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.

St Ives and the history of Cornish smugglers

Despite the inroads of commercialisation, there lingers in many Cornish fishing villages and coves something of the romantic atmosphere of the old smuggling days, when sea-booted figures shouldered heavy tubs of spirits up steep cliffside tracks on moonless nights to the waiting horses above, running the gauntlet of Revenue cruisers, Preventive boats and the coastguard to get the precious ‘goods’ safely landed and away. Inevitably, much nonsense has been written about the smuggler; and the truth, as is so often the case, proves to be far more interesting than far-fetched fantasy.

The smuggler emerges from many tales neither as a criminal nor a hero, but as a courageous, resourceful and enterprising character, who did no one – except the Chancellor of the Exchequer – any particular harm, and benefited his fellows not a little in providing them with cut-price luxuries. Left to his own devices, he was the most harmless of men; it was only when Authorities sought to curb his activities that he showed how ready he was to defend what he regarded as his legitimate interests.

Most of these stories belong to the early nineteenth century – that period when smuggling was in slow but steady decline, and when the violence and bloodshed of earlier times had been somewhat moderated. Traditions of such incidents are still handed down in a few local families – though they are not always for the ear of the inquisitive stranger.

Every smuggling operation was carried out by two teams of men, who had to work in the closest concert with each other to achieve success – those on the ship which brought the contraband goods from France, and the shore party who helped to land and convey them safely away to their destination. The latter task was often the more dangerous, and required much physical effort, particularly when heavy casks had to be carried up high and steep cliffs. This explains why it was sometimes necessary to employ large numbers of men in the landing party – as many as a hundred or more – to get the goods removed expeditiously from the coast before the onset of daylight.

The greatest danger which the ships had to face came from the Revenue cutters which constantly patrolled the coasts of Cornwall and also from the Preventive boats, which usually operated closer to the shore. But even if they eluded these hazards, there still remained the possibility that their boats, on landing, might run into an ambush should the Preventive men have discovered that a ‘run’ was to be made at that particular place.

The existence of such an ambush would usually be known by the shore party, who might quite well have been disturbed by it themselves. The recognised manner of warning the boats approaching the trap with their precious cargo was by lighting a fire on shore. For this purpose, a beacon of furze or other suitable materials was prepared in advance, and some of the party were detailed to kindle this should the need arise. So common was this practice that it was made a punishable offence to light a fire upon the coast as a signal, and several instances are recorded where men were brought to trial for this offence.

At Cornwall Lent Assize in 1828, John Brown, John Dunstan and William Borlase were indicted for making a light to give notice to their associates at sea, in order to prevent the landing of a smuggled cargo. It appears that on the 9th of March Samuel Gammon, boatman of the Cawsand Coastguard station, was on duty on Rame Hills, near Porlorn [Polhawn] Cove, about a mile and a half from Cawsand. At three in the morning, Gammon and another boatman called James Dyer hid themselves in a furze brake near Rame church. They saw a fire in the gateway, and three men came into the field with lighted straw in their hands, and made lights in three different directions.

Gammon ran across and caught Dunstan, who was coming from the gateway where the fire had first been seen. On seeing three smugglers running across the field pursued by Preventive men, Gammon let Dunstan go and joined in the chase. Eventually three prisoners were secured. Before the fires were lighted, a vessel had been seen standing in for the land.

To take another example: at Cornwall Lent Assize in 1825 a smuggler named Spry was indicted for lighting a fire on the banks of the Helford river for the purpose of warning smugglers of the approach of Customs officers. It was proved that on the arrival of Preventive men at the spot where the defendant was found, some straw was ignited, and the defendant cried ‘Run! Run! They are coming!’ The officers then rushed forward and secured him. Spry admitted the truth of this evidence, but declared he had no hand in lighting the fire; he was merely on his way home, and on seeing the officers approach cried out to the smugglers to run. He handed to the court a testimonial to his good character signed by several respectable persons, but this did not prevent him being found guilty.

During the early morning of December 4th 1831, the French smuggler Elizabeth, having on board 338 kegs of brandy and gin and some packages of highly dutiable manufactured glass, appeared in the vicinity of St Ives. Her master was a certain Jean-Marie Yves Creach, and she carried a crew of six French and two British. When first observed from the shore, she was standing into the bay under full sail, it being their intention to land the goods either at Gwithian or Hayle.

