received generous help from one who might have been considered his rival. He died poor and in debt at Dartford in 1833, when the workmen with whom he had been labouring clubbed together to give him a suitable funeral.[Pg 259] There is now a memorial window to his memory in Westminster Abbey. His character seems to have been warm and sanguine, tender-hearted, and easily depressed. He was notably one of those men into whose labours "other men enter"—successful to a point, but lacking in the finishing touches that bring fame and triumph; with all his courage he wanted persistence. But when we think of Watt and Stephenson in connection with steam transit we must never forget that the Cornishman Trevithick deserves at least an equal share of honour.
Illogan is a mining centre, and thickly populated, though when we speak of population in Cornwall we must remember that the inhabitants of the whole Duchy number far less than those of such towns as Birmingham, Liverpool, or Manchester. The church here was rebuilt in 1848, when all the old monuments were carefully replaced. Portreath is the thriving little port of the district, and is also popular with Camborne and Redruth folk as a watering-place. But the presence of active and prosperous mining does not make for beauty; a mine only becomes picturesque when it has been deserted and taken back into the bosom of Nature. Otherwise, Portreath has many attractions, and the coast is grand. The port has four docks and a pier of about 260 yards long. Lord de Dunstanville built the first dock here. Copper ore is exported, and there is an import of coal and iron. What with commercialism and pleasure, Portreath (formerly named Basset's Cove) should do well; but the industries certainly bring some disfigurement, and the stream that flows to the sea discolours the ocean waves with its ruddy stain.[Pg 260] From here to St. Agnes the coast is broken into coves, one of which, Porth Towan, is popular with excursionists; but the tripper cannot be here at all times, and when he is absent the shores are left to majestic loneliness, their caves haunted by seals and their crags by crying sea-fowl. We do not escape from the mining when we come to St. Agnes, but we come to a district of notable memories, and those who climb the Beacon can look towards St. Ives on the one side and Newquay on the other. We must not suppose that the Beacon is associated with any memories of the saintly maiden whom Keats and Tennyson have poetically glorified; St. Agnes here is pronounced St. Anne's, and it is supposed that this Ann is the so-named goddess of the Irish Celts, but the identification is rather difficult. More vivid is the legend that speaks of the love of the giant Bolster for this saint, and the manner in which she contrived to get rid of him. As a married man, the giant believed in the virtues of quick change; he found that a new wife each year was a fairly satisfactory allowance, and it is reported that he killed the old ones by throwing stones at them. St. Agnes was much perturbed by his attentions; she did not approve of his matrimonial methods, and she had some sympathy with the existing Mrs. Bolster. "At last she conceived a device, not very saint-like but perhaps necessary. Would he fill a little hole in the cliff with his blood as a proof of his affection? Of course he would. He cut his arm and let the blood run; but the life-stream flowed and flowed, and his strength ebbed away, and the hole did not fill. At last, when the sea had become red with his blood, he[Pg 261] died. The saint had deceived him; the small hole in the rock led down into a cavern, and the cavern led to the sea; not even the ocean could have filled it." Chapel Porth is named as the scene of this incident. The village of St. Agnes lies at the eastward foot of the Beacon, and Trevaunance, on the coast, is its port. It is a neighbourhood where natural beauties contend with the ugliness of industrialism, and usually emerge triumphant. There is a story told of St. Agnes in connection with Wesley, which proves how rapidly folk-lore may spring up; it is even more remarkable, because more modern, than the manner in which Devonians have associated mythology with the name of Francis Drake. It is said that "when Wesley visited this part of Cornwall preaching, he was refused shelter elsewhere than in an ancient mansion that was unoccupied because haunted by ghosts. Wesley went to the house, and sat up reading by candle-light. At midnight he heard a noise in the hall, and on issuing from his room, saw that a banquet was spread, and that richly apparelled ladies and gentlemen were about the board. Then one cavalier, with dark, piercing eyes and a pointed black beard, wearing a red feather in his cap, said, 'We invite you to eat and to drink with us,' and pointed to an empty chair. Wesley at once took the place indicated, but before he put in his mouth a bite of food or drank a drop, said, 'It is my custom to ask a blessing; stand all.' Then the spectres rose. Wesley began his accustomed grace, 'The Name of God, high over all'—when suddenly the room darkened, and all the apparitions vanished." There is yet another memory at St. Agnes. The[Pg 262] painter Opie (said to have been born Hoppie) was born at Harmony Cottage in the year 1761, his father being a carpenter. At ten years of age he began to teach others in the village school; and at twelve he opened an evening school for poor children. Having already developed an extraordinary taste for drawing, it is related that he once purposely irritated his father in order to catch the expression of anger for a picture. He soon began to practise in a humble way as a portrait-painter, and was advised by Dr. Wolcot ("Peter Pindar") to raise his price to half a guinea a head; from which we may guess that his previous terms had been excessively modest. Wolcot was a good friend to Opie, though their intercourse did not remain very cordial; but for a time they even entered into some sort of partnership together, in London, and there can be no doubt that the painter was thus introduced to a wider circle than he would otherwise have reached. He became the "Cornish Wonder," and felt able to tell Wolcot that he could get on by himself. This may sound like ingratitude, but we do not know enough of the story to form a judgment. When Northcote returned to London from abroad Joshua Reynolds said to him, "My dear sir, you may go back; there is a wondrous Cornishman who is carrying all before him." "What is he like?" asked Northcote. "Like? Why, like Caravaggio and Velasquez in one." Opie began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1782, and in the same year he married a lady who eloped from him. Divorcing her, he married, many years later, the novelist Mrs. Opie. The flood of his popularity waned considerably, as such sudden[Pg 263] fashions do, but still he had plenty of work, and a solid reputation grew on a sounder basis. In 1787 his "Assassination of David Rizzio" procured his election as A.R.A., and a year afterwards he became full member. The lectures that he delivered at the Academy were admirable both in matter and in manner, and are worthy of ranking even with those of Reynolds, whose life Opie wrote. Dying in 1807, after a second married period of great happiness, the painter was buried at St. Paul's. Among those whose portraits he painted were Dr. Johnson, Fox, Burke, Dr. Parr, Northcote, and many other celebrities of his day. Apart from his own special art, he was passionately devoted to poetry, and is said to have had a wonderful memory for recitation. The house at which he was born is situated about half-way between St. Agnes and Perranporth. Trevaunance Porth, which now has some insignificant accommodation for shipping, is notable for the difficulties that opposed even such small harbourage. The manor belonged to the Tonkin family, who spent much money in the attempt to build a pier, but the force of the sea always frustrated them. About the year 1700 Winstanley, the famous builder of Eddystone, constructed an excellent quay and basin, but a gale destroyed this after a very few years. Tonkin, the parochial historian of Cornwall, whose work is valuable in spite of its errors, laid out a considerable sum in an effort to repair the quay, and to raise the money he had to part with a small piece of land, which speedily repaid its purchaser by the richness of its mineral wealth. A jetty built later withstood the sea better than its more ambitious predecessors had done.
[Pg 264]Beyond St. Agnes Beacon the coast is largely composed of clay-slates,
or killas, presenting much desolate grandeur; the slate showing the
jagged scars of its unending resistance to oceanic forces. At Cligga
Head this slate is blended with decomposed hard granite. Off the
shore, about two miles out, rise the two isolated rocks known as the
Man and his Men—sometimes also called the Cow and her Calf. "Man" and
"Men" are simply corruptions of the Celtic maen, a stone. Between
St. Agnes and Perranporth the passage along the cliffs is interrupted
by the extensive enclosures of a modern dynamite factory, and the
pedestrian who has known this walk of yore is not likely to bless this
manufacture of a deadly explosive. But there is a great industrial
demand for dynamite in the district, and it is well that its
production should be relegated to a neighbourhood where accidents
would do the least possible damage. At Perranporth we approach a grim
sand-driven tract of country sacred to the name of one of Cornwall's
most typical saints, the Irishman St. Piran. Perranporth itself, since
the advent of the railway, is drawing some visitors away from Newquay,
in quest of equal beauty and greater quiet. The village stands on the
cliffs above a small cove, from which there is some fishing, and
northward runs a fine stretch of sand. There are capabilities here for
almost unlimited growth, and the district, inland and seaward, is full
of charm. The coast is hollowed and arched into wonderful caverns,
where the deep blue and green waters break with gentle swell or dash
with infuriated violence. The church is a chapel-of-ease to
Perranzabuloe (Piran-in-sabulo); there are barrows and sand-[Pg 265]dunes,
and a vague floating rumour of an immemorial past. In fog or grey
weather the spot can be dreary, weird, desolate; but in times of fair
sunrise or sundown it is glorified with a marvellous beauty, with
restful nooks where a dreamer may enter upon a heritage of beatific
vision. St. Piran, the dominant personality of the district, is the
patron of the tin-miners, but neither they nor others know much about
him; he is a ghost of the far past, but a ghost with a dim halo around
his head. He belongs to the sixth century, and was therefore a little
later than the saints of the Land's End country. In Ireland he is
reputed as St. Kieran of Saigir, but the British Celts, according to
their usual custom, changed the Gaelic K into P. His Irish record
is much more full than his Cornish, but it must not delay us, except
to remember that he rescued an Irish girl, Bruinsech, from a chief who
had kidnapped her, and that she travelled to Cornwall, probably in his
company, to become the Buriena of St. Buryan. Piran is said to have
journeyed across the seas on a millstone, which is a mythical way of
saying that he brought his altar-stone with him. He is supposed to
have landed on these drifting sands that perpetuate his name, and to
have founded his first cell here, the oratory that still remains in
much mutilated ruin among the towans of Perran. So far as site is
concerned, this may be true enough; but the oratory, whose bare
foundations are now surrounded by a sheltering rail, is probably at
least two centuries later than the day of St. Piran, though it is just
possible that the huge skeleton found here might be his. There is no
reason why a saint may not also be[Pg 266] a giant. But who shall establish
the identity of a mouldering skeleton? Only a fragment of gable, a
half-buried inscribed slab, and some loose rugged stones, have been
left to speak of what may be the earliest religious foundation in
England; but even in this matter of antiquity there are competitors.
We may suppose that the present oratory was raised over Piran's
original cell somewhere about the eighth century; and about two
centuries later it was found that the encroaching sands rendered its
further use impossible. It was deserted, and a second church raised a
little further inland, of which the site is now marked by a cross.
Visitors may be warned that both sites are very difficult to discover
without a guide. This second church became collegiate in the time of
the Confessor, with a dean and canons, being enriched by the offerings
of pilgrims who came from all parts of Cornwall to the shrine of St.
Piran. The establishment was presented by Henry I. to the canons of
Exeter. We may judge that at this time the first chapel was entirely
buried in the sands. In 1420 the second church was rebuilt; the older
church, even its site, was forgotten. At the close of the eighteenth
century the second church itself was threatened by the same peril; the
planting of reed-grass was not then understood as a means of binding
the sand. This time the parishioners moved their church to a greater
distance, establishing their church town at the present Perranzabuloe,
where the materials of the second church were largely used in the
erection of a new one; they also carried thither an old hexagonal
font, which is thought to have come from the original oratory. In[Pg 267]
[Pg 269] the year 1835 a shifting of sand revealed this earliest church, whose memory only survived in vague tradition; the secret came to light after a burial of eight or nine centuries. The discovery made a considerable stir, and was announced to the public in books written by two clergymen, W. Haslam and Trelawney-Collins, neither of whom, however, is a quite reliable guide. Mr. Collins used the occasion as an opportunity for proving that the Church in England was a Protestant Church more than nine hundred years before the Reformation; while the zeal of Mr. Haslam led him to an unfortunate attempt at restoring the oratory. Then followed neglect, and the tourists who came hither were left to pilfer and carry away the sacred stones piecemeal; now, when it is almost too late, such depredation is stopped. The church was a ruin when it was found; it is something almost less than a ruin now. As revealed by the shifting sand, it presented an almost exact resemblance to the oldest oratories in Ireland; its length was about 29 feet, its breadth 16 feet, with an arched doorway, and one little window, walled up, above the altar. The masonry was of the roughest description, the stones appearing to have been put together with little selection; and the floor was a rude kind of concrete, china clay being used instead of lime. Some skeletons were found within the church, and many more without; in fact, human remains are still cast up by the sands. Perhaps this was once a spot of thick population; or, more probably, the fame of St. Piran may have rendered it a popular burying-ground. A notice has been placed here, warning against any disturbance of the soil or[Pg 270] of the remains of the dead. The feast-day of St. Piran falls on the 5th of March, and is not yet quite forgotten; it was once an occasion of such merry-making as to furnish a local saying—"As drunk as a Perraner." There is an unhappy tradition that St. Piran himself died in drink, which we may connect with the other rumour that he discovered Cornish tin in an effort to distil Irish whisky. We have reason to believe that Celtic saints were very human, but we need not credit every idle legend. The saint seems to have been something of a farmer, possessing many horses and cattle. We may question the statement that he lived to the age of two hundred, and then dug his own grave in the sand; but the possibility that the large skeleton found here was really his has some support from the fact that it was headless when discovered, and this tallies with an entry in the will of Sir John Arundell of Trerice: "To provide honourable protection for St. Pieran's head, the sum of 40s." Those who wish to find the ancient oratory had better first reach the site of the second church, marked by a high granite cross; from this the older remains lie about a quarter of a mile westward, towards the sea. Another plân-an-guare, resembling that of Redruth, lies near the hamlet of Rose (rôs, a moorland); it is about 130 feet in diameter, and has faint traces of seven tiers of seats, which afforded accommodation for two thousand spectators. Originally it was probably a natural subsidence, strengthened by artificial earthworks; and whatever its first use may have been, it became a popular amphitheatre for public performance of miracle-plays. There are many water-mills in this district, and they provide a feature not common in Cornwall.
CRANTOCK, NEWQUAY, MAWGAN
After passing the extensive sands of Perran Bay the coast once more becomes rugged and broken. This is a very quiet and lonely part of the Cornish seaboard, but the popularity of Newquay is bringing it within the knowledge of an increasing number of visitors. The railway now touches the coast here at two points, Newquay and Perranporth, between which limits those who wish to explore the country-side must rely on other methods of transit. The shore is not only broken into rough headlands, but has a number of off-lying islets. Thus there are the Gull Rocks, off Penhale Point; the Chick, off Kelsey Head; and the Goose, off East Pentire. The sands in this district have wrought more havoc than the sea; and if tradition may be trusted there was once a far more dense population. Barrows and traces of encampment are fairly common, but the sand is supposed to hold more secrets yet; and if it surrendered the old lost church of St. Piran, why should it not some day unseal still other mysteries? There is indeed an atmosphere of mystery and of myth brooding over this region, with its gaunt, turf-clad headlands, its drifting sand-towans, its tracks and[Pg 272] stone hedges and lonely church-towns. It is easy to yield to the spirit of dream and imagination—to see with other eyes than we use in city life, to hear with other ears, to believe more and dispute less; the very air is an intoxicant and a stimulant to fantastic vision. It comes pure from the Atlantic or from the down-lands, from craggy cliffs or grassy uplands; there is the wonderful glamour of the sea reaching inland to possess and dominate the peaceful charm of the country-side. The inhabitants in this quiet stretch of coast depend rather on agriculture than on fish for their maintenance; the coast is too unprotected, and there is no tolerable harbour to which fisher-boats might run for safety. The cottages for the most part have a pastoral atmosphere, and not the savour of fish and tangle of nets that we meet in so many seaside villages. The lowing of cows comes pleasantly, and the incessant murmur of poultry-yards; in late summer there is the cutting and garnering of golden grain. The stone hedges that divide the fields are generally broad enough to walk on with comfort; very often, indeed, they are the best and quickest of footpaths. Or one can lie on them in delightful languor, after scrambling about the cliffs and towans, basking in the mellow sunlight, laying in a store of warmth and beauty and fragrance as reserve for dreary months of wet and fog. Centuries old, some of these massive walls must be—often constructed doubtless from older monuments of dim religious purpose, just as some of the gate-posts were once menhirs and monoliths. The villagers have their rugged old churches, to which they resort for baptisms[Pg 273] and burials, but on Sundays they go in greater numbers to the chapel or meeting-house. In those people whom we classify, often wrongly, as Celtic, there seems to be something that the Anglican Church does not wholly satisfy, though it is necessary to speak with reserve on such a matter. They can be devout Catholics, as in Ireland, or zealous Dissenters, as in Wales and the West of England; perhaps these manifestations of the religious spirit, seemingly so opposed, have yet a common feature in allowing more play to the fancy. Dissent has one great charm for all countryfolk—it gives them a large share in its activities, it allows them to preach and to pray. This is certainly one secret of its success, not limited to Cornwall. Even a parson like Hawker, beloved by all his parishioners as he was, could not win them from Dissent. There is a chance that the priests of Rome will step in and win where the parish clergyman has partly failed. More than twenty years since, Richard Jefferies wrote about the tonsured priest becoming a power in English country lanes. Here in the West Country hundreds of rich acres are held by the monastic orders. The country parson has now to fight against his old opponent, the Methodist or Baptist, and his older opponent, the priest of Rome. But the winds that sweep across the meadows and sand-dunes, the waves that lap peacefully or dash thunderously, tell us nothing of these old and often dismal quarrels. They are but secular things after all; the things that are eternal reach deeper than creed or vestment. We do not ask what fetish or totem the sleepers in the grassy barrows believed in; we may ask if they lived their lives truly and[Pg 274] faithfully, doing that which was good according to the light of their primitive consciences.
