This parish is much celebrated in the records of antiquity, for the supposed miraculous virtues of its well; and is of considerable importance, as it includes the large, populous, and flourishing town of Penzance, of which an account has been already given. It is situated in the deanery, and west division of the hundred of Penwith. Its church is about a mile and half from Penzance.
The name of this parish is said to be purely Cornish, and is understood to imply the good and fruitful hill. But besides this circumstance, Madron is not without its patron saint, although opinion is not uniform respecting the sex and character of the person, to whom the church is dedicated, and to whom the parish seems indebted for its name. William of Worcester, says, that ‘St. Mather the Virgin, or St. Maddern, was patron of this church; that she was buried at Minster, and that many miracles were performed at her grave’.
The name of this Saint, is mentioned in the registers of the see of Exeter. Mr. Whitaker, on the contrary, introduces to our notice Motranus, as the patron of this church and considers him as one of the large company, that came from Ireland with Breaca, and who was slain near the mouth of the Hayle. ‘In reverence to their remains as martyrs’ he observes, ‘the body of St. Motran, seems to have been begged by a parish a little distant to the south-west, to have been buried in its church, and therefore to have lent it its name now varied a little into Ecclesia Sancta Maderni, in the first valor, but into Madern, alias St. Madern, in the second’. These historical incidents singularly coincide with the import of its Cornish name.
The manor of Alwarton, though now somewhat differently designated, is said to have taken its name from Aluardus, by whom it was possessed in the reign of Edward the Confessor. Not long after the conquest, it was the possession of the Pomeroys. In the reign of Edward IV., having been the property of Edmund Beaufort, it was granted, with some other property to Richard duke of Gloucester. Of late years it has been divided into severalties; and the barton is now occupied as a farm-house.
The barton of Treneere, was alienated by the family of Oliver, in the year 1768, to which family it had belonged a considerable time prior to that period. On this sale, the estate became divided, and the old mansion was converted into a barn and outhouses. One third part of the estate being possessed by Mr. Robyns, he erected on it a commodious house for his own residence; but this property was afterwards bought by the Rev. Anthony Williams, and is at present the seat of H.P. Tremenheere Esq
Lanyon, on which is a large cromleh, (which fell in on the night of October 19th 1815, a most stormy night, when the Delhi East-Indiaman was wrecked in Mount’s Bay,) was for some time the seat of the Lanyon family. It is now the property of William Rashleigh Esq., of Menabilly.
Landithy, which prior to the Reformation, belonged to the knights-hospitallers, was after this event for several generations in the family of Fleming. It is now a farm-house, the fee of which belongs to William Praed, Esq.
Trengwainton, which was formerly a seat of the Arundells of Menadarva, is now the seat of Sir Rose Price, Bart,, who has made great additions to the residence, and embellishments to the grounds. In 1830, an elegant lodge and entrance was built, by the present proprietor.
Castle Horneck, which signifies the iron castle, is situated according to Norden, on the site of ‘an ancient ruined castle’. It stands on a mount near Penzance, and appears to have been in former times a place of some importance. An ancient castle said to have been built by the family of Tyes, is supposed to have stood near Penzance; but whether by this, Castle Horneck be intended, seems rather uncertain, as the castle ascribed to the Tyes, is stated to have stood on the north of the town, where some earth-works are still visible. This place is called Lescudzhek, or Lescudjack. Castle Horneck, was for several generations a seat of the family of Levelis; but it has been for about a century in the Borlase family, and is now the property of Samuel Borlase Esq.
Trereife, has been the family estate of the Nicholls’s from time immemorial. Dr. Nicholls, physician to George II. who opened the body of the king, for the purpose of ascertaining the cause of his death, which he described in a letter addressed to the Royal Society; was second son of John Nicholls Esq. This family intermarried with the families of Godolphin and Foote. William John Godolphin Nicholls Esq., the last survivor of the elder branch of the family, died May 9th 1815, and bequeathed all his estates to his mother, who married the Rev. Charles Valentine Le Grice, the present possessor. The tithe sheaf of the parishes of Madron and Morvah, has been in the uninterrupted possession of the Nicholls family, from the period of the Reformation.
