Peter Lanyon exhibition to mark birth centenary

An artist from St Ives has been honoured with an exhibition to mark then centenary of his birth.

Born in 1918, Peter Lanyon unfortunately died in a gliding accident in 1964. His traditional landscape art works were held in high regard, particularly by the singer, the late David Bowie, who had four of Lanyon’s work in his collection.

At first glance, Lanyon’s work may appear to be oil drawings by a young child, with colours smeared over one another. But perhaps you have to understand the artist to appreciate the art work. Within the art world, Lanyon is credited with transforming landscape art. The use of colours is a vibrant attempt to capture the unbridled emotion of being physically in the place at the time. Sure, it is not neat as in a photograph, or a detailed still life painting. But the art perhaps captures the underlying emotion, albeit a raw, childish one, of the subject in question.

The last of the above paintings, Wheal Owles, is an oil on board painting that dates back to 1958. At first it looks like a fishing boat on sea, and visitors unfamiliar to area may think it is a representation of a boat and St Ives history as a fishing town.

However, Wheal Owles is actually a tin mine near Botallack, near St Just. In January 1893, miners working underground were drowned when water rushed in. When you look again at the picture, now that streak of black in the middle makes sense – it is the mining shaft. The boarded shapes around it not only suggest the materials on the ground, but the feeling of being trapped and bordered with no way out echoes the fear of the men who were trapped and eventually died. It is said that before the water flooded in, a gust of wind blew out the lights, leaving the man trapped in darkness. This mirrors the lack of light in the work.

‘Peter Lanyon: Cornwall Inside Out’ at Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, in St James’s, London, is open until 16 March.

Any progress with the Edward Hain?

Will there be any breakthrough in the standoff over the Edward Hain Community Hospital? The one-ward hospital has been closed for nearly a year over fire safety concerns – the government and NHS were not convinced that in the event of a fire, the twelve inpatients would not be able to be evacuated. Hence the inpatient unit remains closed, and those requiring such services have to go further afield, out of our town for treatment. The outpatient unit, however, remains open to existing residents.

Residents held a protest over the closure of the hospital in October. The common feeling among residents is because that because St Ives is far out to the west, and run by Labour council, the conservatives will not give it the resources in order to modernise. It is almost as if the Conservatives are trying to turn local feeling against Labour by using health as a means of creating dissension. It is no good for the people caught in between. The current building is an old Victorian building and getting inpatients down the stairs could be problematic. The Friends of Edward Hain recently raised £600,000 towards the hospital, but the money remains largely unspent because of the threat that it may be wasted. If improvements are made to the hospital but it still remains closed, the money would have been spent for nothing.

Part of the problem lies not just with underfunding alone. Some believe it lies with a lack of foresight by the local NHS, who failed to cater for post-hospital care services in the area. As a result, there is a lot of bed squatting and those in post-operative care are taking up the spaces on the ward.

The answer could be in building a new community hospital. This consideration has been touted before, and some believe that the creation of a new hospital would alleviate the pressure of the already taxed services in the area. If the problem lies with the existing building and there could still be a protracted political battle over it, then starting completely from scratch to develop a modern building that meets fire regulations, and one that is large enough to provide services for the region, could be the long term meaningful solution.

Strange sightings in St Ives

Cornwall is richly steeped in folklore and many interesting stories have come from the St Ives district. One of the most character-istic is that of ‘The Lady with the Lantern’. This tells how, one evening around dusk, during a year notorious for storms and wrecks, a large ship was driven on a sunken rock at the back of the Island. Many of those on board perished at once, and as each successive wave urged the wreck onward, yet more of the crew were swept into the angry sea.

Despite the terrible conditions, a boat was manned by some St Ives fishermen and rowed towards the ship. Approaching as near as they dared, they managed to rescue two or three sailors by means of ropes. Then a group appeared on deck supporting a lady who held a child in her arms. The lady, despite entreaties, refused to give her child to the care of a sailor while they endea-voured to pass her across to the boat. So, with the ship fast breaking up, she was lowered into the sea, and the fishermen drew her through the waves.

