Methodist preacher John Wesley wrote of his first open air sermon
"I could scarce reconcile myself to this strange way of preaching in the fields, having been all my life till very lately so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church."
John Wesley would go on to preach outdoors many times, one particularity impressive location that was perfect for this was in the village of Gwennap in Cornwall, a Cornish village situated in the heart of the counties tin mining region.
A depression, known as Gwennap Pit, that was created by mining subsidence, is situated on the edge of the village, the woodland that once surrounded it have long since disappeared, a direct result of the demand for charcoal that was used in the smelting of the tin. By the time Wesley visited Gwennap the pit had weathered and was completely covered with grass, Wesley described it as a round, green hollow, gently shelving down. John Wesley would preach in the open at Gwennap Pit eighteen times after first visiting on the 5th September 1762. Of this visit Wesley stated
“The wind was so high at five that I could not stand in the usual place at Gwennap. But at a small distance was a hollow capable of containing many thousand people. I stood on one side of the amphitheatre toward the top, with people beneath and on all sides, and enlarged on those words from the Gospel for the day ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see’...... and hear the things which ye hear’.
John Wesley's Methodism was popular in Cornwall, it's simple teachings of comfort and hope and ultimate salvation appealed to miners and fisherman who faced danger every day of their lives, people would flock to Gwennap where they could be reassured by Wesley's words.
My great grandparents were the second couple to be married in the their local Wesleyan Church when it was completed in 1904, my parents would be married there two generations later.
My family and I frequently traveled on trains, it was part of my life. The longest journey and most exciting, was to visit my grandparents in Cornwall. We always caught the Cornishman at Derby and on the whole we had the carriage, just like the one in the image, all to ourselves for most of the journey. We traveled over the the River Tamar on Brunel's bridge, looked at all the ships at Plymouth, stopped on the seaside station at Dawlish and passed through long dark tunnels on the way. What with sandwiches, chocolate, colouring books, joining the dots and a doll called Fingle Bunt. It was simply wonderful!
I know that advertisements can be misleading but this one, a vintage railway poster, is actually true to life.
However, on the 16th February in 1965, Dr Richard Beeching published his plans for what he called our 'bloated' railways.
This was Beechings second report as British Railways Board chairman, and in it he outlined the countries transport needs for the next quarter of a century. The report followed his first controversial review of the state of Britain's railways that had been published in 1963. In that report he said the railway system was uneconomic and under-used, and recommended that a quarter of the railway system should be shut down.
So was Beeching right with his idea of railway cuts 53 years ago or am I looking at train travel through rose coloured glasses?
Following the Royalist loss at the Battle of Torrington in Devon on the 16th of February 1646, the terms for surrender of the Royalist army were formally agreed and the Treaty of Truro was signed on the 14th March.
Sir Ralph Hopton's royalist forces met Thomas Fairfax's in the village of Tresillian in Cornwall at Tresillian Bridge, Fairfax's headquarters were situated just a few yards away in what is now the Wheel Inn.
You can read about the Battle of Torrington on my website at
Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor in the county of Cornwall is thought to be the home of the Lady of the Lake in the legend of Excalibur.
According to this legend, it is here that King Arthur rowed and received his sword Excalibur. The pool is also said to be the place where Bedivere returned Excalibur as Arthur lay dying after the Battle of Camlann.
More on the very famous swords story can be read on my website.
As a Cornish earl, a crusader, a negotiator, and a very wealthy man, its not hard to see Richard of Cornwall as good guy, you may even go so far as to consider him a bit of a hero, and maybe he was, but as far as his connections with Cornwall are concerned he was also manipulative and greedy.
Richard of Cornwall was born the second son of King John and Isabella of Angouleme on the 5th January 1209, he was just fifteen months younger than his more famous brother, King Henry III.
My blog on Richard, continues on my website at
In 1843, while performing a magic trick for his children, Isambard Kingdom Brunel accidentally inhaled a half sovereign coin, which became lodged in his windpipe.
The first attempt to free the coin by using as special pair of forceps didn't work, however, the second effort seems comical now, but no doubt wasn't then, involved a machine devised by Brunel (I'm not too sure that it was designed for this purpose) that eventually shook it loose.
