MORSYLLA 

           CORNWALL COTTAGE

                LAMORNA COVE

                     Near Penzance

                     Holiday Let Cottage

            WEST CORNWALL COTTAGE

                     (WEST PENWITH)  

 

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Historical Notes of Lamorna

The Quarries

History of West Penwith

 

 

 

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Historical Notes of Lamorna and Morsylla

Lamorna Cove (Cornish for 'Place by the Sea')

 In the beginning........

The purpose of these notes is to give you some idea of the history of Morsylla, Lamorna and the area referred to as West Penwith (Cornish for outer headland) in the hope that it may contribute a little to your enjoyment, understanding  and appreciation of what is after all part of the British heritage. 

Inevitably, the notes reflect both the tragedies and achievements of the people concerned. Life has not been easy for many in West Penwith over the last few centuries. Basic industries, such as mining of copper, of which Cornwall was at one time the worlds largest source, precious metals, quarrying granite and fishing, which once gave them a living have each had their day and gone, leaving little behind in other industries to support the remaining population.

Not surprisingly, the Cornish have over the years, like the Irish and the Scots, emigrated to parts of the Globe where they could continue to earn a living, exercising the skills they were unable to practice at home. In particular both the United States of America and South Africa have benefited from Cornish immigrants.   

Bear in mind too that Cornwall had an earlier civilisation than most parts of the UK, dating back at least to 4,000 BC., and that inevitably there is always an even earlier story to uncover if you can get to it. Ancient times often seem less distant here than perhaps they do in most other places. 

The Grandmotherof the present owners, Mrs Hilda Jessie Ullman, bought Morsylla, on the 20 January 1931, from  Lt.Col. Thomas Camborne Haweis Paynter of Boskenna.Mrs Ullman had rented the cottage for some time before she bought it. 

Previously. all the terraced cottages were rented. Jacky Collins whose family has lived at 'Way Down To' since 1922 reported that Mrs Ullman was already there when they arrived and indeed she may well have been the only tenant the cottage ever had.  

At that time Lt. Col. Paynter owned the land to the west of the stream and Lord St Levan, who lived at St. Michaels Mount, the land to the east including the quarries. We know that at least one other member of the Ullman family, the authoress Mrs Alfred Sedgewick (nee Cecily Ullmann), already lived in the area at Trewoof at the head of the valley. Indeed she was responsible for introducing Crosby Garstin, the author, to the Collins and in whose cottage, ‘Way Down To’,  he wrote the famous book  'The Owls House'.  

The 'Deeds' indicate that the land on which the cottage stands was originally part of the Tregurno Farm Estate which belonged to the Paynters.

 Building Dates

Morsylla is approximately 130 years old and was completed by Col. Thomas Camborne Paynter from an original single story building between 1860 and 1882. We have not yet positioned precisely when the cottage was built but we do know that Number 2,"Way down Two", Number 3, "Morsylla", and Number 4, "Gilly Cottage", were built at the same time. Number 1, "Cove House", was added probably as late as the early 1900's, after the quay was built. Quite why Cove House was built is unknown but it is possible that the Harbour Master moved there from Flagstaff Cottage. "Balred", at the stream end, is a very recently built cottage that replaced a wooden bungalow, called Riverside, only a few years ago. The porch at the front of Morsylla seems to have been a unique  feature  and appears in the earliest pictures of the cottages in their two storey form. 

In an 1860 engraving Cliff Cottage, which was the Quarry Count House where the amounts due to workers was assessed and paid , is shown but nothing else. Old photographs indicate that Sunnyvale, the two cottages immediately below the granite chippings, was built next. The ominous slope of granite, overshadowing them, being there much as it was over 100 years ago.

 In dated engravings, probably used as book illustrations, and photographs, the cottages are not shown as present at all in 1853 but do appear appear in their two story form in 1882.

There is an early photograph which shows the cottages in a single story form when they were intended as Fishermens Cottages. We believe it is possible that there may have been an even earlier building on the site but we have no details of this. 

At that time the Quay did not exist nor the road which today runs up to the village. In the 1853 lithograph there is shown a two level metal pier which runs down to the sea over the rocks on the East side of the stream. The quarried granite appears to be carried, initially suspended, below the higher part of the pier and then travels along the top of the remaining part which jutted out into the sea. Remnants of the structure can still be found embedded in the rocks. Later, after the closing of the Quarry, the remaining ends of the pier jutting into the sea were used by a boat named the Pioneer to provide a loading platform for tourists boarding for sightseeing trips around the coast. 

The road, the surface of which was composed of broken granite flattened by pedestrians and the horse drawn vehicles that were the order of the day, then ran in front of the cottages across the stream by a bridge since removed, along the other side of the stream from opposite the large cube of granite, known as the sugar loaf, to the Lamorna Water Mill in the village. With disuse this road became unuseable for vehicles and is now an often overgrown footpath.

The Quarries.

The quarries ran not only east and west from the Cove but also back along the valley. There was also a quarry at Sheffield a small hamlet, comprising houses built for the workers, on the road to Penzance.

The quarries on the East side occupied ground owned by Lord St Levan and were leased by John Freeman & Co. who also operated the Sheffield quarry . These quarries were opened up in about 1849. 

Whilst the quarry on the west side of Lamorna was owned by Col.Thomas Paynter. He had inherited from his father in 1848 and subsequently leased the quarry to Captain Owen, a great friend, for a royalty of 6p a ton. 

Together, according to his nephew Tom Paynter,  they also built the pier on Paynter ground and put up the two cranes. This enabled them to lift the quarried stone from the top of the quay into the flat boats that came alongside and ferry them to larger ships with greater draughts anchored off Lamorna for transportation to London and elsewhere. The larger crane was later removed by American troops as a precautionary measure in the second World War. 

The quarries undoubtedly owe their origins to John Freeman, one of two sons of the owner of a London stonemasonary company, who in the late 1800's travelled the country from Cornwall to Scotland, by coach and on horseback, searching for accessible granite quarry sites so that the company might meet the increasing demand placed on it. The initially worked surface granite from Dartmoor, known as moor stone, being of poor quality and relatively expensive to quarry. 

Such demand was created by the massive building activities that took place in London, the Provincial Industrial Cities and Ports, during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, and from the national expansion of railroads and highways. 

A walk in the centres of most cities and towns throughout the UK indicate that at that time granite, in the absence of re-inforced concrete, was the favoured material for Town Halls and other substantial and prestigious buildings. Harbours and ports were being rebuilt as wooden jetties suitable for sailing ships could not cope with the steel hulls of modern steam boats, railways were being expanded with a need for embankments, tunnels  and bridges and highways and roads were being constructed requiring granite for crustiness and surfacing to cope with the increasing number of vehicles. Granite was also well favoured for Grave Headstones.