In her passage, the lady fainted and was taken into the boat without the infant. The child had fallen from her arms, and was lost in the boiling waters. She later regained consciousness; but finding her child was gone, she lost hope and died. They buried her in the churchyard, but shortly after a lady was seen to pass over the churchyard wall on to the beach and walk towards the Island. There she spent hours amid the rocks, looking for her child, before returning to her grave. When the nights were stormy or very dark, she carried a lantern, but on fine nights she made her sad search without a light. The Lady and the Lantern have ever since been regarded as predictors of disaster on this shore.

Less well known than this story is the legend of the White Horse of Porthgwidden. In the early part of the nineteenth century a gentleman called Birch owned a magnificent white horse with a flowing mane and a flying tail. The animal was beautifully groomed and the delight of his master. Every evening at dusk Birch would ride on his horse to Porthgwidden for a bathe. He was a powerful swimmer, but one stormy evening the wind and waves proved too much for him, and he was swept away and drowned. Some time later the fishermen noticed the horse patiently waiting on the beach, far beyond the usual time for its master’s return, and so came to learn of the tragedy which had occurred. Some time after this, people living in the vicinity vowed that after dusk the ghost of Mr Birch was seen riding his lovely horse through Island Road, down to Porthgwidden Beach and out to sea. The spectre is said to have been seen as late as the 1890s.

The pilots of St Ives had a superstition regarding ‘Jack Harry’s Lights’; these phantoms were named after the man who was first deceived by them. They were generally observed before a gale, and the ship seen with them resembled the one which later was sure to be wrecked. Scores of pilots had seen and been led a fine chase after them. One old pilot told of how they put off in their big boat, the Ark, when a large vessel was reported in the offing. The vessel stood off the head, the wind blowing WNW. They went off four or five miles and thought they were alongside, when the ship slipped to windward a league or more. Again the Ark went in pursuit and once more closed in on the stranger, but away she flew to Godrevy over the course they had just sailed; so the pilots gave it up for ‘Jack Harry’s Light’ and with disappointed hopes bore up for the harbour. These manifestations may be likened to those of the Flying Dutchman, seen off the Cape of Good Hope.

The harbour of St Ives

Life at St Ives has traditionally revolved around its harbour. Here, up to about the time of the First World War, were to be seen the town’s large fleets of mackerel and pilchard luggers, coasting vessels loading or discharging cargoes, seine boats arriving from Porthminster deeply laden with silvery fish; and all the bustle and activity associated with a prosperous seaport and fishing town.

Today, the scene has vastly changed, yet the harbour remains the focal point of St Ives. Nearly all the fishing boats have gone, their places taken by gaily painted pleasure craft, whilst the sand, once grimy with coal, is now a clean golden bathing beach. Many regret the change, but it was inevitable with the decline in the fishing industry; and St Ives is at least fortunate in having a type of harbour that has adapted so well to meet new circumstances.

As early as the sixteenth century St Ives was the chief port of departure in the west for passage to Ireland, and there are several entries in the old Borough Accounts relating to this traffic. Thus in 1592: ‘paide William Ots to pay for 2 passengers bounde to Irelande whiche weare hosted at water treweks 3s.4d.’ ‘Paide to a man of Irelande that had his barke stollen by pirats 1s.’ 1604: ‘paide to a poore souldier that came from Irelande 3d.’ The importance of this sea-link with Ireland is shown also in a by-law passed in 1619, which decreed that ‘All yrishmen landing hencforth ther loades or Burden of tymber [are to pay] ijs.ijd. & ballaste of Sand to be taken at this charge if they liste to take it.’

No contemporary description of the harbour has survived, but it is known that prior to 1766 the pier ran out from Carn Glaze (the site of the present Fishermen’s Co-operative Stores). It appears to have been of simple construction, probably consisting of timber piles driven in the sand, with a rubble filling. The maintenance of this pier and the clearance of sand from the harbour imposed at times a severe strain on the very limited borough finances.

The harbour began to take on something of its present appearance in 1770, when a new pier was constructed to the design of John Smeaton, the great civil engineer. This was built out from the Castle Rocks, the old pier being at the same time demolished and the Wharf constructed. Though only about half its present length, Smeaton’s Pier sheltered a much greater extent of water than its predecessor did, and so accommodated the growing trade and fishing industry of the town. This growth in the years following the building of the pier is best illustrated by the annual amounts of harbour dues collected by the Trustees, which rose from £593 in 1770 to £1280 in 1814 and to £1824 by 1836.

In 1837 St Ives, very unwisely, was declared a free port, and dues ceased to be collected – a measure that resulted in unavoidable delay in carrying out further improvements.