The Coastguard at all times maintained an all-night watch from several vantage points in and around St Ives and as soon as Moses Martin, Chief officer of the local station, was told of the craft’s suspicious behaviour, he and his assitants immediately went out after her in the Coastguard cutter, together with the St Ives customs boat. However, the smugglers had confederates waiting ashore; and as soon as they realised that the Elizabeth had been detected, they lit fires to warn her of danger.

The French vessel promptly turned about and put off again. A stern chase then developed between her and the pursuing coastguards. Martin was a sworn and inveterate enemy of local smugglers; and he kept determinedly on the vessel’s tail until eventually she was overhauled and captured about six miles from the coast. She was then brought in triumph into St Ives harbour.

Her crew were subsequently brought before the St Ives magistrates on December 13th and fined £100 each, but being unable to pay, they were committed to Bodmin Gaol. Two of them were Cornish: one, called Yellam, from Probus, and the other named Bawden, from Mevagissey.

As for the poor little Elizabeth, she suffered an even sadder fate. At that time, to prevent seized smuggling craft from being ‘bought back’ by their former owners at the subsequent auction and once more used for contraband running, the authorities had the hulls of such vessels sawn into three parts, and their ropes destroyed prior to the sale. And this is what happened to the Elizabeth.

A copy of the advertisement was put out by the St Ives’ Custom house. It will be seen from this last case that warning beacons were not always effective in enabling a smuggling vessel to make her getaway; but that many were saved by this means is an undoubted fact, and explains why those who lit these beacons were hunted down so vigilantly by the Preventive men.

From pollen to candle

St Ives is a seaside town full of crafts – one of the many things you can do is sign up for candle making courses, or wander around the various craft shops looking at candles and other products from beeswax, such as soaps. But do you know how candles and soaps originate, and the process from which the beeswax is produced?

Beeswax is the miracle of the beehive. The comb is built up from nothing and serves as a house, a nursery, and a food pantry. Over the millennia, bees have figured out that by building their combs into hexagons, the combs hold the most amount of honey and require the least amount of wax. The combs also serve as the perfect area for a bee to undergo its metamorphosis from egg to bee.

So what is beeswax? In the simplest terms, it is a wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis. Beeswax consists of at least 284 different compounds, mainly a variety of long-chain alkanes, acids, esters, polyesters, and hydroxy esters, but the exact composition of beeswax varies with location. It has a specific gravity of about 0.95 and a melting point of over 140°F (60°C). More specifically, it is a wax that is secreted from eight wax-producing glands on the worker bee’s abdomen.

The wax is secreted in thin sheets called scales. The scales, when first secreted, looks a bit like mica flakes. They are clear, colorless, tasteless, and very brittle. Beeswax is typically produced by the younger house bees when they are between twelve and twenty days old. As the bee grows older and begins to collect pollen and nectar, these glands start to atrophy, but their ability to produce beeswax doesn’t disappear completely.

When bees swarm they will rapidly produce wax comb, since they need to quickly create a place for the queen to lay eggs and somewhere to store food. To form the beeswax into honeycomb, the bees will hang in strings and as wax is extruded from the glands of the wax-producing bees it is passed between the legs and mouths of the bees that form the chain, being chewed and molded into shape along the way. The bees will then use this wax to build the familiar hexagon-shaped honey cells.

It is during this process that the wax starts to develop its color and opacity. Depending on what kind of nectar and pollen come into the hive and is consumed by the bees, microscopic bits of the pollen and nectar remain and get added to the wax.

It takes about 1,100 scales to make one gram of wax. Under the right conditions—meaning there is an adequate supply of food and the ambient temperature within the hive is between 91°F and 97°F (33°C and 36°C)—worker bees can produce beeswax on demand. They achieve the right temperature on cooler spring days by clustering around the wax-producing bees when they are building comb.

The production of beeswax in the hive is very costly, however. It takes about 8.4 pounds (3.8 kg) of honey to create 1 pound (425 g) of beeswax. This honey could be used to feed the nonforaging bees or it could be saved for times when nectar is in short supply. For this reason, beeswax is often chewed off in one spot and placed where it is needed. The reusing of old comb also contributes to the color, since it may have been used for brood rearing or honey storage and may contain cocoon remains, propolis, or pollen.