 Lamorna quarries, we know, provided the granite for the London Embankment, the headquarters of the LCC in Central London, Alderney and Portland breakwaters, Dover Admiralty Pier, New Scotland Yard, the Cafe Monico in Piccadilly, London. Not to mention the Wolf Rock and Longships Lighthouses. Lamorna also is believed to have supplied granite chippings to XXX McAdam for the Tarmacadam surfacing material. 

Re-inforced concrete did not exist in those days so buildings were erected with pre-shaped stone held together by weight locked in position by keys cut into the granite or by mortar made on the spot. 

The largest quarry, overlooking the Cove , eventually had its own steam engine. Granite was blasted, cut and finally chipped into shape by hand into large blocks ready for loading on to boats and later substantial, horse drawn, wooden wagons. Whilst initially granite was transported to the cutting yards at Wherrytown, Penzance, the Freemans received authority from Customs & Excise to load ships with shaped granite at Lamorna, then clearing Customs at Penzance. Lamorna Cove can hardly have been the peaceful place it has become today. The ringing noise from the hand held hammers shaping the rock was reported as being deafening, continuing incessantly throughout the working day.

The workers in the quarry, many of whom were itinerant workers from other parts of the country including Ireland, were housed in a hostel which later became the Lamorna Cove Hotel.   

In 1851 a single block of granite, an obelisk 2 feet high and weighing 21 tons was transported from the cove to the Great Exhibition in London. A few derricks at the outset moved the granite blocks from the quarry face on to the waggons. Then to be drawn by teams of horses up the old rough road and eventually down the steep hill into Newlyn. Apart from the drag chains on the wheels the main retarding force would have been the horses themselves, probably both in front and behind the Wagons. 

Quarrying ceased in Lamorna in 1911. The Cornish granite quarrying industry had been under pressure for some time. The use of granite for buildings diminished and granite for facing and decorative purposes required granite without the unfashionable, coloured felspar that appeared in that quarried in Cornwall.  Other countries, such as Scandinavia, South Africa and Bolivia, began to sell high quality granite at cheaper prices. The Trade Unions were not unreasonably also pressing for better conditions, more regular and dependable wages for workers, at a time when the operators were under financial pressure to meet the prices of foreign competition and from the need to invest in modern quarrying equipment. As a result John Freeman & Co. concentrated their efforts in less quarries. 

As John Lamorna Birch, the artist, moved with his new wife into the Flagstaff Cottage, the Harbourmasters house, in 1902 there were obviously changes already taking place then that had an affect on the quarry.  

The Harbour 

The opening of the west quarry did bring one benefit, the harbour. The intention was apparently to ship the granite quarried, probably from the West Quarry, from the stone quay . This avoided dragging the stone across to the metal pier which was anyhow owned by Lord St Levan. 

However Lamorna had a bad record of ships being unable to load because of frequent high seas and it seems that Thomas Paynter also constructed the road so that stone might travel by land to Penzance dock. Imagine, however, going down Paul Hill into Newlyn with a wagon drawn by a team of six horses, ‘drag’ chains through the rear wheels so that they would lock and drag, and loaded with a massive weight of granite. As a cubic yard of granite weighs approximately three tons, the journey must have concentrated the mind of the driver more than somewhat. 

It would appear that part of the plan of Thomas Paynter was to develop Lamorna as an active fishing harbour and at the time that the harbour was being built the row of single story cottages were intended for fishermen. In the front would have been the fishing lofts and at the rear the living accomodation. All it is suggested were part of the general scheme based on the potentialities of the western quarry. 

It is significant that in 1892 Captain Thomas Paynter bought the foreshore to the west of the quay around to the stream from HRH, the Prince of Wales, for £75. This might indicate that the quay was built at that time by him or his lessees over the ground that he had acquired. 

Tom Paynter, his nephew, reported that when Captain Owen died the work was stopped. The granite in all the quarries, except for that at Sheffield, was found to be inferior to that of other quarries further east towards Falmouth. The plans were disguarded and the cottages extended to two stories by Col. Paynter who then rented them off. 

The slipway was not completed at that time. Launching of boats taking place from the quay by means of one of the two wooden derricks (cranes). 

There also used to be a coastguards hut standing on the land directly behind the top car park. 

The Ownership of the Cove. 

The Paynters 

At the time that Mrs Ullman bought the cottage the Cove was owned By Lt. Col. ThomasCambourne Paynter, a landowner who lived in Boskenna, a substantial house which had been in his family for nine generations. Boskenna had well layed out grounds which extended to the sea including both a Chinese Garden and a Water Garden. The property included a private beach about one mile long, known and shown on the maps as Paynters Cove. As foreshore rights are retained by the Crown it is unusual for them to be owned privately. However foreshore rights were granted to the family in 1892 by the Prince of Wales at the same time that they acquired the foreshore rights in Lamorna. It is understood that the rights in Paynters Cove were confirmation or restoration of earlier rights granted to them by Charles II.

Boskenna 

As so much of the history of the Cove is linked to the Paynters a little of the history of them and their home, Boskenna, seems to be necessary.

In 1400, Boskenna was owned by the Benne family and later passed into the hands of the Killigrews.The house is marked in the oldest maps.

 In 1678 the house was purchased and restored by Francis Paynter son of Arthur Paynter who was Lord of the Manor in Trelissic situated at the head of the River Fal. Further property was added to the original purchase so that eventually the estate included about 2,000 acres of land. 

Lt. Col. Paynter in 1910 bought the second motor car to be registered in Cornwall, a steam driven Serpolet. He  owned practically all the land  the Lamorna side of Lands End This comprised  some 2,000 acres, including 32 farms. He also owned numerous houses including Clapper Mill, Trewoof and Oakhill, all on the road to Penzance from Lamorna. He died in 1948. 

Col. Paynter, was one of the two sons of Thomas Paynter. The other was Hugh Paynter. 

On the eve of his departure to serve in the South African War, Col. Thomas Paynter, who at the time was unmarried, became worried about the fate of the property. He encouraged his brother, Hugh, to have more  children, and promised that in the event that he produced a son that he would become the heir to the estate. Three years later he himself married and his only daugher was born in 1906. In the circumstances he retracted his promise and fatefully, the daughter was made the heir. By this time Hugh had indeed produced a son, Thomas, and was not at all happy about the changed circumstances, especially as he had not willingly added to his family seven years after the birth of his other children.   

Consequently, when Col. Paynter died, the estate was left to Elizabeth Hill, his daughter. Betty, as she was known, had at the ripe age of fifteen, and still at school, been engaged to be married to Guiseppe Marconi who was carrying out his pioneering radio transmissions from the Lizard. He lived on a yacht Electra which, as Paynters Cove was not suitable, moored off Lamorna when he was meeting his fiancee. She would be driven over to Lamorna by pony and trap and be taken by tender to the yacht. 

