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The Jeanne Gougy 1962, courtesy of Sotheby'sSeine, courtesy of Sotheby's The Jeune Hortense 1888, courtesy of Sotheby's high res The Mildred, 1912, courtesy of Sotheby's Tripolitania, courtesy of Sotheby's

These awesome (trad meaning) pictures of shipwrecks off the coast of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – and hundreds more – have just been purchased by the National Maritime Museum, London branch, for £122,000.

They are from the family archive of the Gibson family, assembled over 125 years and four generations, who made it their mission to record shipwrecks off the Cornish coast.

I wish I had the locations of the wrecks pictured here but the names provide interest enough – wonderful titles like Tripolitania, Minnehaha and the Mildred.

The museum says that they will be digitising the material then lending it out to museums across the South West, so by rights I’m sure there will be a Cornish airing soon.

Images reproduced on pasties & cream courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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This photo blog post has come in today from Mexico care of p&c hermana Jen. Far away in the Mexican province of Hidalgo, there is a little corner of Kernow called Real del Monte, twinned with Redruth. It’s a community steeped in Cornish culture, thanks to the pasty-munching influence of some 350 Cornish miners who ran the local mines in the early to mid 19th century.

Most of the photos in this slideshow were taken in the local cemetery, which contains hundreds of Cornishmen, many of whom died at alarming ages. My Mexican correspondent tells me that Read the rest of this entry »

What do you make of these pics? Not mine, sadly.

It’s great to see this crisp, modern new website that has been launched to educate and inspire people about Cornish Mining World Heritage – it’s so good, it was even ‘site of the week’ in New Media Age last week.

I’ve noticed that most things to do with mining history in Cornwall are accompanied by a crappy low-res website that hasn’t been updated since, well, the beginning of the internet, and grainy, uninspiring photography.

And it always strikes me as a bit of a shame, since mining heritage of Cornwall is not only scenically pretty mind-blowing but also internationally highly significant, yet it seems to get rather overlooked by all but those with a corduroy-trouser specialist interest. Myself included — the insufficiently informed Cornishwoman, that is, not the corduroy wearer.

It is with kind permission of Cornish Mining that I am able to publish these superb images on p&c. Picking them out from their image gallery was a task that I indulged in for way too long to the detriment of paid work, and in the end I went for some classics such as Wheal Coates near Aggy and Botallack from above [er, wow], as well some little-known sites such as Wheal Trewavas and South Wheal Frances. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did — there’s tons more gold ore on the website.

Time to click on the ‘Delving Deeper‘ tab perhaps!

…make it the Anchor in Newlyn.

Open to the public for the first time this year as part of the Open Studios event, this wildly atmospheric studio in Newlyn was once the workplace of 19th-century Newlyn trailblazer Stanhope Forbes and has, it would seem, changed brilliantly little since. It’s all overgrown outside Read the rest of this entry »

men an tol penwith cornwallmen an tol cornwall penwith

Sunday was a surreally calm and sunny winter’s day in west Cornwall, so ideal for my first outing to Men-an-Tol – the iconic stone monument half a mile off the drop-dead-gorgeous Madron to Morvah road.

In the presqu’île of West Penwith, we tend to all get a bit blase about prehistoric sites – they are everywhere, in the shape of quoits, remains of Iron Age villages, standing stones and stone circles. Save for a few – like Chycauster village, which is National Heritage – they form a natural, integral part of the landscape. There’s no entrance fee or brochure or fence and sometimes not even a sign, which is just the way I like them!

Among these granite antiquities, Men an Tol is unique for its polo-like circular form with a hole in the middle (beloved of many an artist, including Barbara Hepworth, as James Fox was telling us in his recent docu).

Historians don’t seem to have an especially firm grip Read the rest of this entry »

I was touched to receive an old, red Ward-Lock Guide to Penzance as a get-well present from my friend Sarah while recovering from surgery (I’ve started walking btw… like a duck, but you’ve got to start somewhere).

It’s hard to know exactly what date it was published as Ward-Locks apparently routinely omitted a date from all pages in order to look current but I’m guessing first half of 20th century… One can, should one not have a job, go on online forums where people endlessly discuss the possible publication dates of these old guides with impressive anality.

At the risk of romanticising my convalescence, which hasn’t been a walk in the park (literally no walks in the park!), I did indulge in several enjoyable afternoons of reading in the company of this book while watching the boats potter in and out of Newlyn harbour from my bedroom window and a) pondering how little Penzance had changed in the years that had passed since that book was written, and b) amusing myself with the things that had.

My top 10 highlights from the book:

1/ ‘Penzance is the metropolis of the toe of England – a town that has prospered amazingly considering its isolation for hundreds of years’.
Come on, I don’t think the use of the M-word has ever been appropriate.

2/ ‘Penzance shops close at 1pm on Fridays. On other days between 5pm and 6pm. On market days, some shops remain open later.’ Well, lucky old people of olden times. Can’t remember the last time I found a shop open a minute past 5.30pm.