Between the two headlands of Penhale Point and Kelsey Head lies Holywell Bay, the larger portion of which is in the parish of Cubert. It is a wild region of blown sand. The two headlands are grandly lashed by breaking waves in rough weather, while the interlying beach is swept with great rolling breakers. A little inland are many traces of discontinued mining; and though their suggestions are dismal enough, these are probably more picturesque in their neglect and decay than they could be if in full operation. The bay and the sands are named after the holy well of St. Cubert, formerly one of the most famous of Cornwall's numerous wells. St. Cubert, the titular patron of the parish and well, has been mistaken for St. Cuthbert; but it is obvious to any one who has devoted any study to Cornish saint-lore that the Northumbrian saint has no business here, good man though he was. He has been intruded to displace some earlier and less widely known possessor. Cuthbert was certainly never in Cornwall, and the older Cornish dedications are almost invariably the actual footprints of Celtic missionaries. It is probable that the true Cubert was St. Cybi, or Cuby, whom we find at Cuby near Grampound, and whose name also survives in the Caergybi and Llangybi of Wales. There is another well of St. Cuby at Duloe, north of Looe; and he was related to some of Cornwall's most notable saints. The Holy Well is a fresh-water spring on the north side of the beach; it is in a cave, accessible at low water, and is reached by a flight of rough steps. Its water was once supposed to be highly medicinal—in fact, miraculous. It is true that there[Pg 275] is some mineral solution in the water, but this is not of medicinal value. The well or spring is in a kind of grotto at the head of rugged steps in the rock; and its water drips into a series of natural basins, beautiful with the loveliest colouring—quite a fairy grotto, worthy of being a sea-nymph's bathing-place. Our faith in miraculous cures may be slight enough at this present time, but so long as the human eye can appreciate loveliness this spot must ever have its delicate satisfying charm, all the more striking in contrast to the long, weary stretches of sand-dune.
The beauty of the spot abides, but the old-world faith in the waters has well-nigh departed—gone with many another quaint credulity. The change cannot be better emphasised than by a quotation from another writer, who described the same scene several centuries since. The Cornish historian Hals writes: "In this parish is that famous spring of water called Holywell (so named, the inhabitants say, for that the virtues of this water was first discovered on All-hallows Day). The same stands in a dark cavern of the sea-cliff rocks, beneath full sea-mark on spring tides, from the top of which cavern fall down or distil continually drops of water from the white, blue, red, and green veins of those rocks.... The virtues of this water are very great. It is incredible what numbers in summer season frequent this place and waters from counties far distant." It is said that, even within the nineteenth century, the crowd that used to assemble here, especially those bringing rickety and crippled children, was so large that the scene resembled a fair. But now it is curiosity that brings the visitor, or the attraction of a lonely, beautiful scene; Cornish mothers[Pg 276] seek other remedies for their delicate children; only perhaps a few of the elder folk fondly nurse a memory and a belief in the powers of St. Cubert's Well. Yet the spring flows on, heedless of its neglect as it was heedless of its worship; it is only the false, the fantastic, the deceptive that have passed—the truth, the loveliness remain.
About two and a half miles from the well, across the sand-downs and commons, is the little church-town of Cubert. It stands high, overlooking the sand-wastes of Holywell and Perran Bays, and its church serves the purpose of a landmark in this somewhat trackless district. It is Early English in character, with later additions, such as the Decorated woodwork about its roof; the graceful tower has an octagonal upper stage and low spire, with three bells in the belfry. The church was struck by lightning in 1848, and restored under the care of G. E. Street, R.A. The font, of Norman design, was preserved from mutilation in Puritan times by veiling its beauties beneath a covering of plaster. During the restoration a granite monumental stone was unearthed, of Romano-British character; it has been placed in the wall outside the tower, and its inscription reads Conectoci fili Tegerno Mali. Whether legends of the lost Langarrow are true or not, there was evidently a considerable population of this part in early British times. Cubert is still peaceful and primitive, being a little too far from Newquay to be overrun by the summer visitors. A pleasant and fairly good road leads towards Crantock, passing by Trevowah, beyond which a turning to the left takes us to West Pentire and the small bay known as Porth or "Polly" Joke. The "joke" needs explanation; possibly it is the corruption[Pg 277] of some forgotten Cornish word. It is a charming little bay lying snugly between the two headlands of Kelsey and West Pentire, both of which command fine views of coast and sea. We are now in the parish of Crantock, whose antiquity and importance have been over-shadowed by the ever-growing popularity of the comparatively juvenile Newquay; yet present-day Crantock owes so much to Newquay that it cannot afford to be disdainful. In these days no picturesque village can afford to scorn a wealthy neighbour; yet Crantock claims to have been a populous town before Newquay was dreamed of.
Crantock, or St. Carantoc, stands a little way inland from the coast, and the older part is cradled in a sheltering hollow. Its boast of former importance is by no means an idle one. Even within comparatively recent years the estuary of the Gannel, now sand-locked, was navigable for large fishing-craft; and the "new quay" of the prosperous neighbour points indirectly to a time when there was an old quay here. In the sand-flats and rocks around the river-mouth it is possible to trace signs of old shipping, old mooring-rings, and curious excavations. Hals tells us that "in this parish is the port or creek or haven, called the Gonell or Ganell. It also, at full sea, affordeth entrance and anchorage for ships of greatest burthen, if conducted by a pilot that understandeth the course of the channel." But tradition goes further back than this, and speaks of Crantock as having been once part of a large town or district named Langarrow, or sometimes Languna, most of which now lies beneath the sand-towans. This town is said to have had many fine churches and buildings, vying with the[Pg 278] best cities in the Britain of that day, which seems to have been the tenth century. With wealth drawn from a fertile soil, a productive sea, and from rich mines of tin and lead, the inhabitants waxed proud in their prosperity, and revelled in luxurious vice. It would seem that a problem as to the provision of labour for the mines—still a vexed question in parts of the British dominions—led the Government of that day to convert Langarrow into a criminal settlement. There were no opposition newspapers in those times, or their perusal would be deeply interesting. The convicts were not allowed to reside within the town, but had a reservation or compound outside, and they passed most of their time toiling in the mines for the enrichment of others. Such work was probably done chiefly by means of quarrying and "streaming," rather than by the burrowing underground which we now generally understand as mining. This importation of criminal labour added greatly to the wealth of the neighbourhood, but it gradually induced its ruin. The daughters of Langarrow began to marry with the convicts; a slow process of contamination took place among those whose morals were already sapped by luxury. At last the town absolutely reeked with wickedness—so says the highly moral legend. When the sin had reached its utmost the wrath of God descended. The cities of the Plain were destroyed by fire; this Cornish town was overwhelmed by a terrible uprising of wind and sea. The waves broke angrily over the haunts of man's degradation, followed by driving sands that blotted them out for ever. But perhaps it may not be for ever. Some day the fickle sand may desert that which it once buried, or the spade may lay[Pg 279] bare relics that shall prove the tradition's truth. The lost church of St. Piran has been found; it may be so with the lost Langarrow. Already many human remains have been found among the sand-heaps that extend intermittently from here to Perranporth, and traces of "kitchen-middens" which would throw back the date of Langarrow a thousand years or so. Some have imagined that the destruction occurred at the time when Lyonesse was swallowed by the waves, leaving only the Scillies to point to its former extent; and there have been those who identified this catastrophe with the tempest mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the date 1099. Others, again, without daring to name a date, have thought that the storm which destroyed Langarrow may have been the same as that which overwhelmed the "Lost Hundred" of Cardigan Bay. But without denying these convulsions of nature, we cannot venture to identify or time them.
The name of Langarrow, however, may safely be regarded as historic;
and this, with its variants of Languna or Langona, is the earliest
name that we can trace at Crantock. It proves the existence of a
settlement here before the time of St. Carantoc; it seems also to
prove the earlier existence of a church. The "garrow" might denote an
untraceable St. Garrow or Carrow. Langona has been differently
interpreted as the "Meadow Church" and the "Church on the Downs,"
either of which names would be appropriate. But we reach something
more definite when we come to St. Carantoc himself, the Irish Cairnech
or Crannach. He is a genuine personality of British saint-lore, the
only doubt being whether he was an Irishman, a Welshman, or[Pg 280] a
Cornishman. All three countries have claimed him. Most likely he was a
Welshman, and as he lived at a time when Wales and Cornwall were
practically one land, Cornwall must not feel defrauded if this
decision is arrived at. The most notable point about Cairnech is his
connection with St. Patrick, who appears to have been his intimate
friend; some even say that Patrick was baptized by Cairnech. It is
clear that Cairnech was associated with Patrick in the famous revision
of the Brehon Laws which became known as the Senchus Mor. It was
natural that, in Cornish, his name should become Crannog, Latinised
into Carantocus; in Wales it seems to have become Caranog. Singularly
enough, not far from the Welsh Newquay there is one of his churches,
Llangranog, so that both Newquays have their Crantock. The fact that
Cairnech was chosen to make one of this committee of revision
establishes the esteem in which he was held; though it must be
confessed that some authorities doubt that the Brehon Laws were ever
revised at all at this date. When the saint came to Cornwall (always
supposing that he was not born here), he is reputed to have landed in
the Gannel, and to have built his cell on a strip of land that the
local chieftain gave him. While whittling the handle of his mattock he
noticed that a wood-pigeon picked up the shavings in its mouth and
carried them to a certain spot. He took this as a sign that he was to
build his church there, and this, says tradition, is the present site
of Crantock Church. There was a collegiate foundation here in Saxon
times, mentioned in the Exeter Domesday as Langorroc; but the oldest
existing portions of the building are[Pg 281] Transition-Norman and Early
English, dating from the reign of Edward III., at which time the
previous collegiate establishment seems to have been restored. The
accommodation was for a dean and nine prebendaries, which proves that
Crantock must have served a large neighbourhood. There must have been
a much older building on the site, perhaps coeval with the ancient St.
Piran's; for a large sandstone coffin, of at least a thousand years in
antiquity, was discovered in the churchyard some years since, and now
lies there to be marvelled at by the casual visitor and to delight the
antiquary. Not many years ago the church had fallen into sad decay,
but the Rev. G. M. Parsons set himself to remedy this, and by
strenuous collecting he was enabled to reopen the restored edifice in
1902. At the time of the Dissolution the establishment here consisted
of a dean, nine prebends, and four vicars-choral, quite a cathedral
foundation; but at that time the revenue was very small, there being
barely enough to support one vicar, and the prebends must have been
simply honorary titles bestowed on neighbouring clergy. There is every
proof that the church was intended for a large body of resident
priests, there being an important division between choir and nave.
There are other collegiate relics in the village, besides the usual
holy well. The church stands finely on a sloping meadow looking
towards the sea. The village is typically Cornish even to the extent
of having no public-house (unless that defect has lately been
remedied). A few years since the inhabitants regarded the lack with
befitting pride; but the views of visitors differ. It is amusing to
learn the experiences of those who had arranged a stay[Pg 282] at Crantock
without previous knowledge of this missing source of refreshment; and
the fact has afforded an explanation of their very frequent walks to
Newquay. As a commercial centre it may freely be admitted that
Crantock is limited. Its chief link with civilisation is the tiny
post-office, which is also a provision store; but Cornwall has
acquaintance with a kind of glorified hawking or peddling with which
dwellers in town have no concern. A shop on wheels may occasionally be
seen in the heart of some quiet hamlet, surrounded by speculative
housewives and wondering children. But Crantock has its charm of the
present, as well as a delightful association with the past. Close to
its undulating slopes lies the grandeur of a glorious coast, meeting
the deep blues and greens of the Atlantic. On the headland across the
Bay there are barrows that tell of days before the coming of Saxon and
Norman; and among these sport numberless rabbits, vanishing with
marvellous quickness at the slightest movement. In storm all is
magnificence; in calm there is the brooding of a fathomless peace. It
is a perfect rest to lie on the sandy dunes or breezy warrens, gazing
dreamily at sky and waters. The air rings with the cry of sea-fowl and
the song of the lark, while from beyond comes the eternal wash of
waves or the low boom from hidden caves. Blended with these comes the
more homelike sound of cattle, and often the laugh of children. At
nightfall the village and its surrounding meadows soon become
slumberous. The field-paths and lanes become utterly lonely and
solemn. Bats swoop down, and around the isolated farms may be heard
the strange cry of the owl. It is little wonder that superstition dies
slowly in such an[Pg 283]
[Pg 285] atmosphere; and there was one such superstition that long lingered around the Gannel gorge. Perhaps it is not yet quite dead, but is told by some mothers to their children at nightfall.
Penpoll Creek is reached by a delightful wild-flower lane leading from Crantock; it is the quickest way into Newquay. What may be called the main road goes inland, by Trevemper Bridge, a good four miles—sometimes to be chosen instead of taking the ford. The Gannel is only a small stream in itself, but here, at its sandy mouth, it broadens to a considerable width, and flows with rapid current. At Penpoll the road runs to meet the river on either side, and there is a narrow plank-bridge by which travellers can pass dryshod when the tide is low. But the banks of sand are very shallow, and are quickly flooded by the incoming water; this little bridge of planks is soon washed by the waves, and during some hours each day the Gannel cannot be forded. In broad daylight, when visitors from Newquay are passing and repassing, the spot may be cheerful enough; but at nightfall a dusky solemnity possesses it. There is the rumour of immemorial tradition in the air; it comes with the lap of the water and the low sob that breathes from the sands; it speaks in the cry of the birds as they wing their way restlessly from bank to bank. The countryfolk whisper that these birds are the souls of those who have been drowned at the ford—those who have dared to pass unwarily when the tide was pouring in with the force of the ocean behind it. The moment of safety had gone, but rather than drive many miles round to the bridge at Trevemper, they risked the passage, their horses became confused by the whirl of[Pg 286] waters, and by the sands, that are always treacherous in a rising tide; the flow was too strong for swimming; the waves soon bubbled mockingly above the drowned heads of man and beast.