For whatever reason this relationship came to an end and in 1937 she married Olaff Poulson, a Dane, and went to live with him in Belgium. They had a daughter Sonia Paynter,  borne in 1940 who when her parents divorced took her mothers name. Olaff was subsequently killed in action as a fighter pilot during the war. 

In 1947  Betty married a solicitor (Stephen) Paul Jewell Hill. Two years later Col Paynter died and Betty inherited the property without restriction, which, as they say, is when this story really starts. 

Paul Jewell Hill. 

In the eight years that followed Col. Paynters death, Betty and Paul Hill, by dint of gambling, bad management, profligacy and high living, managed to run through Betty's inheritance. At one time they owned 13 cars and a castle in Ireland. 

Consequently, in 1956 everything went 'under the hammer'. Lamorna Cove itself was previously sold to an Ice Cream Merchant, John (Jack) Daniels for £500 on the 9th December 1952. 

Betty and Paul Hill then went to live in very modest accomodation in Penzance.  

 John Daniels

 On the 22nd January 1953 Daniels also bought Wrights Cottage, now renamed Gilly Cottage, for £400. In February 1954 he purchased further surrounding ground and a release from covenants restricting his commercial use of the properties for a further £1,000. 

John Daniels had been a 'concientious objector' during the war and so far as we have established his war effort amounted to no more than providing a taxi service for the American Troops stationed in the area. At the end of the war he bought ice cream making equipment from the departing US Forces and ran a  successful business selling ice cream. 

He restored the Quay, which by this time had begun to collapse from storms and neglect, and built the slipway and the buildings which included the cafe, the shop and the apartment. 

Riverside, the wooden faced building at the stream end that was pulled down to make way for Balred, was occupied by Jack and Emmy Small. Jack, one of whose relatives was a well known Cornish Wrestling Champion, owned a traditional, clinker built, open fishing boat and made a hard won living, all year around in all weathers , from catching fish, mainly mackerel, and selling his catch at Newlyn market. 

Sunnyvale and Cliff Cottage

For some unknown reason Lord St Leven allowed both of these houses to become derelict, with gaping holes in their roofs and inevitably vandalised. The pair were put on the market in about 1974 and were sold to a local builder for approximately £3,000. He restored and developed them and eventually sold them on at a considerable profit. The garages by the stream were erected at this time.

 Water Supply

Fresh water was literally the stuff of life to communities before sophisticated water distribution   systems were introduced.  Bloody battles have been fought, won and lost to ensure a continuous supply of fresh water. 

Mrs Susie Mitchell in her "Recollections of Lamorna"  lived for nine years up to 1930 in Sunnyvale after her marriage. She recalls  that "except for a water barrel by the side of the cottage  all the 'using' water including water for the weekly wash had to be carried from the river, the drinking water could be had from a tap at the back of the end cottage by paying Col. Paynter sixpence a year". Today, fresh water is supplied to the Cove from the Drift Reservoir via heavy duty rubber pipes layed for part of the way above the ground.  

In the Deeds of Morsylla there is also a requirement that water should be continued to be supplied  to the house via Col Paynters resources on the payment of sixpence each year.  

The Storm of 1989 

Looking at the Cove as it is today, it is hard to imagine the devastation that resulted from the the worst storm in living memory that struck on 14 December 1989 and lasted for four days. 

Over a period of some 48 hours, preceded by a gloriously and unusually coloured sky, the sea became increasingly agitated. It eventually rose to an unprecedented level, rolling effortlessly over the main car park and removing at one point a casually parked car from there to the road immediately in front of Morsylla. 

By the time the sea eventually receded, the garden of Cove House had been destroyed and in its place were tons of granite bolders and debris. The hedges and walls of the gardens of the other cottages were swept away as was the surface of the road and the Car park and the gardens themselves. 

The storm battered the cliffs all along the coast and was responsible for the land slide at the side of Cliff Cottage. 

Restoring the gardens was a major undertaking. Nevertheless it was done and all the walls and the road rebuilt to the standard that can be seen today.

 

The Cottages Along the Road To Lamorna.

 Flagstaff Cottage 

The first house on the left on leaving the Cove, named Flagstaff Cottage, was originally occupied by the Harbour Master. Later, in 1902, after making his name as a painter it was bought by John Lamorna Birch who lived there with his wife Mouse. His studio can still be seen on the right hand side a little further up on the banks of the stream. 'Mornie' Kerr his daughter returned to live in the house with her husband after he died, her mother having died earlier. 

The house is now owned and occupied by her son, Adam Kerr.

Chyanoor

The next house on the right hand side originally known as Redesdale, was built in about 1912 as a studio by Col. Paynter for Stanley Knight, one of the Newlyn School of Painters, who later married and whose wife became 'Dame' Laura Knight.

Trenant

 Further along is Trenant built in the 1930's by Col. Paynter on the site of a single storey building which used to be known as Uncle Tom's Cabin and was occupied by Tom Mitford, the uncle of Nancy Mitford. 

 Lily's Cottage

We then come to Lily's Cottage built about 1868 by a Mr Edmunds a local landowner and possibly farmer. This cottage was occupied by Stanley Gardner who was another of the Newlyn School of Artists. His studio can be seen alongside the road. The house is currently owned by his son Keith Gardner. 

Oriental Cottage  

Next on the right is Oriental Cottage also built by Mr Edmunds at about the same time. Oriental Cottage is famous for having been built from the timbers of The Oriental, a ship which foundered off Lamorna at this time.

Capper Cottage

At the head of the road on the left is 'Capper', which was a dairy parlour. 

The Wink 

The Wink was originally owned by Sampson Hoskings, who also owned Lamorna Water Mill, and rented to the landlord of the day. It was one of the original ''Tiddly Winks' licensed as drinking places. 

Earlier the Inn came with an amount of grazing ground and a metal building sited an what is now the car park.This was the home of  the parents of the last but one tenant Tom Bailey, his parents were tenants immediately prior to him. So it seems likely that Susan Mitchells parents were the tenants prior to them.   

Home Along 

Alongside the Wink is Alongside Cottage, one of the oldest buildings in Lamorna.

Bodriggy 

The last house in Lamorna is Bodriggy, was designed and built by Algernon Newton who joined the community of painters who had settled in the village on the encouragement of Laura and Harold Knight. He was a member of the Winsor and Newton Company which manufactures artist’s materials. He was later to become an RA. He had the distinction of being the father of Robert Newton, the actor, who grew up in Lamorna between 1911-1919. Robert was often to return to the area and his mother, Margerie who later lived in Newlyn, is buried in the churchyard at Paul.

Lamorna Gate   

At the end of the road is a house named Lamorna Gate. This is a reminder that originally the road was totally privately owned and was permanently gated only to be opened when visitors and the regular horse drawn trap service  arrived. 

