Seeing how the other half lives

It has been a very long time since the world could be so simply divided economically. But then, some of the sights we saw today have been around for a very long time.

We began at Trengwainton, a very luxurious Cornish garden, now owned by the National Trust. The walled gardens, which were built in Elizabethan times, prevented warm air from escaping from the garden on cool nights, allowing frost-sensitive fruit trees to survive. The gardens are said to be based on the dimensions of Noah’s Ark. (Who can argue?) The gardens are magnificent and were opened to the public for the first time in 1931. We particularly loved the bench inside the hedge. Very cozy inside.

A dwelling has been on the site since at least the 16th century and was altered and extended in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1867 the property was bought by T S Bolitho, whose family still live in Trengwainton House. They must be having a lovely time.

The view from the terrace in front of their house is especially wonderful.

And then to see the other half – quite a distance away by so many measures. We went next to the little town of Botallack, and the site of an ancient group of mines formerly worked for tin, copper, arsenic and a few other rare minerals. One of the earliest references to copper mining in Cornwall, at the “Cudnareeve Work in Botallack”, dates back to 1587 and the Elizabethan Company of Mines Royal. Around 1590 the historian John Norden wrote of Botallack “…a little hamlet on the coaste of Irishe sea most visited with tinners, where they lodge and feede, being nere theyre mynes.”

If we were familiar with Poldark, it seems we would have been blown away, as Crown Mine engine houses are evidently very meaningful to its viewers. But even so, we were quite taken by the drama of the location. It is quite a poor area, even more so since the tin mines have closed, over 100 years ago. What a life those poor miners had – being roped down the cliffs to work in deep mine shafts that extended far into the ocean.

Nothing was green when the mining was going on. And very little remains to drive the local economy.

And then it was back to the richer half of the world.

We went to the town of Marazion and found our way to one of the small boats that ferry visitors to the small island of Saint Michael’s Mount.

It certainly looks like somewhere else we have visited. It is considered a Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, though it is much smaller. This property was given to the Benedictines of Mont Saint-Michel by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century, so there is a real connection. They seemed to like a bit of isolation.

The Mount was sold in 1659 to Colonel John St. Aubyn. His descendants, the Lords St. Levan, remain “seated at St Michael’s Mount.” In 1954, the 3rd Baron St Levan gave most of St Michael’s Mount to the National Trust, together with a large endowment fund. The family retained a 999-year lease to inhabit the castle and a licence to manage the public viewing of its historic rooms. The earliest buildings, on the summit, date to the 12th century; the harbor is 15th century; and the village and summit buildings were rebuilt from 1860 to 1900.

Getting up to the castle was quite a feat – and very rough on the feet. We will have to say that these are cobblestones on steroids, and the paths for visitors must have been part of a medieval defense system. OUCH!!!! (And it was even worse going down.)

The Giant’s Well and the Giant’s Heart belong to the Jack and the Giant Killer legend, which seems to have originated here. (The giant lies at the bottom of the well.)

The interior of the castle actually seemed quite liveable in the areas we saw. And of course, one can collect a lot of lovely things over the centuries.

There is a small chapel – still used – and some very scenic terraces, parapets and views.

You wouldn’t think this family would really need to show off much. But they got all giggly over the royal visits they have had. First it was Victoria and Albert. Great. (Vicky sat on the blue couch.) But then, guess who showed up!!! And they signed the guest book!!! (And don’t forget to notice the very rare Chippendale Gothic chairs just outside the Blue Drawing Room – capitals theirs.)

Other oddities include a mummified cat, the castle made out of champagne corks by the butler in the 1930’s, a fragment of Napoleon’s jacket that he wore at Waterloo, etc.

All three sites today are under the care of the National Trust. We loved them all, but guess which one was the most popular?

 

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