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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Cornwall Part 4

Originally published on Blogspot by Gethin Thomas November 6th 2021


Mousehole and Truro.


Actually it's nearly all Mousehole because the main aim of stopping in Truro was to see the cathedral, and while the multi storey car park there was interesting, it turned out that the cathedral was shut for a conference, which I thought was hugely thoughtless as I had waited nearly sixty years to see it. They even had bouncers on the door, presumably realising how violent irritated tourists can become when they have had their fill of the multi storey car park and look for the next most famous building in the city only to find it selfishly closed for a conference. I expect they had lines of cable tied tourist protesters just inside the door out of sight, gagged and struggling.


So there are three shots of the cathedral. I had more but why should I give them more free publicity than I need to, having suffered such disappointment already.


Mousehole is a fishing village by the way, not a gap in the skirting board. Being Cornwall, don't expect it to be pronounced Mousehole, as spelling in Cornwall is part of a large comedy scene whereby county officials think up ridiculous spellings for otherwise unpronounceable names. They then make official looking signs with these misspelled names on to humiliate tourists when they go around referring to said places. I say official looking signs, I suppose as they are Cornwall County Council, the signs are officially official, which is probably why they are official looking.


Keep your eyes peeled when driving around as there are wordy treats around every corner.


When you have a spare moment if you want to find some of the strangest place names you have ever seen, have a gander at Hayle and the surrounding area. The majority of places start with the prefix Tre which you also see in Wales and I think in Brittany in France too. It basically means village or town. Now personally I think when you are looking for a village or town you don't need the word village attached every time, it's a sort of given, it would be like adding the prefix City to every city. So maps would be covered with places like Citylondon and Cityspringfield and Citysaltlakecity and Cityrome. You see what I mean, it gets irritating already, not to mention the fact that in an index they would all be on one very large page under C.


Have a gander- or take a gander- It first popped up around the late 19th / early 20th century. It is based on the “male goose” definition of “gander”. “Gander”, meaning “male goose”, derives from the Old English “gandra”, which ultimately comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *ghans-, meaning “goose”. So, basically, geese appear to be a bunch of rubberneckers. Thus, to “take a gander” meant to “stretch your neck and see”, as a long-necked goose would.


Here are some of the stranger place names you can find, like Trethingy, it's original name obviously long forgotten, like the port next door Portthingy. Or Trencrom, Reawla or three in a quarter mile line Trendrine, Trevega and Trevalgan. There is Poniou, Truthwall, and the simply weird Labour-in-Vain where there luckily is no maternity hospital.


I can't leave out Zawn Pyg, Pedn Vounder, Tater Du, Chywoone, or Tregender not to be confused with Transgender because there is a small hamlet still called Cocks, and I will leave you with Trink which is next to Cripplesease, soon to be renamed Differentlyabledsease.


Most of these are real, even though I do have a good imagination, in Cornwall I don't need it. In fact I only made up the last one. I know, you are shocked.


My favourite road sign was a right turn to Trencrom and Trink, try saying that three times after two ciders.


I almost forgot to tell you after all that, Mousehole is pronounced Mowsle like cows and the end syllable of tussle.


Mousehole is one of my favourite places in England on a par with Penberth Cove which is a mile or two further along the coast. It is picture postcard stunning and remarkably unspoilt.


I mentioned in previous posts that Cornwall has a lot of saints and chapels. This house on the harbour front had this unusual name on it which I did think sounded vaguely biblical.


It turns out that it is indeed Biblical and means The Lord is my Rock. In the Old Testament this name is borne by a chief of the Merarite Levites at the time of the Exodus. Nobody seems to know why this name is placed on this building. Normally a name like this would be a name on a chapel so maybe this building was some sort of fisherman's place of worship.


This caught my eye, because you may not know, but, when telephones first spread in Britain it was an arm of the Postal Service, so they were often placed outside Post Offices and had the Post Office sign on top. It was quite a common sight.


When I first saw this one I thought it had broken because it was sort of slipped down and at an angle. Having looked closer it seems it was actually made like this to point at the front door of the pink cottage next door. This must have been the original Post Office. The road being so narrow there was no room to place the telephone in front, in the normal way.


Not many places have museum exhibits on display at the side of the road. This is The Fitzroy Barometer. It is named after Admiral Fitzroy who founded the Meteorological Office in Britain and produced the world's first weather forecasts.


Vice-Admiral Robert Fitzroy was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He achieved lasting fame as the captain of HMS Beagle during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, Fitzroy's second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone.


Fitzroy was a pioneering meteorologist who made accurate daily weather predictions, which he called by a new name of his own invention: "forecasts". In 1854 he established what would later be called the Met Office, and created systems to get weather information to sailors and fishermen for their safety.


