The Cornish Banner is also known as An Baner Kernewek and has been in existence since 1975. Dr James Whetter began the magazine and continued to produce it until just before his death in February 2018. The last Issue, Number 171, was of its usual high quality and came out on the 1st February 2018, just over three weeks before he passed from this plane of life. It was not a day late.
There were four issues each year and defined by the Gaelic
Seasonal Festivals, as follows;
Imbolc – 1 February – marking the beginning of Spring.
Beltane – 1 May – marking the beginning of
Lughnasa – 1 August – marking the beginning of
the harvest season.
Samhain – 1 November – marking the end of the
harvest season and the beginning of Winter.
The Cornish Banner is Cornwall’s foremost cultural magazine
and is the County’s longest running serious quarterly. As well as providing
up-to-date commentary on the current world scene, the magazine deals with
contemporary events in Cornwall and has articles on its history, culture and
the arts written by leading writers. The series on Cornish personalities
through the centuries, written by Dr Whetter, added to articles on Cornish
rural society from 1600 to modern times, taking as an example his own parish of
St. Gorran in south Cornwall.
Dygemysker’s ‘Cornish Notes’, consisting of extracts from
the previous three months issues of the daily Western Morning News, provided
local readers and those overseas with an invaluable record of their native
land. ‘Cornish Gleanings’ by Tom Tucker, contributions by talented poets, book
reviews and shorter pieces complete the pages of Cornwall’s most distinguished
The Cornish Banner
The Voice of the People
Produced by Cornish People
For Cornish people and those who love our land
About Cornwall and Cornish people
About other nations and peoples
Is independent of all big publishing and other
organisations outside Cornwall
Henry Jenner wrote A
Handbook of the Cornish Language in 1904, shortly after being made a Bard
of the Breton Gorsedd in 1903. His Bardic name was Gwas Myghal (Servant of
Michael). Jenner soon founded the first Cornish Language Society, ‘Cowethas
His book is a thorough study of the history, story and evolution
of the Cornish language and is still available today. It is a necessary
addition to the library of the serious student of the Cornish language.
The original manuscript is now held at Kresen Kernow, a site which is currently under construction and will ultimately house many Cornish archives.
Henry Jenner’s interest in the Cornish language began, when
he was a young boy at St Columb Major. Robert Morton Nance discussed this in
his book, Cornish Beginnings.
When Jenner was a
small boy at St. Columb, his birthplace, he heard at the table some talk
between his father and a guest that made him prick up his ears, and no doubt
brought sparkles to his eyes which anyone who told him something will remember.
They were speaking of a Cornish language. At the first pause in their talk he
put his query… ‘But is there really a Cornish Language?’ and on being assured
that at least there had been one, he said ‘Then I’m Cornish—that’s mine!’
It was in 1869 when Henry Jenner was working as a clerk in
the Probate Division of the High Court, that he received the news that he had
been nominated by the Primate at Canterbury for a job at the Department of
Ancient Manuscripts in the British Museum. Jenner’s father was Rector of
Wingham, Canterbury at this time and able to accommodate Jenner there. This was
the ideal place for Jenner to uncover, read and squirrel away information on
his beloved Cornwall and its ancient language.
Henry Jenner began to formulate and hone his future academic work on Celtic languages, reading papers on the Manx and Cornish languages, amongst others. But it wasn’t until 1877, while working in the depths and passages of the British Museum that he discovered a medieval play, comprising only 41 lines and written in Cornish in 1450, on the back of a charter dated 1340.
On the back of a charter in the British Museum the present writer discovered in 1877, a fragment of 41 lines of a Cornish verse. The writing was very faint, indeed the MS, had passed through other, and by no means incompetent hands without this precious endorsement being noticed, and the finder might have missed it too had he not been deliberately looking for possible Cornish words on the backs of a number of charters relating to St. Stephen-in-Brannel, after he had finished the necessary revision of the cataloguing of these documents. The date of the document is 1340, but the Cornish writing on the back is somewhat later, perhaps about 1400. The language and the spelling agree with the those of the Poem of the Passion and the Ordinalia, and the exact metre is not found anywhere else.
Henry Jenner A Handbook of the Cornish Language
This was his Rosetta Stone.
