Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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between Fowey and Lostwithiel.

The derivation of the last place-name was somewhat doubtful, but the
general interpretation seemed to be that its original form was
Lis-guythiel, meaning the "Palace in the Wood," which might be correct,
since great trees still shut in the range of old buildings representing
the remains of the old Palace or Duchy House. The buildings, which were
by no means lofty, were devoted to purposes of an unimportant character,
but they had a decidedly dungeon-like appearance, and my brother, who
claimed to be an authority on Shakespeare because he had once committed
to memory two passages from the great bard's writings, assured me that
if these old walls were gifted with speech, like the ghost that
appeared to Hamlet, they "could a tale unfold, whose lightest word would
harrow up our souls; freeze our young blood; make our eyes, like stars,
start from their spheres; our knotted and combined locks to part, and
each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful
porcupine"; but fortunately "this eternal blazon must not be to ears of
flesh and blood," and so we hurried away up the town.

Lostwithiel, one of the Stannary towns, was at one time the only coinage
town in Cornwall, and traces of the old Mint and Stannary Court could
yet be seen. The town had formerly the honour of being represented in
Parliament by the famous writer, statesman, and poet, Joseph Addison.


The church was dedicated to St. Bartholomew, and was described as "a
perfect example of the Decorated period" and the "glory of Cornwall." It
possessed a lantern spire "of a kind unexampled elsewhere in the West of
England"; but as our standard was high, since we had seen so many
churches, we failed to appreciate these features, and, generally
speaking, there were no very fine churches in Cornwall compared with
those in other counties. This church, however, had passed through some
lively scenes in the Civil War, when the Royalist army was driving that
of the Parliament towards the sea-coast, where it was afterwards
cornered and captured. A Provost named Marshall commanded the detachment
of the Parliamentary forces at Lostwithiel, and to show their contempt
for the religion of the Church of England, they desecrated the church by
leading one of their horses to the font and christening him Charles "in
contempt of his most sacred Majesty the King." Meanwhile two Cavaliers,
supporters of the King, and gentlemen of some repute in the county, had
hidden themselves in the church tower and drawn the ladder up after
them. When they saw the Provost preparing to depart, for he was now in a
hurry to get away from the approaching Royalist soldiers, they jeered at
him through a window in the tower. He called to them, "I'll fetch you
down," and sent men with some "mulch and hay" to set fire to the tower
into which the Cavaliers had climbed, but they only jeered at him the
more, which caused him to try gunpowder, intending, as he could not
smoke them out, to blow them out; but he only succeeded in blowing a few
tiles off the roof of the church. The font was a fine one, octagonal in
form, and carved on all the eight panels, though some of the figures had
been mutilated; but it was still possible to discern a horrible-looking
face covered with a wreath of snakes, a mitred head of a bishop, a
figure of a knight with a hawk, horn, and hound, and other animals
scarcely suitable, we thought, for a font.

The army of the Parliament was gradually driven to Fowey, where 6,000 of
them were taken prisoner, while their commander, the Earl of Essex,
escaped by sea. Fowey was only about six miles away from Lostwithiel,
and situated at the mouth of the River Fowey. It was at one time the
greatest port on the coast of Cornwall, and the abode of some of the
fiercest fighting men in the British Isles. From that port vessels
sailed to the Crusades, and when Edward III wanted ships and men for the
siege of Calais, Fowey responded nobly to the call, furnishing 47 ships
manned by 770 men. The men of Fowey were the great terror of the French
coast, but in 1447 the French landed in the night and burnt the town.
After this two forts were built, one on each side of the entrance to the
river, after the manner of those at Dartmouth, a stout iron chain being
dropped between them at nightfall. Fowey men were in great favour with
Edward IV because of their continued activity against the French; but
when he sent them a message, "I am at peace with my brother of France,"
the Fowey men replied that they were at war with him! As this was likely
to create friction between the two countries, and as none of his men
dared go to Fowey owing to the warlike character of its inhabitants, the
King decided to resort to strategy, but of a rather mean character. He
despatched men to Lostwithiel, who sent a deputation to Fowey to say
they wished to consult the Fowey men about some new design upon France.
The latter, not suspecting any treachery, came over, and were
immediately seized and their leader hanged; while men were sent by sea
from Dartmouth to remove their harbour chain and take away their ships.
Possibly the ships might afterwards have been restored to them upon
certain conditions, but it was quite an effectual way of preventing
their depredations on the coast of France.

