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.
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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.
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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

St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Launceston Cornwall


Launceston, St Mary’s Church
c.1911
Publisher: Francis Frith & Co

Google Street View.

St Mary Magdalene in Launceston is the most impressive and beautiful late medieval church in Cornwall, featuring superb carved detail on the exterior and a wealth of historic memorials and woodwork inside. In 1353 Edward, the Black Prince, was named Duke of Cornwall. Around 1370 Edward built a chapel a short distance from Launceston Castle. All that remains of that 14th-century chapel is the imposing west tower of St Mary Magdalene church, built of Polyphant stone, 20 feet square at the base and rising 70 feet to an embattled top. The tower was originally used as a watchtower, with a single bell to warn of attack, not to call worshippers to service.
Britain Express

The intricately worked granite blocks, which give the church its unique carved exterior, were originally intended for a mansion at Trecarell, Trebullett for Sir Henry Trecarell. The reason for this is said to be due to his infant son drowning in his bath and the grief-stricken Sir Henry switched the stone to ecclesiastical use as he decided to build the church instead. How true this story is, is open to conjecture, but what is most certain is that the present church owes its existence to Sir Henry. (Although widely called Sir Henry, there is no record of him actually being knighted). This was in 1511 and was to be the third church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene on this site which at that time contained the Parochial Chapel of the Blessed Mary Magdalene of the 14th century along with tenements which were attached to the said chapel. These were purchased and removed so that the site was free for the new construction. As previously mentioned the present tower survives from one of the earlier churches, being built by Edward the Black Prince, who became the first Duke of Cornwall in 1337 and whose capital was Launceston. This explains the fact that the body of the church is not directly connected with its tower, which indeed is on a different line. Between them lies what is now the choir vestry, but at one time, there were two cottages between the church and the tower.
Launceston Then

The church of St Mary Magdalene was built in the early 1500s, but inside the Victorians have left almost nothing from the original period. The pulpit is one of the few survivals. It was covered with pitch during the civil war and only restored as to its current condition in 1970. The chancel screen is designed by Edmund H Sedding and carved by Violet Pinwill. It dates from 1911 and depicts eleven saints with Mary Magdalene at the centre.
Reed Design.includes panorama)

Tolcarne Beach, Newquay, Cornwall


Newquay. Tolcarne Beach
Postmarked 1930
Publisher: Photochrom Co. Ltd

Google Street View (approximate).

Tolcarne is the largest of four beaches that join up at low tide to create the mile of golden sand that Newquay is famous for. Sandwiched between Great Western and Lusty Glaze, Tolcarne is sheltered on three sides by tall cliffs. At low tide it’s possible to walk across from Great Western beach. At high, access is via a steep flight of steps cut into the cliff.
The Beach Guide

Newquay is a town on the north coast in Cornwall, in the south west of England. It is a civil parish, seaside resort, regional centre for aerospace industries, future spaceport and a fishing port on the North Atlantic coast of Cornwall, approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of Truro and 20 miles (32 km) west of Bodmin. The town is bounded to the south by the River Gannel and its associated salt marsh, and to the north-east by the Porth Valley. The western edge of the town meets the Atlantic at Fistral Bay. The town has been expanding inland (south) since the former fishing village of New Quay began to grow in the second half of the nineteenth century.
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After the arrival of passenger trains in 1876, the village around the port of Newquay started to grow quickly. Several major hotels were built around the end of the 19th century, the first being the Great Western Hotel which opened in 1879 in Station Road, now Cliff Road. Other early hotels included the Victoria in East Street, the Atlantic and the Headland, while many smaller hotels were created around this period by converting large houses, originally built by wealthy visitors as holiday homes, particularly along Narrowcliff. Three churches were built early in the twentieth century, including the present day parish church of St Michael the Archangel, which was consecrated in 1911. Growth of the town eastwards soon reached the area around the railway station: Station Road became Cliff Road around 1930, and the houses beyond, along Narrowcliff, were also converted into hotels. Narrowcliff was known for a while as Narrowcliff Promenade, and then Narrowcliff Road. On some pre-war maps, it is spelt Narrowcliffe. At the time of the First World War the last buildings at the edge of the town were a little further along present-day Narrowcliff, including the Hotel Edgcumbe. Post-war development saw new houses and streets built in the Chester Road area, accompanied by ribbon development along the country lane which led to St Columb Minor, some 2 miles (3 km) away. This thoroughfare was modernised and named Henver Road, also some time in the 1930s. Development continued in this direction until the Second World War, by which time much of Henver Road had houses on both sides, with considerable infilling also taking place between there and the sea.
Wikipedia.

 

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

King Harry Passage, River Fal, Cornwall


King Harry Passage, River Fal
Postmarked 1948
Publisher: Photochrom Co. Ltd

Google Street View (approximate).

