Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Mysteries of Zennor

9 August 1989. Zennor is a small village down towards the southern tip of Cornwall and it was my starting place on this particular day during which I meant to search out some of Cornwall's more legendary and mysterious places.

The water wheel, standing incongruously on its own by the side of the road is the first thing you notice in Zennor.

It has water pumped up to the feed trough so it can pour over the wheel from above and turn the wheel by the weight of the water. For centuries mills ground flour by this method. Where there was no handy stream or river mills were powered by wind.

During the Industrial Revolution this method provided the power for the huge factories - and so they became known as "mills".

The wheel stands outside the Wayside Museum.

By the side of the road is a slab of stone with a hole or depression in its centre. It was the village plague stone. During times of outbreak, any money coming into or out of the village was dipped in vinegar in the hole to discinfect coins to try to stop the spread of the disease.

We're not just talking about the Black Death and bubonic plagues of the distant past - the sign tells of cholera outbreaks in 1832 and 1849.

The church is lovely. It is dedicated to St Senara, a rather mysterious character who was supposed to have been a mermaid before her conversion to Christianity, North Sea Gas and legs...

There is a well known legend here of a chorister called Matthew Trewella, 600 years ago, whose voice was so pure that he sang the closing hymn to services as a solo. A mermaid heard his singing and came to the church (presumably somewhat in the manner of a sea lion but without the ball balanced on her nose) to entice him back into the sea as her husband.

"Crikey! You'll do for me!" he said with relish, looking at her vital statistics of 36, 24, 50p per pound... He vanished with her beneath the waves and it is said that on a still night after seventeen pints you can hear him singing from beneath the waves. Not bad for a chap over 600 years old!

The mermaid is remembered in this bench end carving from 600 years ago. She holds a mirror and comb in her hands but her features have been lost, it is said, to the hammers of the Puritans.

A good start to the day! More to come...

Photos from this holiday are available as a set at my Flickr account.

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