The Postal Services 

At the turn of the Century the daily post was brought on foot from Penzance via Mousehole by footpath. 

After leaving Mousehole, the postman went through the three Kemyell Farms, Kemyell Drea, Kemyell Crease and Kemyell Wartha, crossed over 15 Cornish 'stiles', then by the quarry road to the Cove, up to the hotel and the house on the cliff top finally to the village. A hut was provided for him, where he rested, ate his midday meal and if wet dried out. After a stay of about three hours, he returned to Penzance, again via Castellack with the mail he had collected on the way down. 

Coastal Raids 

In our relatively ordered society ít ís difficult to come to terms with the fact that as recently as Shakespear's time the Cornish Coast was regularly being raided and looted by the Spanish, the Barbary Corsairs from Algiers and others. 

Mousehole, two miles from here, was twice pillaged and burned by the Spanish. In 1595  five Spanish Galleys with 200 men burnt down Mousehole and raped and looted. Another 400 men did the same to Newlyn. The force then joined together and attacked and burnt Penzance to ashes. 

They were eventually seen off by a force assembled by Sir Francis Godolfin, of Godolfin House, a family which has since become extinct. 

In Mousehole about the only building left standing was the Keigwin Arms, which is still there today, the home of Richard Keigwin who was killed there by the Spanish.   

In 1640, the Barbary Corsairs raided St Michaels Mount and after slaughtering about 60 men seized and took away some 60 men, women and children. 

In the period 1600 to 1640, there were also considerable acts of piracy involving fishing boats. Pirates from North Africa were continually capturing fishermen and taking them back to Algeria and Morocco to serve as slaves. Some were said to be captured from night raids on the harbours. 

In 1646 in the time of the wars between King Charles1 and his Parliament, Penzance had the pleasure of being further plundered this time by the soldiers under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, Parliament General, in retaliation for being supporters of King Charles I.

The population of PZ in 1801 was only 3,382 people. In 1995 it was 14,500. 

The Economics of the Area 

West Penwith had more than a good share of the natural blessings in Cornwall. These were; 

1) Mild winters, due to the Atlantic Drift, otherwise known as the Gulf Stream. 

2) Land on which to grow crops and rear cattle. 

3) Mineral deposits of silver, tin and copper and just a smidgen of gold. 

4) A very long coast line with abundant fish at hand such as Sardines, Pilchards, Mackerel and  Herring in addition to lobsters and other shell fish. 

5) Proximity to the Continent. 

6) The most westerly point in Britain.

 

Not surprisingly these characteristics shaped the lives of all those that lived there over the years.

 The Granite Quarries

 

The history of Cornish granite quarrying is inextricably linked to the Freeman family.

 

In the late 1700's John Freeman (Snr), a stone merchant,  had a yard on the Thames Embankment at Millbank in London. In 1808 John Freeman died leaving the business to be run by his widow Sarah. His two sons John and William were born in 1796 and 1800.

 

They also occupied a wharf at City Rd Canal Basin and by 1841 they had acquired further London sites at Deptford and Millwall.

 

The earliest information about the company comes from an entry in a directory in 1829  where they are listed as Stone and Marble Merchants at Millbank and Yorkshire Stone Merchants at City Rd Canal Basin.

 

In an entry in The Times in 1833, they are reported as shipping granite from Peterhead, in Northern Scotland, to their Thameside, Millwall Depot in London.

 

William who eventually lost his eyesight remained at Millbank running the company whilst his brother John became increasingly mobile gaining contacts and sourcing stone.

 

In 1848 they were reported in The Builder as importing 'considerable quantities of large blocks of stone from Caen (Normand, France) for some years past'.

 

As the demand for stone increased they began to operate quarries themselves.

 

In 1839 they were working a magnesium limestone quarry at Huddlestone in Yorkshire and by 1856, according to an entry in Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom and Ireland in 1856, they had taken over the operation of four quarries, for whom they were initially agents for Portland Limestone, at Castle King, Barrow, Trade and Vern Street Quarries. Their involvement in these quarries ceased in about 1861 when William George, John's son, who had been managing the quarries  moved to the base they had set up at Penryn in Cornwall near Falmouth.

 

It is worth mentioning at this point that Freeman & Co. were either buying or quarrying stone to fulfill orders. At this time finance does not seem to have been a problem for quarry operators who took little if any financial risk. They leased the quarries usually on payment against stone mined to order. They employed very few workers directly, paying 'gangers' a rate for the extraction of stone to then be distributed amongst his team. The extraction and dressing of stone was a manual activity with workers providing their own tools. No pensions or sick benefits to worry about.

 

When they finished with a quarry they just packed their bags and left, leaving behind whatever mess they had created and of course had no redundancy payments to worry about.    

 

During this time, in 1840, Freeman & Co. obtained a contract to obtain and superintend the supply of granite for the new Keyham Steam basin at Devonport Dockyard.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fishing

 

By 1582 there were about 2,000 seamen in Cornwall. Penzance however could claim no more than six registered boats. Today seamen probably number no more than 500/600 in the whole of Cornwall, virtually all of whom work in nearby Newlyn.

 

Fishing ports continued to flourish into the mid-eighteen century. Shipments of fish from Newlyn, recorded in 1555, going to La Rochelle, Bordeaux, St Tropos, Leghorn (Livorno) and Genoa.

 

Until the beginning of the 19th Century, Cornish fisherman sailed as far as Newfoundland for Cod, being away  for 12 months or more at a time.

 

Back home Pilchard and Mackerel were the main catches. Pilchard fishing from late July and through the winter. Mackerel fishing began in March and lasted four to six months.

 

Pilchards destined for France were pickled and pressed in casks. Those for hotter countries such as Spain and Italy were smoked to make 'Fumados'. In 1600 95% of the casks were exported and pilchard  prices rose due to the export demand.

 

The oil from the pressings was known as 'train oil' and used in a 'chill', a coarse pottery lamp which provided light for the cottages.

 

The fishing villages which had successful ports all had good natural harbours and potential for pier construction. Newquay, Padstow, St Michaels Mount, Newlyn, Mousehole and Bude, all had piers or quays constructed in the 14th or 15th Centuries. In the 19th Century further quay construction took place in Porthleven. Polperrow, Mousehole, Mevagissey, St Ives and Newlyn.

 

 

The Railway

 

The Great Westen Railway was extended to Penzance in 1859 which was good news for some and not for others.

 

It then became necessary to use ice when fish was to be transported by rail any distance. At first enormous chunks of ice were were towed down from the North Sea and stored in chilly warehouses in the larger ports such as Newlyn. Around 1900 fresh water freezing became possible and ice was crushed and mixed with the catch on the boats.

 

The main catches at this time being good quality Cod, Hake, Ling and Skate.

 

The smaller and less accessable fishing villages declined as they did not have the specialist loading facilities, which became necessary, and it was uneconomic to transport catches to the railway station in Penzance and Industrial Fishing became dominated by a few ports.