3/ ‘To many the charm of the place, and the justification of a journey of some hundreds of miles, is simply that Penzance is–just Penzance.’

4/ ‘Mid-way along the seafront is the Pavilion Theatre, with a café and roof garden’
–ER, HELLO – PENZANCE HAD A SEAFRONT ROOF GARDEN? Who got rid of that and replaced with an amusement arcade?

5/ ‘Mousehole has no claim other than it is to-day as it was yesterday–an unsophisticated Cornish fishing village unreformed by artists and unspoiled by vandals.’
Thankfully still unvandalised though I think a few artists might be ‘reforming’ it.

6/ ‘After reading the effusive descriptions of the beauty of Lamorna Cove, handed down from writers of the past, many visitors express disappointment when they reach this pretty but over-publicised spot–particularly when they have seen more beautiful coves. Nevertheless, Lamorna is… very fine in its own wild, untidy way but is unfortunate in possessing a beach consisting entirely of granite boulders’
Ouch! Touch harsh on Lamorna.

7/ ‘What natural beauty Land’s End does possess is usually imperilled by the disgraceful amount of paper, cardboard and other debris of picnics cast aside by careless visitors’.
Oh well, better that than the unmovable debris of a sizeable theme park, no?

8/ ‘One arrives at Porthmeor Beach, a fine sandy bay, splendid for surf-bathing’

9/ ‘This peninsula combines the soft charms of a genial winter – and is, in fact, an invalid’s paradise, with a summer season of unvarying equability’.
Looking forward to its soft charms again as winter draws in… is he talking about mizzle?

10/ ‘A century ago, the journey from London to West Cornwall occupied something like forty hours… The world-famous Cornish Riviera Limited now runs from London to Penzance in about 7 hours’
Nice to see the coming of the 21st century has reduced the travel time by a whole hour. Maybe we’ll get it down to 4.5 hours by 2110.

jubilee pool penzance cornwall

The 1930s deco lido in Penzance is a great source of inspiration to local photographers and artists – the cool curves, cubist steps, and triangular shapes pointing out into the sea are a pretty extraordinary sight.

To celebrate my first ever swim in the Jubilee Pool – so overdue, it was getting quite embarrassing – I thought I’d post my humble interpretation of this iconic monument. This was the view from my towel as I lay sunbathing at the weekend (before, that is, I was told to stop photographing the architecture due to ‘child protection’).

I lay there for at least an hour thinking that if I could just absorb enough rays, it would defend me against the famously cold temperature of the water. I noted with some concern that over half the people in the pool had some sort of expensive-looking swimming protection, including swimming caps made of wetsuit material.

But I have to say the water really was lovely – fresh but manageable, and considerably warmer than the sea proper (I know this because I swam off Battery Rocks on Friday evening sans suit and it was… challenging). The feeling of swimming in a pool of that size (100 metres long at its longest point!) was invigorating – and the unconventional triangular shape liberates you from boring old up-and-down lengths, and makes it feel more like a wild swim.

This year is the 75th anniversary of Jubilee Pool, and there are celebratory flags flying (below) and historic Read the rest of this entry »

Trencrom Hill Fort is one of the highest hills in the westernmost Cornish district of Penwith – and I was looking forward to finally conquering this great peak. Ten minutes after parking the car, I had.

The ascent was a little tamer than expected but it was none the less epic at the summit. The views from these granite stacks are incredible – from sand-trimmed St Ives Bay to the north to Mount’s Bay in the south, and the ancient field patterns stretching west across the moors towards Land’s End.

In my Trencrom expedition team were some visiting friends, one of whom enquired about the age of this historic site. I usefully stated it was ‘really bloody old’. Read the rest of this entry »

geevor fiona crisp

fiona crisp at geevor tin mine

In the space of three months last year I visited virtually every sightseeing attraction in Cornwall (not as some sort of bizarre personal challenge, you understand, but for the new Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall). And of them all, Geevor Tin Mine, on the moody cliffs of Pendeen, was the most rewarding – not least because it came as such a surprise.

Mining heritage centres in Cornwall have a tendency to contain interesting but ultimately very dusty exhibitions, with captions in Read the rest of this entry »

I clicked my way around Penzance the other day with Google Street View, which was pretty exciting, but this morning I stumbled across some even more compulsive footage: a video of Penzance on a sunny day in 1964.

Probably only long-standing locals will make it to the end of the six minutes, lovely though they are, but it’s worth a look if only for the chirpy Beatles soundtrack, the cool old cars, bobbies on bikes, and to marvel at how little, essentially, PZ has changed.

I did, however, note one key difference: no one in Penzance dresses that smartly anymore. Men in suits and braces? Women in dresses and heels (all sporting a fetching pastel-cardie-over-the-shoulder look)? I feel so underdressed in my Hager vor hoodie.

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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