But there is another cry that suddenly resounds through the stillness, a long-drawn, mysterious utterance, passing drearily, difficult to locate, more difficult to name—one of those sounds by which Nature at times reaches to the dark places of our spirit and terrifies us with vague dread of the unknown. Is it the wail of an owl or other bird of the night? It pervades the air wildly and lingeringly. Those who come late to the ford and hear this sudden strange call draw rein and turn backward; it is better to drive the weary distance to the bridge than to brave a crossing when this warning is abroad. Those who are familiar with this country-side, with its dim lingerings of Celtic tradition, its strange borderland of myth and reality, know the meaning of the cry in their hearts, though, perhaps, they decline to give mention to it with their lips. They have been told in their childhood of a man who once lived in these parts, whose life was stained by many black deeds, and lightened by a single good one. He had been a smuggler, a wrecker, a pirate; his hand was red with blood, his soul dark with the soil of crime. One night a cottager lay dying, and was praying that a priest might be fetched to his bedside. Moved by a rare impulse of pity, the man of many sins set forth to cross the Gannel and to bring the priest from a religious house beyond. But the time for fording had passed; the river was running swiftly, and waves were leaping hungrily about the usual track of passage. Yet it meant a long[Pg 287] delay to go round by the bridge, and the occasion was pressing. Merging all his virtue into one brave deed, the man plunged into the boiling torrent, and never reached the other side. In consideration of this last action the doom that would otherwise have been his was mitigated into a nobler penance. He is permitted to haunt the shores, and by his cries to warn passengers when the ford has become perilous. So does he save others and work out his own salvation.
Immediately beyond the Warren, with its old-world tumuli, is Fistral Bay, the eastern point of which is Towan Head, giving Newquay its finest promenade. Here, just beyond the golf-links, are two of the largest hotels, and beyond these is the lifeboat-house, with its slip for launching. Beneath are caverns and natural tunnels once devoted to smuggling; while a memorial of old Newquay's other industry exists in the quaint Huer's House, on the eastern point of the headland. It was from this look-out that the hue-and-cry was raised when the shoals of pilchards were sighted; a man being on watch here, to give signal to the fishing-boats. But the pilchards do not come so far eastward now; the house remains to remind Newquay, now in the day of its pride and fashion, that it was a humble lowly fishing village. Carew, three centuries since, spoke of "newe Kaye, a place in the north coast of Pydar Hundred, so called because in former times the neighbours attempted to supplie the defect of nature by art, in making there a kay for the rode of shipping."
There is usually some amount of charm about a harbour; but neither the harbour nor even the sea is visible from the streets of Newquay, except in rare glimpses. Modern Newquay seems to have[Pg 288] striven to render itself uninteresting; Mr. Hind says that it is the ugliest though the most popular coast-town in Cornwall. Of course, this only applies to the town, not to its situation, its fine cliffs and broad sands; Newquay townsfolk might with a little foresight have made their leading street into a most attractive promenade by leaving one side open towards the sea. As it is, the streets are resorted to for shopping and business purposes, and for nothing else; they have nothing else to offer. Commonplace on this plateau above the cliffs, the coast becomes glorious below, eaten out as it is into grand caves and hollows, with alluring stretches of weeded beach and firm shell-sand. Fistral Beach and the bracing headlands have their own special charm; but the popular beach at Newquay is that which reaches towards St. Columb and Trevalgue Head. Visitors find particular delight in the Island, a mass of rock that is really insular at high water, and the numerous caves are a constant temptation to young and old explorers. There are barrows also above the Crigga Rocks, linking modern Newquay with a far-forgotten past; and at St. Columb Porth, generally called Porth for short, are traces of submerged forest. Trevalgue Head is practically an island, joined to the mainland by a narrow bridge; and in tempestuous weather this is a grand spot for noting the force and sublimity of Cornish seas. The Banqueting Hall and Cathedral Cavern are especially fine caves here. Of course, care must always be taken to watch the tides, or trouble may be expected. About a mile inland from the Porth is the village of St. Columb Minor, the mother-parish of Newquay; farther inland still is St. Columb Major, and both churches appear to be[Pg 289] dedicated to a maiden Columba, who suffered martyrdom in Gaul. We must not think of the great Irish Columba here. The district has long been a chief centre of Cornwall's popular game of hurling, which still enjoys an annual revival, sometimes in the village itself, sometimes on the sands reaching towards Newquay. The ball used on these occasions is a little smaller than a cricket-ball, and has a coating of silver; it is inscribed with the verse—
The sides are not now confined to the parishes, but usually consist of "Married versus Single," or "Townsmen versus Countrymen." The ball is thrown up and hurled from hand to hand, no kicking being allowed; and the game is won by him who reaches the opponents' goal with it. From Carew's account of the game as formerly played, we may judge that a very extensive ground was used; he speaks of the players as taking "their way over hills, dales, hedges, ditches—yea, and thorou bushes, briers, mires, plashes, and rivers whatsoever—so as you shall sometimes see twenty or thirty lie tugging together in the water, scrambling and scratching for the ball. A play verily both rude and rough." A writer of half a century since gives this description: "A ball about the size of a cricket-ball, formed of cork or light wood and covered with silver, was hurled into the air, midway between the goals. Both parties immediately rushed towards it, each[Pg 290] striving to seize and carry it to his own goal. In this contest, when any individual having possession of the ball found himself overpowered or outrun by his opponents, he hurled it to one of his own side, if near enough, or if not into some pool, ditch, furze, brake, garden, house, or other place of concealment, to prevent his adversaries getting hold of it before his own company could arrive." It is clear that hurling somewhat resembled football as anciently played in England and Scotland between parish and parish. In old times the ball was provided by the corporations of the different localities; we read in the St. Ives parish accounts for the year 1639: "Item for a Silver Bole that was brought to towne, 6s. 6d." On such balls was often inscribed the Cornish motto, Guare teag yu guare wheag—"Fair play is good play." A curious method of forming sides, in the past, was to set all the Toms, Williams, and Johns on one side, while their neighbours of other Christian names were ranged against them; from whence came the rhyme—
But even St. Ives seems now to have abandoned the old sport, and it is limited to these parishes of St. Columb. Cornwall now devotes itself, and very successfully, to our customary football.
The two Columb churches are both interesting, that of St. Columb Minor having the second highest tower in Cornwall. Porth Island is really a portion of the Glendorgal estate, the home of the late Sir Richard Tangye, who did so much for the preservation of local antiquities. Just beyond is[Pg 291] Flory Island (Flory being clearly a corruption of Phillory), sometimes known as Black Humphrey's Isle; Black Humphrey was one of the pirate-smugglers whose tales are common around this coast.
Beyond the northern end of Watergate Bay we come to Mawgan Porth, and a mile beyond this are the famous Bedruthan Steps. Both places, but especially the Steps, afford a very favourite excursion from Newquay, seven miles distant; and whether the journey is performed on foot, or by cycle, motor-car or carriage, it is full of interest and beauty. It is best to come during the ebb of a spring tide, when the coves and caves may safely be explored; at other times there is grave peril. The caverns at Mawgan Porth are remarkably fine, and the grandly wild stretch of beach can hardly be spoken of with too great enthusiasm. The coast is as pitiless as it is beautiful, and many relics of wreckage are often washed ashore; after heavy storms the crags and caves are still searched for jetsam. It may be noted that those who do not wish to examine the caves, but who desire to see massive waves breaking on a magnificent coast-line, should come when the tide is nearing the full after prolonged westerly winds; they will see something that is even grander than high-arched dusky caverns and glimmering rock-tunnels. The beach at Bedruthan has nothing specially to distinguish it from those at Newquay and Porth, with the exception of the isolated masses of rock and boulder that in some sense cause it to resemble Kynance. Several of these have been given fanciful names—such names being always dear to the average tourist; one of these is the striking Queen Bess rock, and another is the[Pg 292] Good Samaritan. This last is so named, not very aptly, because it proved the destruction of an East Indiaman, the Good Samaritan, many years since; but as it is an ill wind that blows no one any good, so it is certain that the wreck of this richly-cargoed vessel provided the womanfolk of the district with fine silks and satins for many years after. We can thus understand the point of the local saying, "It is time for a Good Samaritan to come." The coast-people's attitude towards wrecks has never been one of ingratitude—except when Preventive officers proved too wary. Diggory Island, a little to the north, has two natural arches, making a fine spectacle at floodtide.
Perhaps it is partly by reason of its contrast with the wild, stark
coast that the far-famed Vale of Lanherne has won its reputation. It
is a spot that has excited the enthusiasm of painters, versifiers, and
guide-books; yet probably its chief charm is the surprise of its
sylvan and pastoral character in a tract of country that is not
notable for either. Counties farther east can show hundreds of such
scenes; but the quiet rusticity and woodland features here come with a
special touch of soothing and repose after the long, bare moorlands,
sandy dunes, and stern, naked cliffs. There is also another
attraction—the convent of Lanherne, once the manor-house of the
Arundells. Mr. Baring-Gould says that "Lanherne lies in the loveliest
vale in Cornwall"; Mr. Hind says, "the Vale of Lanherne did not rouse
my enthusiasm." Most visitors agree with the Rector of Lew Trenchard.
The mansion, now the convent, came into possession of the "great
Arundells" in 1231 by marriage with a daughter of John de Lanherne. It
was in the reign of Henry VII. that a later Arundell purchased[Pg 293]
[Pg 295] Wardour Castle, in Wiltshire, and gifted it to his son Sir Thomas, who was married to a sister of Catherine Howard; and it is at Wardour that the family of Arundell still flourishes. The family remained Catholic through the Reformation, and the sanctuary lamp in Lanherne Chapel was never extinguished; so that English Catholics have a very special regard for this spot, where the light of their faith still burns brightly after so many centuries. The front of the old house dates from 1580; but many buildings have been added of late years for the accommodation of the nuns, whose seclusion is very strict. It came into possession of the Carmelites in 1794, when a party of nuns, driven from France by the Revolution, came to England, having in vain tried to find safety at Antwerp. They were given this mansion by Henry, eighth Lord Arundell of Wardour.
Here they have been ever since, the settlement having been much enriched and enlarged more recently. Their presence has drawn other Catholics to the spot, so that the district is quite mediæval in its spiritual atmosphere; besides which many visitors not of the faith come hither to worship in the beautiful chapel, and to try to obtain glimpses of the fair recluses. Having once taken the veil, these nuns never again leave the precincts. They attend the services in a gallery concealed by a grating; they take exercise in a high-walled garden; when they die they are buried in the convent cemetery. There cannot fail to be a touch of sadness in thinking of these ladies thus secluded from the "stir of existence," severed from the interests of their brothers and sisters, not even having the fair country-side and grand coast as a feast for their eyes, their lives spent in ceaseless[Pg 296] prayer and liturgy. It is strange that such things should be, and we can only imagine the haven to be welcome to those who, in their declining years, crave perfect peace and retirement after the stress of uttermost sorrow or restless buffetings. There are paintings of Vandyke and Rubens in the chapel. Outside the door is an old cross, brought from Gwinear, which is supposed to be Anglo-Saxon; its inscriptions have never been deciphered. They are thought to be in both Saxon and Latin. There is a secret chamber in the older part of the convent, dating from those Elizabethan days when priests lurked about the Cornish country-side, nourishing their faith in the villagers, who were very slow to welcome the Reformation, and always seeking if possible to stir a rising against the new order. It is said that a priest was once successfully concealed here for eighteen months.
Many stirring things are told of the Arundells, who were dauntless
Royalists. One is the siege of Wardour Castle in 1643, when it was
heroically defended by Blanche, wife of Lord Arundell, who was with
the King at Oxford. This lady, with a garrison of fifty, so stoutly
resisted the Parliamentary attack that most honourable terms of
capitulation were granted; but these terms were not kept. It was
another Arundell, then a very old man, who defended Pendennis. The
family had another house at Trerice, about three miles south-east of
Newquay; and at the Restoration, when their confiscations were
removed, the title of Lord Arundell of Trerice, now extinct, was
created. Carew has some curious remarks about them. He says: "Their
name is derived from Hirondelle, in French, a swallow, and out of
France at the Conquest they came, and six swallows they gave[Pg 297]
[Pg 299] in arms. The country people entitled them the Great Arundells; and greatest stroke, for love, living, and respect, in the country heretofore they bear. Their house of Lanhearn standeth in the parish called Mawgan. It is appurtenanced with a large scope of land which was employed in frank hospitality."
The next attraction at Mawgan is its church. Perpendicular in style but dating from the thirteenth century, its pinnacled tower is surrounded by beautiful Cornish elms, and close to the graveyard runs a prattling brook. The restoration by Butterfield was not all that might be desired, but it happily spared the carved bench-ends, the fine pulpit and the screen. There are also some good brasses and memorials of the Arundells. In the churchyard is a remarkable lantern-cross—not Celtic but mediæval; it is described by Blight as "the most elaborate of the kind in Cornwall. What is intended to be represented by this carving is not very evident; an angel seated on a block in a corner holds a serpent turning round a pillar, and with its head touching the face of a king. By the king's side is the figure of a queen kneeling before a lectern." There is also in the graveyard a curious monument, the stern of a boat, bearing the record of ten seamen who drifted ashore in their little vessel, frozen to death, at Beacon Cove in 1846. Before leaving Mawgan most visitors will take a ramble through the beautiful Carnanton woods, while some may remember that Carnanton was the residence of William Noye, Attorney-General to Charles I., who as member for St. Ives had signalised himself as a champion of parliamentary [Pg 300]rights. Ministerial rank worked a wonderful change; so much so that Noye was actually the originator of the ship-money tax which played so large a share in embroiling the nation. Hals goes so far as to say that Noye "was blow-coal, incendiary, and stirrer-up of the Civil War"; and it was he who prosecuted the arrested members of the House of Commons. He had the reputation of a miser, so that, when he died, it was stated that his heart had shrivelled into the shape of a leather purse. It is rather a pitiful memory to attach to so delightful a district.
THE PADSTOW DISTRICT
When we turn from the Mawgan district to make our way towards the Padstow estuary the grand, broken coast goes with us, ever presenting new aspects of varying beauty—coves of golden sand succeeded by gaunt, caverned headlands, with here and there a craggy islet lying among the tumbling breakers. The great plateau of the Bodmin Moors here touches the coast, bringing its profusion of prehistoric remains—though in that matter there is little of Cornwall that is not plentifully endowed. Immediately above Bedruthan there is one cliff-castle, and on Park Head, a little beyond, are the burial tumuli of some unknown people. We are now in the parish of St. Eval, whose church stands on high ground about two miles inland. It is said that Bristol merchants, in the eighteenth century, found this church so useful a landmark for their vessels that they rebuilt it at their own cost. Eval is a saint not easy to identify; there is an inscribed stone in Pembrokeshire giving the name Evali fili Dencui, so that he may have been a missionary from South Wales. North of Park Head are the Butter Coves, and the coves of Porthmear and Portcothan. They are magnificent in times of[Pg 302] rough weather. In a quiet way Porthcothan is beginning to attract visitors, but the place is not very accessible, and has little but its loveliness to recommend it. There is, however, a remarkable fogou, or subterranean cavern, about 38 feet long and 6 feet in height, with a passage leading into another similar chamber. Fogou is the Cornish word for cave (sometimes corrupted into Hugo); but it usually signifies a cavern or passage of artificial construction, built at an early date for the concealment of persons or of property. There are good specimens at Cairn Uny, at Trelowarren, and at Trewoofe near Lamorna. In most of these passages only a few yards can now be traversed, as they have fallen into disuse, and unless repaired frequently the sides and roofs have a tendency to fall in. Sometimes they obviously connect with old hill-castles and strongholds, in which case their construction takes us beyond the reach of history; and generally their formation was assisted or suggested by nature. But their comparatively recent use by smugglers for the concealment of run goods makes it particularly difficult to speak with certainty as to their true antiquity; and the coves around Porthcothan saw the landing of many an illicit cargo. Stories of fugitive Royalists taking refuge in these fogous are common, and have doubtless a basis of fact. It is supposed that the entire length of the Porthcothan fogou must have been over 1,000 yards, one gallery leading to Trevethan, whence another communicated with the beach at Porthmear.