Most of the wax that is commercially available is made from what beekeepers call “cappings.” When bees produce honey, the foraging bee collects the nectar and stores it in one of her two stomachs (one stomach is reserved for honey collection and the other for personal digestion). The nectar in the honey stomach mixes with enzymes and when the bee returns to the hive she places it into a waiting cell. As more cells are filled with nectar, bees fan their wings to create airflow through the hive, which helps dry out the nectar.

By lowering the moisture content of the nectar to less than 19 percent, the bees are ensuring that the honey will not spoil. Then the bees systematically work their way across frames and across honey boxes, capping off each cell to prevent additional moisture loss.

When beekeepers harvest the honey, they remove the frames with honey from the hive and bring them to the honey house for processing. Since all the honey cells have wax caps on them, just adding the frames to a honey extractor would yield no honey. So beekeepers first remove the wax cap using either a hot knife or some sort of flail.

The wax cappings are added to a capping tank and the frames are placed into the extractor to spin out the honey. What a beekeeper does with the wax cappings depends to a certain degree on how many hives he has.

In most cases, heat is applied to the cappings, allowing the honey and wax to liquefy and separate into two layers—honey on the bottom and wax on the top. After several more filterings to remove residual honey and miscellaneous bee parts, the wax looks pretty clean and is generally ready to go.

Beekeepers also melt down old honey and brood comb in order to install clean wax and do general maintenance on the frames. Over the years, brood comb will have raised multiple cycles of bees and the cocoon from the larvae stage will have turned the comb a dark brown. Also, potential pathogens may have been introduced either from the environment or from bees carrying the pathogen with them. These pathogens can decimate a hive rather quickly, which is why beekeepers often replace the old brood comb with clean wax.

While wax from cappings and honey combs is fairly pure, the wax from brood combs contains a wide assortment of “stuff” which may include cocoons from both bees and wax moths, excrement from bee larvae, mites, pollen, propolis, and bee parts. All this extra stuff is called “slum gum,” and removing the slum gum from the wax is a more involved process.

One method is to put the brood combs into burlap sacks and then add the bag to a hot water bath. The melted wax will flow through the burlap and the slum gum will stay in the bag. Beekeepers then press the burlap sacks to release the rest of the trapped wax from the slum gum. Once most of the wax is pressed out, the slum gum is discarded and the wax is molded into 30–50 lb (14–23 kg) blocks. The resulting wax is usually significantly darker than the cappings wax, ranging from light brown to almost black. If this wax were to be used for something such as candles, it would give off an unpleasant smell.

A lot of beekeepers turn this wax in to bee supply stores for credit toward “clean” wax or wax that has already been turned into foundation for inclusion into new frames. The bee supply stores ship this dark wax to commercial wax processing operations that have specialized equipment with carbon filters that remove the color from the wax. This process is far better than how wax was filtered in the past, when it was bleached using noxious chemicals to remove the color.

Most of the white wax available today is achieved naturally using carbon filters instead of chemicals. One drawback to the heavily refined, highly filtered wax is that the aroma and charm of beeswax (as well as many of its unique health advantages) actually come from the natural “contaminants,” including honey, propolis, and pollen. Bleaching or advanced refining of beeswax to remove its color and fragrance, yields a product that is a bit bland.

The relationship between bees and humans dates to the hunter–gatherer days when, armed with nothing but a long stick and a lot of resolve, men would knock down hives from trees and run, returning to the scene to harvest the honey when it was deemed safe. Later, humans discovered that using smoke from a burning stick helped to subdue the bees, making the job a bit easier. The usefulness of wax could very well have been discovered then.

Although some of this is conjecture on my part, there are cave paintings in Valencia Spain dating back about 8,000 years, that show two people collecting honey and honeycomb from a wild bee hive. They used baskets and gourds to transport the honeycomb, and a series of ropes to reach the hive.

We know more about the ancient Egyptians and their relationship with beeswax. They recognized the value of beeswax in mummification and used it for the embalming process. They also used the wax to seal the coffin and make it air tight, further preserving the body. The Egyptians preserved their writings on papyrus and on cave walls using beeswax, and these writings have remained unchanged for more than 2,000 years.

They even recognized the importance of beeswax in health, as prescriptions dating back to 1550 BC called for beeswax in various formulations. Ancient jewelers and artisans utilized the lost wax casting technique, which involves sculpting an object in beeswax, coating the object with clay, and then hardening the clay with heat. The heat melted the wax, leaving a clay shell that was a perfect replica of the beeswax sculpture. Molten metal was then poured into the clay shell and allowed to harden before the clay was removed. Egyptian priests also created the first voodoo dolls, using beeswax to create figures resembling their enemies before ritually destroying them.

