I have selected papers written in English by Colenso (but not those written by others and printed by him), and have excluded the early religious tracts in Māori (see above) and have dealt elsewhere with his many letters published in newspapers. I have not reproduced the annual reports he wrote for the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Society.
The papers in each volume are here in chronological order of publication because a time sequence to some extent reveals the development of his interests and ideas.
Colenso’s plants were identified in the footnotes by reference to the Te Papa website http://collections.tepapa. govt.nz/, to the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s website, http://www.nzpcn.org.nz/., to the electronic Flora of New Zealand, http://floraseries.landcareresearch.co.nz/
pages/search.aspx, to the Missouri Botanic Garden website http://www.tropicos.org/Home.aspx, and elsewhere. “Stet” indicates that Colenso’s name stands; “Not found” indicates I could not find the name in these databases; Inc. sed. = incertæ sedis = of uncertain placement.
References are in sequenced superscript Roman numerals. Colenso’s own footnotes are included in the text or as footnotes identified by “WC:” and those of his editors are also signed “Ed.”
Numbers in bold square brackets indicate original pagination.
1831 History of Mounts Bay with every civil and military transaction, Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Paul, Buryan, Saint Levan, Sennen, Saint Just, &c.The third edition, revised and corrected with considerable additions. Penzance; printed by and for John Thomas, and sold by T. Tegg, 73 Cheapside, London.90
In compiling a work of this nature, the chief object in view, has been to supply at a moderate expence, an ancient and modern history of the most interesting parts of Mount’s Bay, and adjacent Parishes, which is esteemed more antique and romantic, than any other part of England.
With this view, the compiler has been induced to cull from the various publications on this district, an account of every thing remarkable in it; in doing which he has omitted all abstruse arguments, or disputable points, being well aware that to the generality of readers they afford little or no entertainment.
Whatever peculiarly distinguishes the County, either in the vegetation which adorns its surface, its subterranean treasures, or monumental antiquities, are principally to be found in this part of it.
This little book having gone through three Editions, in the short space of a few years, the compiler therefore ventures to recommend this work to a generous public, as it will afford ample amusement to the traveller, resident and native.
The History of Mount’s Bay and Adjacent Parishes.
Before we proceed to investigate the towns and villages in this district, it will be necessary to give a brief account of this delightful Bay, which is situated at the most western extremity of England; it is formed by an irregularly curved outline of several miles in extent, whose southern and western points form the promontories of the Lizard and Land’s End.
The Mount’s Bay presents a most delightful and interesting view to travellers, as its shores are sprinkled with towns, villages, churches, cottages, and villas; and near its eastern margin, a pile of rocks, supporting a venerable chapel and tower on their summit, starts abruptly from the waves and present a most singular and pleasing appearance, this is St. Michael’s Mount, from which this pleasant part of our Island derives its name.
The climate of this Bay is the principal circumstance which has contributed to its celebrity, and has proved so inviting and beneficial to consumptive patients; notwithstanding its southern latitude, the summers are never sultry, on account of the winds which gently blow from the surrounding seas; whilst the cold of winter is equally ameliorated, so that frosts are but of a few hours duration, and those snow storms which come from the north and east, and bury the fields of every other part of England, are generally exhausted before they reach this favored spot, or are dissolved by its warm breezes;—indeed our winters are nothing more than languid springs, as all greenhouse plants in other places, are here constantly exposed all the winter, notwithstanding which they flower most luxuriantly during the summer; it might also be observed, that when pot-herbs of all kinds are destroyed in other counties, our markets are constantly supplied;—and here a favorable opportunity occurs of placing upon record a testimony of the mildness of this spot, during the winter of 1819, when the cold was so dreadfully severe, the rivers frozen up, and the fields buried with snow in every other part of Great Britain, the Mount’s Bay was nearly exempted from snow, and the frost was so gentle, that the huntsman was not deprived of his sport for a single hour.