The church contains memorials for the families of Price, Pascoe, Le Grice, Nicholls, Fleming, and Harris; and has a neat altar-piece, which was erected in 1810. An ancient chapel formerly stood at Lanyon, which was dedicated to St. Bridget, another stood in some other part of the parish under the same patronage, but the history of both appears to be lost.
Through the benevolence of Mr. Daniel George, a school was founded about the year 1704, for the instruction of poor children belonging to this parish and its chapelries, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. And that it might not fail for want of support, he endowed it with a house and garden for the master which with certain lands and premises, now let at £122 per annum,
Beneath the cromleh at Lanyon’, says Dr. Borlase, ‘I caused to be sunk a pit four feet and half deep, and found it all black earth that had been moved, and should have sunk still deeper, but that a gentleman in whose ground it is, told me that a few years before, the whole cavity had been opened on account of some dream, to the full depth of six feet, and then the fast or unbroken ground appeared and they dug no deeper: the cavity was in the shape of a grave, and had been rifled more than once, but nothing more than ordinary was found. By the black earth thrown up in digging here, nothing is to be absolutely concluded, there having happened so many disturbances. By the pit being in the shape of a grave, and six feet deep, it is not improbable that a human body was interred here; and by the length of the bank, and the many disorderly stones at the south end, this would seem to have been a burial-place for more than one person.
‘If I must fall in the field, rear high my grave Vinvela. Grey stones and heaped-up earth, shall mark me to future times—when the hunter shall sit by my mound, and produce his food at noon; a warrior rests here he will say; and my fame will live in his praise’ .—Ossian.
Not far from the aforesaid cromleh, there is a singular monument which leaves no kind of doubt, as to its being a work of art. This monument consists of three stones erect, one of which varies from the other two, in height, magnitude, form and appearance. This singular stone, which chiefly merits notice is comparatively thin and flat, it is fixed in the ground on its edge, and has a large round hole passing through its middle, of fourteen inches diameter, from which circumstance it has obtained the name Mên-an-Tol, which in Cornish signifies the holed stone; Mên-an- Tol being little more than Tolmen, reversed. The other two stones belonging to this monument are nothing more than rude pillars about four feet high, placed nearly at an equal distance from this holed stone, which seems to form the obtuse angle of this monument.
Dr. Borlase says, that ‘in 1794, a very intelligent farmer of this neighbourhood, assured me that he had known many persons who had crept through this holed stone, for pains in the back and limbs and that fanciful parents at certain seasons of the year, do customarily draw their children through, in order to cure them of the rickets. He shewed me also two brass pins, carefully laid across each other on the top edge of this holed stone. This is the way of the over curious, even at this time; and by resuming to these pins and observing their direction to be the same, or different from what they left them in, or by being lost or gone, they are informed of some material incident of love, or fortune, which they could not know soon enough in a natural way, and immediately take such resolutions as their informations from these prophetic stones suggest’.
Another stone of great antiquity, lies on its side in a furze-croft, about half-a-mile north-west of Lanyon. This stone was formerly erect, and was known in the Cornish language, by the general name of Mên-Skryfa, which signifies the inscribed or written stone. The dimensions of this stone, are nine feet ten inches long, one foot eight inches wide, and one foot seven inches deep. The words on this stone are evidently contracted; but the marks of contractions are preserved with considerable care. When these contractions are supplied the inscription itself would run as follows
RIALOBRANUS CUNOVALI FILIUS;
And the import is, that Rialobran, the son of Cunoval, was interred beneath the spot on which it stood.
At Hea-moor in this parish about one mile from Penzance, is a rock called by the country-people Mr. Wesley’s rock; on this rock Mr. Wesley used to preach when he first visited Cornwall.—Mr. Pengelly of Treneere, has caused to be inserted in it a small marble slab with this inscription; ‘On this rock Mr. Wesley and others, preached the gospel of Christ, A. D. 1743, to 1760. Luke 14 chap. 23 verse. W. Pengelly, 1825’.
In the year 1807, four birds of the species called the Bee-eater, were discovered in this parish. Two of them were shot but the other two escaped. This description of birds is rarely seen in England.