In 1844, 165 coasting merchant vessels having a gross tonnage of 9723 arrived in the port of St Ives. By comparison, during the same year, 856 vessels arrived at Hayle, these having a tonnage of 65,979. But what was more important at St Ives was the fishing industry; in 1847 the capital invested in the pilchard fisheries was in excess of £150,000, with 400 boats and 735 men employed, whilst a further 100 men were engaged in other types of fishing.

Imports from within Britain were coal, iron and general merchandise and from abroad timber; exports within Britain were fish and copper ore, and abroad, fish and tin. Sailing vessels belonging to the port totalled 8994 tons, with a few steamers totalling 498 tons.

In 1864 work was begun on an outer harbour by erecting the New or Wood Pier at the seaward side of Smeaton’s structure, and running roughly at right angles to it. Its timber frame failed to stand up to the buffeting of the Atlantic rollers, however, and in less than twenty years it had become an almost complete wreck. Today little more than its short masonry stump remains. The failure of this project brought on an acute crisis, the harbour being desperately overcrowded with the ever-increasing fleet of fishing vessels. This situation reached its climax in 1886, with the so-called Tresidder’s riot among the fishermen.

Eventually, in 1888-90 the position was relieved by adding a lengthy extension to Smeaton’s Pier. The shorter West Pier was built in 1894 as a loading jetty for roadstone from the Carthew and Orange Lane quarries. Finally, around 1922 the Wharf Road was constructed from the lifeboat house to Chy-an-Chy, affording much needed relief to Fore Street, which previously had to carry all the traffic.

Since then, St Ives has ceased to be a seaport, whilst its fishing fleet has dwindled to extinction. These events have brought about great changes in the town itself. The smoke houses for curing, the great pilchard cellars, the barking houses for tanning nets, and the net factory have all gone, either swept away to make room for modern developments, or converted to new uses. The last St Ives pilchard cellar, in Norway Lane, was cleared out in 1968-69, much of its equipment being transferred to the St Ives Museum at Wheal Dream. Yet with all these changes, ‘Downlong’, the old fishing quarter, still retains a great deal of its atmosphere, the narrow alleyways and picturesque cottages proving a never-failing delight to artists, photographers and holiday-makers.

Barbara Hepworth and St Ives

St Ives has always proven to be an inspirational seaside town, a font for creativity and artistry. The beautiful landscapes are among the many sources of inspiration and the opportunities to work alongside creative individuals continues to inspire the development of beautiful art.

Various well-known artists, past and present, have passed through St Ives and continue to its vibrant art community.

If you link the word “St Ives” along with “sculpture” it would be inconceivable to imagine that you would not at some point arrive at the name Barbara Hepworth. Such was her influence on the town, that you will see many of her sculptures displayed at various locations around it. There is also a museum, the Barbara Hepworth museum, that continues to inspire modern artists.

Born in Yorkshire in 1903 to Herbert and Gertrude, Barbara frequently accompanied her dad in car rides over the West Riding for his work as a civil engineer. She received a music scholarship during her time at Wakefield Girls School, and the summer holidays were spent at idyllic St Robin’s Bay in Whitby.

Hepworth studiesd sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London and her early twenties were interspersed with trips and stays in Paris and Rome. Her life up to her mid thirties revolved around travel, working with and learning from other artists.

She arrived in Cornwall with her second husband and triplets in August 1939, before the outbreak of war. With little time to work, and living in cramped conditions, Hepworth had no major output until the end of the war, but it was after that when her work flourished and the outpouring of major creative works began.

If you ever visit St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth museum is definitely an attraction not to miss out on. But if you live in St Ives, and are venturing afield, perhaps at some point you might like to visit the Hepworth Wakefield museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where more of the sculptor’s works are exhibited alongside artists who have a link with the region.

The beaches of Cornwall, and some facts

Cornwall is a land defined by its spectacular coastline of more than 300 miles, where an immense, restless sea collides with towering cliffs, sheltered coves and long, sandy beaches. It’s regularly voted the UK’s favourite holiday destination with successive generations of families creating magical memories of sunny summers on the beach, while recent years have seen an increasing number of people visiting in off season, taking advantage of a balmy climate where summer lingers late and spring comes early.