From the peninsular situation of Cornwall, and its proximity to the Atlantic ocean, over which it blows, nearly three quarters of the year, the weather is certainly very subject to rain, and it is found that when other parts of England suffer by drought, that Cornwall has seldom any reason to complain; this peculiarity seems highly congenial to the inhabitants, as well as to their soil, a Cornishman never enjoys better health and spirits than in rainy weather, and there is a popular adage, that “the land of Cornwall will bear a shower every week-day and two on a Sunday;” it may however be remarked, that the rains in Cornwall are rather frequent than heavy and excessive, indeed it has been satisfactorily ascertained by experience, that the actual quantity is not greater than in other Counties; there is very rarely a day so thoroughly wet, but that there is a considerable intermission, not so obscure, but that the sun often penetrates the gloom; notwithstanding the supposed moisture of Cornwall, the dry and porous nature of the soil soon disposes of any water, so that after a very short cessation of rain, the most delicate invalid may safely venture abroad to enjoy the delightful walks, which every where surround this bay.—Having given a brief sketch of the bay, we will now introduce to our readers some historical account of ST. Michael’s Mount and the adjacent Parishes.
St Michael’s Mount
This sublime spectacle is situate within the range of the parish of St. Hilary, and is one of those rare and singular objects, which impress the mind with sensations of veneration, pleasure, and astonishment the instant it is seen: its situation is about thirteen miles from the most western land in England, in the inmost recess of the Mount’s Bay. This mountain, which is surrounded with the sea six hours out of twelve, is about four hundred yards from the shores of Marazion. At its base it is upwards of a mile in circumference; and from the sand which lies around it, to the summit of the tower crowning its apex, is about two hundred and fifty feet. At high water it appears, from its being insulated, and from that vast expanse of horizon which is seen in every direction, to be considerably diminished in its circumference; but even this variation adds much to the beauty and enchantment of the scene; and it then seems to be a mass of natural rocks and acclivities, partly clothed with verdure, and terminating in a point that is crowned with the triumphs of art. At low water, it may be easily approached over a kind of causeway formed of pebbles and shingle, and raised a little above the common bed of sand, across which it stretches.
On approaching the Mount, (the Visitor will perceive a wall lately erected, about nine feet high and four hundred feet long, built, for the purpose of repelling the encroachments of the sea;) it assumes its real magnitude, and many of its rocks appear gigantic and terrible, from their extraordinary elevation. The general stratum, consists of a hard granite, in which transparent quartz is the predominant substance. Viewed from various directions, its appearance presents a diversity of aspects; in some places its ascent being nearly perpendicular, and in others of gentle and easy acclivity. But although in themselves these rocks are completely craggy and barren, yet they furnish interstices and occasional plains, in which verdure is produced, sufficient to support a few sheep, and a vast number of rabbits, which from time immemorial have found a residence on the Mount. About thirty years since, some plantations of fir were introduced, which tended to heighten the beauty of the scene, as they waved their branches over the gloomy rocks which they shaded; but their proximity to the sea, combined with the sterility of the soil occasioned them to wither, when they were cut down, and the ground they occupied has been planted with evergreen oaks. Even a distant view of St. Michael’s Mount excites ideas of solemn grandeur; but the effect is considerably heightened, when the spectator gradually ascends its craggy sides, and slowly winds his way to their summit, among pendant rocks and awful precipices, from which he looks down on diminishing objects below, and catches the fire of enthusiasm, from a recollection of departed ages, and from a vast expanse of sea and land that become instantly exposed to his view. This celebrated Mount has at different times been distinguished by various names, its ancient Cornish appellation signifying its being formerly ‘a hoar rock in the midst of woods.’ In the book of Landaff it is called Dinsul, a word which signifies a hill dedicated to the sun; or, if it is a contraction of Dinas-whal, it signifies a hill difficult of ascent. In the beginning of the sixth century, if not long before, it was called St. Michael’s Mount, afterwards by the Saxons it was denominated Mychelstow; and according to Scawen, St.Michael de magno Monte.
‘St. Michael’s Mount,’ we areinformed by Worcester, ‘was originally enclosed with very thick wood, distant from the ocean six miles; the Cornish name of it Carreg Lúg enKúg.’ Worcester is the oldest writer who gives the signification of it, he informing us, that the Mount was formerly denominated ‘Le Hore Rok in the Wodd.’