Thank goodness this great man didn't choke to death, or we would not have had that wonderful bridge that spans the River Tamar between Devon and Cornwall or The Great Western Railway terminus at Paddington.
One of Cornwall's famous sons, Sir Humphry Davy was born in Penzance on the 7th December 1778.
Davy was later educated in the Cornwall's county town of Truro and this was followed by an apprenticeship to a Penzance surgeon. In 1797, Davy took up chemistry and was taken on as an assistant at the Medical Pneumatic Institution in Bristol. It was here he experimented with various new gases by inhaling them which nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion, eventually though, this experimentation led to the discovery of the anesthetic effect of what we know as laughing gas.
In 1815, George Stephenson, from Newcastle, claimed he was the inventor of a safety lamp for the use in coal mines but it is Davy who is credited with the invention presented to the Royal Society on 3 November 1815,
This lamp allowed coal to be mined from deep coal seams reducing the dangers of explosions from methane gas. The lamp, consisted of a wick with the flame enclosed inside a mesh screen, Davy discovered that if the mesh was fine enough, it would not ignite the methane.
Sir Humphry Davy died in Geneva, Switzerland, on 29 May 1829
Today is St. Swithin's Day, it is thought that if it rains today, it will be the start of forty days of rain.
Well, you've got to blame someone for our English summer. There are a number of churches named after Swithun, the Anglo Saxon bishop of Winchester, one is in Cornwall in the village of Launcells.
In his Cornish Treasure, David Freeman, writes of this church that it:
"nestles here resting on the shoulder of Cornwall like an old but familiar friend, deep amid an ancient tree endowed valley where silent men walked and pilgrims once prayed. Beneath oak groves and elder, willow and ash, this has always been an enchanted and sacred place. Watered by a small stream they call the Neet, ever growing as it twists & tumbles down the valley towards Stratton & Bude to the ocean beyond. The ancient Launcells Church stands guard as she has done for eons, above the well of St. Swithin the Holy confessor, a sainted man who it is said wandered these lands devoutly serving God in the days when Kenulf was King."
A holy well still lies beneath the granite battlements of this Norman church. As legend has it,
"never to run dry and the healer of all ailments of the eye and of sight,"
This is useful if it didn't happen to rain on St Swithin's Day.
Helston Fair and the skull of Oliver Cromwell.
I found this story in a book entitled Around Helston in the Old Days, the author, A S Oates tells of one travelling showman named Maxwell.
Maxwell carried with him a box in which he said was the skull of the Lord Protector, and for a penny you would be able
to view it. Oates writes that after his penny was paid and the skull viewed, puzzled, he remarked to Maxwell.
"Here's a funny thing Maxwell, I've a photograph of Oliver Cromwell at home in a book, he's pictured as having a very
large head. The skull you have in your box is a very small one. How do you account for that?"
"Oh, this was his skull when he was a boy!"
Since writing the piece I have come across another interesting blog on Cromwell's decapitated head by Anna Belfrage
called 'Of a Man and his Wandering Head' which begins
"Rarely has a decapitated head seen so much adventure as Mr Cromwell’s did..."
You can read Anna's blog by clicking on the link to her blog.
The recipe below was found among a collection of deeds, leases and other papers held at Cornwall Record Office.
The spell, which dates from around 1700, involves heating a pint of urine then adding salt and three new nails and keeping it warm for up to ten days and probably kept in a Witch Bottle as seen in the image.
This charm or spell was created for Thamson Leverton, it is said to repel
"your private enemies (who) will never after have any power upon you either in your body or goods"
"take about a pint of your own urine and make it almost scalding hot then Emptie it into a stone Jugg with a Narrow Mouth. Then put into it so much white salt as you can take up with the Thumb and two forefingers of your left hand and three new nails with their points downwards their points being first made very sharp, then stop the mouth of the Jugg very close with a piece of Tough Cley [clay] and bind a piece of Leather firm over the stop, then put the Jugg into warm embers and keep him there 9 or 10 days and nights following so that it go not stark cold all that meantime day nor night and your private Enemies will Never after have any power upon you either in your Body or Goods so be it.“
History is so interesting isn't it? Do you love the story of King Alfred's unsuccessful afternoon in the kitchen or King Cnut unsuccessful attempt not to get his feet wet? Maybe you're interested in when the Normans landing on our shores or the stories of an era closer to our time?