 

Newlyn was to develop as the main fishing port in the South West. Its advantage being its proximity to both rich fishing grounds and the rail terminus plus a large local population committed to fishing for centuries.

 

In 1886 the South Pier was opened followed by an even longer North Pier completed in 1894.

 

Much remained unchanged in 1890 although the hub of the Pilchard Industry had moved from the South Coast between Plymouth and Mevagissey to the West Cornish Coast. Thousands of Hogsheads of Pilchards were still being sent to Italy through the ports of Naples and Genoa. 


Competition and the Industrialising of Fishing

 

The advanced facilities of Newlyn began to attract fishermen from other parts of Britain. From 1860 on fleets of boats began to arrive from the East Coast and by 1878, one hundred  East Coast trawlers were fishing in the South West waters as well as steam drifters.

 

By 1906 when Newlyn acquired its first local steam drifter there were 200 steam drifters based on the East Coast. Local coal, relatively cheap, was available to the East Coast boats whereas coal had to be brought down more expensively to Cornwall from South Wales.

 

For 250 years the Newlyn community, where Methodism was exceedingly strong, had observed the religious command not to work on the sabbath. 

 

The East Coast fishermen were apparently less concerned about such compliance and brought fish ashore on Monday mornings which not surprisingly made an excellent price as there was no fish available from Cornish fishermen.

 

This situation culminated in riots in Newlyn and Penzance in 1896. The rioting started on the 18th May and continued for some days. When the East Coast men attempted to land their catches, there were pitched battles with the men from Newlyn. The local police were unable to cope and 300 men from the Royal Berkshire Regiment were drafted in to quell the riot.

 

Having lost their battle against the 'heathens' from the East Coast, by 1903 even the Newlyn boats were working Sundays. St  Ives, however, continued the Sunday observance until 1929. Although many of the East coast boats preferred to land their catches at St Ives, they eventually tranferred to Newlyn making it the premier fishing port in the South West.

 

The Introduction of the Internal Combustion Engine

 

Internal combustion engines first became available between 1905 and 1920. This time the Cornish were quick to see the advantages. The early engines ran on paraffin pre-heated by a petrol/paraffin mixture Not only were the engines cleaner and easier to maintain they took up much less space than the steamers.

 

The size of the engines increased from 7HP to 26HP and eventually to the 250HP of today.

 

With the new power available from these engines boats could now go to sea in weather which would have been dangerous to boats of lesser power and could safely motor home without the frustration of becoming becalmed because of an adverse wind.

 

The Decline of the Fish Stocks

 

The demand of the market called for more and more fish and even more trawlers from the East Coast arrived to fish the well stocked banks to the far west of the Scillies.

 

Although pilchards were still being caught with drift nets as recently as the 1930's, boats were

going further afield to locate them. The pilchard shoals were also less numerous, possibly because of changes in salinity, mineral content and sea currents. The Cornish fishermen however blamed the trawlers for breaking up pelagic (shallow swimming) shoals and destroying young stock.

 

By the early 19th Century, many buildings used for pilchard processing had been converted into other uses.

 

Families who wished to continue fishing moved on to 'long line' fishing. A tall basket was filled with a continuous line which had anything up to 150 'strops' attached at regular intervals. At the end of each strop, which was about two feet long was a large swivel hook baited with a mackerel or pilchard. The line was thrown over the side to lie on the sea bed overnight.

 

Traditional methods of catching fish with 'seines', 'drift nets' and 'long lines' were superceded by trawlers and motor powered vessels.

 

Seine Fishing

 

There were two kinds of Seine fishing, both using close mesh nets. Small seines used within harbours and larger seines cast out in to the open sea.

 

The system is basically the same in each case. The seine is cast out over an area of sea supported at the top by buoys and then drawn in from the base.

 

The shorter seine nets would have been about 80 yards long and the longer about 400 yards long and 33 yards deep. The longer nets would be laid out by three or four boats operating as a partnership, each manned by about six men, Their activities would be directed  by a 'huer' , often provided with a hut, who stood on the cliff side and by hand signals, whistles and shouts indicated when to cast out the nets and when to draw them in. The cry for sighting of pilchards being 'hevva'! Hence 'Hevva' bread and Huers a house on the cliffs on the road that runs past the Lamorna Cove Hotel.

 

As always there was conflict between the two types of seine fishermen. The harbour group with the short nets accused the group with the larger nets of overfishing. The latter in turn complained that the harbour group were driving the fish away. They could both have been right.

 

The seine fishermen were wealthier than the 'drifters'. Typical partnerships owned three boats, two nets and premises on the shore to prepare their catch.

 

A Further Invasion

 

By the end of the 19th Century not only had the pilchard catches declined, due the Cornish believed by trawling, the herring fishery suffered from an influx of French trawlers and their activities, together with those of Plymouth based trawlers are believed to have decimated the herring stocks.


The turn of the Mackerel

 

The third species to suffer from over fishing has been the mackerel. It is suggested that the reason for this was the four hundred or so Cornish Mackerel drifters and the 200 steam drifters at work in the 19 th Century. Fishing virtually closed down in the 1930's but by the 1960's stocks had naturally improved again and fishing was once more profitable.

 

The Present

 

The present Cornish fishing industry is predominately that of Newlyn where some 50 trawlers are based. Whereas in the late 1970's there were between 100 and 150 small boats fishing for mackerel, there are now less than ten.

 

Of the working trawlers, half are privately owned and the rest are owned by W. Stevenson and Sons, who are also the leading auctioneers. The crews are almost all self employed, share fishermen. There are about 500/600 now in full time fishing.

 

Many of the fishermen moved on from the diminishingly efficient 'long lining' to wreck fishing with considerable initial success. This in its turn provided diminishing quantities of fish and of course some have now moved on along with the French into Tunny fishing, off Spain, to the chagrin of the Spanish who see that as their preserve and the extended nets of  the foreigners obstructing their tradional methods of line fishing.

 

In turn the European Union agreement to allow the Spanish to fish in the Irish Box has been greeted with dismay by those to whom this area is their traditional fishing ground. Especially, as the Spanish are considered to be notorious in their flouting of the regulations as to quotas laid down by the Union. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Agriculture

 

The early people of Newlin were much like the Welsh, early settled Celts driven even further west by later Celtic invasions until there was no further to go. Indeed at one time Cornwall was known as West Wales.

 

Like all such societies all that the communities had to do, apart from staying alive, was to feed and clothe themselves. In time living off the natural resources of the land gave way to the development of increasing sophisticated agricultural systems and communities. Basically they grew the food they required for themselves and their livestock which in turn provided them with fresh meat, and dairy products and the basic material for their garments.

 

The story of Penwith in this respect is probably no different to that of the development of all other agricultural communities in Britain.