Clinging to the westerly tip of the peninsula is the small, granite land of Penwith which, surrounded on three sides by the sea and almost completely cut off from the east by a river, is virtually an island, a separate country, just as Cornwall itself is almost separate from England. It’s a land where myth, history and landscape frequently blur, a timeless place where an ancient terrain blends harmoniously with the works of man, from the chambered tombs of the Neolithic era, the stone circles and standing stones of the Bronze Age, and the cliff castles of the Iron Age, and on through the centuries to the more recent reminders of those Cornish staples of fishing, mining, and farming. It’s a land of piskies and giants, witches and wizards, and smugglers and wreckers, where even the names have an arcane, enigmatic quality: Bamaluz, Pednavounder and Nanjizal, Porthgwarra, Clodgy, and Progo.

Many fascinating places can be found inland, in the small villages or on the moorland that makes up most of the land mass of Penwith, but it’s the spectacular coastline that attracts most visitors to this south-western tip of Britain, and this book provides a guide to all the accessible beaches of West Cornwall, from Godrevy, at the north-east corner of St. Ives’ Bay, around to Porth Sampson on the south coast, close to the headland of Cudden Point on Mount’s Bay. It includes not only all the well-known holiday hotspots but also the tiny, rugged coves where solitude is almost guaranteed even at the height of summer.

Many of these coves are only accessible by walking along the scenic South West Coast Path, which can make reaching them an adventure in itself, but it’s only by sampling such secret delights that the authentic atmosphere of West Cornwall is revealed, a place where it’s easy to imagine the smugglers of old slipping silently ashore or, on blustery days when the full force of the Atlantic comes pounding in, helpless ships drifting calamitously close to the rocky headlands.

St Ives has many beaches and you will be spoilt for choice. But did you know these facts about beaches to begin with?

A beach is the land along the edge of a body of water that is made up of a number of specific materials including sand, pebbles , stones, rocks and shells. Literally, it is the end of the land, which is appropriate given that this book features the Penwith peninsula, also known as the Land’s End peninsula, which in Cornish translates as ‘Pedn an Wlas ‘: the end of the land. Some beaches are steep, others gently sloping and they can be of any size or shape. On the coast, beaches can form anywhere the ocean meets the shore as, over millennia, waves scour the coastline, creating flat areas which accumulate sediments that wash down from surrounding uplands, as well as those eroded from the ocean floor and tossed up onto the shore by wave action. Coastal winds and storms push sediments up beyond the reach of the waves and a beach is born.

Sand is made of minerals such as quartz and feldspar. Quartz is the most common on the majority of beaches because it’s very hard and durable and so is able to withstand both the effects of constant wave action and being transported by river to the coast. Another common mineral is muscovite, a member of the mica family, which tends to lie flat on the surface of the beach and, despite usually making up less than 1% of the grains, is easily seen as it sparkles in sunshine and immediately after waves recede. All of these minerals are found in the granite that makes up most of the Penwith peninsula. The colour of the sand on any particular beach usually reflects the geology of the surrounding area and the makeup of the adjoining ocean floor.

Most beach materials are the result of weathering and erosion caused by water and wind scouring the land. The continual action of waves beating against a rocky cliff, for example, may cause it to crumble and, given enough time, huge boulders can be worn down to tiny grains of sand. Sea shells are another ingredient found in sand after they are broken up by the waves; a good example of this is Porthcurno beach which consists mainly of crushed white sea shells with little of the granite which can discolour it. Beach materials can travel long distances, carried by wind and waves; as the tide come in, for instance, it deposits ocean sediment which might contain sand, shells or seaweed, and when the tide goes out it takes some of the sediment with it. The amount of sand on a beach can vary greatly; winter storms can remove great swathes of it right down to the underlying rock, while during spring the sand can be deposited again, recreating a sandy beach. This phenomenon occurs to some degree on all beaches and in West Cornwall, Nanjizal and Portheras Cove are examples of where it can most obviously be seen.

The material found on a beach is influenced by many things, notably the geology of the area, the prevailing weather conditions and the shape of the coastline. The size of the particles that make up a beach are often a reflection of the energy of the waves that hit the shore; in low energy environments, such as the shallow bays around Penzance, the result is that very fine particles, such as silt, are deposited, while, in contrast, high energy beaches are usually characterized by larger particles such as pebbles or boulders, as all the smaller particles are washed away. Some beaches are naked bedrock, boulders or pebbles instead of sand because the current has removed smaller, easily dislodged particles. As time passes the rocks or pebbles are smoothed and rounded by the unrelenting action of the waves.