Passing other jagged points and creeks, we come to Constantine Bay,
where the ordinary visitor may pardonably suppose he is on the steps
[Pg 305] a Roman emperor, but the Constantine here recorded was a genuine Cornish saint. Perhaps his name was Cystennyn, Latinised after, as was a common custom. He was of the Cornish royal family, being son of Cador; and Geoffrey of Monmouth tells us, fabulously, that he succeeded Arthur as King of the British. He is chiefly remembered in literature by the abuse that Gildas heaped upon him, in those letters, written about 546, that are notable for imperfect accuracy, fervent religion, and virulent bad temper. Gildas calls Constantine the "tyrannical whelp of the unclean lioness of Damnonia"; and further asks, "Why standest thou astonished, O thou butcher of thine own soul? Why dost thou wilfully kindle against thyself the eternal fires of hell?" It is quite likely that Constantine had done some bad things and been no better than his neighbours; but it is supposed that he was converted in his old age, through the preaching of St. Petrock, whom we shall meet more intimately at Padstow. It is said that Constantine was hunting, and the stag that he was pursuing took refuge in Petrock's cell; the animal's recognition of the saint's holiness and appeal to his protection so touched his heart as to lead to a change of life. Another story refers his conversion to grief at the death of his wife. Mr. Baring-Gould tells us that: "So completely did he sever himself from the world, that it was supposed by some that he had been murdered by Conan, his successor. He retired to a cell on the sands in the parish of St. Merryn, near Padstow, where there was a well, and where he could be near Petrock, through whom he had been brought to the knowledge of himself." It is probable that[Pg 306] he journeyed later to the creek of the Helford River, in South Cornwall, and founded the Constantine that we find there. It is doubtless on the site of his original cell that the old church of St. Constantine stands, overwhelmed and ruined by sand-storms long since, buried utterly for a time like that of St. Piran, and now again visible, a few broken and rugged walls among the towans. The sand that destroyed the church destroyed also the village, and the parish was merged in that of St. Merryn, whither the beautiful font was conveyed. This font and other portions of St. Merryn Church are of the well-known Cataclew stone, from the Cataclew quarries by Trevose Head. This stone was formerly put to very effective use in church-building, and it is pleasant to know that it has again come into popularity.
But the fact that has given greatest distinction to this spot, and
that which does more than anything else to draw visitors, is the
discovery, about ten years since, of a prehistoric burial-ground at
Harlyn Bay. The Athenæum of that date announced to its readers that
"a discovery of the highest importance to the study of the prehistoric
races inhabiting England before the first Roman invasion has recently
been made in a remote corner of Cornwall. On a sloping sandy hillside
overlooking the picturesque white sand-bay of Harlyn excavations were
being made by Mr. Reddie Mallett for sinking a well preparatory to
building a house overlooking the sea. The spot selected for boring
turned out to be exactly in the centre, not of a tumulus containing
but two or three interments, but of a perfect cemetery, with three
distinct layers of burials of men, women, and children. The drift[Pg 307]
[Pg 309] sand that is so extensive in this part of Cornwall rose some 8 to 10 feet above the graves, but when the original hardly compressed sand was reached, the great slates with which the kists were carefully formed were often not more than 2 feet below this surface." Dr. Beddoe pronounced the remains to be neolithic, and the persons here interred were of a dolichocephalic or long-skulled race—sometimes known as the long barrow-builders, who generally buried their dead without cremation. There were some tiny kists for children, but a great number of the bodies had been buried uncoffined. The district had afforded earlier similar traces of pre-Roman interment, but nothing on so large a scale as this. Although a great deal of excavation has gone on since, and there is a small museum erected close by to contain the more striking finds, much more may yet be done and other secrets be revealed. It is not quite certain yet where the persons lived whose bones have thus been uncovered to the gaze of a late generation of sight-seers, but it is supposed that their habitations must have been near this site. They were, of course, in a higher state of civilisation than mere cave-dwellers, but their huts may have been of perishable wattle, or they may have come from some of the hut-circles of the Bodmin Moors. The remains, like those around St. Piran's, bespeak a somewhat dense population. As Harlyn Bay has become popular for picnic parties from Padstow and elsewhere, this old necropolis often resounds with laughter and merry-making; but in winter and in rough weather it is left to its own solemnity. A spirit of awe broods above it;[Pg 310] we remember the words of Ezekiel: "The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones."
Meeting the ocean westward of Harlyn is Trevose Head, with its lighthouse and coastguard station. The headland rises to nearly 250 feet, and its light is sorely needed, the coast, with its outlying masses of crag, being a deadly peril to navigation. The views to be obtained here are of exceptional grandeur, and the lighthouse-keepers, though far less lonely than on many similar stations, generally welcome a visit.
Padstow is situated on the western side of the Camel estuary, below
the sandbank known as the Doom Bar (probably dune-bar). The gates of
the river-mouth are the Stepper Point, with its white day-mark, and
Pentire Point; the Doom Bar lies well within these, almost blocking
the passage, which, with vessels of any draught, must be made on the
Stepper side. The name Doom Bar is, of course, provocative of legend,
and an appropriate one has been found. It is said that Padstow had
once a safe and commodious harbour, whose mouth was haunted by a
beautiful mermaid. The harbour was under her special protection, and
she was consequently revered by the inhabitants. But one day a youth
foolishly fired on her from the cliffs. With a cry of rage she plunged
into the water, but reappeared for a moment to vow that henceforth the
harbour should be ruined. An old Cornishman who told the story in the
days when such traditions still passed current, used to[Pg 311]
[Pg 313] add: "We have had commissions and I know not what about converting this place into a harbour of refuge. A harbour of refuge would be a great blessing, but not all the Government commissions in the world could keep the sand out, or make the harbour deep enough to swim a frigate, unless the parsons can find out the way to take up the merry-maid's curse." But there is another tradition attaching to the Bar. This is the country of Tregeagle—he lies buried at St. Breock, close to Wadebridge: "John Tregeagle, of Trevorder, Esqr., 1679." His story forms a curious mixture of the recent and the prehistoric. We see that a man named Tregeagle truly lived and died something more than two centuries ago; but the Tregeagle or Tergagle of legend belongs to folk-lore rather than to modern social life. Very old ideas and superstitions have in some manner become attached to a recent name; tradition has a knack of bringing forward its dates; stories of immemorial antiquity are related as though they were the experience of the narrator's father or grandfather, and are modernised to suit that supposition. Legend never sticks at absurdity or anachronism. From some versions of the story it would appear that Tregeagle could not have lived earlier than the seventeenth century, in actual accordance with the date on his tombstone; but in others certain of the early Cornish saints are introduced, carrying the history twelve centuries back or further still. It would seem that Tregeagle was a landowner in the neighbourhood of Bodmin, holding the Trevorder estate; but he won his chief notoriety as steward on the lands of the Robartes family, at Lanhydrock. There is still[Pg 314] a room in the Lanhydrock mansion known as Tregeagle's. The man doubtless did many things of which morality cannot approve, but tradition has overdone itself in attributing to him every possible crime, including the murder of his wife, his children, and his sister. He was an unjust steward, grinding the tenants unmercifully, and enriching himself not only at their expense but at that of his employer. But he contrived to purchase the goodwill of the Church, and at his death it was only seemly that the clergy should do what they could for him. When the spirits of darkness came to claim the soul of the dying wretch they were successfully repelled by the priests with the powers of bell, book, and candle. The Church wrangled with the fiends above the breathless body, defeated them in heated theological controversy, dismissed them with contumely, and laid Tregeagle to rest with his fathers at St. Breock. He was not destined to repose there long. There was a heritage of trouble in connection with the Lanhydrock estate, and the defendant in one particular case sorely needed the witness of Tregeagle himself, to settle a disputed point. By some means he managed to procure it; the clergy provided a safe-conduct, and the figure of the dead Tregeagle was led into the witness-box. A thrill of horror passed through the court, but this spectral witness gave evidence faithfully, and gained a triumphant verdict for defendant. The trouble now was what to do with Tregeagle. The fiends were still waiting for him; defendant who had summoned him took no further interest in the matter; but the clergy felt that they still owed [Pg 315]him a duty. They knew that the dead man's chance at the Day of Doom was not a good one, but in the meantime they would do what they could. It was decided to give him a perpetual penance, which might keep the evil spirits at a distance. He was led away to the shores of Dosmare Pool, on the desolate Bodmin Moors, and there set to drain the pool with a leaky limpet-shell. In those days Dosmare was supposed to be bottomless—a reputation which it has since destroyed by drying in hot summers. For long years Tregeagle toiled at his hopeless task. If he ceased from his labour for a moment he would be at the mercy of the devils.
One night, after many years of fruitless toil, there came a terrific
storm, with thunder and earthquake. In sheer horror and despair
Tregeagle fled. Immediately the demons were on his track, chasing him
so closely that he could not stay to dip his limpet-shell in the
foaming water. Feeling that they were upon him, he rose with a cry of
anguish, and fled across the pool, thus gaining a temporary advantage,
for spirits of evil cannot cross water. He made for the hermitage on
Roche Rock, the yelling pursuers at his heels. Just as they were about
to seize him he thrust his head within the small window of the
hermit's chapel, and thus was safe. There was still a difficulty about
his position. He could not get further into the church, nor does it
appear that the hermit desired it; and he could not withdraw his head
lest the fiends should seize him. He had to stay and listen to the
good man's prayers and liturgies, which only added to the terrors of
his guilty conscience, so that his remorseful screams were heard above
all the psalms and prayings.[Pg 316] The hermit found it a great affliction,
for the population of the district was kept away by the unpleasantness
of Tregeagle's presence. At last two other clergy came to his
assistance, and Tregeagle was led away to the coast at Padstow. His
new task was to make ropes of sand—one of the familiar penances of
such traditions. He could not do it; it was worse than draining
Dosmare. Night and day he rendered the place hideous with his frantic
cries, and the Padstow folk did not like it at all. It was making the
neighbourhood unbearable. At their earnest request another effort was
made by the priests to dispose of poor Tregeagle. He was ruining the
harbour by his attempts to make the ropes of sand; every rising sea
scattered these ropes, however carefully formed, and the sand was
accumulating in a bar of Doom. It is said that St. Petrock himself,
the spiritual founder of Padstow, forged a chain of which every link
was a prayer, and thus led away the unhappy ghost to Helston. In the
estuary of the Hel River he spoiled the harbourage also, for a devil
tripped him one day, when toiling across with a sack of sand, and the
sand was spilt right across the mouth of the river. At last he was
cast out from Helston also, and dismissed to Land's End, where he
remains labouring to this day, endeavouring to sweep the sands from
Porthcurno Cove into Nanjisal. Of course, it cannot be done; the full
force of the Atlantic drives around Land's End, and the sands are
driven backward again and again. But he is safe from the immediate
attack of the fiends, and he is out of the way of the countryfolk. His
cries are lost in the crash of the seas that dominate that desolate
shore, and the fishermen[Pg 317]
[Pg 319] have given up thinking about Tregeagle. The legends vary in telling his doom; some make the draining of Dosmare his last penance and some this task at the Land's End. But if an imaginative reason is desired to account for the formation of the Padstow Doom Bar, surely this tale will do as well as any other.
It will be seen that this chronicle of Tregeagle carries him back to the time of Petrock, the patron saint of Padstow, whose name is a corruption of Petrock's-stow. Little Petherick, sometimes called St. Petrock Minor, is thought to be a corruption of the same name. Petrock was a Celtic saint, probably a Welshman, who went to Ireland for his religious education; he crossed to Cornwall in a coracle, and landed in this estuary of the Camel. He founded an oratory here, and probably another at Little Petherick. It is also suggested that he established another cell at Place, the seat of the Prideaux, but it seems more likely that the chapel at Place was founded by St. Samson. After spending many years at Padstow the saint is said to have voyaged to the East, visiting India, and also going on a visionary journey to some Island of the Blest, after the manner of St. Brendan. After returning to Cornwall he removed to Bodmin and established the most important of his religious foundations. Like Padstow, Bodmin was formerly named Petrockstow, and this has caused endless confusion to the chroniclers as well as some quarrels between the two towns. Further, the saint evidently went into Devon; we trace his footsteps at Dartmouth, Exeter, Hollacombe, Anstey, and elsewhere. Bodmin can boast precedence of Padstow in certain respects, for it attained episcopal consequence,[Pg 320] besides being the county town of Cornwall; but with regard to priority in connection with Petrock, it is clear Padstow has the first claim. At one time Padstow appears to have been called Lodenek or Lodernek, but in the thirteenth century it was certainly known as Aldestowe; in fact, the town has been troubled with a multiplicity of names, which is always a regrettable thing, for a person or a place. The town is about two miles within the estuary, and were it not for the sands that block its entrance, this would be truly a fine harbour; even so, it is the best that North Cornwall possesses. Two vessels sailed from here for the siege of Calais; and in the sixteenth century some sort of corporation was granted, but this seems to have been lost. At the present day it is a picturesque, quaint old town, in a beautiful and most interesting site, dominated by a weather-beaten old church. But Mr. Hind, though he finds much to admire, does not regard Padstow as in any sense typically Cornish. He says: "An air-voyager dropped from a flying-machine upon the roof of a Padstow house would never think that he was in Cornwall. If he walked out to Stepper Point, or strode some miles westward to Trevose Head, the first land sighted in old days by Canadian timber vessels trading to Padstow, the majestic sweep of coast, the jagged headlands and scattered rocks would certainly suggest Cornwall; but the estuary of the Camel from Wadebridge to Padstow, although beautiful, has no claim to the epithet wild. The panorama induces reflection, moves one to a mood of gentle melancholy; but it does not stimulate. Nowhere in Cornwall have I seen such sand—gold, grey and yellow, equally lovely at all tides. Looking across the river, the[Pg 321] eye is soothed by these wastes of blown sand stretching inland from the sea to where the little hamlet called Rock rises from the shore." Sundries are imported at the docks, and there is some shipment of corn; but the ship-building, once notable, has greatly declined, and the town now does little but repairing. It is satisfactory to find that the sands of the Doom Bar have a certain value, as they contain much carbonate of lime, and they are carried inland for agricultural purposes. The church, which stands well above the town, has a good Early English tower, and a beautiful, finely carved catacleuse font; in the south porch the parish stocks are preserved. In the chancel, over the piscina, is an effigy sometimes mistaken for that of St. Anthony, but almost certainly the figure is St. Petrock himself, with his usual symbols, the staff and wolf, at his feet. There are modern monochrome pictures from drawings by Hofmann in front of the organ. It is natural to find monuments of the Prideaux family both within the church and without; in the churchyard also are two granite crosses, one much mutilated.
Prideaux Place, generally named Place, stands a little higher than the church, in a glorious situation; it is a finely designed Elizabethan mansion—Elizabethan in style if not exactly in date—erected by Sir Nicholas Prideaux about the year 1600. Its old staircase was brought thither when Stowe House, once the seat of the Grenvilles, was broken up. The Prideaux are a Cornish family of ancient note, whose names we often meet with in the Duchy's annals; but the most widely known was Humphrey Prideaux, born here in 1648, who at one time was Rector of St. Clement's, Oxford, and[Pg 322] later became Dean of Norwich. He wrote a Life of Mahomet, and also a work in which he attempted to bridge over the interval between the Old and New Testaments—rather a ticklish job, one might imagine. There are a good many excellent pictures at the house—a Vandyck and many Opies; but the visitor, unless specially introduced, will have to be content with the outside of the beautiful manor-house.