Egyptians also loved perfumes and were reputed to have made perfumed unguents, the precursors to today’s solid perfumes. They incorporated beeswax, tallow, and various aromatic substances infused in oil, such as myrrh, henna, cinnamon, thyme, sage, anise, rose, and iris. The unguents weren’t sold as perfumes, but rather for a multitude of medical uses.

The Chinese also recognized the importance of beeswax. About 2,000 years ago, one of China’s most famous books on medicine, The Shennong Book of Herbs, praised beeswax for its beneficial influence on blood and energy systems and attributed beeswax with beauty enhancement and anti aging properties.

Beeswax was also recognized as an important ingredient in wound treatment and dietary supplement. Beeswax candles were already used by the ancient Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and in Rome and China.

Beeswax candles have been used in European churches since the beginning of Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church only allowed beeswax candles to be used in the church. Although this law is still valid today, candles are no longer required to be 100 percent beeswax.

By the eleventh century, however, churches were using huge amounts of candles. They were able to maintain the necessary amount of beeswax in part by having apiaries in every monastery and abbey. In the days of Marco Polo, beeswax was abundant and was often used to pay tribute to kings. But despite its abundance, beeswax candles were only in the hands of the rich; the poor had to suffer with tallow candles. Today, when technology seems to trump all else, it is encouraging to see that a product with such a rich history is just as vital in the twenty-first century as it was long ago.

St Ives and Cornish political links

Sir John Eliot (1592–1632), MP for his birthplace of St Germans from 1614, was an outspoken critic of King Charles I and his policies. He often spoke in the House of Commons against what he regarded as illegal taxation and insufficient enforcement of laws against Roman Catholics, was imprisoned on three separate occasions and died of consumption while in captivity in the Tower of London.

Leonard Courtney, later Baron Courtney of Penwith (1832–1918), Liberal MP for Liskeard from 1876, was for a time a member of Gladstone’s administration, but helped to defeat the Home Rule for Ireland Bill in 1885. He later became a Liberal Unionist, but distanced himself from his colleagues after regular disagreements with other members and the leadership on policies which led to the Boer War, and left parliament in 1900.

Tom Horabin (1896–1956), Liberal and then Labour MP for North Cornwall from 1939 to 1950, became Liberal Chief Whip in 1945. He resigned from the party a year later as he believed they were becoming almost indistinguishable in their policies from the Conservatives, and took the Labour whip, but stood down from parliament three years later before a General Election in which he would almost certainly have been heavily defeated.

David Mudd (1933–), Conservative MP for Falmouth and Camborne from 1970 to 1992, was a well-known newspaper and local TV journalist before being elected to parliament, and the author of several titles on the county’s history. A frequent rebel against party policies where he considered they did not benefit Cornish people or industry, he ended his career as an Independent Conservative about a year before standing down.

David Penhaligon (1944–86), Liberal MP for Truro from 1974 to 1986, served a term as Liberal Party President. Much-respected and admired by members and voters from all parties, he was regarded as a potential party leader and would probably have been chosen thus had it not been for his untimely death in a road accident.

Sebastian Coe (1956–), Conservative MP for Falmouth and Camborne from 1992 to 1997, had already enjoyed a successful career as an athlete before entering politics (see here).

PRIME MINISTERS AND CORNWALL
At least five prime ministers have had some association with the county. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769–1852), remembered as the victorious commander at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and who subsequently became Tory prime minister from 1828 to 1830 and again briefly in 1834, is buried in a tomb at St Paul’s Cathedral made from pink granite taken from the quarry at Luxulyan.

Sir Anthony Eden, later Lord Avon (1897–1977), Conservative prime minister from 1955 to 1957, spent some time convalescing in the county in December 1957 after a period of ill health which had led to his resignation from office. He and his wife rented Morval House near Looe for a short period, spending Christmas there prior to returning to London.

Harold Wilson, later Baron Wilson of Rievaulx (1916–95), Labour Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976, was Yorkshire born and bred, and sat for constituencies in Lancashire, but evidently had a soft spot for Cornwall. He joined the Labour Party at Liskeard during the Second World War, and his father Herbert lived for some time in his latter years at Biscovey. During his time in parliament Harold had holiday homes successively at Perranporth and the Isles of Scilly. Although he died in London, he was laid to rest in the grounds of St Mary’s Church, Isles of Scilly.

