Wookey Hole Caves, Somerset


The New Grotto
Wookey Hole Cave
Postmarked 1930
Creator: John Hassall

The caves at Wookey Hole first began to form when rain water percolated through the porous, sedimentary rock of the Mendip Hills. This process slowly began to create the chambers of the caves. . . . Wookey Hole Caves are formed of many sedimentary rocks, including limestone, sandstone and a natural concrete known as dolomitic conglomerate (or puddingstone). During the past 50,000 years, humans and animals have lived in and around Wookey Hole Caves. The caves provided a safe and, perhaps surprisingly, comfortable place to live, having dry spaces, being easy to defend, and at a constant temperature in winter and summer. We have found flint tools that were used by Neanderthals in the caves. . . . In 1927, Wookey Hole Caves first opened to the public. They had a totally different experience to that of visitors today. Only a few chambers were accessible.
Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole Caves are a series of limestone caverns, a show cave and tourist attraction in the village of Wookey Hole on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills near Wells in Somerset, England. The River Axe flows through the cave. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for both biological and geological reasons. Wookey Hole cave is a “solutional cave”, one that is formed by a process of weathering in which the natural acid in groundwater dissolves the rocks. Some water originates as rain that flows into streams on impervious rocks on the plateau before sinking at the limestone boundary into cave systems such as Swildon’s Hole, Eastwater Cavern and St Cuthbert’s Swallet; the rest is rain that percolates directly through the limestone. The temperature in the caves is a constant 11 °C (52 °F).

The caves have been used by humans for around 45,000 years, demonstrated by the discovery of tools from the Palaeolithic period, along with fossilised animal remains. Evidence of Stone and Iron Age occupation continued into Roman Britain. A corn-grinding mill operated on the resurgent waters of the River Axe as early as the Domesday survey of 1086. The waters of the river are used in a handmade paper mill, the oldest extant in Britain, which began operations circa 1610. The low, constant temperature of the caves means that they can be used for maturing Cheddar cheese.
Wikipedia

Scott’s Cave, Rokeby, Barnard Castle


Scott’s Cave
Postmarked 1903
“Stoddart’s Series”, photographer Metcalfe

Artificial cave, cut into limestone cliff. C18 or early C19. Rectangular recess 2.5 metres wide and 2 metres deep, with stone bench and upright slabs at each corner supporting roof. Sir Walter Scott on his frequent visits to Rokeby used to sit and write in the cave.
Historic England

Rokeby has never had a formal or man-made garden. Instead it is blessed with a natural context of unrivalled beauty provided by the courses of the Greta and the Tees. The Tees runs from west to east half a mile to the north; the Greta from south to north a few hundred yards to the east. They converge at the Meeting of the Waters, a local beauty spot accessed along Mortham Lane. The last mile of the Greta runs through the Park. The walk along the Greta was described in 1769 as ‘romantic’ and in 1778 as ‘calculated for contemplation and religious rhapsody’. At all events, it provided the scenery for John Sell Cotman to paint on his visit in 1805 and for Sir Walter Scott to describe in his poetic history ‘Rokeby’ dedicated to J.B.S.Morritt and first published in 1813. The eagle-eyed will spot Scott’s Cave in the cliff face on the east bank. In Canto V he described the scene around him at eventide in words which describe it now:

“The stately oaks, whose sombre frown
Of noontide made a twilight brown,
Impervious now to fainter light,
Of twilight make an early night.
Hoarse into middle air arose
The vespers of the roosting crows,
And with congenial, murmurs seem
To wake the Genii of the stream;
For louder clamour’d Greta’s tide,
And Tees in deeper voice replied,
And fitful waked the evening wind,
Fitful in sighs its breath resign’d
Rokeby Park

Full poem

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall


Penzance, St Michael’s Mount.
c.1910

Google Street View.

St. Michael’s Mount is an odd mix of house, religious retreat, and fortified castle. It was a pilgrimage centre in the Middle Ages, converted first to a fortress, then to a house after the Civil War by the St. Aubin family.
Britain Express