Following Jenner’s publication of, A Handbook of the Cornish Language, interest in the Cornish language took hold. Jenner’s version of Cornish was based on the form of the language used in West Cornwall in the 18th century. Jenner’s spelling and pronunciation was mainly influenced by Edward Lhuyd and the tradition of speaking Cornish of its last speakers. It was his pupil Robert Morton Nance who would give the language revival a stronger mediaeval influence.
He wrote several essays on the subject, discussing in great
detail his research on the origin of the Cornish language and its evolution
over the years. He describes Cornish as being one of the seven recognised
Celtic languages, belonging to the type known as Aryan, originating within the
The Cornish language which at one time was spoken all over
Cornwall, eventually began to die out as more spoke English. Cheston Marchant was recorded by Borlase as
being the last person to speak only Cornish. It is interesting to note that she
died at Gwithian in 1676, reputably at the age of 164.
Mrs Dolly Pentreath has erroneously been recorded as the last Cornish speaker in Cornwall in 1768, but a Mousehole fisherman called William Bodenor, who died in 1794, wrote a letter in Cornish and English which the antiquary Daines Barrington contributed to the Archaelogia Cornu-Britannica by Edward Lhuyd. There are several notable records of Cornish being spoken later than Dolly Pentreath – but she gets the publicity.
According to Jenner, it was sometime between 1875 and 1890 that there was no one left who either spoke or could write in Cornish. Jenner’s mother in law could only recall being able to recite the Lord’s Prayer in Cornish but had forgotten it as she became older. This lady, Mrs W J Rawlings, died in 1879. Henry Jenner details many names and instances of Cornish language speakers in his essays on the subject.
A Short Biography
Henry Jenner was born on the 8th August 1848 at St. Columb
Major to Henry Lascelles Jenner, a curate at St Columb Major church, who was
later consecrated (not enthroned) as Bishop of Dunedin, and whose own father
was Herbert Jenner Fust.
Henry married Kitty Lee Rawlings in 1877, the year he began
working at the British Museum. Kitty Lee was already an established novelist.
Henry was a Tory and a Jacobite and both he and his wife
supported the Order of the White Rose, which he founded in 1891 and of which he
Jenner stayed at the British Museum for over 40 years until 1909 when the couple retired to Hayle, Kitty’s birthplace. Jenner became Librarian at Morrab Library and remained there until 1927. He was also President of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society and the Royal Institution of Cornwall.
Jenner died on the 8th May 1934 and is buried at St Uny’s Church at Lelant.
The whole object of my life has been to inculcate into Cornish people a sense of their Cornishness.
Henry Jenner on his deathbed
Henry Jenner’s obituary
MR. HENRY JENNER
Mr. Henry Jenner, F.S.A., who died at Hayle, Cornwall, on Tuesday at the age of 85, was an authority on the ancient Cornish language, of which he had compiled a dictionary. He was the only son of Dr. Henry Lascelles Jenner, the first Bishop of Dunedin, and a grandson of Herbert Jenner-Fust, Dean of the Arches and Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. For 40 years he was on the library staff at the British Museum. He was the senior bard of the Cornish Gorsedd, and had a striking appearance, being tall with a long white bear. He was a composer and produced “The Cornish Song Book.” He married Kate Rawlings, novelist and writer on art. The funeral will be at Lelant on Saturday at 12.15, after requiem Mass at Downes at 11 o’clock.
The Times on 10th May 1934
The Lord’s Prayer in Cornish
Agan Tas-ny, us yn neft, Benygys re bo dha Hanow, Re dheffo dha wiacor, Dha voth re bo gwres, y’n nor kepar hag y’n nef;
Ro gaf dhyn agan camwyth, Kepar del aven-nyny dhe’n re-na us ow camwul er agan pyn-ny;
Ha na wra agan gorra yn temptasyon, Mess delyrf ny dworth drok.
Rag dhyso-jy an walscor, ha’n gallos, ha’n gordhyans Bys vyken ha bynary.
Robert Stephen Hawker was born on the 3rd December
1803, five months after George Borrow, who was also a descendant of Cornishmen
and was to write enthusiastically of the beauteous scenery and peoples he
discovered therein as did Hawker.
Hawker was born in the clergy house of Charles Church,
Plymouth, the grandson of Robert Hawker who was vicar there. There were eight
children born after Robert, but he was left to live with his grandfather when
his own father Jacob Stephen Hawker, left to take up a new position as curate
at Altarnun with the rest of the family when Robert was ten. Altarnun was the
village featured in Jamaica Inn by
Daphne du Maurier, where the vicar (spoiler alert) turned out to be a real
It seems that the family did not want to interrupt Robert’s
education, he already reading and writing poetry. The grandfather helping his
further education at Liskeard Grammar School and Cheltenham Grammar School.