They seem to have been a turbulent race of people at Fowey, for they
once actually became dissatisfied with their patron saint, the Irish St.
Finbar, and when they rebuilt their church in 1336 they dismissed him
and adopted St. Nicholas to guide their future destinies. Perhaps it
was because St. Nicholas was the patron saint of all sailors, as he
allayed a great storm when on a voyage to the Holy Land. What is now
named Drake's Island, off Plymouth, was formerly named St. Nicholas. It
would not be difficult to find many other churches dedicated to St.
Nicholas on the sea-coast from there to the north, and we remembered he
was the patron saint at Aberdeen.

St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of the Russians, some of the Czars
of that mighty Empire having been named after him. While St. Catherine
is the patron saint of the girls, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of
the boys, and strange to relate is also the patron saint of parish
clerks, who were formerly called "scholars."

When pictured in Christian art this saint is dressed in the robe of a
bishop, with three purses, or three golden balls, or three children. The
three purses represent those given by him to three sisters to enable
them to marry; but we did not know the meaning of the three golden
balls, unless it was that they represented the money the purses
contained. My brother suggested they might have some connection with the
three golden balls hanging outside the pawnbrokers' shops. Afterwards we
found St. Nicholas was the patron saint of that body. But the three
children were all boys, who once lived in the East, and being sent to a
school at Athens, were told to call on St. Nicholas on their way for his
benediction. They stopped for the night at a place called Myra, where
the innkeeper murdered them for their money and baggage, and placed
their mangled bodies in a pickling-tub, intending to sell them as pork.
St. Nicholas, however, saw the tragedy in a vision, and went to the inn,
where the man confessed the crime, whilst St. Nicholas, by a miracle,
raised the murdered boys to life again!

Sometimes he had been nicknamed "Nick," or "Old Nick," and then he
became a demon, or the Devil, or the "Evil spirit of the North." In
Scandinavia he was always associated with water either in sea or lake,
river or waterfall, his picture being changed to that of a
horrid-looking creature, half-child and half-horse, the horse's feet
being shown the wrong way about. Sometimes, again, he was shown as an
old black man like an imp, sitting on a rock and wringing the dripping
water from his long black hair!

On our way towards St. Austell we passed some very interesting places to
the right and left of our road, and had some fine views of the sea.
Presently we arrived at a considerable village inhabited by miners, the
name of which we did not know until my brother, who was walking with a
miner in the rear, suddenly called to me, and pointing to a name on a
board, said: "See where we've got to!" When my brother called out the
name of the place, I heard a man shout from across the road in a
triumphant tone of voice, "Yes, you're in it now, sir!" and sure enough
we had arrived at St. Blazey, a rather queer name, we thought, for a
place called after a saint! But, unlike the people of Fowey, the
inhabitants seemed quite satisfied with their saint, and indeed rather
proud of him than otherwise. Asked where we could get some coffee and
something to eat, the quarryman to whom my brother had been talking
directed us to a temperance house near at hand, where we were well
served. We were rather surprised at the number of people who came in
after us at intervals, but it appeared afterwards that my brother had
incidentally told the man with whom he was walking about our long
journey, and that we had walked about 1,300 miles. The news had
circulated rapidly about the village, and we eventually found ourselves
the centre of a crowd anxious to see us, and ask questions. They seemed
quite a homely, steady class of men, and gave us a Cornish welcome and a
Cornish cheer as we left the village.