Margaret Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher (1925–), Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, also spent regular holidays in Cornwall, particularly in the Constantine Bay area, during her years of office. In May 1983 she made the first public appearance of her second General Election campaign as party leader, according to a correspondent from The Times, by ‘fondling a newly dead lobster in Cornwall’ on the north coast.

David Cameron (1966–), Conservative prime minister in 2010, was on holiday with his wife Samantha and their family in Cornwall during August 2010 while she was expecting their fourth child. The baby, a daughter, was born at Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, and named Florence Rose Endellion, the last after the village of St Endellion.

St Ives and past Cornish nobility

The Duchy of Cornwall is an aggregation of estates vested in the eldest son of the sovereign or, in the absence of a son, lying dormant in the crown. Apart from the interregnum during the commonwealth after the execution of Charles I, the Duchy has existed since 1337 when it was created by Edward III for his eldest son Edward, ‘the Black Prince’. According to a translation of the Great Charter of that year, the king’s son was ‘Duke of Cornwall and heir to the Kingdom of England’.

Before this date there were Earls of Cornwall, the first being Robert of Mortain, the half-brother of William the Conqueror, and after the king, at that time the largest landowner in England. Early in the twelfth century Reginald, one of the illegitimate sons of Henry I, assumed the title of earl, but after Stephen ascended the throne in 1135 he brought an army into Cornwall and awarded the title to Count Alan of Brittany. When Henry II came to the throne in 1154 he confirmed Reginald as earl. Others who were made earl in subsequent years included Richard of Cornwall, also called King of the Romans, brother of Henry III; Henry’s son Edmund; Edward II’s notorious ‘favourite’, Piers Gaveston; and after his murder, Edward’s second son, John of Eltham. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made two cruises around the coast of the West Country and visited Mount Edgcumbe together in the 1840s. Tremayne Quay near Helford was built for a visit by the queen, but unfortunately she did not come because it was raining.

Queen Victoria’s eldest son the Prince of Wales (and of course Duke of Cornwall), later King Edward VII, was present at the consecration ceremony for Truro Cathedral (see here) in November 1887.

According to the twelfth-century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing in Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) in about 1135–8, King Arthur, a hero of the late fifth and early sixth century, was said to have been conceived at Tintagel. Uther Pendragon, a fifth-century King of Britain, went to war against Gorlois, King of Cornwall, to capture his wife Igraine with whom he had fallen in love. Merlin the wizard changed Uther’s appearance so that he resembled Gorlois and enabled him to enter Tintagel, where he slept with Igraine – and Arthur was born as a result.

However, despite claims made elsewhere to the contrary, Monmouth does not suggest that Arthur was born in the town or had any further connection with the area. Mark of Cornwall, also early sixth century, was mentioned in Arthurian legend as the uncle of Tristan and husband of Iseult, who had an adulterous affair with Tristan. He was a contemporary of Salomon, another Cornish warrior prince. Salomon of Cornwall was a contemporary figure of whom nothing else appears to be known.

Some of these figures, who may or may not be purely legendary, were probably only rulers over very small localised areas of the county. Ricatus, who ruled in the tenth century, is one whose name is known only from inscriptions on surviving carved stone memorial crosses. Dungarth, also known variously as Donyarth, Dumnorth, Dumgarth, or Doniert, was said to have been drowned in 875 in the River Fowey, and is commemorated on an inscription on King Doniert’s Stone, a ninth-century cross shaft which stands in St Cleer parish. Cadoc, or Condor, was said by the fifteenth-century historian William of Worcester to be a survivor of the Cornish royal line and descendant of Dungarth at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, and appointed 1st Earl of Cornwall by William the Conqueror. In turn he was believed to have been an ancestor of Thomas Flamank, the Bodmin lawyer executed in 1497 (see here). Teudar, who may have been a contemporary of King Arthur, was a notorious heathen said to be responsible for the martyrdom of St Gwinear and possibly other Christians who were later sanctified.

