Zennor and the ancient village for History lovers


ZENNOR 5½ miles N of Penzance on the B3306 A Wayside Folk Museum C Zennor Quoit C Chysauster Ancient Village This delightful ancient village, situated between moorland and coastal cliffs, shows evidence of Bronze Age settlers. It also has a 12th-century church, famous for its carved bench end depicting a mermaid holding a comb and mirror. A local legend tells of a mysterious young maiden who was drawn to the church by the beautiful singing of a chorister, the churchwarden’s son Matthew Trewhella. 

An enchanting singer herself, the maiden lured Matthew down to nearby Pendour Cove where he disappeared. On warm summer evenings, it is said that their voices can be heard rising from the waves. By the porch in the church is a memorial to John Davey, who died in 1891, stating that he was the last person to have any great knowledge of the native Cornish language Kernuack. It is said that he remained familiar with the language by speaking it to his cat. There has recently been a revival of interest in Kernuack, and visitors to Cornwall who chance upon a Kernuack speaker might impress him by asking, “Plema’n diwotti?” and with any luck directed to the nearest pub. Another useful entry in the Cornish phrasebook is, “Fatell yu an pastyon yn gwerthji ma? 

A wrons I ri dhymn drog goans?” which means, “What are the pasties like in this shop? Will they give me indigestion?” For an insight into the history of Zennor and the surrounding area, the Wayside Folk Museum is a unique private museum, founded in 1935, that covers every aspect of life in Zennor and district from 3000BC to the 1930s. On display are waterwheels, a millhouse, a wheelwright’s and blacksmith’s premises, a miller’s cottage with kitchen and parlour, and exhibits on tin mining. The collection has more than 5000 items in 16 display areas and includes an extensive collection of photographs and information on people who have lived in the area. Tin mining is also referred to in the name of the local inn, The Tinners Arms, whose name DH Lawrence borrowed as the title of a short story. Lawrence spent many hours at this pub while living in the village with his wife Frieda during World War One. It was during his stay here, under police surveillance, that Lawrence wrote Women in Love. However, his pacifist tendencies and Frieda’s German heritage (her cousin was the flying ace the Red Baron von Richthofen) caused them to be ‘moved on’ in October 1917.

 Lawrence refers to the episode in his semi-autobiographical novel Kangaroo (1923). To the southeast of the village are the dilapidated remains of the Neolithic chamber tomb, Zennor Quoit, believed to be some 4500 years old. One of many ancient monuments in the area, the tomb has a huge capstone that was once supported on five broad uprights. A couple of miles to the south of Zennor, on a windy hillside, stands Chysauster Ancient Village (English Heritage), the bestpreserved prehistoric settlement in the southwest. This Romano-Cornish village, built around 2000 years ago, has one of the oldest identifiable streets in the country. The site was only discovered during archaeological excavations in the 1860s. Villagers here were farmers, as cattle sheds have been unearthed. 

They also worked tin beside the nearby stream. Their housing consisted of stone-walled homesteads, each with an open central courtyard surrounded by several circular living rooms topped with thatch or turf. Eight of these have survived.

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