He was an undergraduate of 19 when he married Charlotte
Eliza L’ans aged 41, and whose money helped Hawker establish himself. George
Borrow also married an older lady of money, who enabled him to do the same.
Rather than ‘gold-digging’, both matches appear to have been from mutual love
and respect. At any rate, Hawker could now afford to graduate from Pembroke College,
Oxford. He had been an opium eater, trying to overcome anxiety and his marriage
helped him to limit the amount of drugs he took.
They honeymooned at Tintagel in 1823, where they furthered
Hawker’s lifelong love of the legend of Kind Arthur, of whom he wrote several
times. Throughout her long life, anyone who met Charlotte considered her a
wonderful woman and Hawker totally relied upon her.
In 1825 he published anonymously The Song of the Western
Men, still counted today as being the unofficial anthem of the Cornish.
It was 1834 when he became vicar at Morwenstow, where they
had not a vicar for over a hundred years. Here, Hawker found a godless
congregation many of whom took part in smuggling and wrecking. To add to the
atmosphere, it was commonly accepted that the wreckers of Morwenstow would,
‘allow a fainting brother to perish in the sea… without extending a hand of
Hawker did all he could to change the way his congregation
dealt with the tragedy and misfortune of others by taking the lead. He was
often the first to reach the cliffs when there was a shipwreck. He also gave
all dead seamen a Christian burial, a kinder end for them, when previously the
bodies would have been left in the sea or buried on the beach. The churchyard grave
of five of the crew of the Caledonia, which sank in 1842, is marked by the
ship’s own figurehead. A granite cross marks the graves of more than 30 drowned
seaman. Most of these wrecks and rescues are described by Hawker in his book, Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall.
He built a hut overlooking the sea, still there today and protected by the National Trust. Within the hut he was said to take opium, smoke and write his poetry. He was a believer and practitioner of mysticism and had many visions. He also suffered from depression.
With all his brightness and vivacity, there was constantly ‘ cropping up,’ a sad and serious vein, which showed itself sometimes in a curious fashion. ‘ This is as life seems to you,’ he would say, as he bade his visitor look at the prospect through a pane of ruby-tinted glass, ‘all glowing and hopeful. And this is as I see it,’ he would add, turning to a pane of yellow, ‘ grey and wintry and faded. But keep your ruby days as long as you can.’
The Vicar of Morwenstow by Sabine Baring Gould
Hawker introduced the Harvest Festival and built a spectacular vicarage with chimneys copying those which had played an important part in his life.
A happily eccentric man, Hawker dressed in a claret coat, blue fisherman’s jumper, long sea boots, a pink brimless hat and a yellow poncho made from a horse blanket.
There was, we remember, a peculiar yellow vestment, in which he appeared much like a Lama of Tibet, which he wore in his house and about his parish, and which he insisted was an exact copy of a priestly robe worn by St. Pardarn and St. Teilo. We have seen him in this attire proceeding through the lanes on the back of a well-groomed mule—the only fitting beast, as he remarked, for a churchman.’ We have here one instance out of many of the manner in which the Vicar delighted to hoax visitors. The yellow vestment in question was a poncho. It came into use in the following manner: — Mr. M, a neighbour, was in conversation one day with Mr. Hawker, when the latter complained that he could not get a greatcoat to his fancy. ‘ Why not wear a poncho? ‘ asked Mr. M. ‘ Poncho! what is that? ‘ inquired the Vicar. ‘ Nothing but a blanket with a hole in the middle.’ ‘ Do you put your legs through the hole, and tie the four corners over your head? ‘ ‘ No,’ answered Mr. M; ‘ I will fetch you my poncho, and you can try it on.’ The poncho was brought; it was a dark blue one, and the Vicar was delighted with it. There was no trouble in putting it on. It suited his fancy amazingly ; and next time he went to Bideford he bought a yellowish-brown blanket, and had a hole cut in the middle, through which to thrust his head. ‘I wouldn’t wear your livery, M ,’ said he, ‘nor your political colours, so I have got a yellow poncho.’ Those who knew him well can picture to themselves the sly twinkle in his eye as he informed his credulous visitor that he was invested in the habit of St. Pardarn and St. Teilo.
