This parish was a place of some celebrity when Christianity first triumphed over the horrid rites of Druidism. St. Levan’s well is recorded for its miraculous excellencies in the rolls of superstitious fame. Over this well, (which is still preserved with careful veneration,) is an ancient oratory, five feet square and seven feet high. About a quarter of a mile from this holy fountain, is the site of an ancient chapel called Port-Chapel, and about a mile to the eastward is the site of another called Curnow; but little more is known of them than their situations and their names.
St. Levan is about eight miles nearly south-west from Penzance, and about three miles south-east from the Land’s End. As the rival of the Land’s End, St. Levan claims the honour of including Tol-pedn Penwith.
Tol-pedn Penwith is divided from the main land by an ancient stone wall. Several appearances on the cliffs strongly indicate that some ancient fortifications existed here, and this wall might probably have formerly been connected with the means of defence.
About a mile and half to the east of this point, is Treryn Castle, or Castle Treryn. It is enclosed by two formidable ramparts and ditches, one within the other, stretching in a semicircular form from the sides of the cliff. The perpendicular rocks form three sides of this fortification; and the land side is guarded by these high and thick embankments. Descending from this cape towards the sea, three groups of rocks appear before us, which seem to be formed of perpendicular crags or columns, the bases of which project with wild disorder into the sea. On the summit of the middle group, an enormous logging-stone has found its bed. This extraordinary stone, which is a block of granite, and weighs by estimation about ninety tons, has projecting from its bottom, a kind of central ridge, upon which it is so nicely poised, that resting as it does on the flat surface of another rock, a small degree of force can easily move it from side to side, through the space of a few inches. In the year 1824, this enormous mass was thrown over on its side, by the commanding officer of a revue cutter and his crew; who in the latter end of the same year, (having obtained a grant from government of the necessary materials from Plymouth Dock-yard,) endeavoured to replace this rock in its former position, in which (after several attempts) they succeeded as nearly as possible, but its logging properties are almost destroyed. It is not without considerable trouble, that the rocks can be scaled with which it is surrounded; and many who have proceeded to the group of rocks on which it rests, have been deterred from ascending the winding path, (if such it may be termed,) which leads over crags and chasms to its sublime abode. It is not easy to conceive a situation of more magnificent grandeur, than the station which it fills. Surrounded by an immense pile of rocks, in an elevated region, where the reign of silence is interrupted only by the screams of sea-birds, the roaring of tempests, and the dashing of waves, this enormous logging-stone seems to frown in solitude over that desolation which its appearance augments.
Toland in his History of the Druids asserts, ‘that the Druids made the people believe that they only could move these rocks, and that by a miracle; by which pretended miracle, they condemned or acquitted the accused, and often brought criminals to confess what could in no other way be extorted from them’.
We have however from what we know of the character of the Druids, little reason to think that they restricted these logging-stones to the confirmation of their predictions or mandates. It can only be in allusion to this circumstance that the following lines can be understood
“Behold yon huge
And unhewn sphere of living adamant,
Which pois’d by magic, rests its central weight
On yonder pointed rock; firm as it seems,
Such is its strange and virtuous property, It moves obsequious to the gentlest touch
Of him whose heart is pure: but to a traitor,
Though e’en a giant’s prowess nerved his arm,
It stands as fixed as Snowdon”. Mason.
Near Tol-pedn Penwith is the Funnel Rock, which is excavated nearly perpendicularly, and resembles a vast inverted cone. In this cavity the Cornish Chough, has built her nest for several years past. The Rundle-Stone which lies nearly opposite to this rock, (on which a buoy has been affixed,) has proved fatal to many vessels,
Leland says, ‘that at Tredine, or Treryn, the south-west point of Cornwall, a brass pot full of Roman money was found by some men who had been digging there for a fox’.
The barton of Bosistow, was at a very early period the seat of a family of that name.
St. Levan is in the deanery and west division of the hundred of Penwith, and contains 2079 acres, about 90 houses, and 450 inhabitants.
Sennen is about eight miles and half from Penzance, and may be considered as the most westerly parish in England. The church is about a mile from the Land’s End.