When this hill was first dedicated to religious worship, can hardly be ascertained with certainty; there can be little doubt that it was very early, perhaps as soon as Christianity first gained a footing in Cornwall. At that early period, such hills and romantic situations, were deemed congenial to sanctity, and quickly attracted the notice of such as wished to live retired from the world.—Hence, hermits and pilgrims of both sexes, renouncing the delicacies of life, retired among rocks, and took up their abode among hills difficult of access, where they became admired for their austerities, and honoured by novices and probationers, who were ardent to succeed them in their holy enterprizes; especially as their habitations were dignified with miracles, which credulity was ever willing to allow, and ready to believe.
The pilgrims in those days, had a tradition, that these hills were occasionally visited by the inhabitants of the celestial regions; among the rest Michael the arch-angel was presumed to be very fond of perching among these rocks, and rendering himself visible to the credulous monks, who were ever ready to substitute imagination for fact: the monks who first inhabited the Cornish Mount, laid claim to this angelic vision, and even pretended to shew the spot on which the angel sat, on an awful pile of rocks, that seemed most difficult of access, and which thenceforth obtained the honorable name of St. Michael’s Chair. It was from the circumstance of this supposed angelic visit, that the ancient Cornish name of this Mount, which designated its situation, was abandoned, and that of St. Michael became substituted in its stead. Even the chair has been preserved in the memorials of tradition; and in the building erected on the summit of the hill, a projecting stone, which is no other than the carcase of a stone lantern, extends from the tower, over a horrid mass of rocks below, which is still viewed by credulity and ignorance as the actual chair in which the archangel sat. To this supposed chair the fool-hardy and presumptuous still occasionally repair, under a full persuasion, that if a married woman has sufficient resolution to place herself in it, by a magic virtue which it possesses, it will invest her with the regalia of ‘petticoat government;’ if a married man sits in it, he will receive ample powers for the management of his house.
The earliest transactions of a military nature that are recorded concerning this Mount, took place while Richard I. was engaged in the holy wars;— it was then seized by Henry de la Pomeroy, who fortified the place in behalf of Richard’s brother John, who was then contending for the crown of England. But on the release of Richard, Pomeroy so dreaded his vengeance, that he caused himself to be bled to death; after which the Mount surrendered to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
From this time forward, this place continued rather a school of Mars, than a temple of peace; for shortly after the overthrow of the party of Henry VI. at Barnet Field, John Earl of Oxford, who was one of the principals, reached this place by sea, and with his followers, procured admission, disguised in the habits of pilgrims; and having gained an entrance, he threw off the vizor which he wore, mastered the garrison, seized the place, fully fortified himself, and secured by his valour what he had won by his policy, until some advantageous terms induced him to surrender. In one of these attacks Sir John Arundell was slain between Marazion and the Mount. In the reign of Henry VII. Lady Catherine Gordon, wife of Perkin Warbeck, took refuge here, until the disasters of her husband obliged her to submit to Lord d’Aubeney. During the Cornish rebellion in the reign of Edward VI. many families fled to the Mount, and there endeavoured to secure themselves from the vicissitudes which then distracted the country; but the Mount being besieged by the returning rebels, who took the plain at the bottom of the rock by assault at low water they proceeded towards the summit, rolling before them trusses of hay, to deaden the shot that were poured from the fortifications; being reduced through want of provisions, they soon surrendered to the insurgents. During the civil war the Mount was secured and strongly fortified by the king’s adherents; but they were reduced after an obstinate conflict, by the troops under Colonel Hammond. These commotions drove the peaceable inhabitants from its shores, so that for some time the Mount became nearly depopulated.
Sir John St. Aubyn, the father of the present Sir John, made many improvements on this rock, to whom the increase of buildings and inhabitants is to be attributed, who by rendering the pier sufficiently capacious to contain upwards of fifty small vessels, and to afford security to them and to the fishing-boats, has induced the inhabitants of Marazion to erect cellars near the spot. The present possessor has of late greatly enlarged the pier, which is of great importance to the shipping interest, and has increased its population and trade. This Mount is a fine protection for ships, duringthe prevalence of easterly winds, and it is not uncommon to see from fifty to a hundred sail riding under the lee of the Mount, or secured within the pier. The number of residences are about seventy, which forms a small town composed of three short streets, and the inhabitants about two hundred and fifty; although at the beginning of the last century, there was only one dwelling-house besides the fortress, in the place.