The River Fal flows through Cornwall, England, rising at Pentevale on Goss Moor (between St. Columb and Roche) and reaching the English Channel at Falmouth. On or near the banks of the Fal are the castles of Pendennis and St Mawes as well as Trelissick Garden. The River Fal separates the Roseland peninsula from the rest of Cornwall. Like most of its kind on the south coast of Cornwall and Devon, the Fal estuary is a classic ria, or drowned river valley. The Fal estuary from Tregony to the Truro River was originally called Hafaraell (Cornish: Havarel, meaning fallow place).
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Tributaries of the River Fal include the Truro River, River Kennal, Penryn River and Carnon River. Several tidal creeks discharge into the River Fal including Mylor Creek, Pill Creek, Penpol Creek, the Percuil River and Restronguet Creek. The Fal/Truro waterway is navigable between Falmouth and Truro. The River Fal is crossed by the King Harry Ferry, a vehicular chain ferry that links the villages of Feock and Philleigh approximately equidistant between Truro and Falmouth. The river flows through the Carrick Roads, a large ria that creates a natural harbour.
Wikipedia.

In 1887, Colonel Arthur Tremayne of Carclew, gathered together some friends with the idea of forming a company to run a steam-driven ferry bridge across the Fal River in place of the old barge-like, man-propelled ferry which was then being used. The ferry also carried livestock and while a gentleman’s horse was allowed to travel on board, the farmer’s horse and his livestock had to swim alongside. Farmers worried about missing stock would often position small boats downstream to haul out strays. On April 18, 1888, the King Harry Steam Ferry Company was formed, to acquire the lease and charter for the operation of a steam ferry bridge across the Fal River at King Harry Passage, together with the land and property.
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There remains some dispute over the why the crossing is called King Harry and the two most common suggestions are both related to English kings. The first and least likely is that King Henry the VIII and one of his wives visited the area to inspect the castles that he had commissioned at St Mawes and Falmouth to protect the strategically important Carrick Roads from French and Spanish privateers and invasion. The second and more likely reason is that the in the woods to the North East of the crossing point, the local Lord of the Manor had a small Chapel dedicated to King Henry IV and his wife Queen Anne. The Chapel was known as the Chapel of King Henry and over time the Cornish name of Cybellys (crossing or ferry boat) was supplanted by King Harry Passage and thus King Harry Ferry crossing.
Fal RIver Cornwall

St. Mawes, Cornwall


St Mawes
c.1940

Google Street View.

St Mawes is very picturesque, situated on a little bay between the main estuary of the River Fal and its tributary Percuil River. It owes its origin and name to a Celtic preacher who arrived around AD 550 to live as a hermit in what was then a very remote place. It had grown to a small town by the 13th century and in 1562 was granted borough status by Elizabeth I. It received the right to elect two MPs and was a notorious “rotten borough”. Its historic pilchard fishing trade has now been replaced by its role as a top-end resort.
South West Coast Path

St Mawes is a small village opposite Falmouth, on the Roseland Peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom. It lies on the east bank of the Carrick Roads, a large waterway created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley which flooded as the melt waters caused the sea level to rise dramatically. The immense natural harbour created is often claimed to be the third largest in the world. It was once a busy fishing port, but the trade declined during the 20th century and it now serves as a popular tourist location, with many properties in the village functioning as holiday accommodation
Wikipedia.


St Mawes
c.1910 (postmarked 1949)

Harbour, Boscastle, Cornwall


Boscastle Harbour
Postmarked 1906
Publisher: Valentine

Google Street View.

Boscastle is a village and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, England, UK, in the civil parish of Forrabury and Minster (where the 2011 Census population was included) . It is 14 miles (23 km) south of Bude and 5 miles (8 km) northeast of Tintagel.The harbour is a natural inlet protected by two stone harbour walls built in 1584 by Sir Richard Grenville and is the only significant harbour for 20 miles (32 km) along the coast.
Wikipedia.

Over a century ago Boscastle was a busy, bustling place. It was a commercial port throughout most of the 19th century, for the railway did not reach north Cornwall until 1893. Before that date all heavy goods to and from an area stretching many miles inland had to be carried by sea. More than a dozen ketches and schooners of 30 to 200 tons traded regularly through the little port. In one year alone 200 ships called. Many vessels brought supplies in from South Wales and Bristol but even cargoes of timber direct from Canada came into Boscastle. The tortuous harbour entrance, with the island of Meachard as an extra hazard, meant it was never safe for sailing vessels to enter Boscastle un-assisted. They were therefore towed or ‘hobbled’ in by ‘hobbler’ boats manned by eight oarsmen. Gangs of men on shore took other ropes to keep the ships in the middle of the channel.
National Trust

Keigwin Arms, Mousehole, Cornwall


Mousehole, Keigwin Arms
c.1910 (the photo is 1893)
Publisher: Francis Frith & Co

The Keigwin Arms was situated at 5-7 Keigwin Place. Featured in the TV series Poldark, this is the oldest house in Mousehole being built by most accounts in the 14th century and then having cost the life of Squire Jenkyn Keigwin in 1595 whilst defending it against the Spaniards. The cannon ball that killed him was found in the house and is in the Penzance museum along with his sword.
The Lost Pubs Project