A major feature of the coastline is the effect that tides have, particularly upon a beach. Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun upon the earth. When the moon is directly overhead its gravitational force pulls water towards it, causing a bulge in the ocean that creates a high tide. At the same time it also pulls the earth away from the water on the opposite side of the world, thus creating another high tide there, and these bulges cause the sea to stretch in areas where the moon is not overhead, creating low tides. Combine that with the rotation of the earth and the moon and the result is two tides roughly every 24 hours.

Beaches are best visited at low tide and especially at a low spring tide. This has nothing to do with the season of the year but is the name given to the time when the tidal range – the difference between the high and low water mark – is at its greatest. Spring tides occur during full or new moons when the sun, moon and earth are in alignment, with the result that the sun’s gravitational pull is added to that of the moon, creating a higher than average high tide and a lower than average low tide. Seven days after a spring tide the moon and sun are at right angles to each other and the bulge in the sea caused by the moon is partially cancelled out by the gravitational pull of the sun, creating a neap tide, the period when the difference in the tidal range is at its lowest.

Weather conditions can also affect tides as strong offshore winds move water away from the coastline, thus exaggerating a low tide, while a strong onshore wind can push water onto the shore, causing low tides to be less noticeable and high tides to be higher. High pressure weather systems can also push down sea levels, causing lower tides, whereas low pressure system can cause tides to be higher than predicted.

How the church was built – a brief history of early St Ives

The town of St Ives stands at the north-western extremity of St Ives Bay, on the north coast of Cornwall about twenty miles distant from Land’s End. The Bay, from Gwithian on the north-east around by Hayle, Lelant and Carbis Bay to St Ives itself, has been newly designated one of the world’s most beautiful bays. It is fringed by a series of golden beaches which, with the deep blue of the sea in summer and the soft green of the grass-covered towans behind, makes a truly wonderful setting. Here, in the shallow inshore waters, the seine fishermen used to cast their nets to capture the huge shoals of pilchards which frequented these coasts during the autumn, the fish then being cured in salt and exported by sailing ship to the Mediterranean. The pilchard industry is now dead, and today the beaches are annually thronged with thousands of holidaymakers on whom the town mainly depends for its livelihood.

St Ives takes its name from St Ia, an Irish princess and missionary who sailed over during the fifth century, reputedly on a leaf, and built an oratory on the site of the present parish church. Soon after her martyrdom at the hands of Theodric, King of Cornwall, the small fishing village began to be called after her, the name gradually changing from Sancte Ye, Seynt Ya, Seynt Iysse, Seynt Iees, and other variants, into the modern form of St Ives. The name has no connection with St Ive in east Cornwall, or St Ives near Cambridge, which were both named after St Ivo, a quite different saint.

Until the fourteenth century the village remained an obscure place, overshadowed by its far more prosperous neighbour, the seaport of Lelant at the head of the Bay. About that time, Lelant began to decline owing to encroachment by the sands; the trade it lost was transferred to St Ives, which then began to grow in importance. However, the inhabitants, having no building in the town where divine service could be read, were obliged every Sunday and holy day to go to Lelant church three miles distant, where their children had also to be taken to be baptised and their dead to be buried. Considering this a great hardship, in about 1408 they petitioned Lord Champernon, lord of St Ives, to intercede with the Pope to license a chapel to be built in the town. In 1410 Pope Alexander V issued his bull for this purpose. This resulted in the present parish church being begun in the reign of King Henry V and finished in the reign of King Henry VI – it took sixteen and a half years to build.

The splendid church therefore symbolises St Ives’ emergence as a township with a strongly marked community spirit, but it is worth remembering that the population at that time still numbered only about 500; so that the amount of labour and money involved in erecting the church must have made considerable demands on the community. A further important advance took place in 1488, when Lord Broke, who had acquired the manor of St Ives through marriage with the heiress of Lord Champernon, obtained a charter for a weekly Saturday market, with two annual fairs. A market house was erected in 1490, this being replaced by the present structure in 1832. Lord Broke is also credited with building the castle for defending the town from seaward attack – a very necessary precaution in those troublesome times; some remains of the castle may still be seen at the landward end of Smeaton’s Pier.