The ascent to the summit of the Mount at present is by a steep and rugged passage fronting the north, on ascending which, the visitor will perceive a small, but handsome column of granite, decorated with figures of saints, &c., in basso-relievo: about midway up the hill, (in war time) it is defended by a few cannon; near the summit is the principal battery, which protects the entrance of the bay. The apex of the rock is occupied by the remains of the ancient monastic buildings, which were considerably altered by the late proprietor, and have been much improved by the present possessor:over the entrance is the family arms beautifully executed in granite; the chapel is of the Gothic order, at the end of which are several curious specimens of scriptural pieces, in ancient sculpture on marble, the subjects are, the Nativity—Susanna and the Elders—Water changed into Wine—Abraham offering his son Isaac—our Saviour washing the feet of his disciples—the wise men presenting their gifts —the Purification in the Temple—Pontius Pilate, with several others: from the chapel, we may ascend by a narrow stone staircase to the top of the tower; the prospect hence is of the grandest description, and is perhaps as striking as any that can occur to mortal eye: ‘The immense extent of sea,’ says Dr Maton, ‘raises the most sublime emotions, the waves of the British, Irish, and Atlantic seas, all roll within the compass of the sight,’ whilst the eye is relieved from the uniform, though imposing grandeur of so boundless a horizon, by wandering over a landscape, which Claude himself might have transfused on his canvass.
In levelling a very high platform some years since, in order to erect the altar, a low Gothic doorway was discovered, closed up with stone in the southern wall, which had been concealed by the raised platform;—this doorway being opened, a passage was found to descend, containing ten steps, which led to a vault of stone under the chapel, about nine feet long, seven feet broad, and nearly as many high; in this vault was found the skeleton of a very large man, without any remains of a coffin. This discovery gave rise to various conjectures; but the more rational concluded, that these were the remains of some wretched man, who for some crime had been condemned to die by hunger in this dungeon, and that he had literally undergone the penalty of his sentence. Great must have been that crime, or barbarous those days, that could have given to death so many horrors. The bones of the unhappy victim were taken up from their dark abode, in which they had been immured for unknown ages, and interred within the body of the church. At the same time, upon taking up the old pavement, the fragment of an inscribed sepulchral stone of some Prior was taken up; there was also a grave stone not inscribed, which antiquaries have supposed to have covered the remains of Sir John Arundell of Terrice, knight, slain on the strand below, in the wars of York and Lancaster.
In the tower of this chapel are six sweet toned bells, which frequently ring when Sir John St Aubyn is resident; at this time also choral service is performed, and on a calm day, the undulating sound of the bells, and the swelling notes of the organ, as heard on the water, produce an effect which it is impossible to describe.
A spacious apartment near the chapel, now called the Chevy Chace Room, (which has lately undergone a thorough repair,) was formerly the refectory of the monastery. This is curiously ornamented with a singular frieze, representing in stucco the various modes of hunting the wild bull, stag, ostrich, fox, and rabbit; the walls are ornamented with the arms of the different members of the St. Aubyn family; at the upper end of this room are the royal arms, with the date of 1644, and at the opposite end are the arms of the Godolphin family. The roof has lately been superbly decorated with a profusion of carving in English oak.
On leaving this room the visitor will perceive a beautiful window of stained glass, the objects are our Saviour crowned with thorns—Flowers—a Satyr, &c., interspersed with pieces of coloured glass of different sizes, with the greatest judgement.
Formerly water was scarce here; for whatever virtue might be attributed to the magic wand of Cadoc in the fifth century, it is certain that the inhabitants had no other water than that which the clouds supplied. But about sixty years since a well being cut through a very hard rock, a fine spring was found at the depth of about thirty-seven feet, in the immediate vicinity of a tin-lode. Tin-ore is said to be plentiful all over the Mount. Human bones have frequently been dug up in various places on this consecrated spot, wherever the soil was found deep enough for interment.
On the first of November, 1775, (being the day of the great earthquake at Lisbon) about two o’clock in the afternoon, a most extraordinary phenomenon was observed at St. Michael’s Mount, during a dead calm. After the sea had ebbed about half an hour, it rose suddenly six feet in height, retired again in ten minutes, and this periodical flux and reflux continued every ten minutes for two hours and a half, which caused the vessels and boats, that lay at the pier-head, to whirl about in a strange manner.