 

However, some of the early relics still survive. The Lamorna Water Mill still stands and its wheel was restored to working order some years ago. Regrettably the water wheel is considered to be a danger to those venturing too close and is not operating. The upper mill pool is still there however and the feed of water continues in its diverted form.

 

Clapper Mill was still working until a few years ago and is believed to be in working order now.

 

Potatoes were of course not introduced until late in the 16th Century.

 

One feature that is characteristic of the area are the remains of the no longer worked cliff meadows. Here workers would cultivate produce for their families after a day in the farmers fields or sweating it out in the Quarries. 

 

Nevertheless, West Penwith did have its agricultural advantage - the weather.

 

For many years the supply of the earliest green vegetables and cauliflowers, to the London markets, were a feature of the area. So were the supplies of the early spring daffodils and later in the season anemones and violets.

 

The availability today of even earlier fresh produce from more southerly areas in the European Community and even further east and the machination of the Common Agricultural Practices with its subsidies and minimum prices and production quotas have made life even more difficult for the farmers.  

 

Who would have ever contemplated farmers being paid to not to grow food on their land!

 

So agriculture is a flop too.

 

 


Mining

 

Mining was the big industry in West Cornwall in its day. Penzance was essentially a mining town and grew on the tin trade.

 

Probably its greatest son was Sir Humphrey Davy whose invention of the Davy Lamp must have saved the lives of thousands of miners around the world.

 

By 1900 the industry was virtually dead.

 

The area around St Just is reputed to have the geatest concentration of abandoned, ruined, mining engine houses in Cornwall.

 

The Botallock mine was 1,000 feet deep and extended 450 feet under the sea. It is said that during storms the noise in the mines from the waves above was tremendous.

 

Another well known mine which seems to stagger on still is the Geevor Tin Mine which is in North Boscaswell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The South Coast

 

Lamorna

 

The beach in the Cove varies considerably in size each year depending upon the  storms and tides moving the sand about. Whatever the size the beach is about as safe as they get. There are no undercurrents to worry about and the water is shallow (and usually cold) when the tide is out. The biggest danger is probably from inflatable dingies being blown out to sea. There is a lifebelt on the quayside ready to be thrown into the sea to anyone in trouble, but it has never been used.

 

If boats are being launched or retrieved it is wise to give them a wide berth, especially if there is much movement on the sea. The water can swirl around the bottom of the slipway and drive boats on to the quay wall or on to the rocks the other side.

 

Also remember that the boat is being driven by a totally unprotected propeller which can harm you severely should you make contact.  

 

You can of course sunbathe and swim from the rocks on the eastside of the cove. To the west of the cove there are at low tide both rocks to sunbathe on and also rock pools. The pools are warm relative to the sea and a great place to teach small children to swim or to catch Blenny fish with a simple hook and cotton line.

 

Pothguarnon

Penberth Cove

 

                Pedne Founder

 

Nanjizal

 

Pendeen

                Portheras Cove

Porthmear Cove

 

Porthleven Sands/Loe Bar/Loe Pool.

This is a two mile stretch of sand which shelves deeply and is dangerous for bathing. The bar itself was flung up by the sea, blocking the mouth of the river Cober and creating a pool of brackish water. The beach is composed of coarse sand and superb small pebbles. Many of the pebbles have such beautiful texture and colours that they have need for little further polishing. Access to Loe Bar is easiest from Porthleven. Follow the narrow coastal road to Loe Pool and park on the cliff top, just off the track.

 

Praa Sands

Continuing, round the coast to Mounts Bay brings one to Praa Sands. The sea is normally calm here and the bathing safe and ideal for children. the coastal path over /Cudden Head has magnificent views of the bay and St Michaels Mount with Penzance and Newlyn in the back ground.

 

Marazion (Market Jew)

 

This town was originally a settlement in the middle ages occupied by Jews who smelted tin.

 

The beach from Marazion to Penzance is ideal for children. There is a wide stretch of sand and beautiful pebbles and shells to be collected. Parking is within easy reach of the beach.

 

St Michaels Mount

 

St Michaels Mount was established in 1044AD, as a Benedictine Monastry by the monks of St Michel off Brittany after being given to them by Edward the Confessor. From the 12th Century its potential as a fortress attracted English Kings and rebellious nobles. In 1425 it was annexed by the Crown and the monks ejected. From then until the Civil War control of it passed, either by royal consent or by force, from noble to noble. In 1657 it was bought by the St Aubyn family who stll live there although since 1954 it has been owned by the National Trust.

 

Penzance

 

Penzance (holy head) grew on the tin trade, after being rebuilt after the destruction of 1595. In 1769 its Mayor was a well known smuggler.

 

In 1801 the population was 3,382. In the next ten years it grew by 19% to 4,022. In 1813 the large pier was built, allowing for up to 100 vessels to moor there including the largest commercial vessels of the day. By 1821 the population had grown by a further 30% to 5,224 and by 1831 by 27% to 6,563.

 

 

 

Mousehole

 

Original name Porth Enys, Island Port . Whilst the reason is clear, quite when it acquired its new name, and how, is lost as with many things here in the mists of time.

 

Mousehole is a picturesque and sheltered village with a harbour that has numerous small boats moored in the water and there is an ideal small beach for children.

 

The Keigin Arms, the building with two pillars at the front, is the sole surviving building from the sacking of Mousehole by the Spaniards in 1595.

 

Apart from the road to Mousehole there are two cross country routes for walkers.

 

The coastal path or the inland route. Both are fairly well signposted. Eitherway you will finish up going down the long steep hill into Mousehole and of course unless you have made other arrangements you will have to return the same way. If you have difficulties with steep hills it is suggested that you do make other arrangements!

 

However whether you walk back or not, if you time your walk right, and it takes about an hour from Lamorna, as you enter Mousehole there are numerous small cafes serving traditional Cornish Cream Teas. And after all you will have earned it.

 

Both cross country routes require you to cross the stream and walk towards the quarry. The path that goes off to the left by a large cube of granite will take you on the inland walk via Kemyel  Wartha Farm, Kemyel Drea Farm and Kemyel Crease Farm.

 

The path that goes off to the right will take you along the coast via the headland known as Carn-du (black rock) then along the coast until you emerge as with the other walk at the top of the hill that leads down to Mousehole.

 

Whichever way you choose you will have some magnificent views well worth taking a camera along to capture.

 

Porth Curno (Kernow)

 

Well worth a visit. The location of the original trans-Atlantic cable that ran across the Atlantic to the USA. The Cable and Wireless centre is now closed but some of the early cable remains are exposed to view. The Cove has recently been presented to the National Trust..

 

High upon the cliffs you can see the famous Minach Open Air Theatre built by Miss Rowena Cade and two men in 1932.. There are regular shows there played against a backdrop of some originality. Warm clothes are recommended for those choosing to attend. A hip flask, with the warming fluid of your choice, will also come in handy not to mention a cushion. Nevertheless the shows are well produced, always well attended and certainly worth a visit.