Dr. Borlase, says that ‘some gentlemen hunting in the neighbourhood of Penzance, in the summer time of 1755, flushed a woodcock. Surprised at seeing a winter bird at that season of the year, they hastened to the bush, and there found a nest with two eggs in it. One gentleman more curious than the rest, carried the eggs home; but one being broken by accident, he discovered in it the. body of a young woodcock. This encouraged him to try if possible to bring the other to perfection. He accordingly put it under a pigeon, and in a few days a living bird was discovered’.
To Madron Well many extraordinary properties have been ascribed. To this miraculous fountain, the uneasy, the impatient, the fearful, the jealous, and the superstitious resort, to learn their future destiny from the unsconcious waters. By dropping pins or pebbles, into this fountain, by shaking the ground around the spring, or by contriving to raise bubbles from the bottom, on certain lucky days, and when the moon is in a particular stage of increase or decrease, the secrets of the well are presumed to be extorted. But the anxious are not always satisfied with the omens they procure. Defeated in one attempt, they come again; and frequently confirm by their renewed applications, the painful uneasiness, from which they thus foolishly endeavour to procure a deliverance. This well had a chapel erected over it, which was destroyed in the days of Cromwell, by the pious fanaticism of Major Ceely, who then resided at St. Ives.
In this parish there is a stratum of clay, which serves to make bricks for smelting-houses, being capable of enduring the most intense heat of the furnace.
Rosecadghill, was the seat of the late John Tremenheere, Esq.
Rosehill, from its gardens, plantations, and romantic scenery, makes the situation delightfully pleasing, was formerly the seat of R. Oxnam Esq., but is at present occupied by the Rev. U. Tonkin.
Madron contains 5450 acres, and about 2000 inhabitants, exclusive of Penzance.
This parish according to Mr. Whitaker, has derived its name from ‘a religious clergyman called Paul, or Paulinus, who lived as a hermit in the ixth century, upon the isle of Osa, which is separated from the continent of Armorica called Cornu-Galliæ, by a sea of sixteen paces’. It does not appear that this saint, or religious clergyman, was ever in Cornwall, but on the continent he was of great celebrity.
The situation of this parish is in the deanery and west division of the hundred of Penwith. It stretches on the western side of Mount’s Bay, and includes the populous villages of Mousehole, and Newlyn. The church and tower which stand on elevated ground, are conspicuous at a considerable distance, distant about three miles from Penzance by the public road. Their bearing is south south-west. The whole population of the parish, is about 4000 souls, of these about 2000 are in Newlyn, and about 900 in Mousehole. The remainder are scattered in villages and hamlets.
Mousehole, without doubt is a place of great antiquity, and in former ages was a place of much importance. So early as 1292, a market was procured for it by Henry de Tyes; which was then held on Tuesdays, and to this was added a fair for three days, on the festival of St. Barnabas. In 1313, the market with a fair for seven days was confirmed to Alice de Lisle; the latter to be held on the festival of St. Bartholomew. Both the market and fair remained until the year 1595, when Mousehole and Newlyn were burnt by the Spaniards, from which time they have been discontinued.
About the year 1392, a quay was constructed at this place, which was then a port of considerable trade. A chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, stood on the margin of the sea, about the same time; but was demolished by the waves not many years afterwards; at which time the quay was much injured. In 1435, we have an indulgence of 40 days, to all who should charitably contribute, or lend a helping hand towards maintaining and repairing the quay at Mousehole. There is also another, ‘to all who should contribute towards the repairing and maintaining a certain key, or jutty at Newlyn, in the parish of Paul, betwixt Mousehole and Penzance’. Leland says, ‘that a little beyond Mousehole is an islet, and a chapel of St. Clements in it’.
Of the invasion and depredations committed by the Spaniards, a general account has been given under the head of Penzance; as that town suffered also from their devastations. So far as that disaster applied to the church of Paul and its adjacent buildings, the following particulars are entered on the parish registers. ‘Register of St. Pawle, in the countie of Cornwall, from the 23 daye of Julie, in the yeare of our gracious Lord God 1595, on which daie soon after the sun was risen, the church, tower, bells, and all other things pertaining to the same, together with the houses and goods, was burned and spoiled by the Spaniards in the saide parish, being Wensdaie, the daie aforesaide in the 37th yeare of the raigne of our soveraine ladie Elizabeth, by the grace of God, of France, and Ireland, Queen, defender of the faith, &c. Per me Johnem Trenmearne, Vicarium’.