The Land’s End, called by Ptolemy, Bolerium, and by the British bards, Penring-huaed, or the promontory of blood, is the most westerly promontory in England, lying nearly three hundred miles west by south from London. The scenery of this spot, is of the most awful and sublime description. The huge and rugged rocks, which rise in awful majesty to the height of one hundred and fifty feet, forming a barrier to the tumultuous, sea; the immense expanse of water: the ceaseless roar of the waves; the constantly-changing effect of light and shade playing on the surface; vessels sailing in all directions; and various aquatic birds wildly screaming at the sight of man, or pursuing their instinctive propensities; all combine on this spot, to fill the mind of the spectator with emotions of astonishment, admiration, and terror. So well has Sir Humphry Davy, in his poem entitled ‘Mount’s Bay’ described this spot, that we have ventured to insert an extract:—
“On the sea
The sun-beams tremble, and the purple light
Illumes the dark Bolerium, seat of storms.
High are his granite rocks; his frowning brow
Hangs o’er the smiling ocean. In his caves
The Atlantic breezes murmur; in his caves,
Where sleep the haggard spirits of the storm.
Wild, dreary are the schistine rocks around,
Encircled by the wave, where to the breeze
The haggard cormorant shrieks; and far beyond
Where the great ocean mingles with the sky,
Are seen the cloud-like islands, grey in mists”.
In the last line of the above verses, there is a reference to the Scilly Islands, which lie in a cluster about nine leagues west by south from the Land’s End, and are distinctly visible in clear weather.
The cliff which bounds this extremity of our island, is composed entirely of granite, the forms of which present an extraordinary appearance, assuming in some places the resemblance of shafts regularly cut with the chisel; while elsewhere the impetuous waves have opened for their retreat, gigantic arches, through which the billows roll and bellow with tremendous fury. This promontory according to Dr. Halley, is in latitude 50 degrees 5minutes, and in longitude 6 degrees 7 minutes.
Another abrupt promontory called Peden-mændue point, beset with frowning rocks that forbid all approach to it by sea, shoots out into the ocean in the vicinity; while Cape Cornwall (which is in the parish of St. Just,) shelters from the storms and surges that come from the north-east the capacious excavation of Whitsand Bay, so called from the peculiar whiteness of its sand. In this bay King Stephen landed, on his first arrival in England, as did King John on his return from Ireland, and Perkin Warbeck, in the prosecution of his claims to the crown in the reign of Henry VII.
At the distance of a mile and half from the Land’s End, a group of rocks called the Longships arise; on the largest and central one of which a lighthouse was erected, in consequence of the very dangerous character of this coast, in 1797. The tower is constructed of granite, according to the plan adopted by Smeaton, in the Eddystone lighthouse. The circumference of the tower at its base is sixty-eight feet; the height from the rock to the vane of the lantern fifty-two feet; and from the sea to the base of the lighthouse sixty feet. Notwithstanding this elevation of one hundred and twelve feet from the sea, the lantern has often been dashed in pieces by the spray of the ocean during the winters’ tempest. Three men belong to this lighthouse, two of whom are continually on the rock, while the third is permitted to live at St. Just, to relieve one of the others every month. By these changes each man spends two months in the lighthouse, and one on the main-land; unless the severity of the weather, by cutting off all communication, interrupts the regularity of these arrangements. This sometimes has been protracted to four months;—during which time they can communicate by no other means than by signals. For this melancholy, this dangerous, but this necessary service, each man is allowed thirty pounds per annum, besides king’s provisions.
It has been said of Empedocles, that be plunged into the crater of Mount Etna, to acquire immortal reputation. The same principle of rash ambition seems to have influenced a modern traveller about twenty years since, who anxious to acquire fame, disdained to pursue the common path which had been trodden by vulgar feet. About two hundred yards before the land terminates at the Land’s End, the ground rapidly declines, and the isthmus becomes very narrow; its greatest width not exceeding fifty yards. Approaching this tremendous spot every rider is requested by his guide, (as well as by common prudence,) to alight and walk to the awful extremity. But the traveller of whom we speak, spurred on a valuable and spirited horse to the tremendous precipice. The animal warned him of his danger by manifesting strong symptoms of terror. The guide in vain endeavored to dissuade him from the wild attempt. Arriving near the point, the mingled roar of the winds and waves rendered the horse ungovernable. The gentleman now began to find, that he had carried his foolish ambition too far, and on striving to turn the animal round, it snorted, plunged, and running backward, curvetted to the very brink of the precipice when the rider whose fate depended on the moment, threw himself with desperation on the ground. That very instant the horse plunged down the precipice, and falling on the rocks below was dashed to pieces. The rider was taken up half-dead, with terror; and for a considerable time afterwards he suffered from the effects of his contemptible vanity.