In the years following the Norman Conquest, St Michael’s Mount was granted to the Benedictine monks of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy – a natural choice given the similarities between the two sites. They established a small religious community on the island and Abbot Bernard le Bec built the first stone church there in 1135. The community was briefly disrupted in 1193 when Henry de La Pomeray took control of the island as part of the attempted coup of Prince John (later King John) against his brother, Richard I. That rebellion was defeated but it was around this time the castle on the island was built; perhaps by Henry but more likely after his suicide when Richard returned. It was a significant structure with square towers, a large gatehouse and a substantial curtain wall. Having been restored the monks also fortified their Priory by adding the church tower and courtyard walls.
. . .
After the events of the fifteenth century, St Michael’s Mount returned to being a quiet religious order until Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Its remote location and lack of wealth made it a low priority for Royal officials with the site not being formally suppressed until 1548. But the English Reformation continued apace with a New Prayer Book that banned the Latin Mass. This was hotly contested by the Cornish populace whose Celtic background meant they had a better grasp of Latin than English and in 1549 the mount was temporarily seized by rebels during a general Cornish uprising. St Michael’s Mount remained in Crown ownership until 1599 when Queen Elizabeth sold it to Sir Robert Cecil. His descendants sold it onto Sir Francis Bassett in 1640 who garrisoned it for the King during the Civil War. Following the defeat of the Royalist field armies, Parliamentary forces advanced into the South West and besieged the Mount. After its capture Colonel John St Aubyn was appointed Captain of the Mount and in 1659 he purchased it outright. He was allowed to keep the property after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 with the site being modified into his private home. Upgrades were made during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (including romanticising the castle).
Castles Forts Battles

“The Cemetery Gate and Entrance Lodge, St. Michael’s Mount”, Other famous homes of Great Britain and their stories”, A. H. Malan, 1902

It’s thought that during classical times, the island formed a trading centre for the tin industry. More than 2,000 years ago, Phoenician ships may have sailed into the Mount’s harbour and exported Cornish tin to the rest of Europe. The island’s population ebbed and flowed, but by the early 1800s, the Mount was thriving commercially and the village was alive with activity, home to over 300 islanders with 53 houses and four streets. Pubs welcomed sailors and fishermen, a school taught the island’s children, a parish policeman kept the peace, the dairy churned butter and the green saw villagers gather to play bowls. It was said that at times you could walk from one side of the harbour to the other stepping over the boats that were moored there. There were net lofts, stables, a pilchard press and even a Victorian change house, where castle residents could wriggle into their swimsuits for a sea dip.
St Michael’s Mount

Little is known about the village before the beginning of the 18th century, save that there were a few fishermen’s cottages and monastic cottages. After improvements to the harbour in 1727, St Michael’s Mount became a flourishing seaport. In 1755 the Lisbon earthquake caused a tsunami to strike the Cornish coast over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away. The sea rose six feet (2 m) in 10 minutes at St Michael’s Mount, ebbed at the same rate, and continued to rise and fall for five hours. The 19th-century French writer Arnold Boscowitz claimed that “great loss of life and property occurred upon the coasts of Cornwall.” By 1811, there were 53 houses and four streets. The pier was extended in 1821[21] and the population peaked in the same year, when the island had 221 people. There were three schools, a Wesleyan chapel, and three public houses, mostly used by visiting sailors. Following major improvements to nearby Penzance harbour, and the extension of the railway to Penzance in 1852, the village went into decline, and many of the houses and other buildings were demolished.
Wikipedia.

This beautiful and romantic spot is situated on the southern coast of Cornwall, immediately opposite the little market town of Marazion, and about three miles and a half from Penzance. The Mount itself 13 about 231 feet above the level of the sea, exclusive of the buildings with which it is crowned. Its magnitude is seen in the most impressive point of view from its base, for when observed from a distance, its form appears trifling, amidst the vast expanse of waters with which it is surrounded. A narrow neck of land, little more than a quarter of a mile in length, connects it with the main land: this natural causeway is passable at low water to foot passengers and carriages, but at high tide is completely covered by the sea.
Abbeys, castles, and ancient halls of England and Wales”, John Timbes, 1872

“The Chapel, from the North Court”, Other famous homes of Great Britain and their stories”, A. H. Malan, 1902

The hill is crowned with an ancient building originally founded by Edward the Confessor as a priory for Benedictine monks, and which in after years was fortified. . . A steep and difficult path leads up to the summit, defended midway by a battery, with another battery at the top. The church crowns the crest of the hill, surrounded by the old monastic buildings. On the centre tower is a turret once used as a beacon for sailors, and on the S.W. angle of this, overhanging the sea, is the famous seat called St. Michael’s Chair. The whole structure has for long been the property of the St. Aubyn family (Lord St. Levan), and has been adapted to form a comfortable modern dwelling. It is a castellated house, retaining much of the monastic masonry, but great alterations were made in it during last century ; the dining-room was the refectory of the convent, and the chapel has been fitted up in the Gothic style.
The castles of England, their story and structure, Vol II”, James Mackenzie, 1896