Padstow has been associated from immemorial times with a special celebration of the May-Day festival, immediately deriving from the old folk-plays and mummings that were once universal. The special survival here is of the Hobby Horse, that once played so prominent a part in these boisterous masquerades, but such life as it still enjoys at Padstow is somewhat a galvanised existence, just as children still occasionally dress in poor tinsel and gaiety in order to collect a few coppers. Such exhibitions are melancholy rather than interesting—
The horse is a wooden circle, with a dress of blackened sailcloth, a
horse's head, and a prominent tail. Readers of Scott's Abbot will,
of course, remember that the Hobby Horse was equally popular in
Scotland. The Hobby Horse song, as rendered at Padstow, was probably
only a variant of verses common elsewhere, but local and topical
allusions were freely introduced, and stanzas were addressed to
special personages. The performance is in a moribund condition, and it
is certainly not worth while for a stranger to travel to Padstow on
May-Day to see it. Very likely he[Pg 323]
[Pg 325] would not see it; it is a thing that may be discontinued at any time. If we were devoting our attention to Cornwall as it used to be, much would come into this book which is now utterly obsolete, and would cause as great surprise to Cornish folk as to others.
If the tide serves, it is certainly worth while to go up to Wadebridge, if only for the sake of the grand old bridge, originally built of seventeen arches, in the year 1485, by Thomas Lovibond, Vicar of Egloshayle. The bridge has been widened since its erection, but is not otherwise much changed. There was a ferry here in the past, but it was perilous, and Lovibond could not rest till, with the assistance of his bishop, he had collected money for this beneficent work. There was a great difficulty in sinking foundations for the bridge, owing to the shifting sands, but, guided by a dream, Lovibond is said to have resorted to packs of wool—the same method reported by tradition of Bideford Bridge. The bridge is 320 feet long, and remains the best specimen of its class in England, as it retains its protecting angles for the use of pedestrians, which at Bideford have been removed. Lovibond was not only a bridge-builder; he also erected the fine tower of his church at Egloshayle (the mother-parish of Wadebridge). Egloshayle probably means the "church by the river" (eglos-hêl); its church is particularly interesting for its western doorway, its Norman font, and its Kestell monument, while there is some good carving in the roof of the south aisle. The church of St. Breock is distant nearly a mile from Wadebridge, on the western side of the river, and is perhaps still more delightful in its position; it is noteworthy for its[Pg 326] monuments, which, however, have been much displaced. It is here that the remains of Tregeagle lie entombed; his spirit, if we may credit tradition, is otherwise engaged. St. Breock is supposed to have arrived in Cornwall, from Wales, earlier than Petrock. He was an old man, and, as Mr. Baring-Gould tells us, one day his companions "left him to sing psalms in his cart whilst they were engaged at a distance over some pressing business. When they returned they found a pack of wolves round the old man, but whether his sanctity, or toughness, kept them from eating him is left undecided." Surely it must have been his sanctity. His name attaches to the Breock Downs, a high-lying moorland rising to about 700 feet, thickly strewn with prehistoric remains. Wadebridge has suffered by the opening of the railway to Padstow, but it can boast that its rail to Bodmin was the second line to be opened in England. Many jests were current in reference to the speed of this early railway. Professor Shuttleworth, who was born at Egloshayle Vicarage, says: "I have often seen the train stop while people got out and gathered blackberries. But it is lovely country down around Egloshayle and Wadebridge, just as pretty and quiet as can be." Mr. Arthur Norway also has a very tender regard for the district, for a similar reason, and he has given some weird stories of local superstition. But it cannot be claimed that Wadebridge is on the coast, and we must retreat seaward.
Readers of Baring-Gould's stirring novel, The Roar of the Sea, are
sure to look eagerly for St. Enodoc's Church. It lies among the
sand-dunes on the eastern bank of the estuary, and is now protected
from the sands that once practically[Pg 327]
[Pg 329] buried it by the growth of rush-grass and tamarisk hedges; even now it lies low within a deep trench, and we can easily picture its condition in days when the parson used to enter through the roof to perform service, so as to keep his tithes. Built in 1430, it was the successor of an earlier cell of the saint's. Its slightly crooked spire of slate is the sole landmark to guide a visitor. In the graveyard is a curious collection of stoups and water-bowls. It is about forty years now since the church was excavated from the sands that rose to its roof and restored to usefulness. Those familiar with Mr. Baring-Gould's book will remember that he places the home of Cruel Coppinger in this district, with his house at Pentire Glaze; but we shall find the true home of Coppinger further northward, near Morwenstow. Just within Hayle Bay is the little village of Polzeath, which in time may become a popular watering-place; it has a wonderful charm of position, and enough sand to satisfy anybody. The fine headland of Pentire reaches beyond, with its off-lying islet of Newland. Mr. Norway thinks that the stretch of coast visible from Pentire is the finest in all Cornwall, and he speaks with authority. On the west the view extends to Trevose, and embraces the whole of the beautiful Padstow harbour, together with an unlimited ocean of marvellous ever-changing colours. "On the east the prospect seems almost boundless. Port Isaac Bay lies just below, sweeping far back into the land, half hidden by the Eastern Horn of Pentire. Across the bay Tintagel lies directly opposite, eight miles away over the sea, every crevice and gully of its riven island clearly marked in the translucent air; and beyond it the eye[Pg 330] follows leagues and leagues of iron cliffs towering far higher than any others in the west, and point after point of noble jagged promontories, past Boscastle, set back a little out of sight, past Bude and Cambeak, and rugged Morwenstow, till it rests at last on the dim line of Hartland Point, full 40 miles away as a bird would fly. It is idle to compare any other view in the West Country with this either in extent or grandeur, or in the immediate beauty of its surroundings. It is little known, and rarely visited by any but by shepherds. Yet it is more easy of access from Wadebridge than the Land's End or the Logan from Penzance; and there will be some to whom its very loneliness is an additional attraction. However this may be, those who leave Cornwall without visiting Pentire have missed its noblest scenery."
It is a large claim that Mr. Norway makes, but surely it is justified.
The parts of Cornwall that are best known are naturally those that
come within range of the more popular resorts—Newquay, Bude,
Penzance, St. Ives, Falmouth—while eastern Cornwall is accessible
from Plymouth. But this stretch of coast is near no popular centre,
and, with the exception of Tintagel and Boscastle, it remains
neglected. If Padstow or Polzeath, Portquin or Port Isaac, ever become
more popular, visitors will flock to these grand cliffs and marvel
that they never came here before. There is a remarkable triple
entrenchment on the eastern Horn of Pentire, above its stark, rugged
caverns; but those who came here and fortified this noble headland, in
far-back days of which we can only dream, came not in search of the
picturesque as we do, nor[Pg 331]
[Pg 333] probably for the spiritual repose that we crave in this age of hurry. Even sterner necessities governed their existence. Cliff-camps of this nature cannot have been designed against any foe from the sea—even to-day it would be a perilous thing indeed to attempt a forcible landing at such places—they were more likely a last refuge from invading tribes that came overland from the south-east. The struggles witnessed here must almost certainly have been far earlier than the coming of Roman or Teuton; it was probably successive waves, or antagonist tribes, of Stone Age men that here contended and opposed each other. But the ditches and embankments have little to tell us; tradition is silent, the lonely barrows are dumb. Yet the blood of the peoples still flows within Cornish veins; and those characteristics that we vaguely speak of as Celtic often derive from a far earlier source.
The little island to the east of Pentire is the Mouls, and to the right is Portquin Bay. Port Isaac Bay, beyond Kelland Head and Varley Point, takes its name from the delightful little fishing village of Port Isaac, of which Port Gaverne may almost be considered as a suburb. Both are in the parish of St. Endellion, but Port Isaac has its own church, erected in Early English style in 1882. Its small pier is said to date from the time of Henry VIII., and before the railway a good deal of Delabole slate was shipped here. The fishing for pilchards is here done by trawlers, not by seines, as round Land's End. The name may probably be interpreted as porth izic, the "corn port," though certainly this is not a grain country. Very appropriately, it is said that fish are exhibited among the fruits and[Pg 334] flowers at the Port Isaac annual harvest service. Some other West Country fishing-towns have introduced nets and oars at such services, but to bring in the actual fish seems peculiar to this place. The fish has always been a sacred symbol in Christian art, and it represents to fisher-folk what the fruits of the earth do to the field labourer. Both these little twin ports—Isaac and Gaverne—are entirely charming, and much to be commended to all who would know unspoiled Cornwall. Nestling within their tiny coves, they have a varied background of interesting country, pleasant little beaches, beautiful cliffs, and a glorious sea. There is one other resort to be visited before reaching Tintagel, and that is Trebarwith Strand, which similarly reaches the sea by a tiny cove, with the Gull Rock lying off shore as a target for storms. Trebarwith is likely to become fashionable. It has a fine stretch of sands, and provides some of the best bathing to be had in North Cornwall. Those who wish to be near Tintagel and yet close to the sea had better come to Trebarwith rather than to the Tintagel village itself.
TINTAGEL AND BOSCASTLE
When we come to the region that is specially sacred to traditions of
King Arthur we find ourselves in the presence of wonderful natural
charm and of considerable historic perplexity. Those who are content
with the ordinary guide-books, and who have no conception of Arthur
beyond what they may have gained from snatches of Tennyson, will not
be troubled by this perplexity; they will take the crumbling walls on
Tintagel heights to be the actual castle in which the Celtic prince
was born, and any round table will suffice them as being that around
which the king and his chieftains sat. But something a little better
than this is desirable. We want Arthur to be something more than a
mere ghost, something even more than the blameless hero of a beautiful
Victorian poem. Yet if we go to the learned authorities the ghost
becomes more ghostlike, the phantom becomes more dim; it is mainly
destructive criticism that we meet with, and assertions that are
largely negative. In spite of this, there must be something tangible
behind so persistent a rumour as this tradition of Arthur. Wherever
the Brythonic tribes extended, there we find traces of him. The Gaels
know nothing of him. Finn, Oisin, Cuthullin, Cormac—such[Pg 336] as these
were the great Goidhelic heroes. But the British tradition reached
from Armorica to the Forth, and carried Arthur with it. The Welsh
claim him, the Bretons, the Cornish, the Lowland Scotch. Cornwall,
with Tintagel as an asset of faith, claims his birth; Somerset, with
Cadbury on the river Camel, claims Camelot; and Glastonbury boasts of
his grave. Of these claims, that of Cornwall is the most powerfully
supported; there is not only Tintagel, but Kelly Rounds, Damelioc, and
Cardinham. One of the Welsh Triads speaks of the three chief palaces
of Arthur as being Caerleon-on-the-Usk, Celliwig in Cornwall, and
Penrhyn Rhionedd in the north. Celliwig may safely be identified with
the partially effaced earthwork near St. Kew Station, known as Kelly
Rounds (probably from the Cornish killi, meaning woods or groves),
standing in what may be described as a Kelly district, for we have
here in a cluster such names as Kelly Green, Kelly Farm, Bokelly,
Kelly Brae, Calliwith. The Rounds have been cut across by a road, but
there are distinct traces of two ramparted circles, with some remains
of a sheltering earthwork to the west. Damelioc, a large and strong
entrenchment with three concentric ramparts, lies about seven miles
south-west of Tintagel; and it was here that Gorlois, Duke of
Cornwall, took up his position after placing his wife Igerne for
safety within Tintagel itself. The common story says that Uther, mad
with love, overcame and slew Gorlois at Damelioc, and gained admission
to Tintagel in his guise, thus becoming the father of Arthur. Of
course, there is the other tradition that represents Arthur as of
supernatural birth, washed to the shore by the waves, rescued by[Pg 337]
[Pg 339] Merlin, and given to the world as a son of Uther. Cardinham, the other almost certain Arthurian locality in Cornwall, is about five miles east of Bodmin, and is identified with the Caradigan where Arthur sometimes held court. It is a large, lonely earthwork, in a field near a farmhouse. It must not be forgotten that the guide-books usually put forward Camelford as another most important Arthurian place, mentioning Slaughter Bridge as the scene of the king's last battle. There certainly was a battle here between Britons and Saxons, but this took place at least two centuries after Arthur's time; and though a spot named Arthur's Grave is shown to visitors, all definite connection between the king and Camelford must be surrendered. The last great battle, according to all authentic tradition, was fought against Picts, and what would Picts have been doing in Cornwall? The grave at Glastonbury, it must be owned with regret, is now generally understood to be a monkish fable. It is not pleasant for a West of England man to surrender either Camelford or Glastonbury, but truth must be faced, and the fact is almost certain that Arthur's last battle, and therefore his grave, must be sought in Scotland.
We may assume that Arthur was a Romanised Briton, born in the late fifth century at Tintagel; his name being possibly a Celtic form of the Latin Artorius. He became the champion of his race against encroaching Saxons, North-Country Picts, and wandering pagan hordes who fought for lust of bloodshed and pillage. Against these it is likely that Arthur sought to maintain a semi-Romanised, partially Christianised civilisation. He is credited with twelve great battles, in all of which he proved victorious; some of[Pg 340] these were certainly in Somerset, and the last of his triumphs, that of Badon Hill, somewhere in Wessex. His rule thus established on a firm foundation, for many years Britain knew comparative peace and good government. The Round Table of which we hear so much is probably a symbolic addition of the bards, unless it means that in Arthur's time persons of good class began to sit decently together at tables. The thirteenth battle, in which he lost his life fighting against his nephew Mordred, has usually been given to the West of England—Malory and Tennyson both do so. But the traditions that became most popular sprang up in an age when the Cymry were forgetting the former wide extent of their tribal sway, and were limiting their racial pride to a part of the country that was still free from the Teuton. The fact that Arthur's last fight was with the Picts, and against Mordred, is almost conclusive as to its location. His sister, the mother of Mordred, had married Llew or Lot, of the Lothians, and there is reason to believe that the king was already familiar with this part of Scotland. The battle is always given as fought at Camlan, and this name has diverted later writers to the Camels of Cornwall and of Somerset. But the Celtic cam in place-names is quite common; it signifies crooked, and we find it in a number of river-names. Mordred had become a chieftain of the Picts, and he possibly resented any claims of suzerainty on the part of Arthur. The fight, whose date is stated as 542, was almost certainly waged at Camelon on the river Carron, near Falkirk. Arthur was defeated—it is likely that his forces were greatly outnumbered; and he died, either on the field or as an immediate result[Pg 341] of a wound then received. Not many miles distant is an earthwork still known as Mordred's Castle; and at Carron, nearer still, there was formerly a mound or cairn known as Arthur's Oon (oven). All the picturesque detail in Tennyson's wonderful "Passing of Arthur" must be attributed to Cymric bards, to the genius of Malory, and to the poet's imagination; we must be content with the conclusion that Arthur was born but did not die in Cornwall.
In any case nothing of the present ruins at Tintagel existed in the
time of Arthur. Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote about the year 1150,
says of the stronghold that "it is situated upon the sea, and on every
side surrounded by it; and there is but one entrance into it, and that
through a straight rock, which three men shall be able to defend
against the whole power of the kingdom." Even Gorlois, we remember,
only gained admittance by stratagem. Tintagel, Dundagel, or Dundiogl,
the Dunecheniv of Domesday, seems certainly to have belonged to
Gorlois when Uther was Pendragon or Head-king of Britain; it would
have been a cliff-castle such as that on Pentire Head. As years passed
the rock probably became more insular, and when the Norman stronghold
was built it was connected with the mainland by a drawbridge. From
earliest times the castle attached to the Earls of Cornwall, one of
whom protected David, Prince of Wales, during his revolt against
Edward I. Later it was used as a kind of prison, a Mayor of London
being confined within it. Elizabeth had some thought of restoring it,
for it had already become ruinous; Leland says: "The residue of the
buildings of the Castle be sore wetherbeten, and yn ruine;[Pg 342] but it
hath beene a large thinge." Its outworks extended to the mainland, but
the great keep was on the isolated mass of rock. Here also are the
remains of St. Juliet's chapel, with its altar-slab and stone benches.