Sir Piers Edgcumbe of Cotehele (1477–1539) acquired the Mount Edgcumbe estate through marriage in the early sixteenth century. One of his descendants, Richard Edgcumbe (1680–1758), Paymaster-General of Ireland and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was created Baron Edgcumbe in 1742. On his death the title passed to his eldest son, another Richard (1716–61), Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, and in turn to his younger brother George (1720–95), an Admiral and former Treasurer of the Household. In 1781 George was created Viscount Mount Edgcumbe and Valletort, and in 1789 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. The 8th Earl, Robert Charles Edgcumbe (1939–), succeeded in 1982, and the heir apparent to the earldom uses the courtesy title of Viscount Valletort.

There have been two baronetcies created for members of the St Aubyn family. The St Aubyn Baronetcy, of Clowance, was created in 1671 for John St Aubyn (1645–87). All five baronets were named John, all became members of parliament, and the title became extinct on the death of the 5th Baronet in 1839. The St Aubyn Baronetcy, of St Michael’s Mount, was created in 1866 for Edward St Aubyn (1799–1872), the illegitimate son of Sir John St Aubyn, 5th Baronet of Clowance (1758–1839), on whose death the baronetcy of Clowance had become extinct. Sir Edward’s son John, who succeeded him on his death, was created 1st Baron St Levan in 1887. The 4th Baron, John Francis Arthur St Aubyn (1919–), succeeded in 1978.

Earl of Godolphin was a title created in 1706 for Sidney Godolphin, 1st Baron Godolphin (1645–1712), Lord High Treasurer who was also created Viscount Rialton. He had been created baron in 1684. On his death the titles passed to his only child Francis (1688–1766). Francis married Henrietta, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough, but their only son, William Godolphin, predeceased his parents and died without issue in 1731.

The 2nd Earl was created Baron Godolphin of Helston in 1735, with remainder, in default of male issue of his own, to the male issue of his deceased uncle Henry Godolphin, Dean of St Paul’s. On his death the Godolphin earldom, the Rialton viscounty, and the Godolphin barony of 1684 became extinct; but the Godolphin barony of 1735 passed to his cousin Francis (1707–85), becoming extinct on his death. There was a third creation, as Baron Godolphin, of Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire in 1832, which became extinct in 1964. The ancestral seat of the family in Cornwall was Godolphin House, near Helston.

The days of ore

St Ives may have the most beautiful beaches in bygone days but it was hardly the coastal view that attracted visitors.

Although Cornwall is one of the most geographically isolated parts of Britain, paradoxically it appears to have enjoyed its fair share of visitors from across various parts of the ancient world. Visitors from Ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece and Rome have at various times trodden Cornish soil and interacted with the natives.

Cornwall’s popularity in those far-off days was hardly attributable to its spectacular scenery, stretches of golden sands or board-rideable surfs. Cornwall had something far more precious – tin and copper (in addition to other valuable ores) found near the Earth’s surface and running through its very bedrock. Such easily mined resources were pretty scarce in other parts of Europe.

What made these metals so special? Around 5,000 years ago the Sumerians discovered that a small amount of tin ore added to molten copper produced an incredible new alloy – bronze. Bronze was harder than tin or copper but was far easier to fashion (by means of casting) into useful things like weapons, armour, agricultural implements, household objects and jewellery. So ended the Stone Age, and with the Bronze Age came a growing international interest in Cornwall. The county’s metal resources began to be exploited around 4,000 years ago with the burgeoning demands of the civilisations of the Near East and Europe. Prosperity increased and early Bronze Age settlements sprang up around the county, some of whose remains still exist in places.

Two particularly beautiful archaeological artefacts – a fine gold cup and a bronze sword hilt – illustrate the connection between ancient Mediterranean cultures and Cornwall. A sensation was caused in 1837 when archaeologists excavating Rillaton Barrow (on eastern Bodmin Moor near Liskeard) unearthed a fabulous gold cup. The ancient burial with which it is associated, along with other grave goods, indicates that the object was owned by a person of very high ranking, probably a chieftain or royal family member. Having been cleaned and restored it served for a while in the ignominious role as a holder for King George V’s collar studs; thankfully the Rillaton Gold Cup can now be seen in the British Museum. It displays remarkably adept Aegean-style metalwork and is thought to have been made around 2,300 BC. Strangely enough, a local legend claimed that a mysterious gold cup lay deep within the barrow – could this possibly have been a memory passed down through a couple of hundred local generations? Another example of an Aegean import, probably Mycenaean, is the so-called Pelynt Dagger – actually an ornate bronze sword hilt – found in 1845 in Pelynt Barrow near Looe and now on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.