The Vicar of Morwenstow by Sabine Baring Gould
He would talk to the birds, have his cats inside the church and kept a pig as a pet. When one of his cats was caught killing mice, Hawker excommunicated him. He had also been known to sometimes dress as a mermaid, one hopes purely for entertainment. A good read is his autobiography written by Sabine Baring Gould called The Vicar of Morwenstow, where much of Hawker’s life is discussed in more detail than we have space for here. Hawker himself had written,
‘What a life mine would be if it were all written and published in a book.’
R S Hawker
His wife Charlotte died in 1863 aged 81, following a long
illness and suffering blindness. Hawker would read to her daily and when she
died, it was then he returned to opium to heal his depression. He took to
eating only clotted cream and his tiredness and lack of personal care meant
that he once set fire to his work and part of the vicarage, which was luckily spotted
by a fellow minister, who thankfully saved the day.
But within a year Hawker had wooed and married the 20-year-old
Pauline Kuczynski who produced three daughters, Morwenna Pauline, Rosalind and
Juliot. Pauline was the impoverished daughter of a Polish Count, who had found
it necessary to find employment as a governess to a family in Morwenstow.
However successful this second marriage was, it certainly meant that he temporarily
stopped taking opium. But the withdrawal meant that Hawker soon renewed his
relationship with depression, constantly worrying about his young family and
how they would manage following his inevitable death.
Hawker went to London for his health which worsened and
improved according to his moods. The family moved back to Plymouth where they
took a small house. Hawker talked much of witches, the devil and evil spirits
all of whom he believed persecuted him. He eventually died on 15th August 1875
shortly after converting to Catholicism and is buried in Plymouth. The
conversion was surprising and full of controversy, some intimating that
advantage had been taken of Hawkers weak mental and physical state. The
mourners wore purple instead of the traditional black.
He left his family little provision and they had to manage
as best they could.
Hawker had also learned that he would not be allowed to be buried alongside his first wife in the church at Morwenstow. This greatly upset him, and it is said that his spirit has been seen on many occasions standing over the grave, staring mournfully at where he had not been allowed to take his final rest.
The Song of the Western Men, also known as Trelawney, is a
Cornish patriotic song. It has been referred to many times as the National
Anthem of Cornwall.
It was sung at the funeral of Dr. James Whetter, a Cornish
nationalist and true Cornish man.
A good sword and a trusty hand! A merry heart and true! King James’s men shall understand What Cornish lads can do! And have they fixed the where and when? And shall Trelawny die? Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!
And shall Trelawny live? Or shall Trelawny die? Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!
Out spake their Captain brave and bold: A merry wight was he: Though London Tower were Michael’s hold, We’ll set Trelawny free! We’ll cross the Tamar, land to land: The Severn is no stay: With “one and all,” and hand in hand; And who shall bid us nay?
And shall Trelawny live? Or shall Trelawny die? Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!
And when we come to London Wall, A pleasant sight to view, Come forth! come forth! ye cowards all: Here’s men as good as you. Trelawny he’s in keep and hold; Trelawny he may die: Here’s twenty thousand Cornish bold Will know the reason why
And shall Trelawny live? Or shall Trelawny die? Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!
And shall Trelawny live? Or shall Trelawny die? Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!
The reason why!
Following are the two translated Cornish versions of Trelawney, the first translated by Henry Jenner in 1905
‘Ma lel an leuv, ‘ma’n kledha mas ‘Ma’n golon lowen, gwir! Tus Mytern Jams ‘wra konvedhes Pandr’yll Kernowyon sur! Yw ornys le ha prys ankow? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Mes ugans mil a dus Kernow A wodhvydh oll an kas. ‘Verow Trelawny bras? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Mes ugens mil a dus Kernow A wodhvydh oll an kas. ‘Medh aga Hapten, krev ha dreus, Gwas lowen ev a veu, “A pe Tour Loundres Karrek Loos, Ni a’n kergh mes a’n le.” “Ni ‘dres an Tamar, tir dhe dir, A pe ‘vel Havren down, Onan hag oll, dhe’n den eus fur; Dhe’gan lettya ‘fedh own.” ‘Verow Trelawny bras? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Mes ugens mil a dus Kernow A wodhvydh oll an kas. “Pan wrellen dos dhe Fos Loundres, Dhe wel a bleg dhyn ni; Ownegyon oll, gwrewgh dos yn-mes Dhe dus eus gwell eso’hwi!” “Yn karhar kelmys rag ankow Mirowgh Trelawny bras! Mes ugans mil a dus Kernow A wodhvydh oll an kas.” ‘Verow Trelawny bras? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Mes ugens mil a dus Kernow A wodhvydh oll an kas.