It is not easy to say much about the Juliot or Julitta to whom this
chapel was dedicated; but the chapel is certainly that mentioned in
the thirteenth-century High History of the Holy Grail. "They came
into a very different land, scarce inhabited of any folk, and found a
little castle in a combe. They came thitherward and saw that the
enclosure of the castle was fallen down into an abysm, so that none
might approach it on that side, but it had a right fair gateway and a
door tall and wide, whereby they entered. They beheld a chapel that
was fair and rich, and below was a great ancient hall." But the spirit
of modernism now comes very near to this sacred spot of antiquity; on
an opposite headland stands a commodious hotel, and the Tintagel
golf-links come very close to the castle. A tiny port lies below, from
which a little slate is sometimes shipped. The village, whose correct
name of Trevena is being displaced by that of Tintagel, lies about a
mile inland; it is clean and comfortable, but not remarkably
picturesque except for the old gabled building that was once its
post-office. Those who want the perpetual presence of the sea will not
be contented with it. Its church, dedicated to SS. Marcelliana and
Materiana (of whom the latter may be the Welsh Madron), stands at a
distance, above the cliffs west of the castle; it is a stern, bare
building, magnificently placed, so fully exposed to the force of
Atlantic gales that the very tombstones have been buttressed. A
portion of the walls, in their[Pg 343]
[Pg 345] rude simplicity, appears to be Saxon, but many orders are represented here, from the late Norman chancel-arch to the Decorated south transept and Perpendicular screen. There is a rugged circular font, and what is supposed to be a Roman milestone. The vestry was formerly a Lady-chapel, possibly Saxon, with a thirteenth-century door and a curious mutilated altar. The south-transept window is to the memory of J. Douglas Cook, founder of the Saturday Review, who returned to his native Cornwall to die. In the churchyard are the graves of drowned seamen, British and foreign. It is a striking and solemnising little church, quite in harmony with a district of myth and sublimity. It is possible that some who come to Tintagel for the first time may be disappointed. If so, they have expected too much, or have expected the wrong thing. There is no gloss of false romance about the place; the ruins have not the hollow pretentious grandeur of some Norman castles; what we see is the unadorned, unveiled reality of a majestic coast, the low, stark walls of ruin on an immemorial site, the naked wind-beaten church on the heights, the sea breaking into gaunt caverns below. Sheep feed within the enclosure to which we scramble by a ragged path. Sentiment may resent the hotel and the golfers, but any jarring note can easily be ignored. Yet even Tennyson seems to have been disappointed at first; afterwards, the spirit of the place sank into him and prevailed. Perhaps old Hawker has described it best, in few pregnant words:—
[Pg 346]He gives us the words of Arthur, when the listeners "hush their hearts to hear the king":—
And after the king had spoken:—
And we have the grand final picture:—
There was a time when Trevena, with Bossiney and Trevalga, formed a borough, and sent members to Parliament, of whom Francis Drake was one. It needed little apology to disfranchise such a small corporation as this, but the first Reform Bill had to deal with far greater anomalies. Bossiney has other attractions than such memories as this, having a delightful cove protected by the fine headland of Willapark. The fishing hamlet is close to an ancient burial-mound or barrow, from which election writs were once read and the local mayor proclaimed. From this cove we can pass upward into the glorious Rocky Valley, with its broken crags, its tangled foliage and rushing stream, its old mill. It is just a little like the[Pg 347] gorge at Lynmouth, but wilder. This is the stream forming the famous cascade known as Knighton's (or St. Nectan's) Kieve. It is not very easy to find, and, here as at Tintagel, a key must be procured before its beauties can be examined. The Kieve is a basin of rock, into which the water has a fall of about 40 feet. St. Nectan is supposed to have been a brother of Morwenna, of Morwenstow; it is said he had an oratory here, and when he was dying he threw its silver bell into the waterfall. But Mr. Baring-Gould says that he died at Hartland. Following the usual guide-book convention, this would be the right moment for quoting Hawker's ballad, "The Sisters of Glen Nectan," but that piece is not one of his happiest efforts, and the legend is at least dubious. Those who journey afoot from Bossiney to Boscastle will find it almost impossible to keep to the coast, as the Rocky Valley forms an impediment, especially when its stream is in flood after heavy rains. But they can find a tolerable road to Trevalga, crossing the stream at the Long Bridge, and at Trevalga they will find an interesting little church. The shore here is broken into some small creeks of great beauty, but one chasm is so dark and sombre that it has won the name of Blackapit. There are dangers along these wild beaches; the poet Swinburne, when a boy, was almost cut off by the tide near Tintagel. From Blackapit we rise to Willapark Point and the church of Forrabury. The view from the Point is very fine, covering the ravine and haven of Boscastle on the east, and looking towards Tintagel on the west. Forrabury, the parish church of Boscastle, is dedicated to St. Symphorian, whoever that saint be (perhaps St. Veryan); and in situation it much resembles that[Pg 348] of Tintagel. The pulpit and the woodwork of the altar date from the fifteenth century. There is a good granite cross in the churchyard. Here again there is a temptation, into which most writers fall, of quoting from Hawker, with his poem, "The Silent Tower of Bottreaux," in which he gives us a legend accounting for the fact that this church has only a single bell. But as he frankly confessed, in after life, that he had invented the story on the very slightest foundation, it is better to avoid quoting from the ballad, except solely for the melodious smoothness of its burden:—
Boscastle, taking its name from the old Norman family of Bottreaux
(though there are many other place-names in Cornwall beginning with
bos, which means abode or dwelling-place), is certainly the most
romantic and picturesque haven in the Duchy, though there may be
others that surpass it in actual beauty. The coast has a wild grandeur
rather than loveliness, and in dismal or stormy weather there is a
weird, solemn gloom. The little town lies sheltered at the head of a
gorge in which two rivulets meet and form the haven. Old Leland in his
graphic manner mentions one only of these brooks: "There cummith down
a little broke from South-Est out of the Hilles thereby, and so
renning by the West side of the Towne goith into Severn Se betwixt two
hilles, and there maketh a pore Havenet, but of no certaine
salvegarde." It is the river Valency of which he speaks, the more
[Pg 351] of the streams that join just above the haven. This is a tiny land-locked harbour with stone piers, at which some coal, lime, and general merchandise are imported; the entrance is very difficult to make, and vessels that succeed in doing so have to be warped in by immense hawsers. Seeing this, and the small haven at Bude, one realises the wildness of this unsheltered coast, where such perilous places are called harbours. The village, though not large, is a long one, straggling down a hill and along the narrow ravine. Its activity is maintained by the daily arrival and departure of cars from Camelford, Bude, Otterham, and Tintagel, bringing many visitors in the summer season. Some come to stay, but most make only a fleeting call; Nature has placed grave obstacles in the way of Boscastle's ever becoming a fashionable watering-place. Its charm is unique and undeniable; but it appeals to the artist, the sturdy pedestrian and climber, the lover of solitude that at times is absolute desolation, rather than to the parent of a family. But the desolation, if that is not too stern a word to use, only applies to the coast; the Valency Valley is verdant and beautiful. It runs among furze and bracken by the riverside, and by this path we can reach the quiet, lovely vale in which Minster stands, so named from a former monastic establishment. Like the church at Tintagel, this of Minster is dedicated to St. Materiana, whom Mr. Baring-Gould identifies with the Welsh Madrun. The tower is of a single stage; there are good bench-ends and roof-carvings. A portion of the church having fallen in one Sunday, after morning service, it was rebuilt about forty years since. The priory was founded by William[Pg 352] de Bottreaux in the reign of Richard I., but does not seem to have had a long existence. Minster is a large parish, but Forrabury is one of the smallest in Cornwall.
Pentargon, the bay and headland beyond the Boscastle golf-links, is sometimes interpreted as "Arthur's Head," but this is doubtful. The caves here, and those below Willapark, were once much haunted by seals; the coast being absolutely honeycombed by the constant fretting of the waves. At times, but rarely, the Cornish chough may be seen on the cliffs, recalling the old tradition that the spirit of Arthur lingers around his native rocks in this form—a tradition that was even familiar to Cervantes, though he knew the Welsh version of it, which makes Arthur a raven. Eastward past Beeny the cliffs gradually rise, till at High Cliff they reach the height of 700 feet; it needs some enthusiasm for a pedestrian to keep to the coast-line, though every mile has its grandeur. Beyond Cambeak lies the delightful Crackington Cove, which will some day become a watering-place; it stands at the mouth of a verdant valley with a stream like that of the Valency. It is in the parish of St. Genny's, whose church is dedicated to St. Genesius of Auvergne, of whom it is related that after being beheaded he walked about with his head under his arm. The saints of Cornwall are reported to have done some extraordinary things, but they do not usually descend to absurd actions of this nature; and there may be a shrewd suspicion that Genesius has no business here at all. William Braddon, a Parliamentary officer and member in the time of the Civil War, lived at Treworgye in this parish, and was buried in the church; some have supposed[Pg 353] that he was vicar here. Pencannow Head, the north limit of Crackington Cove, rises sheer from the shore to the height of 400 feet. Dizzard Point is far less precipitous. A few miles further east the cliffs break to allow room for a fine stretch of sands at Widemouth Bay, and here we have another spot that is certain to develop into a pleasure-resort of the future. It cannot, of course, compare with the coast magnificence of the shore from Pentire to Boscastle, but it has what these wilder spots lack—a possibility of conventional settlement and expansion in the style of watering-place that the British public chiefly loves.
We read in the memoir of Tennyson that in the year 1848 he felt a craving to make a lonely sojourn at Bude. "I hear," he said, "that there are larger waves there than on any other part of the British coast, and must go thither and be alone with God." So he came, with the subject of his Idylls simmering in his mind. He found the great rollers, the grand, open coast, the solitude; these are still there, to be found of all that seek. There may be some lessening of the solitude, but only in parts; Bude has not yet become widely popular; it is the haunt of those who love bracing air and quiet. It grows, but grows slowly; old friends may return to it without being tortured by too glaring a change.
The coast must indeed be destitute of harbours that can call Bude a haven; yet the name Bude Haven stands, as if in deadly irony. This whole north coast of Cornwall and Devon has little enough of refuge for seamen in distress; and if they endeavour to make Bude when seas are running high they are simply courting disaster; it were better to stay far out, if the cruel Atlantic will let them. Yet a rumour of history says that [Pg 355]Agricola landed here. It is not impossible, though accredited history tells nothing of such a visit; seas are not always stormy, even on the shores of North Cornwall—there are days when the waters from St. Ives to Lundy are peaceful as a child asleep. But such slumbering is not their characteristic mood; there is generally a strong ocean swell, and when westerly winds chafe the tide its force and fury are tremendous. Hawker, who was familiar with every yard of the district, has a ballad to the purpose:—
The graveyards, the fields, the farmyards, will bear out this grim character; there are traces of shipwreck everywhere—memorials of drowned seamen in the burial-ground, figure-heads of shattered vessels placed here and there, beams and spars applied to unintended agricultural uses. One such figure-head is that of the Bencoolen, in the churchyard, reminding us of a vessel wrecked in 1862, when only six were saved from its crew[Pg 356] of thirty-five. The Bencoolen was trading from Liverpool to Bombay. We may take Hawker's description of the disaster, recollecting, however, that he wrote in great excitement, and that he was a little unjust to the men of Bude. The wreck took place towards the end of October, after a hurricane that "lasted seven days and nights. On Tuesday at two o'clock afternoon a hull was seen off Bude wallowing in the billows. All rushed to the shore. At three she struck on the sand close to the breakwater—not 300 yards from the rocks. Manby's apparatus was brought down—a rocket fired and a rope carried over to the ship. The mate sprang to clutch it—missed—and fell into the sea, to be seen no more alive. 'Another rope!' was the cry. But from the mismanagement of those in charge there was no other there. They then saw the poor fellows constructing a raft and launching it. A call for the lifeboat, one of large cost, provided with all good gear, kept close by. She was run down to the water. A shout for men—none—a few of the Hovillers, pilotmen, got on board, but refused to put off—all Bude lining the cliffs and shore—Well, well—to abbreviate a horror, the raft was tossed over. About six were washed ashore with life in them, four corpses, and the rest were carried off to sea dead—26 corpses are somewhere in our water, and my men are watching for their coming on shore. The County gives 5s. for finding each corpse, and I give 5s. more. Therefore they are generally found and brought here to the vicarage, where the inquest and the attendant events nearly kill me.... Hordes of people picking up—salvors with carts and horses—and lookers on. It reminded me of old Holingshed's definition, 'a place called Bedes[Pg 357] Haven (Bede, a grave).' When the masts went over the captain, married a fortnight before, rushed down into his cabin, drank a bottle of brandy, and was seen no more. The country rings with cries of shame on the dastards of Bude." A calmer eyewitness quite absolves the Bude men from all blame—to render more help had been impossible. The vessel was being steered skilfully to take the haven, but she was too large for its mouth. But, unjust or not, we must love Parson Hawker. He tells of his procedure when a corpse was reported: "I go out into the moonlight bareheaded, and when I come near I greet the nameless dead with the sentences 'I am the Resurrection and the Life,' &c. They lay down their burthen at my feet—I look upon the dead—tall—stout—well-grown—boots on, elastic, and socks—girded with a rope round the waist. I give him in charge to the sexton and his wife to cleanse, to arrange, to clothe the dead. I order a strong coffin, and the corpse is locked in for the night. I write a letter to the coroner and deliver it for transit to the police. And here the misery begins." To every corpse discovered Hawker gave burial in consecrated ground; it was not many years since the law had forbidden this. The few graphic words quoted give us an idea of his days spent on this lonely, pitiless coast—days which he varied by acts of beneficence to his parishioners, and by the writing of much beautiful poetry. Close to the mouth of this perilous haven is the low breakwater, built to connect an outlying mass of rock that was formerly insular with every tide. Carew (1602) speaks of this rock; he says: "We meete with Bude, an open sandie bay, in whose mouth riseth a little hill, by euerie sea-floud made[Pg 358] an Iland, and thereon a decayed chapell: it spareth roade only to such small shipping as bring their tide with them, and leaveth them drie, when the ebb hath carried away the salt water." He tells how Arundel of Trerice had a house here named Efford, now the Bude vicarage; and how this gentleman "builded a salt-water mill athwart this bay, whose causey serveth, as a verie convenient bridge, to save the way-farers former trouble, let and daunger." The present church stands near, built by Sir Thomas Acland in 1835. The chapel on the islet, decayed even in Carew's time, was dedicated to St. Michael, its dedication being transferred to the present church; only a few faint traces of the old building can be seen. It was this same Sir Thomas Ackland who constructed the bathing-pool at the end of the breakwater, where it forms a very pleasant little swimming-bath. But in time of storm, rock and pool and breakwater are a mass of snowy, quivering foam; even in less tempestuous times it is fine to see the waves rush seething up the sides of the substantial little breakwater, with suggestiveness of what they can do in wilder hours.