Bronze Age Cornish prosperity peaked at around 1,500 BC, followed by a social decline. The Celts had begun to populate parts of Europe and the British Isles, introducing new farming practices and communities that were more geared to martial matters. While it’s not known whether there was a violent clash of cultures between the ancient inhabitants of Cornwall and the Celts, it is certain that the seafaring Veneti, Celts of the Brittany peninsula, managed to seize control of the metal trade between Cornwall and the rest of Europe. Around 1,000 BC there was a sudden resurgence in metalcraft and more technologically sophisticated design.

But the magic and usefulness of bronze began to evaporate in the 8th century BC when the Iron Age arrived in Britain. Iron ore is smelted, cast into ingots and hammer-fashioned into implements by blacksmiths; with the addition of carbon it becomes steel, a material weighing about the same as bronze but far harder and more suited to weaponry and agriculture. With its acidic soil, Cornwall has few surviving iron implements from this era, and the patchy nature of human settlement in the county has made it difficult to identify sites linked with iron working. One of the few examples lies at Trevelgue Head Iron Age settlement on the cliffs above Newquay, where the remnants of an ancient foundry have been unearthed.

Cornwall continued to mine and export its metals, whose uses changed with technological advances, right up to modern times. With the closure of South Crofty near the village of Pool in 1998 came an end to four thousand years of Cornish metal mining – for the time being, at least, for the story of Cornwall’s metal wealth may not yet be finished.

A brief history of Cornwall

Cornwall emerges from the murk of prehistory courtesy of Classical writers such Strabo, who mentions a visit by the Roman official Publius Crassus who in the first century BC visited the Cassiterides (the Tin Isles), modern day Cornwall and Scilly, to organise tin trading with the Mediterranean. Diodorus, another such writer, thought the inhabitants of the peninsula of Belerion (Cornwall) remarkably sophisticated and civilised, the result of their extensive trading contacts with peoples from other lands.

Diodorus explained how the natives of Belerion extracted tin from the ground and then broke it up and smelted it, producing ingots which were taken to the off-shore island of Ictis. Ictis served as a trading post, the place where merchants from the Mediterranean and perhaps elsewhere would come to buy the tin they needed for their domestic markets. Many people think that Ictis is present-day St Michael’s Mount but others have suggested St George’s (or Looe) Island, further east along the south Cornish coast.

By this time Cornwall was Celtic-speaking, using a variant of a tongue which had emerged in continental Europe during the first millennium BC or thereabouts. Known to scholars as Brythonic or ‘British’, this variant was the forunner of modern Cornish as well as Welsh and Breton.

How, why and when Celtic became the language of Cornwall is a matter of some conjecture. The old idea that ancient times consisted of a series of mass invasions, with waves of newcomers arriving suddenly to expel or exterminate the existing populations is now open to doubt. Instead, historians now argue that these ‘invasions’ involved relatively few people who, because of their superior technologies or military prowess, were able to impose their ways (including language) upon the indigenous natives. The Celtic settlement of Britain as a whole is now thought to have been a long, drawn-out affair, perhaps starting early in the first millennium BC and ending with the arrival of the Belgic people not long before the coming of the Romans.

Certainly, the evidence of Iron Age Cornwall is of continuity rather than upheaval, the arrival of Celtic speech coinciding with the first use of iron for weapons and other artifacts. By the time the Romans came to Britain in AD43, the famous promontory and hill forts of Cornwall – Chun Castle, Warbstow Bury, the Rumps, the Dodman, and so on – had already existed for centuries, and some remained occupied (though not continuously) until as late as the sixth century AD. In the west of Cornwall, people were already living in so-called courtyard houses, of which several well known examples survive today. Chysauster, near Gulval, dates from the Roman era but Carn Euny (in the parish of Sancreed) is older, consisting of three interlocking courtyard houses and a remarkable underground chamber or fogou – from the Cornish-language word for ‘cave’. These fogous are now thought to have been underground storage larders, although other theories suggest they may have had religious significance or were perhaps hiding-places in case of attack.