Just before reaching St. Blazey, however, we walked a short distance up
a very charming little valley, which has been described as a paradise of
ferns, wooden glades, and granite boulders, and possesses some of the
finest landscapes in the district, with the ground in springtime azure
with wild hyacinths. Some of the finest ferns grew in profusion in this
glen, including the "Osmunda regalis" and the graceful lady fern; but,
fortunately for the ferns, much of the valley passed through private
grounds, and the pretty Carmears waterfall could only be seen on certain

The parish church of Luxulyan, after which village the valley was named,
stood at the head of the glen, and as the people of Cornwall had so many
saints, they had been able to spare two of them for Luxulyan, so that
the church was dedicated conjointly to St. Cyricus and St. Julitta,
while the name of a third was said to be concealed in the modern name of
the village, St. Suhan, a saint who also appeared in Wales and Brittany.
The name of the village well was St. Cyricus, which probably accounted
for the name appearing the first in the dedication of the church. The
church tower at one time contained the Cornish Stannary Records, but in
the time of the Civil War they had been removed for greater safety to
Lostwithiel, where they were unfortunately destroyed. There were many
ancient and disused tin workings in the parish of Luxulyan, but a
particularly fine kind of granite was quarried there, for use in
buildings where durability was necessary - the lighthouse and beacon on
Plymouth Breakwater having both been built with granite obtained from
these quarries. There was also a very hard variety of granite much used
by sculptors called porphyry, a very hard and variegated rock of a mixed
purple-and-white colour. When the Duke of Wellington died, the Continent
was searched for the most durable stone for his sepulchre, sufficiently
grand and durable to cover his remains, but none could be found to excel
that at Luxulyan. A huge boulder of porphyry, nearly all of it above
ground, lying in a field where it had lain from time immemorial, was
selected. It was estimated to weigh over seventy tons, and was wrought
and polished near the spot where it was found. When complete it was
conveyed thence to St. Paul's Cathedral, and now forms the sarcophagus
of the famous Iron Duke. The total cost was about £1,100.

We had now to walk all the way to Land's End through a tin-mining
country, which really extended farther than that, as some of the mines
were under the sea. But the industry was showing signs of decay, for
Cornwall had no coal and very little peat, and the native-grown timber
had been practically exhausted. She had therefore to depend on the coal
from South Wales to smelt the ore, and it was becoming a question
whether it was cheaper to take the ore to the coal or the coal to the
ore, the cost being about equal in either case. Meantime many miners had
left the country, and others were thinking of following them to Africa
and America, while many of the more expensive mines to work had been
closed down. The origin of tin mining in Cornwall was of remote
antiquity, and the earliest method of raising the metal was that
practiced in the time of Diodorus by streaming - a method more like
modern gold-digging, since the ore in the bed of the streams, having
been already washed there for centuries, was much purer than that found
in the lodes. Diodorus Siculus, about the beginning of the Christian
Era, mentioned the inhabitants of Belerium as miners and smelters of
tin, and wrote: "After beating it up into knucklebone shapes, they carry
it to a certain island lying off Britain named Ictis (probably the Isle
of Wight), and thence the merchants buy it from the inhabitants and
carry it over to Gaul, and lastly, travelling by land through Gaul about
thirty days, they bring down the loads on horses to the mouth of the

There was no doubt in our own minds that the mining of tin in Cornwall
was the most ancient industry known in Britain, and had existed there in
the time of prehistoric man. We often found ourselves speculating about
the age, and the ages of man. The age of man was said to be seventy, and
might be divided thus:

At ten a child, at twenty wild,
At thirty strong, if ever!
At forty wise, at fifty rich,
At sixty good, or never!

There were some curious Celtic lines which described the age of animals
compared with that of man:

Thrice the age of a dog is that of a horse;
Thrice the age of a horse is that of a man;
Thrice the age of a man is that of a deer;
Thrice the age of a deer is that of an eagle.

The ages of man were divided into three by Lucretius as:

(1) "The Stone Age," when celts or implements of stone were employed.
(2) "The Bronze Age," when implements were made of copper and brass.
(3) "The Iron Age," when implements were made of iron, as in the present

This being the order of antiquity and materials employed in making the
implements, it was therefore safe to conclude that the mining of tin
must have dated back as far as the Bronze Age, for there could have been
no bronze made without tin, since bronze is produced by the mixing of
copper and tin.