It must be confessed that this corner by the haven is the most interesting portion of Bude, which some visitors have condemned as an unattractive place. Certainly the growth of lodging-houses has not added to its charm, as these houses have all the tameness, though doubtless also the convenience, of modern street-architecture. It is by the haven and on the banks of the now useless canal that there is anything of an old-world atmosphere. As compared with places like Polperro or Boscastle, Bude has a touch of the commonplace, but its coast is fine, and it is an[Pg 359] excellent centre for a district of supreme attraction. Readers who care to see how it figures in modern fiction should turn to the Seaboard Parish of the late George Macdonald, in which Bude is the Kilkhaven of the story. Even here the novelist had to borrow another church for his setting; the present Bude Church is by no means that of the romance. The town is now reaching from the canal banks to the breezy Summerleaze Downs, and beyond; and of course the golfer is here in all his glory. But if we go a little more than a mile inland we find all that may be lacking in Bude at Stratton, which may or may not be named after an old "street" that passed this way from Devonshire. That street was almost certainly not Roman, even if the Romans used it. There is a little stream here called the Strat, which does not help us, for the stream may have been called after the town. Stratton shares with Stowe in the glorious memories of Sir Beville Grenville, his wife Grace, and his servant Anthony Payne; but Bideford has also its claim to long association with the Grenvilles—it was from Bideford that Sir Richard sailed the Revenge. Stowe, in the parish of Kilkhampton, a few miles north of Bude, is now a farm, showing very few traces of the Grenville manor-house, which was one of the finest and most extensive in the West. There were two houses, an earlier and a later, but both are now things of the past. At Stratton, however, there is still the Tree Inn, which seems to have been the business residence of Sir Beville, whither he came to settle matters with his tenants and followers; and it was here that his servant, [Pg 360]Anthony Payne, was born. Payne, who stood seven foot four in his stockings, was devoted and loyal to his heart's core; it was he who, when Sir Beville fell fighting for King Charles at Lansdown, led the knight's son up the hill at the head of the gallant, irresistible Cornishmen. These Cornishmen had already proved their powers much nearer to Stratton. The battlefield known as Stamford Hill is close by; it was here that Sir Beville and Hopton defeated the Parliamentary forces under the Earl of Stamford and Chudleigh. The fight took place in 1643, and was one of those Royalist victories in the West that for a time made the cause of the King look very hopeful. The Cornish troops were outnumbered almost by two to one; they were tired and hungry, and they had the worst of the ground, for the Roundheads had entrenched themselves; yet they stormed the hill, routed the Parliament men, and took 1,700 prisoners. An old gun still lies there to mark the spot, and above is the inscription: "In this place an army of ye Rebels under ye command of ye Earl of Stamford received a signal over-throw by ye valour of Sir Bevill Grenville and ye Cornish Army." If there be ever glory attaching to battlefields, it may be found here. While the battle was raging Grace Grenville, the wife of Sir Beville, was waiting in anguish of heart at Stowe, only to be pacified when her husband himself came home at night to tell her of the issue. Yet scarce two months had flown when the sorrowful Payne wrote telling his beloved mistress the sore tidings of Lansdown, where the Cornishmen followed their slain master's son up the hill with tears in their eyes. "They did say they would kill a rebel for every hair of Sir Beville's beard. But I bade[Pg 361] them remember their good master's word when he wiped his sword after Stamford fight; how he said, when their cry was 'stab and slay,' 'Halt, men; God will avenge.' I am coming down with the mournfullest burden that ever a poor servant did bear, to bring the great heart that is cold to Kilkhampton vault. Oh, my lady, how shall I ever brook your weeping face?"
Never was a sweeter communionship of husband and wife than that between Sir Beville and Lady Grace, thus brought to an earthly end; it gives a lovely touch of domestic affection to annals that are otherwise stern and bloody enough, with all their glory. There are some charming letters preserved, that passed between the two; showing the beautiful simplicity of their natures and the tone of their home life. "My dearest," wrote the knight from London, "I am exceedingly glad to hear from you, but doe desire you not to be so passionat for my absence. I vow you cannot more desire to have me at home than I desire to be there." And again: "Charge Postlett and Hooper that they keepe out the Piggs and all other things out of my new nursery, and the other orchard too. Let them use any means to keepe them safe, for my trees will all be spoild if they com in, which I would not for a world." And the lady, addressing "Sweet Mr. Grenvile," adds in a postscript to her letter: "If you please to bestowe a plaine black Gownd of any cheape stufe on me I will thank you, and some black shoes." She died about four years after her husband fell at Lansdown. These two lie buried at Kilkhampton, but Payne, the loyal servant, is[Pg 362] somewhere within the noble church of Stratton; there is no monument to say where. The church is of excellent restored Perpendicular, with fine pinnacled tower. Within are a Norman font, a Jacobean pulpit, and the black marble tomb of Sir John Arundel (1561), whose former manor-house at Efford is now Bude Vicarage; there are brasses of the knight, his wives and their children. The fourteenth-century effigy of a knight in the north aisle is supposed to be that of Sir Ranulf de Blanchminster, who is commemorated in one of Hawker's ballads. It is fitting to think of the poet-parson in this spot; not only are we now approaching very near his own parish, but his father was Vicar of Stratton and lies buried in the church's chancel. Hawker was often asked to preach here, but he long declined, fearing that the associations would be too overwhelming for him. This proved to be the case when at last, in his old age, he preached at the church. Suddenly breaking in his sermon, he explained with faltering voice, "I stand amid the dust of those near and dear to me." It is little wonder that his listeners shared his emotion; and some touch of it may still come over those to whom the records of Hawker are very dear. The number of such lovers should have been much increased by the adequate biography that is now at the service of the public, prepared by the son-in-law of the poet; and Hawker is pre-eminently one of those whom we learn to love even more through his memoirs than by his writings. For his life was a life of noble deeds, not only of beautiful words.
There is a fine stretch of sands protecting the Bude shores, but the background of these sands is cliff. It was this sand that made one of the chief uses of the canal from Bude to Holsworthy, now superseded by the railway; containing a large proportion of lime, it is valuable for agricultural purposes. The sands have a further use now as a playground for visitors; very few watering-places become really popular without such a beach for the children and the bathers. But the true coast is, of course, the background of cliff, and this continues grandly rugged and broken to the Devon borders, and beyond. Little more than a mile north of Bude is Poughill, pronounced Puffill. The church, dedicated to St. Olaf, is one of the few Teutonic foundations in Cornwall; but, indeed, this northern corner of the neighbouring counties, with its "weeks" and "hams" and "worthies," must have been largely held by settlements of Saxons. The value of place-names in such matters is very great, though it must never be pressed too far. Poughill Church, with a good Perpendicular tower, is chiefly notable for its frescoes, somewhat glaringly restored; they resemble those of St. Breage, in the Helston[Pg 364] district. Both figures represent St. Christopher bearing his sacred burden across the tide, and the details are in an advanced stage of symbolism. Far more pleasing, artistically, are the beautiful bench-ends of the early sixteenth century, with their various emblems of the Crucifixion, their armorial insignia, their symbols and initials. This church is peculiarly attractive, and its situation is delightful. From thence the road runs to Kilkhampton, whither recollections of the Grenvilles have already carried us. We are now getting into the heart of the Hawker district, but other associations are so numerous here that it seems impossible to deal with them all in anything like an adequate manner. The Perpendicular church of Kilkhampton chiefly dates from the Elizabethan days when one of the Grenvilles was rector here; but it embodies the beautiful Norman doorway from the church supposed to have been built in the eleventh century by another Grenville. Some other Norman traces are preserved—Rector Grenville was a judicious restorer. Of his date are the oak bench-ends, which are as good as Poughill's, and there is an elaborate screen. The monument of Sir Beville Grenville, erected long after his death by his grandson, is perhaps not quite what it ought to be—it is too dismal and conventional. It is very much in the spirit of the Calvinistic clergyman, James Hervey, who, when curate at Bideford, was so much impressed by Kilkhampton Church that it prompted his once famous Meditations among the Tombs. The work and others of its author's, such as Theron and Aspasio, may still be met with occasionally on old-fashioned bookshelves, or on the second-hand stalls; and they forcibly remind us of the style of second-[Pg 365]rate reflection which, in a different dress, is still dear to the average sober-minded individual. But Hervey is not at all bad, of his sort, and our great-grandfathers thought him profound. Probably, however, he was dearer to their wives; it is chiefly women who support this kind of moralising. To Hervey Kilkhampton Church was "an ancient Pile, reared by Hands that ages ago moulded into Dust—the Body spacious, the Structure lofty, the whole magnificently plain." He was at Bideford in 1740. Much more lively in its nature was the connection with this parish of the notorious Cruel Coppinger, smuggler, wrecker, and desperado.
Coppinger has become almost mythical, by reason of older traditions of
pirate-smugglers being attributed to him. The Rev. S. Baring-Gould
himself, in his book on the Vicar of Morwenstow, has located
Coppinger in the Kilkhampton district; but his novel, In the Roar of
the Sea, places its hero, somewhat humanised, at St. Enodoc. The
truth is, there are similar traditions in several parts of the Cornish
coast, and elsewhere. There was a floating mass of legend ready to be
appropriated by any character that might seem to deserve it; and we
may take Coppinger as a kind of generic title, the clustering of
varying Cornish traditions of wrecking and piracy round one name. Such
being the case, he may as well be placed at Kilkhampton as any[Pg 366]where
else. He is reported sometimes as a Dane, sometimes as an Irishman,
who was thrown on the coast in a tempest, who leaped upon her horse's
back behind a girl who had come to witness the wreck, and who
ultimately married her. He proved to be one of the blackest villains
Cornwall had ever known, but as he had a powerful gang of followers
who aided him in all his misdoings, there must have been plenty as bad
as he, though they might lack his gift of leadership and initiative.
He is said to have chopped off a gauger's hand on the gunwale of a
boat—rumour reported even worse things than this; and he once soundly
horsewhipped the parson of Kilkhampton, who had offended him. There is
also a story of his carrying a terrified tailor to "mend the devil's
breeches." He departed as mysteriously as he came, after many years of
vile outrage; he "who came with the water went with the wind." It is
clear that a great deal of old-time folk-lore has gathered round this
name, and probably no single man must be held answerable for all the
wild doings related of Cruel Coppinger. In all such traditions Hawker
is a most unsafe guide; he did not consciously "falsify the books,"
but he had misled many who came after, particularly the popular
guide-books, by his looseness and his play of fancy. But he came to
this district at a period when smuggling, if not actual wrecking and
piracy, was at its height—not only in Cornwall, be it remembered, but
in many other parts of the coast, such as Sussex and Kent. It was a
time when the Cornish used to thank God for wrecks; and if they did
not actually lure vessels to destruction on their cruel coasts, which
it may be feared they did sometimes, they at least did[Pg 367]
[Pg 369] nothing to avert the disasters which, to their mind, were sent by a merciful providence. There was even a proverb that it was unlucky to rescue a drowning man—widespread, for Scott mentions it in the "Pirate"; the bad luck which these coast-folk had in view being the fact that a rescued personage could claim his property that the sea had cast up.
Hawker was born in Norley Street, Plymouth, December 29, 1803; his grandfather and uncle were both clergy in Plymouth at the time. Thus, though he has won a world-wide fame as the Cornish poet, Hawker was really Devonian; in this borderland of the two counties there is practically no difference. In the same manner the Grenvilles were of Devonshire, yet Cornwall treasures their memories with justifiable pride. In after years Hawker used to say that, could his mother have foreseen how sorrowful his life would be, she would have given a gentle pressure to his throat in his first hour, and so have averted all his earthly trials. He grew to be a mischievous and daring lad. One of his pranks was to swim out to the crags at the mouth of Bude haven, and there pose as a mermaid; which he did to the prolonged bewilderment of the countryfolk. He was educated at Liskeard, Cheltenham, and Oxford; coming to Morwenstow in 1834 after having held the curacy of North Tamerton. He had already married a lady who was twenty years older than himself—a marriage of the deepest lasting affection. His second marriage, in his old age, was to a lady forty years his junior; but by this time the poet's spirit had been broken by solitude, grief, failure to win literary success, and by the terrible scenes of[Pg 370] shipwreck and death that often distracted him. He died in 1875, having been received into the Romish Church a few hours before his death; and the remains were laid in Plymouth Cemetery. On his tombstone is a line from his own beautiful poem, "The Quest of the Sangraal"—
There is now an elaborate memorial window in Morwenstow Church, unveiled in 1904. The poet has not been forgotten in this land, nor is he likely to be. He has impressed himself so vividly on the district that was long his home, that we may now as justly speak of the Hawker country as we do of the Scott or the Wordsworth country. The work was accomplished even more by the man's personality than by his writings. If only these writings had been preserved he would not pass to posterity quite as fully as he merited; only a portion of the man would survive. But there was the tradition of the man himself, assisted by some inadequate memoirs; and now we have one of the most charming biographies of recent times to bring him before us. He was not only poet and essayist; he was cleric and mystic, preacher, prophet, symbolist, philanthropist—some may add reactionary. His life was permeated with Catholic doctrine and colour. When he passed, in his closing hours, to a sister communion, the step was a natural and easy one, however unnecessary some of us may think it to have been. He loved the Church of England devotedly and unfailingly; but he always looked upon her as the Old Church, rather than as a reformed body; and to his unquestioning mind a few extra dogmas would never[Pg 371] have presented any difficulty. It was disbelief, doubt, that he abhorred. Like Sir Thomas Browne, he was greedy for more mysteries, more marvels, more sublimities for unhesitating acceptance. He was always in sympathy both with the Roman and the early Greek Churches, and sometimes in his own ritual he borrowed from both; yet he could fulminate hotly enough at times against the excesses of either. He loved deeply and hated strongly; but the love was permanent and real, the hatred transient and superficial.
He had a lifelong bitterness against Dissenters, and lived on the tenderest terms with many. His bark was very much worse than his bite. "I understand, Mr. Hawker," once said a Nonconformist lady to him, "that you have an objection to burying Dissenters?" "Madam," he replied, "I should be only too delighted to bury you all." But there was no real sting behind the words, and some of his dearest and kindest parishioners were not Churchmen. He spent his days in doing good deeds to man and beast, saving strangers from the devouring sea, or giving their bodies Christian burial; tutoring the rugged hearts of his people; and living himself, in spite of much sorrow, disappointment, loss, in a world of holy dream and vision, conversing in spirit with saints and angels. Hawker believed that his dear country was given over to doubt and laxity; and every affliction of war, misfortune, bad weather, he interpreted as the chastening hand of God. He would have had his world coloured entirely by faith and religious observance; stained as it were, like the glass of church windows, by sacred image and story. But practicalities pressed heavily upon him and almost broke his heart; his poetic impulse failed under[Pg 372] sore discouragement; he did not proceed with his finest poem; those of his poems that became popular did so without the attachment of his name. Very much of this was due to his own procedure; yet the man had much hardship, neglect, and suffering, for which he could in no sense be held responsible. He was a true descendant of the early Cornish saints, born perhaps several centuries too late, and thrust upon a world where he had to turn to sea and wind and woodland for the mystic symbolism which was his life-breath, finding too little of it in the ways and words of Victorian England.