 

The beach itself is fine sand, and like all of the beaches in this area composed of minute grains of shells. The beach shelves very steeply and it is easy for the intrepid to suddenly get out of depth.Children need supervision when bathing here.

 

Porthgwarra

 

An attractive cove with a small sheltered beach with minute shells.A tunnel through the cliffs leads from the cottages to the base of a steep hard, up which small boats are winched. A feature of the landscape are the massive granite rocks that have weathered into cube shaped blocks, like a giants castle.

 

The North Coast

 

Portheras, Pendeen and Priests Cove (Cape Cornwall).

 

These are small coves, with little beaches. They are generally under-populated due to the steepish cliff paths. However the parking spaces are ample and they are the places to go to when the tourist season is at its height.

 

Treen

 

A drive to Treen along the North Coast road provides a pleasant walk out to Trereen Dinas, A prominent rock headland on which stands the Logan Rock.

 

There is an excellent 'Pub' at Treen with a family eating room and a garden at the rear also laid out for eating.

 

Past the ;Pub' takes you to a large car park from where you can begin the walk to the headland.

 

At low tide the beach stretches right round to Purthgurno. You can get down to this beach from Treen but the sea is shallow and the incoming tide can cut you off from the retreat.

 

In 1824 Lieutenant Goldsmith, nephew of Oliver Goldsmith the celebrated poet and novellist,  commander of an armed vessel, decided to challenge an emphatic statement by the famous Dr Borlase 'that the rock known as the Login Rock, poised so that any hand may move it to and fro: but the extremities of its base are at such a distance from each other, and so well secured by their nearness to the stone , which it stretches itself upon, that it is morally impossible that any lever, or indeed any force (however applied in a mechanical way) can remove it from its present situation'.

 

So Lt Goldsmith, accompanied by a dozen of his men, went on eighth of April 1824. to the rock and by the continued application of their united strength caused the rock to slide a short distance from its horizontal base into a narrow chasm.

 

The locals were not so jubilant as Lt Goldsmith may have been. Gilbert, the Cornish historian  who tells the story relates that he paid a visit to the Admiralty to speak for Lt Goldsmith and suggest that the Navy should send such apparatus that was necessary to replace the rock  and he for his part would raise such money that might be necessary. He further suggested that the enterprising Lt Goldsmith be charged with replacing the rock in its original position.

 

On the 2nd of November, in a fete like  atmosphere, Lt Goldsmith did just that. In addition at the request of Gilbert and by a subscription of  further money they went on to replace Lanyon Quoit with the same apparatus. The capstone had fallen in 1815, reported locally to have been struck down  by lightning. They were not so successful on this occasion, succeeding only after reducing the height of the three upright stones by half. A quoit was a chambered tomb formed by raising oblong boulders on end to support a vast slab for a roof and then walling it all in with small stones or turf. They date from 2,500BC to 1,500BC. In all known cases the walls have long since gone.

 

 

Sennen Cove (Whitesand Bay).

 

A vast expanse of sand bordered by sand dunes. The parking is good, if you are lucky at the bottom of the hill, otherwise at the top with a steepish walk down to the beach.

 

Sennen is on the North Coast and if there is sufficient movement in the sea it can be good for surfing. There can also be a strong undertow and Coast Guards are always present in the season, indicating whether bathing is safe and marking the safe swimming zone.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The History of West Penwyth

 

The areas of West Penwyth and the Scillys are probably unique in their abundant antiquities ranging from pre-historic collections of stones, that date back to around 4,000 to 2,000 BC, to stones marked by the early Christians with crosses. There is probably only one other area in the world with a similar abundance of  these and that is in Brittany, with whom West Penwyth had a greater closeness, economically, culturally and liguistically than any where else. For example, Armor - a Bretton name for a place by the sea! A little imagination takes you to L'Armor..na, n'est pas?

 

In the Neolithic period (Stone Age) betweeen 4,000 and 2,000 BC, people presumed to have originated in Asia arrived in the areas of Cornwall and Brittany, having migrated westwards in search of the place where the sun they worshipped set. They were responsible for the construction of countless megalithic monuments. Such monuments are found in many coastal areas, including Malta, Sardinia, Corsica and the Orkneys, but are especially numerous in Cornwall and Brittany.

 

The term 'megalithic', Greek for 'big stone', refers to various types of monuments formed out of large stones. Today the reasons for building such huge structures remain a mystery. It has proved impossible to reach any truly definitive conclusion as to whether they served a scientific, political or religious purpose. What is generally agreed is that that these monuments, scattered over the two area in vast numbers were associated in some way with a death cult and worship of a Mother Goddess.

 

One may wonder why there were so many of these markings in this area and how they came to survive the years that have since past?

 

The answer to the first question probably lies in the proximity of West Penwyth to the Brittany Coast.

 

 The answer to the second question may be a reflection of both the relatively small population of the area and its remoteness from the rest of  the land by road. Nevertheless when we look at the extent to which the land was disfigured by metal mining it seems even more surprising.  

 

It may be of interest to briefly examine the time scale of the evolution of West Penwyth.

 

5,000 BC. Northern Europe enjoyed a much milder climate to today. The lushness and abundance of the pastures encouraged the development of  new farming techniques, domestic animals and cereal crops. The polishing of stone and pottery also developed.

The more settled lifestyle of the new immigrants during the Neolithic or New Stone Age made considerable impact on the environment  as land was cleared for agriculture.

 

3,000 BC. This time saw the flowering of a culture that erected and made use of stone monuments. The result of which were thousands of 'quoits', chambered 'barrows', 'holed' stones, stone circles and standing stones.

 

1,500 C. This period saw a major change of culture. Megalithic construction was running down and field systems and settlements were abandoned and substituted by a culture revolving around hill forts.

 

400 BC. At this time Celtic iron technology arrived in Western Britain.

 

THE CELTS

 

The Celts were not a racial or national entity but a collection of tribes having their homeland in Central Europe, an economy centred around the working of iron and extensive trade connections with classical Greek and Oriental inspired cultures.

 

Their influence in SW Britain was a cultural one and was carried along the age old maritime routes to Gaul (France) and Iberia (Spain and Portugal), parts of which had been settled by Celtic Tribes.

 

Iron Age Society, beginning about 500 BC,  became class structured with at the top the Druids - the educated class - then the warriors who owned the land, cattle and precious metals. Next were the mass of 'free' farmers and bottom of all the serfs and slaves.

 

500/600 AD By this time the old religions came under pressure from the rising popularity of Christianity brought to the British Isles by elements of the Roman Settlement.

 

Irish and Welsh armed settlers arrived in the South West accompanied by holy men and women, often ex-Druids, who spearheaded the conversion of local Chiefs.