Appliances for crushing and smelting the ore were already in existence
in very early times, as well as blowing-houses and moulds in which to
run the molten metal. The ingots of tin were in the form of an astragal,
and an ancient ingot of large size dredged up in Falmouth Harbour,
weighing 150 lbs., resembled the letter H in form. This was the most
convenient shape for carriage, either in a boat or slung across the back
of a horse, and horses were employed in that way to convey the tin along
the steep and narrow roads from the mines to the sea-coast.

The Romans made use of the Cornish mines, for an ingot of tin bearing a
Roman stamp and inscription was preserved in the Truro Museum, and Roman
coins had been found in the mines.

With St. Austell's Bay to our left, we soon came in sight of the town of
St. Austell, behind which were the Hensbarrow Downs, rising over 1,000
feet above sea-level. From the beacon on the top the whole of Cornwall
can be seen on a clear day, bounded by the Bristol Channel on one side
and the English Channel on the other; on the lower reaches, and quite
near St. Austell, were the great tin mines of Carclaze, some of the
largest and most ancient in Cornwall.

Another great industry was also being carried on, as in the year 1768 W.
Cookworthy, a Plymouth Quaker, had discovered an enormous bed of white
clay, which had since been so extensively excavated that the workings
now resembled the crater of an extinct volcano. This clay, of the finest
quality, was named China clay, because it was exactly similar to that
used in China, where porcelain was made many centuries before it was
made in England, the process of its manufacture being kept a profound
secret by the Chinese, whose country was closed to Europeans.

A story, however, was told of an Englishman who succeeded in entering
China and obtaining employment at one of the potteries, where he
eventually became acquainted with the secrets of the whole business. The
difficulties he experienced in getting out of the country again, and his
adventures and hairbreadth escapes from death, were thrilling to listen
to. The pattern on the famous Willow plates, which he was afterwards
able to produce in England, was commonly supposed to represent some of
his own adventures, and he was thought to be the man pictured as being
pursued across a bridge and escaping in a boat. This, however, was not
correct, as all the views had been copied from the original Chinese
willow pattern, the interpretation of which was as follows:

To the right is a lordly Mandarin's country-seat, which is two
storeys high to show the rank and wealth of the possessor. In the
foreground is a pavilion, and in the background an orange-tree, while
to the right of the pavilion is a peach-tree in full bearing. The
estate is enclosed by an elegant wooden fence, and at one end of the
bridge stands the famous willow-tree and at the other is the
gardener's cottage, one storey high, and so humble that the grounds
are uncultivated, the only green thing being a small fir-tree at the

At the top of the pattern on the left-hand side is an island with a
cottage; the grounds are highly cultivated and much of the land has
been reclaimed from the water. The two birds are turtle-doves, and
the three figures on the bridge are the Mandarin's daughter with a
distaff, nearest the cottage, the lover with a box is shown in the
middle, and nearest the willow-tree is the Mandarin with a whip.


The written history of China goes back for 4,000 years, a period more
than twice that over which English history can be traced; and it is
about 2,600 years since Confucius wrote his wonderful laws. Since that
time his teachings have been followed by countless millions of his
countrymen, and temples have been erected to him all over that great
country, whose population numbers more than 300 millions.

The origin of the legend represented on the willow pattern must
therefore have been of remote antiquity, and the following is the record
of the tradition:

The Mandarin had an only daughter named Li-chi, who fell in love with
Chang, a young man who lived in the island home represented at the
top of the pattern, and who had been her father's secretary. The
father overheard them one day making vows of love under the
orange-tree, and sternly forbade the unequal match; but the lovers
contrived to elope. They lay concealed for a while in the gardener's
cottage, and thence made their escape in a boat to the island-home
of the young lover. The enraged Mandarin pursued them with a whip,
and would have beaten them to death had not the gods rewarded their
fidelity by changing them into turtle-doves.

The picture is called the willow pattern not only because it is a
tale of disastrous love, but because the elopement occurred when the
willow begins to shed its leaves.