For seven hundred years the Mount retained its purely ecclesiastical character, but, in 1194, it began a military career un- der the following circumstances :
While Richard 1. was crusading in Palestine, Henry de la Pomeroy, a man of large possessions in Devonshire and Corn- wall, had espoused the cause of the King’s disloyal brother, John, Earl of Cornwall. When Richard came home and heard of Pomeroy’s treason, he sent a serjeant-at-arms to arrest him at his castle of Berry Pomeroy, in Devonshire. Pomeroy, however, stabbed this officer, and then fled with some followers to St. Michael’s Mount, where he had a sister living as a nun. Under pretence of visiting this sister, Pomeroy got admitted with his retinue into the convent, which he promptly seized and fortified.
The King sent a force to reduce the Mount and take Pomeroy, under the command of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In these days we should hardly look upon this as a very fitting selection ; but his Grace justified the King’s confidence in his military talents, and Pomeroy, despairing of a successful resistance, bequeathed some of his lands to the monks to pray for his soul, and bled himself to death. By doing this he assured to his son the inheritance of his property, which would have been forfeited had he been convicted of high treason. The King put a force into ” Pomeroy’s fort,” as it was called, and it continued to be regarded as a fortress and to be occupied by a garrison for nearly five hundred years. It was still, how- ever, a monastery as well as a fort.
. . .
About 1425, one of these chaplains, William Morton, began to build the first harbour of which there is any record, being assisted by Bishop Lacy of Exeter, who granted an indulgence of forty days to all who should contribute to its erection. How- ever, in 1427, the funds for the purpose being still found inade- quate, Morton appealed for help to the King, Henry VI., who granted him certain dues to be levied on ships anchoring near the Mount, and on “foreign boats fishing for hake during the season.”
Other famous homes of Great Britain and their stories”, A. H. Malan, 1902

The buyldinges that are on the topp of this Mount auntient all of freestone verie stronge and permanent wherof muche was erected by Willm Moriton, Nephew to Willm the Conquerour, who had muche lande in this Countrye. It was sometimes a Cell of munckes but since fortefyed for defence. It hath bene muche resorted unto by Pylgrims in deuotion to St Michaell whose chayre is fabled to be in the mount on the south syde of verie Daungerous access. The ascente unto the mounte is steepe curuing narrowe and rockye and that but one waye in the north syde. John Earle of Oxforde surprised this mount by pollicie and kepte it by force againste king Edwarde the 4. but with noe profitable or prayse worthy success for he was violently depryued of it. But some write that he surrendred it upon conditions. It is a place of noe greate importance hauinge small receyte of meanes to keepe and defende it longe At the foote of the mount is a peere of Stones wherin boates are harbored and from Marca-iew there is a causwaye or passage that leadeth to the Mount on foote at a lowe water.
“Speculi Britanniae Pars: A Topographical and Historical Description of Cornwall”, John Norden, 1728 [1626], p.39

Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall


Gurnard’s Head
Postmarked 1907
Publisher: Francis Frith & Co

Google Street View.

Gurnard’s Head is a prominent headland on the north coast of the Penwith peninsula in Cornwall, England, UK. The name is supposed to reflect that the rocky peninsula resembles the head of the gurnard fish.
Wikipedia.

Gurnard’s Head is a long, narrow, headland near the hamlet of Treen, in the parish of Zennor, on the north side of the Penwith peninsula. The name derives from the fact that the shape of the headland is supposed to resemble the head of the Gurnard fish. The Cornish name for the headland is ‘Ynyal’, which means ‘desolate’. Two crumbling stone ramparts, each around sixty meters long, cross the narrowest part of the headland forming an Iron Age promontory fort (cliff castle) known as Trereen Dinas (not to be confused with Treryn Dinas, near another hamlet called Treen in the parish of St Levan, the other side of Land’s End). The ramparts enclose an area of roughly three hectares within which the remains of sixteen roundhouses have been found, averaging six meters in diameter. An excavation in 1939 revealed that the back of the inner rampart had been constructed in three steps, providing a place for slingers to stand. This type of construction has also been found in some Iron Age cliff castles in Brittany. The promontory defences are generally fairly hard to make out, although it is possible to discern the remains of the walls and at least one entrance.
The Cornwall Guide

Tooth Rock, Scilly Isles


The Tooth Rock, Scilly Isles, Penzance
c.1910
“Empire Series London”

Google Street View.

Imposing and dramatic Peninnis Head is the southernmost point of the Island of St. Mary’s, the largest of the Isles of Scilly. The wild and rugged promontory, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is littered with granite rocks and boulders which have been eroded by the action of the wind and pounding waves into fantastic shapes. These include the rock formation known as the Kettle and Pans, which lies around 100 yards north of Peninnis Lighthouse, where immense basins have been hollowed out by the elements. One particular huge rock formation resembles a giant double molar, while to the left of it stands a canine shaped rock appropriately named Tooth Rock.
Cornwall Tour

Berry Head, Brixham, England


Brixham Berry Head
c.1910
Publisher: Francis Frith & Co

Google Street View.

Berry Head is a coastal headland that forms the southern boundary of Tor Bay in Devon, England. Lying to the east of the town of Brixham, it is a national nature reserve[1] and a local nature reserve
Wikipedia.