Fitzroy entered The Royal Navy aged 13 at a time when there was no such thing as a "safe space" like 20 year olds now seem to require when they leave home and go to university. At 14 he went to sea to South America for a two year voyage. He was promoted to Lieutenant at 19. He passed his exams with a score of 100%, the first man in history to do this. At 25 he had established his reputation as a surveyor and commander.


It is worth remembering that at this time it was generally considered that the Earth was just a few thousand years old. Observations made by Fitzroy and recounted by him questioned the consensus by pointing out such findings as he had made.


"Is it not extraordinary, that sea-worn, rolled, shingle-stones, and alluvial accumulations, compose the greater portion of these plains? How vast, and of what immense duration, must have been the actions of these waters which smoothed the shingle-stones now buried in the deserts of Patagonia!"


This barometer in Mousehole was originally loaned to the town in 1854 by Fitzroy. It's purpose was to provide data to the Met office to improve storm warnings and to save the lives of mariners. In 2009 the barometer was returned by the Met Office as a gift to Mousehole Harbour Authority.


This old stone doorway is the entrance to Keigwin Manor. The house is 14th century and the oldest house in the village. On the 23rd July 1595 the town was raided by Spaniards who killed many of the villagers and burned the buildings. Squire Jenkyn Keigwyn was killed on this spot, shot with a musket ball, defending his property. Keigwyn Manor was the only building to survive the fires.


Because I throw these random sights into the cement mixer of interesting things.


Honda Motor Company, Ltd.; commonly simply known as Honda is a Japanese public multinational conglomerate manufacturer of automobiles, motorcycles, and power equipment, headquartered in Minato, Tokyo, Japan.


Honda has been the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, reaching a production of 400 million by the end of 2019, as well as the world's largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year.


The Honda logo is a large “H”. The “H” is the first letter in the name of the Honda Motor Company founder Soichiro Honda.

Honda was born in Kōmyō village, Iwata District, Shizuoka. He spent his early childhood helping his father, Gihei Honda, a blacksmith, with his bicycle repair business. At the time his mother, Mika Honda, was a weaver.


Honda was not interested in traditional education. His school handed grade reports to the children, but required that they be returned stamped with the family seal, to make sure that a parent had seen it. Honda created a stamp to forge his family seal out of a used rubber bicycle pedal cover. The fraud was soon discovered when he started to make forged stamps for other children. Honda was unaware that the stamp was supposed to be mirror-imaged. His family name 本田 is symmetrical when written vertically, so it did not cause a problem, but some of the other children's family names were not.

(Wikipedia)


Cornwall has the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, as a result of its oceanic setting and the influence of the Gulf Stream. The average annual temperature in Cornwall ranges from 11.6 °C (53 °F) on the Isles of Scilly to 9.8 °C (52 °F) in the central uplands.


This explains the oversized banana palms in gardens.



In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Mousehole like this:


MOUSEHOLE, a village in St. Paul parish, Cornwall; on Mounts bay, 2.25 miles S of Penzance. It was formerly called Porth-Enys; was once a market-town; was burned in 1595 by the Spaniards; is now a seat of the pilchard fishery; and has a post-office under Penzance, a coast-guard station, and a Wesleyan chapel. St. Clement’s Island lies opposite the village near the shore; and had formerly a chapel.


Opinions differ about the derivation of Mousehole’s intriguing present name. One local explanation is that it may derive from the Cornish Moeshayle, meaning “at the mouth of the river of young women”, but some authorities argue for the literal “mouse hole”, as being a reference to the original tiny harbour, or to a nearby sea cave. There are recordings of the name Mousehole being used as far back as 1242 and its seems that Mousehole and Porthenys were used equally for many years.


If you were looking at tiny Mousehole today and wondering why the Spaniards would raze it to the ground when it is only a few miles from the city of Penzance then you are getting ahead of yourself in the timeline. Mousehole is tiny today because it never fully recovered from that attack.


Back in the 13th century, Mousehole was the main port in Mounts Bay and remained so well into the 16th century until Penzance and Newlyn began to gain ascendancy. In 1337 when Edward Woodstock, son of Edward III, became Duke of Cornwall, annual payments were levied on all ports and had to be paid to the Duchy. These were based on the number of boats fishing. In that year St. Ives was assessed at 120 shillings, Mousehole 100 shillings, Penzance 12 shillings and Newlyn 10 shillings.


Mousehole exported cured fish oil and woollen cloth to the English garrisons of Gascony in the fourteenth century and brought back salt for fish curing. Its breakwater was the earliest in Cornwall, begun in 1393

Thus it seems all went well for Mousehole until the Spanish Raid of 1595, after that things were never quite the same. (Mouseholeharbour.co.uk)


Over the years the harbour walls were gradually extended and built to cater for the hive of activity taking place. In the early 20th century, there were still over 70 commercial fishing boats based in Mousehole, mainly fishing for pilchard. It was claimed that, when the fleet was in port, you could walk across from one pier to the other without getting wet by stepping on the boats moored up.