The remains of several ancient fortifications are to be found on the road leading to the castle; and to the mineralogist, the antiquary, the historian, the poet, and the painter, St. Michael’s Mount will ever be an object of particular interest, and real satisfaction.
In coming from the Mount to Marazion, we pass a large mass of Greywacke, known by the name of the Chapel Rock, on which tradition reports a chapel to have once stood, dedicated to the Virgin Mary; but no vestige of it has been discernible within the memory of man: The rock on which this chapel must have stood, is about one hundred and fifty yards in circumference, but the level part of it on which alone the building could have been erected, is about forty-five feet long, and eighteen or twenty feet broad. Of the use to which the chapel was applied, the reports of tradition are not uniform. According to one account it was erected purposely for the inhabitants of the town of Marazion; but according to another, and more prevalent account, it was appropriated to the use of pilgrims, whocame to visit the priory on the Mount, but who were compelled to pass through some initiatory rites in this chapel, before they ascended the sacred hill. Thisrock, though now about one hundred yards from the main land, is said to have been contiguous to it.
St. Michael’s Mount is three miles from Penzance the last Town in England, and contains about seven acres of land.
Marazion, or Market-Jew
This corporate and market town is in the parish of St. Hilary, standing on the sea shore, on the eastern side of the Bay, and is well sheltered from cold winds by a considerable elevation of land to the north; still however, as it is exposed to the south-west, it is far less eligible as a place of residence for invalids, than Penzance. The town contains about twelve hundred inhabitants; its principal support, if not its origin, according to some authors, was derived from the resort of pilgrims, and other religious devotees, to the neighbouring sacred edifice on St. Michael’s Mount; but its name indisputably, was derived from the Jews, who traded here several centuries ago, and held an annual Market for selling various commodities, and purchasing tin and other merchandize in return.
By the charter of Queen Elizabeth, the government of this town is vested in a mayor, eight aldermen, and twelve capital burgesses, with a power to hold a weekly market, and two annual fairs. In the preamble to this charter it is stated, that ‘Marghaisewe, was a trading borough town of great antiquity, and that it suffered considerable dilapidation in the days of Edward VI. when a number of rebellious people entered and took possession of the town, and laid many of the buildings in ruin.’ From this disaster the town never fully recovered; and from the growing influence of Penzance, the suppression of the priory, and the loss of the pilgrims from whom it derived its principal importance, its dignity gradually declined, until Marazion became as it now appears.
It has been asserted on good authority, that under this charter of Elizabeth, this town formerly sent members to parliament; and Dr. Borlase in his MSS. mentions Thomas Westlake and Richard Mills, Esqrs. as two members who were actually returned for Marazion in the year 1658; but it does not appear that they ever took their seats. It is also probable from some original letters, which passed between the sheriff of Cornwall and the mayor of this borough, during the protectorate of Cromwell, that the inhabitants were solicitous to recover their long neglected rights, but their efforts proved ineffectual.
Hals and Tonkin, adverting to the fact of which Leland speaks, of Market-Jew being ‘burnid a Gallis,’ assert, ‘that a party of French soldiers. landed from a fleet then cruising in the channel, took the town, and actually set it on fire; but they found themselves opposed by Carminow, or Erisey, at the head of a powerful party, who compelled them to retreat to their ships.’—But they do not mention the date when this calamity occurred.
The aforesaid charter of Elizabeth attributes the decay of this town to a subsequent but similar calamity.—And that at the time this charter was granted, in 1595, most of the public buildings and dwelling houses, were in a ruinous condition.
From Tonkin’s MSS. it appears, that ‘the inhabitants of Market-Jew have a tradition, that the greatest part of their houses (in which there is fine old carved work,) were built with oak-trees that grew between the Mount and Newlyn.’—He also says, ‘that off the Long-rock, (between the Mount and Penzance) may be seen in a clear day, about twenty feet under water, a firm wall running out directly to the south, and that for a long way; this (they say) was the wall of the park there.’
The trade of this town at present consists chiefly in the pilchard fishery, and the importation of corn, flour, timber, coals, and iron, for the use of the inhabitants and the neighbouring mines. The parish church is about two miles distant from this place; but for the accommodation of the inhabitants, a chapel of ease has long been established in the town, in which divine service is regularly performed by a lecturer, whose salary is defrayed by private contributions. There are also three meeting-houses in this place, belonging to the Quakers, Methodists, and Baptists.