The headland towers 200 feet above the English Channel protecting what was an important naval anchorage during the Napoleonic War. There are two garrisoned forts (dating back to 1795) that were built to protect Brixham Harbour from the perceived threat of French Invasion. Limestone was quarried here from 1780 until the 1970s. In the latter years, limestone from Berry Head was used to produce steel for the manufacture of Ford cars at Dagenham.
Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust

Glen Coe, Scotland


Glencoe
Postmarked 1934
Publisher: Valentine

Google Street View.

Glen Coe is a glen of volcanic origins, in the Highlands of Scotland. . . . The main settlement is the village of Glencoe located at the foot of the glen. Glen Coe is regarded as the home of Scottish mountaineering and is popular with hillwalkers and climbers. On the 13 February 1692, in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising of 1689, an incident known as the Massacre of Glencoe took place in the glen. Thirty-eight men from Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces who were billeted with them on the grounds that they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William II and Mary II. The Glen is named after the River Coe which runs through it. The name of the river may predate the Gaelic language, as its meaning is not known. It is possible that the name stems from an individual personal name, Comhan.
Wikipedia.

Glastonbury Tor, Glastonbury, England


Glastonbury, The Tor
c.1910
Publisher: Francis Frith, Reigate

Google Street View.

The conical shape of Glastonbury Tor is natural. Thousands of years ago it was an island. Before modern drainage, the Tor in winter would have towered above the flooded Somerset Levels. The terracing on the hillside has been dated to Neolithic times, around the same time as when Stonehenge was constructed. It has been suggested that the terraces form a kind of maze that guided pilgrims up the sacred hill.

The hill has a long religious history with evidence of Pagan and early Christian settlement on it. If you walk to the top of of it today you will find the partial ruins of a church. The top of the Tor was levelled at some point in the 10th or 11th century to build a large stone church. In 1275 an earthquake levelled this church. A smaller church was rebuilt on the site in 1323 and lasted until the demise of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. The church was quarried for stone and now only the tower survives.
BBC: Seven Man Made Wonders

Excavations on the Tor have revealed some Neolithic flint tools and Roman artifacts, indicating use since ancient times. The terracing on the side of the hill, if man-made, may also date from the Neolithic era. The first monastic Church of St. Michael that stood on Glastonbury Tor was probably destroyed in the major earthquake of 1275. The church was rebuilt in the 14th century, and only the tower still stands today.
Vintage News (lots of photos)

During the late Saxon and early medieval period, there were at least four buildings on the summit. The base of a stone cross demonstrates Christian use of the site during this period, and it may have been a hermitage. The broken head of a wheel cross dated to the 10th or 11th centuries was found partway down the hill and may have been the head of the cross that stood on the summit. The head of the cross is now in the Museum of Somerset in Taunton. The earliest timber church, dedicated to St Michael, is believed to have been constructed in the 11th or 12th centuries; from which post holes have since been identified. Associated monk cells have also been identified.

St Michael’s Church was destroyed by an earthquake on 11 September 1275. According to the British Geological Survey, the earthquake was felt in London, Canterbury and Wales, and was reported to have destroyed many houses and churches in England. The intensity of shaking was greater than 7 MSK, with its epicentre in the area around Portsmouth or Chichester, South England. A second church, also dedicated to St Michael, was built of local sandstone in the 14th century by the Abbot Adam of Sodbury, incorporating the foundations of the previous building. It included stained glass and decorated floor tiles. There was also a portable altar of Purbeck Marble; it is likely that the Monastery of St Michael on the Tor was a daughter house of Glastonbury Abbey. In 1243 Henry III granted a charter for a six-day fair at the site. St Michael’s Church survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when, except for the tower, it was demolished.
Wikipedia.

Island, Grasmere Lake, England


The Island, Grasmere
c.1910
Publisher: Abraham Brothers

Google Street View (approximate location)

Grasmere, at 1 mile long, half a mile wide and 75 feet deep, would be an attractive and popular tourist area even without its Wordsworth connections. ‘The most loveliest spot than man hath found’ was Wordsworth’s famous quote describing the area of Lakeland that he most loved. The small island in the middle of the lake was Wordsworth’s favourite destination while he was staying at nearby Dove Cottage. The island is owned by the National Trust, and visitors should not land there, tempting though it is.
Visit Combria

Grasmere Island, which sits within lake Grasmere, attracted the attention of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley when it was put up for sale in 1893. Rawnsley was a great defender of the Lake District landscape and he recognised that no organisation existed to protect it from private ownership and potential development. Sir Robert Hunter and Octavia Hill had been discussing for some years the need for a national organisation which would hold lands for the public, but it was the private sale of important sites, including Grasmere Island, that sparked the course of events that led to the formation of the National Trust.
National Trust