The Romans built a fort at Isca Dumnoniorum (modern Exeter) in about AD55, and it was from there that they exercised their rule in the far west. In fact, there is very little evidence of Roman intrusion or activity in Cornwall. A small fort, probably used as a forward operating base rather than a garrison, was constructed around AD55-60 at Nanstallon, near Bodmin, and five Roman milestones have been found in different parts of Cornwall. At Carvossa, a large enclosed site near Probus, imported Roman pottery has been found, and the remains of a Romano-British villa have been uncovered at Magor, Illogan. Politically, it seems that Cornwall formed a pagus or subdivision of the Roman canton of Dumnonia (present-day Cornwall, Devon and western Somerset) but was very much left to its own devices.

When the last of the legions left Britain in about AD410, Dumnonia survived in name as a post-Roman Celtic kingdom but the reality (or so it seems) was increasing political and territorial fragmentation in the South West peninsula. Certainly, by the ninth century Anglo-Saxon sources were referring to Cornwalas or Westwalas, while texts in Latin spoke of Cornubia and Old Welsh had coined the word Cerniu – each of these referring to the kingdom of Kernow or Cornwall, the land of the ‘West Welsh’, as it had by then become.

It is no longer fashionable to describe the post-Roman era in Britain as ‘the Dark Ages’ but it is nonetheless a murky period in Cornish history. Half-legendary figures such as Cynan (or Conan) Meriadoc and King Mark appear tantalisingly from the mists, the latter entwined intimately in the tragic tale of Tristan and Iseult. Ultimately a European medieval high romance, taken to France and beyond by way of Brittany, the story of the ill-fated lovers, Tristan and Iseult, has its roots in Dark Age Cornwall.

Near Fowey stands the so-called Tristan Stone, carved with the inscription DRUSTANVS HIC IACIT/CVNOMORI FILIVS – ‘Drustanus lies here, son of Cunomorus’. Drustanus has been indentified with the legendary Tristan, and Cunomorus has been equated with the sixth-century Marcus Cunomorus (‘King Mark’) whose fortress is said to be neighbouring Castle Dore.

In the several versions of the story that have come down to us, Tristan is the nephew (not son) of King Mark and is sent to Ireland to seek the hand of Iseult, the Queen’s daughter, for Mark. The Queen accepts, and the princess and her maiden Brangwayn set out on their journey to Cornwall. The Queen has given Brangwayn a special love-potion which Iseult and Mark are to drink on their wedding night but by mistake (or design) it is Tristan who sups the magic liquid. Inevitably, Tristan and Iseult fall hopelessly in love, and in the court of King Mark resort to a variety of deceptions to be together. Eventually, Tristan leaves Cornwall to fight for King Hywel of Brittany, where he meets and marries a second Iseult (Iseult of the White Hands). However, the first Iseult begs Tristan to return, and he does so, only to be slain by the angry and jealous King Mark who has uncovered the truth of the liaison.

Mark’s son Constantine is described by Gildas about AD560 in his De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae as the ‘tyrant whelp of the filthy lioness of Dumnonia’. Even when he gives up his throne to retire to a monastery, Constantine continues his regime of corruption and murder, coldly disposing of rivals and opponents. Several generations later we find Geraint, altogether a more sympathetic figure, referred to in AD705 by Adhelm, the first West Saxon bishop of Sherborne, as ‘Geruntius, King of Dumnonia’. In fact, Geraint died heroically trying to protect his territory from the encroaching English kingdom of Wessex, struck down at the battle of Llongborth (perhaps present-day Langport in Somerset). Later, in the Annales Cambriae (Welsh Annals) for the year AD875, we learn of the death by drowning of ‘Dumnarth rex Cerniu’ (Dumgarth, king of Cornwall), thought to be the ninth-century Doniert whose memorial stone can to this day be found near St Cleer. Its Latin inscription reads DONIERT ROG-AVIT PRO ANIMA – ‘Doniert has asked [prayers?] for [his] soul.’

The last king of Cornwall, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, was ‘Huwal [Hywel], king of the West Welsh’ who was persuaded to recognise the overlordship of Athelstan, the ruthless and ambitious king of Wessex. Athelstan suceeded in welding the several Anglo-Saxon kingdoms together (to form the England we recognise today) as well as becoming the overlord of his Celtic neighbours. It was Athelstan who in AD936 fixed the River Tamar as the border between Cornwall and England, evicting the remaining Cornish from Exeter (and perhaps the rest of Devon) in an act in which, according to the later writer William of Malmesbury, that city was ‘cleansed of its defilement by wiping out that filthy race’.

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.