Keigwin and Little Keigwin were both originally part of a 16th century Manor House. Keigwin has an interesting gabled wing which projects out and is supported on pillars. Mousehole was destroyed in 1595 during a raid on Mount’s Bay by Spaniard Carlos de Amésquita. This building is the only building that survives from before this date. It has a plaque with the wording “Squire Jenkyn Keigwin was killed here 23rd July 1595 defending this house against the Spaniards”. Amésquita was a naval office who raided Cornwall with four Spanish galleys during the Anglo-Spanish War. He also bombarded Penzance sinking ships in the harbour during what is known as the Battle of Cornwall. He eventually went back to Brittany, managing to avoid the counterattack by the English fleet, commanded by Francis Drake and John Hawkins.
Historic England

Restormel Castle, Cornwall


Restormel Castle
Gateway
c.1940
Publisher: Ministry of Works

Lying at the heart of Cornwall, Restormel is one of the most remarkable castles in Britain. The present circular structure, built in the late 13th century, was a luxurious retreat for its medieval owners, with a large hunting park. In the 14th century the Black Prince, Edward III’s son, stayed there twice. At this time Restormel and nearby Lostwithiel were a centre for the highly lucrative tin industry, from which the Duchy of Cornwall drew much of its wealth. Ruined since the 16th century, the castle was briefly garrisoned by a Parliamentarian army during the Civil War.
English Heritage

The standing ruin of Restormel Castle, formerly the castle’s inner ward or enclosure, is highly distinctive. It takes the form of a low curtain wall enclosing buildings ranged around a central courtyard. Its plan is almost perfectly circular
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The levels of first floors can be reconstructed from sockets and ledges in the outer and inner walls and in the radial walls dividing the rooms from one another. The range’s inner wall is fragmentary at first-floor level and some parts are entirely missing, but the positions of most windows and doors remain visible. Moving anticlockwise from the kitchen, the main first-floor rooms were a hall; an inner hall or solar; the ante-chapel; and then two further rooms, thought to be the great chamber and a wardrobe, or storeroom. The hall, ante-chapel and great chamber could be entered directly from wooden stairs rising from the courtyard. All the first-floor rooms communicated directly with adjoining spaces apart from the wardrobe at the north-west corner. This was accessible only by a stone stair against its gable wall. The ground-floor spaces were all unheated and most were probably storerooms.
English Heritage

The keep’s inner wall is 1m thick and lies 5.6m inside the outer wall. The space between is divided into rooms, which consequently have curved walls either end. The largest room is the 19m great hall, which once had a timber roof structure. The north east wing is 9.3m wide and contains a chapel with windows to three sides on the upper level. The chapel measures 7.6m by 5.5m wide internally. The end wall to the east is just 1.1m thick. Its window was blocked up with masonry during the Civil War when the wall was adapted to support a cannon platform overlooking the river. The gatehouse probably dates from the early 13th century. Its inner gateway is flanked by stone stairs leading to the upper floor. The remainder of the structure is likely to be late 13th century. The whole complex was rendered and would have been limewashed, making it white.
Engineering Timelines

The site was acquired by Richard, earl of Cornwall (d. 1272) and was rebuilt by his son, Edmund (d. 1299), whose chief Cornish residence it became when he moved the earldom’s administrative centre from Launceston to Lostwithiel. He converted the 11th -12th century castle, comprising a ringwork with a rectangular bailey, into a magnificent new residence but no written record of his works survives.

Works on buildings in the bailey are recorded in 1343-1344, and repairs are documented through the 14th and 15th centuries. By Leland’s day, however, the site had become neglected and major decay followed. The most important written source for understanding the site is a survey of 1337, when the Duchy of Cornwall was created, which identified some of the fabric being in need of repair. It was described as “well walled round” with a hall, three chambers with cellars, a chapel, a stable for six horses, and three chambers above the gateway. Outside the gateway, stood a hall with two cellars and a kitchen, a chapel, three chambers with cellars, a bake-house, and two old stables for twenty horses. A lead conduit system brought water into the castle.

The central, surviving structure, it has been observed, was not designed by earl Edmund for defence but for display and comfort. Although its wall-walk was (and is) crenellated, this may have been – in this case, but certainly not at all castles by this date – a repetition of what had become a traditional element in the repertoire of castle design. The lord’s chamber (the most “private” room in the castle, see below) had its own stairway to the wall-walk, suggesting that the latter’s use was mainly for “promenade” and for enjoying views over the deer-park.
Castle Studies Group: Shell Keeps – The Catalogue (pfd) (includes floor plan)


Restormel Castle
Gateway & Internal buildings
c.1940
Publisher: Ministry of Works