Henry Jenner 1905
Gans kledha da ha dorn yw lel, Gwir lowen an golon Yth aswon Mytern Jamys fel Pandr’wrello Kernowyon. Yw ordnys prys ha le ankow? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Ottomma ugens mil Gernow A wodhvydh oll an kas. ‘Verow Trelawny bras? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Ottomma ugens mil Gernow A wodhvydh oll an kas! Yn-medh an kapten, byw y woos, Gwas joliv yn mesk kans: “Tour Loundres kyn fe Karrek Loos Y’n delirvsen dehwans. Ni a dres Tamar, tir dhe dir, An Havren ny’gan lett; Ha skoodh reb skoodh, kowetha wir, Piw orthyn ni a sett? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Ottomma ugens mil Gernow A wodhvydh oll an kas! Devedhys bys yn fos Loundres “Gwel teg dhyn” ni a gri; “Dewgh mes, ownegyon oll, dewgh mes, Gwell dus on esowgh hwi!” Trelawny yw avel felon Fast yn karharow tynn Mes ugens mil a Gernowyon Godhvos an ken a vynn. ‘Verow Trelawny bras? ‘Verow Trelawny bras? Ottomma ugens mil Gernow A wodhvydh oll an kas!
Robert Stephen Hawker, the well known and eccentric Vicar of Morwenstow is thought to have published the song in its most recent form during 1824 and had it published anonymously. He said,
With the exception of the choral lines, And shall Trelawny die? Here’s twenty thousand Cornish men Will know the reason why!’ ‘ and which have been, ever since the imprisonment by James the Second of the seven bishops — one of them Sir Jonathan Trelawny — a popular proverb throughout Cornwall, the whole of this song was composed by me in the year 1825. I wrote it under a stag-horned oak in Sir Beville’s Walk in Stowe Wood. It was sent by me anonymously to a Plymouth paper, and there it attracted the notice of Mr Davies Gilbert, who reprinted it at his private press at Eastbourne under the avowed impression that it was the original ballad. It had the good fortune to win the eulogy of Sir Walter Scott, who also deemed it to be the ancient song. It was praised under the same persuasion by Lord Macaulay and by Mr Dickens, who inserted it at first as of genuine antiquity in his Household Words, but who afterwards acknowledged its actual paternity in the same publication.’
The history of that Ballad is suggestive of my whole life. I published it first anonymously in a Plymouth Paper. Everybody liked it. It, not myself, became popular. I was unnoted and unknown. It was seen by Mr Davies Gilbert, President of the Society of Antiquaries, etc., etc., and by him reprinted at his own Private Press at Eastbourne. Then it attracted the notice of Sir Walter Scott, who praised it, not me, unconscious of the Author. Afterwards Macaulay (Lord) extolled it in his History of England. All these years the Song has been bought and sold, set to music and applauded, while I have lived on among these far away rocks unprofited, unpraised and unknown. This is an epitome of my whole life. Others have drawn profit from my brain while I have been coolly relinquished to obscurity and unrequital and neglect.
Hawker of Morwenstow, by Piers Brandon
Here is a video of the Song of the Western Men being sung with national pride and feeling.
The Cornish Banner / An Baner Kernewek is Cornwall’s foremost cultural magazine. Now in its 41st year and having reached No. 167 it is the land’s longest running serious quarterly. As well as providing up-to-date commentary on the current world scene the magazine deals with contemporary events in Cornwall and has articles on its history, culture and the arts by leading writers. An interesting feature looks at the history of islands and regions in other parts, putting the Cornish experience in perspective. Having completed in past issues a series on Cornish people in the 20th century, which has recently been published as a book in two volumes, the editor now has articles on Cornish personalities in the Georgian period, including Sir Francis Basset/Lord de Dunstanville, Charles Rashleigh and Christopher Wallis, a Helston attorney. Dygemysker’s “Cornish Notes”, consisting of extracts from the previous three months issues of the daily Western Morning News, provide local readers and those overseas with an invaluable record of their native land. “Cornish Gleanings” by Tom Tucker, contributions by talented poets, book reviews and shorter pieces complete the pages of Cornwall’s most distinguished journal which is well supported by local advertisers
Annual post subscription – inland £15.00, Continent £20.00, airmail £25.00.