The present vicarage at Morwenstow was built by Hawker himself, there having been no vicar in residence for long years before his coming. It was here, in 1848, that Tennyson visited him, coming over from Bude, where he was staying at the Falcon Hotel. In stepping hastily from the garden to reach the sea, when he first arrived, the poet had fallen; there was no protecting rail there at that time. The injury proved so serious that he had to see a surgeon; and this surgeon happened to be Mr. John Dinham, Hawker's brother-in-law. Two days after the accident Tennyson drove over to Morwenstow with Dinham to see Hawker. His own note on the visit is brief and unsatisfying: "In a gig to Rev. S. Hawker, at Morwenstow, passing Comb Valley, fine view over sea, coldest manner of vicar till I told my name, then all heartiness. Walk on cliff with him; told of shipwreck." This is very meagre. Happily Hawker himself wrote down a more detailed account, and this was discovered among his brother's papers. It was headed with a cross, signifying that it recorded what Hawker[Pg 373] deemed a mark of divine favour. "It was in the month of June, 1848, that my brother-in-law, John Dinham, arrived at Morwenstow with a very fine-looking man whom he had been called in to attend professionally at Bude for an injury in the knee from a fall.... I found my guest at his entrance a tall, swarthy, Spanish-looking man, with an eye like a sword. He sate down, and we conversed. I at once found myself with no common mind. All poetry in particular he seemed to use like household words.... Before we left the room he said, 'Do you know my name?' I said, 'No, I have not even a guess.' 'Do you wish to know it?' 'I don't much care—that which we call a rose, &c.' 'Well then,' said he, 'my name is Tennyson!' 'What!' said I, 'the Tennyson?' 'What do you mean by the Tennyson? I am Alfred Tennyson who wrote Locksley Hall, which you seem to know by heart.' So we grasped hands, and the Shepherd's heart was glad.... Then, seated on the brow of the cliff, with Dundagel full in view, he revealed to me the purpose of his journey to the West. He is about to conceive a poem—the hero King Arthur—the scenery in part the vanished Land of Lyonesse, between the mainland and the Scilly Isles.... Then evening fell. He arose to go; and I agreed to drive him on his way. He demanded a pipe, and produced a package of very common shag. By great good luck my sexton had about him his own short black dudheen, which accordingly the Minstrel filled and fired. Wild language occupied the way, until we shook farewell at Combe. 'This,' said Tennyson, 'has indeed been a day to be remembered.'" Hawker had a presentiment that they would never meet again, and[Pg 374] they never did, though Tennyson visited Cornwall in later years. There was some slight correspondence, and an interchange of books; but the two drifted apart in spirit—perhaps they had never been very near. Tennyson's theology was that of Maurice, whom Hawker came to regard as an arch-enemy of Catholic truth. On one ground they both met in later life—when they chose the subject of the Holy Grail for poetic treatment; and on this ground the lesser poet beat the greater, as Tennyson himself frankly acknowledged. Yet both in their different ways lived near to the spirit that is typified by the Grail; but the one abode in solitude on his wild Cornish cliffs and the other lived in the blaze of popular fame, visited and loved by the greatest in the land. Who shall say that Hawker's life, after all, was not the nearest to his best ideals? Morwenstow vicarage is curious for its chimneys, which Hawker himself designed from church-towers in his neighbourhood and at Oxford. The church and vicarage stand in loneliness; there is no central village at Morwenstow, but the residences are scattered about the swelling downs and high-banked lanes. At the entrance to the graveyard is the lich-gate and mortuary, where many wrecked seamen were taken for burial. Such burials recall the unforgettable incident that occurred during the conveyance of one poor mangled body from the shore. "It was dark, and the party of bearers, with the Vicar at their head, were making their way slowly up the cliff by the light of torches and lanterns, when suddenly there arose from the sea three hearty British cheers. A vessel had neared the shore, and the crew, discovering by night-glasses what was taking place,[Pg 375] had manned their yards to greet the fulfilment of duty to a brother mariner's remains." Morwenstow is really Morwenna-stow, Morwenna being a grand-daughter of Brychan, and thus belonging to a famous Welsh family of saints. The church is therefore a Celtic foundation, not Saxon as Hawker believed; he was always a little shaky in such details. In some maps and old local signposts the name is still written Moorwinstow, and was anciently Morestowe. Probably the earliest relic in the church itself is the font, which appears to belong to the tenth century; three typical Norman pillars support the northern arcade of the roof, and there is a very fine Norman door at the south porch. The Vicar loved to interpret the zigzag moulding as the "ripple of the lake of Gennesareth, the spirit breathing upon the waters of baptism"; he was doubtless more correct in reading a symbolic meaning into the carved vine that creeps from the chancel down the church. On the furze and bracken-clad slope above the cliffs, not far distant, is the hut that Hawker himself constructed, building it of wreckage; this was the sanctuary to which he loved to retreat for contemplation and literary work. It was here that he wrote his Sangraal poem, and the strong picture of its close might apply to this scene as forcibly as it does to its original.
In this parish is Tonacombe, a finely preserved specimen of the mediæval manor-house, its hall containing the old minstrels' gallery. This deeply interesting house has many memories of Charles Kingsley as well as of Hawker. Kingsley was a visitor here while writing his Westward Ho! and Tonacombe figures in that book as "Chapel." Hawker met Kingsley at this time, and introduced[Pg 376] him to the Grenville localities. It is not likely that the two men got on well together; they were complete contrasts in nature and gifts. Hawker did not care greatly for Westward Ho! when it appeared, and thought its local colour defective. He rarely mentioned Kingsley in later life without a note of depreciation. He was far more in sympathy, intellectually and spiritually, with Kingsley's great antagonist, John Henry Newman. At Tonacombe are preserved a curious old lantern and walking-stick that formerly belonged to Hawker. The lantern "was made for Thomas Waddon of Tonacombe, who died in 1755. His brother Edward Waddon lived at Stanbury, and their sister Honor was the wife of the Rev. Oliver Rouse, Vicar of Morwenstow. The three families used to meet regularly at each other's houses for dice and cards. In the excess of their merriment the cronies would dash their glasses on the table, and the broken pieces were preserved as a record of the jest. In course of time there was a goodly collection of these fragments, and in order that their memorial should not perish the lantern was made of solid oak, square, with a pointed roof and little windows formed of the round bases of the broken glasses and other pieces cut in the shape of dice, hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades. Thereafter, when the festive party broke up, those whose turn it was to walk homewards through the dark lanes had their way lighted before them by this emblem of their wit and humour." Stanbury, an old manor south of Tonacombe, claims some notice as the birthplace of John Stanbury (or Stanberry), confessor of Henry VI., who was appointed by that king to be first Provost of Eton. From being a[Pg 377] Carmelite friar at Oxford he rose to be bishop, first of Bangor, finally of Hereford. He died in the Carmelite convent at Ludlow, 1474, and was buried at Hereford. Marsland-mouth, the northward boundary of Morwenstow parish, is also the boundary between Cornwall and Devon. Its utter loneliness and wildness are in complete contrast to the great southward boundary at the mouth of the Three Rivers. Here at Marsland Devon and Cornwall merge imperceptibly; the characteristics of the one are carried over into the other; in scenery, people, dialect, no change can be noted. This close community was emphasised, in Hawker's day, by the fact that for the last twenty-five years of his life he held charge of Welcombe parish as well as Morwenstow, Welcombe (most suitably named) being the first parish in Devon. In his old age, when Dr. Temple was appointed to the diocese of Exeter, the Vicar had some fear that he would be deprived of this additional cure, as Temple was expected to be no friend to Dr. Phillpotts' nominees; but, somewhat to his surprise, Hawker found that he got on fairly well with the new Bishop, though he detested his theological standpoints. Obviously, the name of Welcombe might be "Well-combe," there being a holy well of St. Nectan here; but that derivation does not seem to be correct. In the Exeter Domesday Book the parish is given as Walcomba, and probably the name signified Welsh-combe, marking the juncture when Saxonised West Devon passed into "West Wales." The church is three miles' distance from Morwenstow, and Hawker used to ride over every Sunday afternoon for service. On one occasion he forgot to[Pg 378] bring his watch, and he needed some guide in timing his service so that he might return to officiate at Morwenstow in the evening. He asked the folk standing about the church porch if they could oblige him in this particular. "But time is of no great import at Welcombe, and no watch was to be had. At last, just as the service was beginning, an old woman hobbled up the aisle and handed to the Vicar a large and ancient timepiece. 'Her's only got one hand, your honour,' she said, 'but yu must just gi' a guess.'" Perhaps the name Welsh-combe (Welsh being taken in the old sense of "foreign") denoted some survival of earlier occupation here, some lingering neolithic remnant; the Welcombe folk are still distinguished by their dark hair and skins, and as being somewhat of a race apart. In Hawker's day they were very ignorant and superstitious, though sufficiently devout. They had "no farrier for their cattle, no medical man for themselves, no beer-house, no shop; a man who travels for a distant town (Stratton) supplies them with sugar by the ounce, or tea in smaller quantities still. Not a newspaper is taken in throughout the hamlet, although they are occasionally astonished and delighted by the arrival, from some almost forgotten friend in Canada, of an ancient copy of the Toronto Gazette. This publication they pore over to weariness, and on Sunday they will worry the clergyman with questions about Transatlantic places and names, of which he is obliged to confess himself utterly ignorant. An ancient dame once exhibited her prayer-book, very nearly worn out, printed in the reign of George II., and very much thumbed at the page from which she assiduously prayed for[Pg 379] the welfare of Prince Frederick." He himself used to act as their postman. Perhaps it is misleading to say that Welcombe is only three miles from Morwenstow; visitors who try to find their way through the rambling narrow lanes will find it much nearer to five or six. But the loveliness of Marsland vale is a recompense, and a charming introduction to the beauties of North Devon.
On the Cornish side of Marsland-mouth is a secluded old farmhouse, which Hawker solemnly averred was haunted. It was once truly haunted by smugglers. Mr. Baring-Gould introduces it into his novel, The Gaverocks. Hawker once said to a visitor, "You must go and look at the old house there—there is a very curious old lady there you may see—come into my study and I will show you her picture—she died, at least her body did, some sixty years ago. I frequently see her and talk with her." This spot must not be quitted without recalling that Marsland-mouth is the home of Lucy Passmore, the white witch in Westward Ho! It was hither that Rose Salterne came to perform the love-charm that should reveal her lover. It can hardly be said that such superstitions have yet died out of the West Country, but it is the older people now that cherish these ideas, secretly and furtively. The youngsters are being taught differently in the Council Schools.
There are some fine headlands in this part of the coast, such as the two Sharpnose Points, but the finest of all is Hennacliff, which rises to about 450 feet, and drops sheer into the Atlantic waves. Even where there is a beach beneath these rugged cliffs, it is usually difficult to reach; in many parts the breakers dash full against the granite preci[Pg 380]pices, and there are often outlying reefs of cruel jagged crag. Noting the deadly features of the coast, we can understand how even Bude attained its name of Haven, however bitterly ironic that name may often have sounded. But it is a grand coast and mainland confronting the wild, unresting sea, and the traditional atmosphere of the district is wholly in keeping with its physical features. Rumours of bygone peoples float around us—of Saxon and Celt and of earlier people still; the legends that they fostered are repeated to us, the footsteps of old saints may be traced, together with secular records of pirate and smuggler. There are memories of glorious and gracious personages, as well as of those whose villainy at least was picturesque; there are sad memorials of shipwreck, death, and heartbreak. There are stretches of undulating upland, with fragrant turf, gorse, bracken; valleys almost too low for sunlight to enter, the wild and tortuous mouths of rapid streams, patches of meadow and pasture, with lonely cottages and isolated church-towns. Different from the southern coast in aspect, more desolate, less fertile, there is yet a special charm even in the desolation, a stimulating appeal in the solitude, and a marvellous purity in the bracing winds that blow, sometimes with ruthless violence, from a thousand leagues of ocean.
Acland, Sir T., 358
Aitken, Rev. R., 223
Antony, East, 27
Arthur, King, 335–46
Arundel family, 292–9
Atwell, Martin, 69
Austell, St., 66
Bedruthan Steps, 293–4
Bencoolen, Wreck of the, 355
Besant, Sir W., 198
Bessie's Cove, 159
Beville, Sir J., 40
Bligh, Capt., 110
Bodmin Moors, 301
Bonaparte, Lucien, 180
Borrow, George, 180
Braddon, W., 352–3
Breock, St., 325–6
Brett, J., 178
Burney, Fanny, 22
Calais, Siege of, 60
Cape Cornwall, 221
Carclaze Mine, 67
Carhays, St. Michael, 76
Carn Beacon, 78
Carn Brea, 256
Carn Galva, 225
Carn Kenidzhek, 222
Carter, "King of Prussia," 158
Cataclew Stone, 306
Chapel Carn Brea, 221
Chûn Castle, 224
Cinque Ports, 60
Coleridge, Derwent, 147
Collins, Rev. J., 95
Constantine, St., 305–6
Cook, Capt., 92
Cornwall, Formation and appearance, 14–15
Couch, Sir A. T. Quiller, 60
Crackington Cove, 352
Crantock Church, 280–1
Crowza Downs, 116
Cuby, St., 274
Cury, St., 138–9
Davy, Sir Humphry, 173
Disraeli, B., 82
Dollar Hugo, 122
Doom Bar, 310–19
Edward IV., 62
Eval, St., 301
Ewe, St., 69
Exmouth, Lord, 173
Fal, River, 100
Finbar, St., 59
Forbes, Stanhope, 177
Fyn and Joan, 38
Genny's, St., 352
George's, St. (Looe Isle), 37
Gerrans Bay, 77
Glassiney College, 96
Godolphin Hill, 153
Godrevy Rock and Lighthouse, 253
Gorran Haven, 74–5
Gotham, Men of, 75
Grenville, Grace, 359–62
Gulf Stream, 207
Gurnard's Head, 225
Gwythian, St., 251
Hall House, 50
Harlyn Bay, 306
Henry VII., 25
Henry VIII., 99
Hereward the Wake, 107
Hervey, Rev. J., 364–5
Hind, C. L., 320
Holy Grail, High History of the, 342
Holywell Bay, 274–5
Housel Bay, 126
Hurling, Game of, 289–90
Ia, St., 232
Irving, Sir Henry, 246–8
Ives, St., Borough Accounts, 237–42
Jews in Cornwall, 160
Johnson, Dr., 22
Juliet, St., 342
Just, St., 116
Just-in-Penwith, St., 221
Kaiser, the, 21
Kelly Rounds, 336
Kennack Sands, 118
Keverne, St., 115–17
King Harry's Ferry, 101
Knighton's Kieve, 347
Knill Monument, 248–9
Land's End, 211–17
Lanherne, Vale and Nunnery of, 249–6
Lanyon Quoit, 224
Levan, St., 188–9
Lizard Lighthouse, 127
Lizard Town, 126
Loe Pool, 144–6
Logan Stone, 186–7
Looe Island, 37
Lovibond, T., 325
Macdonald, George, 359
Mail Packets (Falmouth), 90–5
Marconi Station, 136–8
Martin, St., 35–6
Mary's, St. (Scilly), 193
Mawgan Porth, 291
Mên Scryfa, 224
Merry Maidens, 185
Merryn, St., 305–6
Michael's Mount, St., 159–66
Mount's Bay, 150
Mount Edgcumbe, 20–4
Napoleon III., 21
Nare Head, 77
Neolithic cemetery, 306–10
Noye, W., 299
Payne, Anthony, 359
Pellew (Lord Exmouth), 173
Penpoll Creek (Newquay), 285
Pentire Glaze, 329
Pentreath, Dolly, 179–80
Petherick, Little, 319
Pigeon Hugo, 131
Pipers, the, 185
Port Isaac, 333–4
Praa Sands, 157
Prideaux, Dean, 321–2
Prideaux Place, 321
Prussia Cove, 157
Prussia, King of, 158
Reynolds, Sir J., 21
Rocky Valley, 346
Romanism in England, 273
Ruan or Rumon, St., 121
Ruan Lanihorne, 121
Samson, St., 198
Scilly cable, 206
Scilly flowers, 203–5
Scilly Islands, 190
Scilly, Origin of name, 196–7
Scilly seabirds, 209
Shuttleworth, Professor, 326
Smith, Augustus, 200
Storm of 1703, 108–9
Submarine platform, 13
Teilo, St., 78
Treryn Dinas (logan stone), 186–7
Treryn Dinas (Gurnard's Head), 225
Trewoofe (or Troove), 184
Warbeck, Perkin, 236
Western Rebellion, 236
Widemouth Bay, 353
Wolcot, Dr., 262
Wolf Lighthouse, 217
Wyllow, St., 48
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