The awful spot is marked by the figure of a horseshoe, traced on the turf with a deep incision.
In this parish is a large flat stone called Table-Mean, on which according to Hals, seven Saxon kings dined at one time, when they came into Cornwall to visit the Land’s End. The names of these kings are preserved, and they are said to have flourished about the year 600.
The manor of Mayon belongs to Sir John St. Aubyn, Bart., and the heirs of Dionysius Williams Esq. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the barton of Penrose was a seat of the family of Jones.—This is now the property of Earl Falmouth. The barton of Trevear, was for some time the seat of the family of Ellis. Both of the houses on these estates are occupied by farmers.
In 1750, John Roberts of this parish digging for tin at Velindreath, found at the depth of thirty feet an entire skeleton, about the size of a large deer lying on its side. Near it, in a line parallel to its vertebræ was a prostrate oak tree, twenty feet long, and about the diameter of a man’s waist. On the branches, were numerous leaves; the tree was very hard at the knots, but so soft in some parts that the shovel stuck into it. Near the skeleton lay part of a deer’s horn, two feet and half long with the branched antlers to it. One of the knobs, as soon as touched crumbled to dust. In 1758, were found twenty feet under the surface, several pieces of deer’s or elk’s horn. The stratum in which they lay, was first the shelly sand of the shore, nine feet deep; then a sandy earth intermixed with small stones.—From the sudden subsidence of the shelving part of the hill, the animal and the tree were hurried away in one direction, and overwhelmed in the same instant.
About the year 1807, three hundred small copper and plated Roman coins, were found between two flat stones, under a large projecting rock, in a field near the Land’s End; they were chiefly of Galienus, Posthumus, Victorinus, and Tetricus.
Carew mentions a little village called Trebeyan; or, the town of the giant’s grave, not far from the Land’s End, ‘neer which and within memory, certain workmen searching for tynne, discovered a long square vault, which contayned the bones of an excessive big carkas, and verified this etymology of the name’.
At Sennen church-town, about a mile from the Land’s End, is an inn, the sign of which is on the one side, ‘The First Inn in England’; and on the reverse ‘The Last Inn in England’
Sennen church-yard is kept very neat, the graves are neatly paved, and are regularly put in order every year.
About eight miles from the Land’s End, a tremendous rock rises in the- sea called the Wolf; a name too mournfully applicable, from its having proved fatal to many ships and mariners in dark and tempestuous weather. In stormy weather the roaring sound occasioned by the sea beating over this rock, may be heard to a great distance. An attempt was made some years since, to fix anenormous figure of copper resembling a wolf, on this rock. Being hollow within it was intended, to cause bells to be so suspended, as to toll with the powerful blast. But this benevolent design, after several ineffectual efforts had been made at a vast expense, was ultimately defeated by the violence of the elements, with which the structure had to contend, and by which the philanthrophic projector had nearly lost his life.
This parish is at present a parcel of the deanery of Buryan, to which it is a daughter church, and of which the dean receives the tithes.
Sennen contains 2223 acres, about 120 houses, and 550 inhabitants; is in the hundred of Penwith.
This parish is in the westernmost district of the county. It is situated about seven miles nearly west from Penzance. The church-town in this parish is of considerable size; and, besides this, it has several villages, of which the principal are Botallack, Bosavern, Brea, Kelinack, Pendeen, and Trewellard.
On the western side of this parish are the remains of an ancient chapel. Its foundation is about fifteen feet high, and it rises about ten feet higher; it is walled and arched over with moor-stone, having one window in the east end, and a door fronting the south. It isabout fourteen feet long, and ten broad, having several moor-stone steps in a state of decay. This old chapel stands ona singular tumulus of cairns, which in connexion with the building is called Chapel Carn bre.—There are not many bolder cairns than this to be found in Cornwall. On the plain near Cape Cornwall are the remains of another ancient chapel forty-five feet by twelve, with a chapel-yard contiguous to it.