Daphne du Maurier (1907 – 1989) and her Cornish homes.
Dame Daphne du Maurier, Lady Browning, DBE, first saw Fowey in 1923 while descending Bodinnick Hill during a search for a holiday home with her parents. The family had taken several holidays in Cornwall and Daphne had always enjoyed them but secretly hoped that if a holiday home were to be bought, it would be in France.
Upon seeing the town of Fowey across the harbour, seemingly painted against a backdrop of woods and with the business of a working port in the foreground, Daphne knew that this was the place she had often seen in her dreams. The family arrived at the bottom of Bodinnick hill and parked alongside the inn there. Gerald and Muriel du Maurier noticed a house to their left, which had previously been part of the old boatyard, was now for sale. Daphne and her sisters immediately trespassed, as was their habit.
The small property occupied a delicious spot overlooking the estuary
where the water rushed past the wall. The tiny lawn was often under water and
only a few lilac bushes managed to straggle by the edge of the property.
The house emerged from the side of the hill and was built using old timbers.
It had been designed with small rooms upstairs and down, linked by narrow
staircases and corridors. It was not until 1926 when the alterations were
finally completed that the family could spend more time at Ferryside.
Nineteen year old Daphne would walk her dog Bingo to Lanteglos Church and the
other-worldly quiet valley in which it sits. She did not know then that she
would marry at that church. On other days she would catch the ferry from
outside Ferryside to Fowey from where she trudged to Readymoney Cove and
Polridmouth past Gribben, Polkerris and Par. On these adventures she walked in
her future footsteps, passing her homes and final resting place.
Daphne was 20 on the 12th May 1927 and celebrated the
event with her mother Muriel and sisters, Jeanne and Angela at Ferryside. The
following day the family left Daphne alone at Ferryside while they travelled
home to London. During her short solitary stay, Daphne learnt to sail with a
local man called Adams and listened to tales of his family and the
schooner Jane Slade and she began to
mentally ‘brew’ her first successful novel, ‘The
The Nook, Bodinnick
On 3rd October 1929, Daphne was given permission to stay at Ferryside for
the winter and write. She was however, to lodge with Miss Roberts at The Nook,
across the lane from Ferryside. This tiny cottage had no bathroom and the ‘lav’
sat at the bottom of the small garden. Miss Roberts cooked for Daphne and
washed her clothes and trotted upstairs with her washing water. Miss Roberts
gossiped and comforted Daphne while allowing her freedom. Daphne slept and ate
her meals at The Nook and then wrote at Ferryside and later walked or sailed
before she locked up Ferryside at 7 pm and returned to the care of Miss
Roberts. There she chatted, read and went to bed early, listening to the
comforting sound of the water.
Daphne further researched the stories she had heard from Adams. She had
written many notes on the history of the schooner, Jane
Slade , Fowey and Bodinnick from information gathered during her sailing
lessons. Now she was free to set about writing ‘The
Loving Spirit.’ She wrote diligently and had only a couple of breaks from her work,
travelling back to Cannon Hall in London to
be with her family. She left her unfinished manuscript and dog Bingo in the
safe care of Miss Roberts. It took only a few months for Daphne to complete her
novel and The Loving Spirit was soon on the
journey which would ultimately bring Daphne fame, fortune and a husband.
The artist Frances Hodgkins enjoyed similar hospitality with Miss Roberts
during 1931 when she painted ‘Wings over Water,’which imitated the
view from The Nook across the river and featured Miss Roberts’s large red
parrot with which Daphne had enjoyed many conversations.
Daphne kept in touch with Miss Roberts in the following years and visited her
in hospital in the autumn of 1938 where she lay stricken with cancer of the
bowel. Miss Roberts still chattered and gossiped and told Daphne not to worry
about the possibility of an upcoming war, bringing Daphne to shame for her own
The Haven, Fowey
The Haven has been owned by Sir Arthur Quiller Couch since 1892 and
occupied by him for half of every year when he was not at Cambridge where he
held the chair in English. J M Barrie had introduced him to the du Mauriers
when he discovered that they were to live at Ferryside. Daphne greatly admired
Q and his work and reputation and it was his influence in her writing which
helped her to mature and hone her craft.