 

Many of the springs, wells and other sacred pagan locations were re-dedicated to Saints and early Celtic Christianity was rooted firmly in the rural traditions of paganism, but preaching the universal brotherhood of man.

 

By about 500 AD the Celts seemed to get on the move again fleeing from the Angles and Saxons. They settled in Brittany, taking their language and Christianity to the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Druids

 

There were several orders of Druids.

 

The Druids themselves, of either sex, were the interlectuals of the day. They taught physics and natural philosophy, were well versed in astronomy and the compilation of time and were also skilled in Arithmatic and Mechanics. They appear to have been the grand source from whence the ages in which they lived derived all the knowledge which they possessed.

 

The Chief Druid was a High Priest, who had the care of matters respecting religion.

 

The Bards who were inferior to the Druids and whose business it was to celebrate the praises of their heros in songs sung to harps.

 

The Eubates, who applied themselves chiefly to the study of Philosophy and the contemplation of the wonderful works of nature.

 

The rapid spread of Christianity in England was attributed to the doctrines of the Druids who had taught the unity of God the Creator.


Ancient Places in Penwith.

 

St Levan (Porthcurno) Rospletha Cross  Pardenach Point             Tumuli  Westmoor                       Standing Stone  Choone                           Standing Stones               Crosses  Boleigh Lamorna                  The Pipers - Standing Stones Merry Maidens                     Tumuli                                 Crosses  Trewoofe  Lamorna     Fougou                                                                                                                         Trelew Farm            Standing Stones      Stone Circle  Brea Farm                Standing Stones      Cairns                     Tumuli  Trevedra Farm         Tumulus                    Gurland Farm          Settlement  Brane                       Two Settlements      Chambered Cairn  Tregonbris                The Blind Fiddler Stone  Tresvennach                   Standing Stone                                                                     


Local Towns and Places    The Church at St Burian was founded and endowed by King Athelston about the year 930AD to celebrate his victory over the Cornish King (Howell?).    It was named after an Irish female Saint, Saint Buryana.                             


The Artists    Lamorna Birch, or Samuel John Lamorna Birch to give him his full name, was a landscape painter from Lancashire who came to Cornwall in about 1889, attracted by favourable reports of the Newlyn artists. He added the Lamorna to his name to distinguish him from another artist in the area also named John Birch.     Initially he went to live in lodgings at Boleigh Farm. In 1902 he married a pupil Emily Houghton Vivian, whom he always called Mouse, and they bought the old Harbout Masters house Flagstaff Cottage which stands at the top of the cove hill with wonderful views of the coast and sea.    Artists had been living in the fishing village of Newlyn since the early 1880's. They were attracted by its pictureque qualities, the warm climate suitable for painting out of doors all the year round and the particular quality of light unique to this part of England.    By the time Birch arrived Newlyn was a well established art colony whose members included Stanhope Forbes and his wife Elizabeth, Norman Garstin, T.C.Gotch, Walter Langley, Frank Bramley and others. They concentrated on painting scenes of village life with absolute realism, using techniques learnt while studying abroad    Until 1895 Birch had been entirely self taught. In that year, on the advice of Stanhope Forbes he went to study at the Atelier Colarossi in Paris but spent most of the time painting along the banks of the Seine. On his return, he sold every work completed in France at an exhibition in Lancaster and in 1896 two of his pictures were accepted by the Royal Academy where he had been exhibiting since 1893. By 1899 he was also exhibiting at the Royal Institute of Water Colours, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool as well as in Manchester and Birmingham..  

The purpose of these notes is to give you, the visitor, some idea of the history of Morsylla, Lamorna and the area referred to as West Penwith (Cornish for outer headland), in the hope that it may contribute a little to your enjoyment, understanding  and appreciation of what is after all part of your own British heritage.

Life has not been easy for many in West Penwith over the last few centuries. Basic industries, such as mining of copper and precious metals, quarrying granite and fishing, which once gave them a living have each had their day and gone, leaving little behind in other industries to support the remaining population.

Not surprisingly, the Cornish have over the years, like the Irish and the Scots, emigrated to parts of the Globe where they could continue to earn a living exercising the skills they were unable to practice at home. In particular both the United States of America and South Africa have benefited from Cornish immigrants.  

Bear in mind too that Cornwall had an earlier civilisation than most parts of the UK, dating back at least to 4,000 BC., and that inevitably there is always an even earlier story to uncover if you can get to it. Ancient times often seem less distant here than perhaps they do in most other places.

Building Dates

Morsylla is approximately 130 years old and was completed by Col. Thomas Camborne Paynter from an original single story building between 1860 and 1882. We have not yet positioned precisely when the cottage was built but we do know that Number 2,"Way down Two", Number 3, "Morsylla", and Number 4, "Gilly Cottage", were built at the same time. Number 1, "Cove House", was added probably as late as the early 1900's, after the quay was built. 
Quite why Cove House was built is unknown but it is believed likely that the Harbour Master moved there from Flagstaff Cottage, further up the lane. "Balred", at the stream end, is a relatively recent cottage that replaced a wooden bungalow, called Riverside, only a few years ago. 
The porch at the front of Morsylla seems to have been a unique  feature  and appears in the earliest pictures of the cottages in their two storey form.

The Granite Quarries

In an 1860 engraving, Cliff Cottage, which was the Quarry Count House where the amounts due to workers, whose income was based entirely on piece work, was assessed and paid , is shown but nothing else. Old photographs indicate that Sunnyvale, the two cottages immediately below the granite chippings, was built next. The ominous slope of granite, overshadowing them, being there much as it is today over 100 years ago. 

In dated engravings, probably used as book illustrations, and photographs, the cottages are not shown as present at all in 1853 but do appear appear in their two story form in 1882.

We have an early photograph which shows the cottages in a single story form when they were intended as Fishermens Cottages. We believe it is possible that there may have been an even earlier building on the site but we have no details of this.

At that time the Quay did not exist nor the road which today runs up to the village. In the 1853 lithograph there is shown a two level metal pier which runs down to the sea over the rocks on the East side of the stream. The quarried granite appears to be carried, initially suspended, below the higher part of the pier and then travels along the top of the remaining part which jutted out into the sea. Remnants of the structure can still be found embedded in the rocks. Later, after the closing of the Quarry, the remaining ends of the pier jutting into the sea were used by a boat named the Pioneer to provide a loading platform for tourists boarding for sightseeing trips around the coast. 

The road, the surface of which was composed of broken granite flattened by pedestrians and the horse drawn vehicles that were the order of the day, then ran in front of the cottages across the stream by a bridge since removed, along the other side of the stream from opposite the large cube of granite, known as the sugar loaf, to the Lamorna Water Mill in the village. With disuse this road became unuseable for vehicles and is now an often overgrown footpath.