Pendeen, which was the birth-place of the justly celebrated Dr. Borlase, and which has been for a considerable time a seat of this family is at present a farm-house, the property of Samuel Borlase Esq.
In this parish is a circular enclosure, one hundred and twenty-six feet in diameter, which had six seats or benches, for the accommodation of the audience. ‘In these amphitheatres’, says Dr. Borlase, ‘the Britons did usuallyassemble to hear plays acted, and to see the sports and games, which upon particular occasions were intended to amuse the people, to quiet and delight them’.
In the year 1773, Mr. R. Williams, of Chikarn, in this parish, discovered a very remarkable monument whilst removing a barrow. As he approached towards the central parts of the barrow, he found a great many urns, of which he took not much notice. When he came to the centre, he discovered a square stone chest, or cell, in which he also found an urn, finely carved and full of human bones. According to the best of his recollection, the number of urns amounted to about fifty. These were ranged around the central one, and had within them some remains of bones and earth. All however, were either broken or thrown away as of no consequence, excepting the principal one, which Mr Williams carefully preserved on account of its neat carvings, and carried to his house to exhibit to the inspection of the curious. From the workmanship of this urn, scarcely any doubts can remain of its being Roman; and consequently, this being decided, we cannot but determine all the others to belong to the same nation.
At Pendeen-Vau, are three long caves or galleries, supposed to have been places of retreat for the ancient Britons, in time of war or danger;—these caves are very complicated, having several passages communicating with one another by steps.
At Wheal Cock mine in this parish, native silver, in the days of Dr. Borlase, was discovered among the copper ore; in which, this gentleman once found a portion about the size of a walnut that was pure and unmixed.
Dr. Borlase says, ‘that on Douran a very singular stream of tin was discovered in the year 1738. The ore which was pulverized, was between twelve and eighteen inches in depth, and of various breadths. It was first discovered in a moory soil, having on it a black stratum or gravel, about two feet thick. But as the stream advanced more to the hill, it had a still thicker covering;—till entering the rising ground, it had all Douran hill upon it, which was about forty feet perpendicular! while the stream pursued its original horizontal direction’.
Botallack mine is situated near the western extremity of the parish. It is very productive of tin and copper, and the workings are more than one hundred and ten fathoms below high-water mark; the sea in some places actually filters through the roof of the mine! This mine whether considered with respect to its valuable and varied mineral productions, the labour and perseverance required in working it, or for the rude yet magnificent nature of its surrounding scenery, is entitled to particular attention, and cannot fail to excite the admiration of the tourist. In stormy weather the roaring of the sea is distinctly heard in the deepest level, which is more than seventy fathoms from the shaft. In the early stages of the undertaking it was found necessary to lower an immense steam-engine down a tremendous precipice, of nearly eighty yards, in order to prosecute the mine under the bed of the Atlantic ocean!
From this steam-engine to the summit of the rock was a channel cut of three hundred feet in length, by which the ore was drawn up in a bucket.
About two hundred and fifty men are employed in this mine; which to the visitor, and admirer of nature will prove particularly interesting; Wewould therefore recommend to all who should visit Penzance, to lose no opportunity of visiting (at least,) this celebrated mine, the Land’s End, and Logging Rock.
At Chycornish Cairn near this mine, is a hornblende rock, which on being struck emits a sound similar to that given out by metal under like treatment: this is commonly called the ‘Ringing Rock’.
St. Just contains 6984 acres, about 625 houses and 3150 inhabitants; is in the hundred of Penwith.