Much of the clay at Carclaze was being sent to the Staffordshire
potteries, to be used in the production of the finest porcelain. It was
loaded in ships and taken round the coast via Liverpool to Runcorn, a
port on the River Mersey and the terminus of the Duke of Bridgewater's
Canal, where it was transhipped into small boats, which conveyed it to
the potteries in Staffordshire, involving a carriage of about fifty
miles, After being manufactured into porcelain, it was packed into
crates and again consigned by canal to many places inland and to
Liverpool for shipment abroad, the carriage being cheaper and safer than
if consigned by rail, owing to the fragile nature of the goods. Some of
the earthenware had of course to be sent by rail, but the breakages in
shunting operations and the subsequent claims on the railway companies
caused the rate of carriage to be very high.

In later years the pottery trade became rather depressed owing to
competition from abroad, and a story was told of a traveller from the
Staffordshire Potteries who called at a wholesale house in London where
he invariably got some orders, but on this occasion was unsuccessful.
When he inquired the reason, he was taken to the warehouse and shown a
small china tea service. "Do you know that?" asked the manager. "Yes!"
quickly replied the traveller; "that comes from so-and-so in the
Potteries, and is their favourite pattern and design!" "And what did I
pay for it?" "Twelve and six," promptly replied the traveller. "Ah,"
said his customer, "you are wrong this time; that set cost us 10s. 6d.,
and came from Germany!" The traveller reported the matter to his firm,
who on inquiry discovered that the Germans had erected a pottery on
their sea-coast and, by taking advantage of sea carriage both ways, were
able to undersell the British manufacturer with pottery for which the
clay had been found in his own country.

Arriving at St. Austell, we had a look round the town, and visited the
church, which was dedicated to St. Austell. But in the previous year it
had undergone a restoration, and there appeared to be some doubt whether
the figure on the tower was that of the patron saint or not. There were
other figures, but the gargoyles were as usual the ugliest of the lot.

There was formerly a curious clock there which was mentioned in an old
deed of the time of Edward VI recording that St. Austell's tower had
"four bells and a clok," but the bells had been increased to eight and a
new clock placed in the tower, though the face of the old one,
representing the twenty-four hours in as many circles, could still be
seen. When the old clock had been made, it was evident there was no
repetition in the afternoon of the morning's numerals, as the hours
after twelve noon were the thirteenth and fourteenth, and so on up to
twenty-four. The church porch was quite a fine erection, with a chamber
built over it, at one time used as a sleeping-room by travelling monks,
and, like the nave, with a battlement along the top, an old inscription
over the porch, "Ry du," having been interpreted as meaning "Give to
God." The carving over the doorway represented a pelican feeding its
young with blood from its own breast, and a sundial bore the very
significant motto:

Every hour shortens man's life.

Inside the church there was a curiosity in the shape of a wooden tablet,
on which was painted a copy of a letter of thanks from King Charles I to
the county of Cornwall for its assistance during his conflict with the
Roundheads, It was written from his camp at Sudeley Castle on September
10th, 1643, and was one of several similar tablets to be found in
various churches in Cornwall.

[Illustration: REV. JOHN WESLEY. (_The Founder of Methodism in

The Wesleyan chapel at St. Austell, with accommodation for a
congregation of 1,000 persons, also attracted our attention, as it had a
frontage like that of a mansion, with columns supporting the front
entrance, and was situated in a very pleasant part of the town. John
Wesley laboured hard in Cornwall, and we were pleased to see evidences
of his great work there as we travelled through the Duchy; and as
Cornishmen must surround the memory of their saints with legends, it did
not surprise us that they had one about Mr. Wesley. He was travelling
late one night over a wild part of Cornwall when a terrific storm came
on, and the only shelter at hand was a mansion that had the reputation
of being haunted. He found his way into the hall and lay down on a bench
listening to the raging elements outside until he fell fast asleep.
About midnight he awoke and was surprised to find the table in the hall
laid out for a banquet, and a gaily dressed company, including a
gentleman with a red feather in his cap, already assembled. This person

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 62 of 66)