But although the whole church is said in the preceding entry to have been consumed, a curious fact lately occurred; in the year 1807, the roof of the southern porch was repaired. On removing the slates, &c., a wooden supporter of the roof exhibited marks of fire, which had partially injured it. The carpenter aware of the curiosity, preserved the wood thus burnt, which is distributed in pieces among the neighbouring gentlemen. We cannot but remark how well this circumstance confirms a tradition still current in the west—viz. ‘That the Spaniards met some females carrying wood and furze, and driving them into the church, compelled them to let down their burdens, which they set fire to, having opened the door to receive the blast of a strong south wind; the direction of the wind consumed the church, but preserved the porch’. On this subject let me add, that the thick stone division at the back of Trewarveneth seat, is a part of the old church.
In the church is the following curious notice, of its having been burnt. ‘The Spanger burnt this church in the year 1595.
The first entry that is made in the registers, is of Jenkin Keigwin of Mousehole, who was killed by the Spaniards, and was buried July 24th 1595.
The arms and coat of mail belonging to Colonel Godolphin, of Trewarveneth, are now to be seen hanging up near a monument erected to his memory in the middle aisle of this church. The church has three aisles, and is thirty yards long and seventeen wide. The tower is eighty-four feet in height.
Newlyn for population and extent, may be reckoned equal to many towns; it consists of one principal street, nearly half-a-mile in length, with three or four small streets branching from it.
In this village is a small but commodious pier capable of containing vessels of one hundred tons burthen; but is chiefly employed by the fishing-boats belonging to this place, which exceed four hundred in number. This village sends about forty boats to sea on the mackarel fishery, and Mousehole about twenty.
In no part of Cornwall are fisheries carried on to a greater extent, (of which we shall give a full description in the end of this work,) than in this village, and the neighbouring one of Mousehole; the fame of Mount’s Bay mackarel, is known in every maritime town on the southern coast, from Mousehole to Portsmouth. The London markets are furnished with mackarel from these parts, in the early part of the season. The dried ling, of Newlyn and Mousehole, is esteemed as a very superior fish.
This coast abounds with turbot, dory, mullet, cod, ling, haddock, pullock, whiting, sole, plaice, hake, bream, conger, cray-fish, lobster, crab, &c., the greater part of which are caught with hook and line.
In Newlyn there is a small market held on Saturdays, chiefly for butcher’s meat, but in general the inhabitants purchase their commodities at Penzance.
In this village there are meeting-houses belonging to the Methodists, Baptists, and Independents.
On the road from hence to the village of Mouse- hole, (which is about a mile and half distant,) we pass a platform, that during the late war, was a battery forming a great security to the Bay, from enemy’s ships. Adjoining this battery is a furnace for the purpose of making shot red-hot. During the war, this battery was governed by a small party of the Royal Artillery.
The land in general in this parish is fertile, yeilding profitable crops of corn; and in most places the soil is congenial to the growth of potatoes; more particularly on the margin of the sea, between Newlyn and Mousehole.
The manor of Mousehole, belongs to the heirs of George Veale Esq., and to James Halse Esq., of St. Ives. The manor of Freemarshall, is the property of George John Esq., of Penzance. Trungle, which was for some time the seat of Capt. Hichens, is now a farm-house. The manors of Kemyel and Butsava, have belonged to the St. Aubyn family for many generations. The barton of Trewarveneth originally belonged to the family of Cowling, who resided here, at present it is the property of Mr John Legge. The barton of Kerris (which is said to have formerly had manorial rights,) was granted under the name of Keres, to the Duke of Norfolk, in 1483. The vicarage is in the gift of the crown.
Steven Hichens Esq., who died at Jamaica in 1709, bequeathed £600, for the purpose of building and endowing an alms-house in this parish, for six poor men and the same number of women.—The management of this charity is vested in fourteen trustees, and the lands now produce about £70 per annum.