Mousehole harbour was always exposed to hard southerly gales. The most famous wreck is the Thames barge, “Baltic”, which was bound for Newlyn with cement when she ran onto Mousehole Island on a rough November night in 1907. Her crew, and the captain’s wife and daughter, were rescued by six Mousehole fishermen who manned the crabbing boat “White Lady”, which had to be manhandled over the great baulks that closed the harbour mouth against the winter seas. A young Irish sailor onboard the Baltic settled in Mousehole and married the Harbourmaster’s daughter.







I took this photo below because of the extremely tiny window which caught my eye. Subsequently I wondered why there was a green heart on the road sign.


On June the 14th 2017 a residential tower in Kensington, London, Grenfell Tower, caught fire. The tower had recently been clad in external material thought to be safe, in an expensive refurbishment scheme. A malfunctioning fridge-freezer on the fourth floor is believed to have been the source of the fire.


The fire safety advice for towers of this type had always been close all doors and remain in place, as this was part of their structural design. All parts of the building had fire breaks built in. In the event of a fire the safest place to be was inside your apartment as the fire was meant to be prevented from spreading and could therefore be fought by fire fighters in isolation. It was believed that it was far more dangerous to evacuate, possibly into burning areas.


Unfortunately this tragedy, which killed 72 people, proved that the cladding, in effect circumvented the fire breaks, making staying in your apartment the most dangerous option. Those who survived were in fact those that ignored the advice and evacuated the tower.


(Cornwall Live September 2019) A green heart emblem has become a permanent fixture to a Mousehole street sign this week and here's why. The 200-year-old granite street in the picturesque fishing village of Mousehole, is called Grenfell Street. It is thought to be named for the old Cornish Grenfell family, one of whose descendants gave his name to Grenfell Tower.


The street naming was organised by the charity Cornwall Hugs Grenfell and Cornwall Council to "mark the solidarity which has blossomed between Cornwall and Kensington since the tragedy."


Each year the charity arrange respite breaks for the survivors and bereaved families of the Grenfell Tower fire. This year, 34 of those people joined the local Cornish community and were able to unveil the poignant new street sign in Mousehole, 300 miles away from the location of the tower.


Grenfell United is the group of survivors and their chosen logo is the Green Heart. They have come together to make sure everyone is safe in their homes, campaigning for justice and change.


"‘The Cornwall community has been with us from the days immediately after the fire, offering respite and friendship hundreds of miles away, which has been a crucial factor in the healing of all those who have visited,’ says Karim Mussilhy, vice chairman of Grenfell United.



At the harbour entrance is the island where the Baltic was wrecked.


This is where I leave Mousehole, hopefully to return soon.


Here are the three photos of Truro cathedral I mentioned at the start. Really this first one needed some scale because that doorway is about four feet high. They were shorter back then so the cathedral must have looked even bigger to them than it looks to us now.


The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro is a Church of England cathedral in the city of Truro, Cornwall. It was built between 1880 and 1910 to a Gothic Revival design by John Loughborough Pearson on the site of the parish church of St Mary. It is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom with three spires.


Now this shocks me because I didn't realise people were that short so recently. I had presumed that this must be five hundred years old at least.


Truro was the first Anglican cathedral to be built on a new site in England since Salisbury Cathedral in 1220.


That explains why I was confused. What is doubly confusing is that the doorway above is part of the cathedral which is a 16th century remnant of the original church on the site which was mostly knocked down.


The Royal Maundy Service was held in the cathedral in 1994 when Elizabeth II presented 134 Cornish people with the traditional Maundy money.


Royal Maundy is a religious service in the Church of England held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. At the service, the British monarch ceremonially distributes small silver coins known as "Maundy money" as symbolic alms to elderly recipients. The coins are legal tender but do not circulate because of their silver content and numismatic value. A small sum of ordinary money is also given in lieu of gifts of clothing and food that the sovereign once bestowed on Maundy recipients.


In the Middle Ages, English monarchs washed the feet of beggars in imitation of Jesus, and presented gifts and money to the poor. Over time, additional money was substituted for the clothing and other items that had once been distributed. Beginning in 1699 the monarch did not attend the service, sending an official in his place. The custom of royal representatives washing the feet of beggars did not survive the 18th century.


In 1931 Princess Marie Louise was at Royal Maundy, and afterwards suggested that her cousin, King George V, make the distributions the following year. He did so, beginning a new royal custom.







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