Amongst the fisheries of Cornwall, the pilchard is the principal; preparations for taking which are generally commenced about the end of July, at which time the pilchards are expected to pay their annual visit. They make their appearance chiefly in the evenings; so that the boats rarely go to sea before four o’clock, or continue longer than ten. Sometimes they again go out early in the morning, and occasionally take fish about the rising of the sun. The boats scattered at a little distance from each other, await those indications of a shoal with which the men are well acquainted. These are, the jumping of some of the pilchards above the surface of the water; the ascent of bubbles from the bottom: and a peculiar hue of redness which the water acquire when the shoal is large. They then proceed to enclose them in the following manner:—The end of the net being thrown overboard, the charge of which is committed to the follower, to prevent it from being dragged away, the seine-boat is rowed gently by some of the men, while others cast the net overboard;—They always take a circular course; and their first care is to secure with the net that part towards which the fish are swimming; and finally so to carry the net around them, that they shall be hemmed in on every side. The whole time considered necessary for two strong men to throw the net overboard, is from four to six minutes. The net immediately spreads itself, the corks on one edge rendering it buoyant, and the leads on the other causing it to sink to the bottom; for if the depth of the water exceeds the width of the seine, there is little or no probability of securing any fish, however large the shoal may be. Ropes are now carried out from each end, which cross each other, by which the men on board the two large boats warp them together until they are brought in contact. When this is done, the two extremities are lifted from the bottom, and laced together with the utmost expedition. This being done, the fish remain within an enclosure, the seine forming a circle round them, extending from the surface to the bottom. To secure the seine in this position, grapnels are carried out at some distance on every side, thrown to the bottom, the ropes from which are fastened to the rope at the upper edge of the net These grapnels preserve the seine in its circular position against the influence of tides and changes of weather. The shoals occasionally contain from two to five thousand hogsheads. It has been found by experience, that a large shoal is more easily secured than a small one; as such large bodies move with less rapidity.
The stop-seine being thus lodged in the water and made secure, the tuck-seine is carried within the enclosure. Being carried round the fish, the foot rope is drawn with its leads along the bottom, and afterwards raised in a gradual manner to the surface of the water, when the two large boats are laden, and the remaining part is turned back into the large enclosure. The boats then proceed to the shore, where women are waiting to receive the fish into the cellar for curing.
Another method of taking pilchards is with nets having larger meshes, in which the fish get entangled. These driving-nets, as they are termed, are drawn after their respective boats, fastened only at one end, through which the pilchard is arrested as it attempts to pass. These boats and nets are always at a considerable distance from the shore; lest by approaching too near, they should disperse the shoals which the seines are waiting to take.
The pilchards being brought into the cellars, are laid in layers on the floor, that the oil may run into a receptacle for that purpose. The time allowed for the fish to lie in bulk, is sometimes regulated by the wishes of the merchant. The customary time is four weeks, and from then to five or six; but no established rule prevails.
The fish taken from the bulk are carried to large troughs, in which they are washed, and completely cleansed from the salt, filth, and oil, which they acquire while lying in bulk. They are then packed in loose casks, pressed, and filled up again, the barrels are then branded with the curer’s name, and exported as occasion may require.
Pilchards that are caught early and are fat, are supposed to yield one hogshead of oil from ten of fish. But it frequently happens that double this quantity will not yield more. The oil varies in price, from £20 to £28 pet tin. The common price of pilchards may be estimated at £2. 2. per hogshead. The skimmings which float on the water is sold the soap-boilers at fifteen pence per gallon. The dregs which remain in the oil reservoir, are sold to the curriers at about sixteen pence per gallon, on the average.
The first outfit of a seine, with its boats, oars, sails, ropes, nets, and salt sufficient to cure five hundred hogsheads of fish, cannot be estimated at less than £1000. The preparations for the water consists of three boats, two large ones and a small one. Each large boat contains seven men, and in the small one, are the master, another man and two boys. The seine-boat and the follower are names by which the two large boats are distinguished; and the small one is called the lurker.
Besides pilchards, mackarel and herrings make their periodical appearance in immense shoals.—Mackarel are taken in large nets, called drift-nets, which are of various lengths from 100 to 1000 fathoms, and 10 fathoms deep. These nets are cast, or shot, from the boats, at the ebbing and flowing of the tide, and allowed to drift with the stream; the bottom of the net being kept down by weights and the top supported by corks. The fishare caught by being entangled in the meshes. From April to October and sometimes later, the mackarel rarely ever forsake the Cornish coasts. The place of their principal resort, is the neighbourhood of Penzance. When fresh, it is in universal estimation; and in the country, the vast numbers that are salted, form in winter, among the lower and middling orders of society, one of the necessaries of life.