Mousehole is rendered notable by antiquarians, for having been the residence of Dolly Pentreath; who is said to have been the last person known to speak the Cornish language. In the year 1773, she was eighty-seven years old, maintained partly by the parish, and partly by fortune-telling, and gabbling Cornish. It appears from her epitaph in the church-yard, that she lived to the great age of one hundred and two. Her epitaph is both in Cornish and English, in both of which languages, as it is a literary curiosity it is here inserted.
Coth Doll Pentreath cans ha Deau;
Marow ha kledyz ed Paul plea:—
Na ed an Egloz, gan pobel brâz,
Bes ed Egloz-hay coth Dolly es.
Old Doll Pentreath one hundred ag’d and two
Deceas’d and buried in Paul parish too;
Not in the church with people great and high
But in the church-yard doth old Dolly lie.
From the preceding account, it has generally been believed that the Cornish language and Dolly Pentreath expired together. But on a perusal of this epitaph it is natural to enquire, by whom was it written, and by whom translated? These questions look with a formidable aspect on those opinions, which assert that ‘Dolly Pentreath, was the last who could speak the Cornish language’.
That Dolly Pentreath was not the only person who understood Cornish, the Hon. Daines Barrington on mature inquiry makes appear quite plain, for on the 3rd July 1776, he presented a letter to the Society of Antiquaries, written in Cornish and English by William Bodener, a fisherman of Mousehole. This fisherman says, ‘that he was then sixty-five years of age, and that there were not more than four or five persons in Mousehole, who could talk Cornish’.
Dr. Pryce, in his preface to his ‘Archæologia Cornu-Brittanica’, published in 1790, speaks of a man then living at Mousehole, (seventeen years after the decease of Dolly Pentreath,) who understood and could speak the Cornish language. Of this man he does not give the name; so that it is difficult to say, whether he means Bodener who died in 1794, or some other person. If this man be the same as Bodener, the statement of Dr. Pryce confirms the account of Mr. Barrington; and if he be another person, we learn that the Cornish language was not so near extinct as some have imagined.
In this village there is a meeting-house belonging to the Methodists, in which Divine service is regularly performed.
At Kerris in this parish, there is an oval enclosure, about fifty-two paces from north to south, and thirty-four the contrary way, composed of stones without mortar. At the south end are four rude pillars (forming an entrance to the area,) about eight feet high, and at the foot of them lie some large long stones, which appear to have formerly rested on those pillars. This was formerly a place of worship, and the erect stones were designed to distinguish and dignify the entrance.—The circle we are describing is at present called the Roundago, which name it may possibly have acquired from the superstitious rounds of the Druids.
In 1723, some small brass coins were found in an urn mixed with earth, at this place. This urn with its contents, were found in a vault paved with stone. The vault itself was eight feet long, and six feet high. At the same time was found in this vault, a plain fair urn of the finest red clay, full of earth. By the largeness and strength of the vault, the smallness of the urn, and the earth without any bones, this urn must have contained the ashes of some considerable person. ‘This urn and coins’ says Dr. Borlase, ‘may be justly pronounced Roman’.
Paul contains 2865 acres, and about 700 houses
This parish according to Mr. Whitaker, Dr. Borlase, and others, derives its name from St. Berien, or Burianna a holy woman, a native of Ireland, who came into this country about the year 460, in company with many others of exalted birth and dignity, (she being a king’s daughter,) and landed at St. Ives.
This parish is situated six miles south-west of Penzance, and about four miles from the western extremity of the kingdom.
The church (which is conspicuous from many distant places,) stands on some of the most elevated land in this part of the county; according to Dr. Berger’s papers on Cornwall, it is said to be four hundred and sixty-seven feet above the level of the sea. It is built of granite, and consists of three aisles, which are divided from the east end by a roodloft of oak. This roodloft is decorated with a profusion of gilding and carvings of huntsmen, hounds, &c., &c.
A venerable monument was discovered about the year 1665, by the sexton, in sinking a grave: who met with a large flat marble stone, which he lifted up out of the earth, and thereon was cut or engraved, a long plain cross, surmounted on four grises or steps. On the border of this stone is an inscription in an ancient character, and difficult to be read; which the curious have found to be in Norman-French, running in English thus:—‘Jane, the wife of Geoffrey de Bolait, lieth here. Whosoever shall pray for her soul shall have five days pardon. M. LX. IX’.