On the east of Marazion, many yards of the cliff have been washed away, within the last forty years, for nearly half a mile in length; the soil of the cliff being soft, and the spring tides pressing against it with considerable violence. About eighty or ninety years since, a spring tide was driven by a dreadful hurricane with such violence against the town, as to beat down a whole row of houses, and to carry them with their foundations into the sea.
A vast number of hazel-boughs, with perfect nuts adhering to them, have been found between the Mount and Penzance, below the natural bed of soil:—and about half-way between Marazion and Chyandour, about three hundred yards below high-water mark, were seen a few years ago, by Mr. Giddy of Penzance, upon an extraordinary recession of the tide, several stumps of trees in their native soil, with their roots shooting out from them, and their stems apparently cut off. These trees had been felled, no doubt, under an apprehension of the coming encroachment; while the whole trees had been either surprised or neglected.
The level green over which the road from Marazion to Penzance passes, is evidently nothing more than the surface of a continued bar of sand, behind which, towards the land, lies a large tract of marshy ground, into which the tide, no doubt, formerly flowed. Some years since, Mr. R. Moyle, of Marazion, undertook to rescue a portion of this bog from its unprofitable condition; and by his spirited exertions, he so far succeeded, as to bring about seventy acres into useful land, from which both corn and potatoes have been produced in several crops. For this noble and successful effort, he received from the Society for the promotion of arts, manufactures, and commerce, a gold medal: and a handsome premium from the Board of Agriculture. This land is now getting fast into decay. On cutting open the drains through this unprofitable bog, the labourers discovered an earthen pot, in which they found nearly a thousand Roman copper coins, many of them were much corroded by the salt water, to which they had been exposed for ages; but the impressions on several, were sufficiently legible to furnish evidence, that they were of the emperors who lived between the years 260 and 350.
Very great exertions have been carried on by Messrs. Bolitho, on the western part of this green, and the water being already drained, there is every reason to believe, they will be well rewarded for the trouble they have taken, as in the end they are likely to gain about a hundred acres of useful land.
To the right, as you pass over this green from Marazion to Penzance, on an elevated spot, appears Ludgvan Church, that forms so prominent a feature on the shores of this Bay, which will be visited with respect by the Antiquary, when he learns that it contains the mortal remains of Dr. Borlase, the venerable and learned author of the Natural History and Antiquities of Cornwall. From the Latin inscription on his tomb, it appears that he was fifty-two years rector of this parish, also forty years vicar of his native parish, St. Just; and that he died in the seventy-seventh year of his age, universally beloved and respected by all who knew him.
Gulval Church also forms a most interesting feature on the shores of the Bay, being situated at the bottom of a gently declining hill, and beautifully surrounded with trees. In it there is to be seen a monument to the memory of Arthur Harris, Esq. who was governor of the Mount in the reign of Queen Elizabeth which will be found an object of curiosity, as it marks the literary conceit and quaintness of those days. It is worthy of notice, that in this parish, (and in Madron,) two crops of potatoes are produced in the season, through the mildness of the climate. The early sort is planted for the first crop, which is got off time enough for the next to come to maturity before the winter.— They plant the kidney potatoe about Christmas, or a few weeks before it, which they draw in May, and plant in the same ground the apple potatoe.— A gentleman of the neighbourhood, had by this management, in the first crop, from one acre, one hundred Cornish bushels of twenty-four gallons each: and in the second crop, two hundred bushels, so that from one Cornish acre, which is one acre and one-fifth, statute measure, he produced nine hundred Winchester bushels of potatoes in one year. The cultivation of this valuable root upon the largest scale is strongly recommended, and the use of sea-weed as an excellent manure for them.
Dr. Borlase, speaks of some specimens of porphyry, having been found in this parish, particularly near a river called Pons-an-dane, from this he infers, that it is not improbable, there may be some veins or strata of this substance, sunk in the rocks under the surface of the sea, near this place especially as the waves frequently throw certain portions, on the beach of Mount’s Bay, after a storm. None however has yet been discovered, in any of the rocks, or cliffs.
At Chyandour there is a smelting-house for tin, where also a very extensive trade is carried on by Messrs. Bolitho, to whom the neighbourhood is much indebted for the very great improvements they have made in the embellishment of the scenery