Morden says, that the numerals at the end of this inscription are not correctly stated, since not only the year, but the month, and day of the month are both inserted. He states ‘at the bottom are these figures, which may be supposed to mean March 16th 1101’.
There is at present in this parish a place which bears the name of Bolleit; or Bollait; and there can be little doubt, that the person interred, had when living, her residence on or near this spot; and perhaps the family communicated the name which it still retains. On this estate, there are two remarkable stones standing erect, about a furlongfrom each other. One of these stones is twelve, and the other sixteen feet in height.
In 927, King Athelstan entered Cornwall, with a numerous army to subjugate the Cornish; who like the Cumbrians and the Northumbrians of the same era, found all resistance vain. For that reason no battles were fought, as the Cornish submitted every where without opposition.
In this expedition, as Athelstan was proceeding through Cornwall, when he was ‘about four miles from the Land’s End, but directly in the present road to it, as he was equally pious and brave, he went into an oratory, which had been erected by a holy woman of the name of Burien, that came from Ireland, and was buried in her own chapel.—He knelt down in prayer to God, full of his coming expedition against the Sylley Isles, and supplicating for success to it: then in a strain of devoutness, he vowed if God blessed his expedition with success, to erect a college of clergy where the oratory stood, and to endow it with a large income’. So at least said the tradition at St. Burien’s itself, no less than two centuries and half ago!
Athelstan thus prepared, ‘sat out with his armament for Sylley’. Success crowned his enterprize. He reduced the Scilly Islands, and returned victorious to the Land’s End.
On his arrival at the oratory, he presented thanks to God for his success, where he had prayed for it before; and ordering a church to be erected on the spot, for the use of the parish, and a college of clergy to minister in it, assigned to it a quantity of land that had fallen to him by right of conquest, for its endowment, and gave it the priveleges of a sanctuary. But what forms a strong proof of the justness of this tradition, is, that this church is actually noticed in Doomsday book, about one hundred and thirty years only, after this period, as a college of canons even then possessing an estate denominated Eglos Burien, exempt from all assessments whatever. This even continues to the present moment a royal free chapel, in the patronage of the crown; and with a jurisdiction so independent of the ordinary, that its only remaining member of the whole body, its head the dean, receives his instructions and takes his oaths before the king himself, as his ordinary.
The remains of this church were wantonly destroyed by Shrubshall, the governor of Pendennis castle under Cromwell.
The manor of Treviddron was the property of the Vyvyan family, where they resided until they removed to Trelowarren.
For the instruction of the poor, a school has been instituted under the management of trustees, who provide a house and pay eight guineas per annum to a master, for teaching seven poor boys to read.
In this parish is a circle of nineteen upright stones, called Dance Mein or the Merry Maidens, from the whimsical tradition that nineteen young women were thus transformed for dancing on the Sabbath day.
There are also in this parish within a short distance of each other, and near Rosemoddress, three holed stones, or Tolmens; one of this kind of stones is particularly mentioned under the head of Madron.
At Karne Boscawen, there is a monument of the pensile kind, of a very singular construction. This monument consists of one large flat stone, one end of which rests upon a natural karne, or elevation of rocks, and the other on three large stones piled one on the other, in order to raise a proper support for the end of the horizontal flat stone. Immediately under the canopy or covering stone, the opening between its two supporters is seven feet wide. ‘This canopy’ says Dr. Borlase, ‘is too nicely supported to be the work of nature; and one must check one’s imagination very much, not to conjecture that the opening underneath it, was designed for the seat of some particular person, from which he might give out his edicts and decisions, his predictions and admissions, to his noviciates’.
Boskenna, this highly romantic seat, is the property and residence of John Paynter Esq.
St. Buryan, is replete with objects of curiosity. The summits and sides of the eminences, and the bottoms of the vallies, are mostly covered with large masses of granite, either collected together, or scattered singly. Among these are several cairns, circles, cromlehs, and holed stones. The inquisitive antiquary may here examine an interesting variety of British monuments, and become acquainted with their peculiar shape and character.
St. Buryan contains 6274 acres, about 250 houses, and 1500 inhabitants.