During Daphne’s Winter of 1929, she would take supper with the Quiller Couches
Q’s daughter, Foy Quiller Couch became great friends with Daphne and they spent
a good deal of their time in each other’s company. They walked and rode
together, one of their rides being across Bodmin Moor where Daphne was
introduced to Jamaica Inn, sowing seeds of an idea for one of her future
The Haven is a Grade II listed building, making the list on the 11th March 1974,
C19 house of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Stucco and brick with slate hipped roof. Front to harbour has 2-storey bay flanked by 2 sash windows, without glazing bars, on each side. Quoins. Facade to road has verandah on left.
Listing NGR: SX1233251462
Q died in 1944 and in the following years, Foy persuaded Daphne to complete his final work, ‘Castle Dor’, which she did eventually publish in 1962. Daphne, such an admirer of Q’s, was terrified that she had not done his work justice, but reviews and sales proved the contrary.
8 Readymoney Cove (Readymoney Cottage)
In late 1942, Daphne now married to Tommy (Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Arthur Montague “Boy” Browning, GCVO, KBE, CB, DSO) for ten years and the mother of three children, left the Puxleys at Langley End and moved to Fowey. Tommy was living his war and Daphne being unable to move to the family home at Ferryside which had been requisitioned by the Navy, instead rented 8 Readymoney Cove. The property had originally been the old stables and coach house for Point Neptune House, which had been built for the Rashleighs of Menabilly. It was a nice house, albeit small but with a garden leading directly to the beach. She was writing ‘Hungry Hill’ based heavily on the life story of Christopher Puxley’s family. He and Daphne had had a dalliance at Langley End and writing this new novel meant that he must visit her at Fowey. He stayed at The Fowey Hotel where Daphne would meet him surreptitiously.
The Watch House
This stone and slate twelve foot square building sits above Watch House Cove between Polruan and Polperro and during the war was in a restricted zone. It had been a coastguard’s hut from where stone steps led to the beach. Daphne rented it for £5 per year and she and Puxley would go there for their trysts aka information-gathering meetings for the new novel. They felt safe from nosy neighbours and gossips and believed their visits to be secret, although anyone who had lived in a small community knows that it was highly unlikely that they were not seen.
As the lease for Readymoney Cove was nearing its end, Daphne heard that
Dr. Rashleigh may consider leasing Menabilly to her. Daphne and her sister had
first seen the beautiful house on one of their 1926 walks when they had
investigated several routes in order to find this mystical place. Daphne fell
in love with the unoccupied house immediately upon seeing it and would
‘trespass’ many times during the following years, imagining that she lived
there. Latterly Dr Rashleigh had allowed her to walk through the woods anytime
she wanted to.
Dr Rashleigh was 71 and had no heir, so the estate was to go to his cousin. He
decided that he would sell the contents of Menabilly and lease it at a very low
rent until his own death. The tenant would however be responsible for the
upkeep and repair of Menabilly. The first job would be a new roof, a huge
outlay of £30,000 as it turned out.
In 1943, Daphne agreed to a 20 year lease in spite of advice to the contrary.
She intended to plug the financial gap by writing more books and this she did.
Several of her best sellers such as, ‘The
Kings General, ‘My Cousin Rachel’, ‘The
Birds’ ‘Rule Britannia and ‘Rebecca’, amongst others,
were based there.
Careful reading of the first chapter of Rebecca reveal her memory
narrative of searching for Menabilly with her sister and the difficulty
of traversing the overgrown pathways through the woods.
By 1958 as the lease was nearing its end and Daphne began trying to persuade
Dr. Rashleigh to give her another lease. His cousin’s son Philip was now the
heir and he intended to live at Menabilly as soon as he inherited. They
negotiated for two more years until in 1960 Dr Rashleigh agreed a further 23
year lease so long as Daphne took responsibility for the care of all the
woodlands on the estate. She readily accepted and looked forward to the future
again. She also began negotiations for the lease of Kilmarth, the Menabilly
dower house further along the coastline towards Par.
Dr Rashleigh died shortly afterwards and Daphne learned that her highly paid
lawyer had omitted to have the agreed lease signed and her 23 year future at
Menabilly was vanishing before her eyes.
However, further negotiation with Philip Rashleigh gave her a seven year
extension to the 1943 twenty year lease and Daphne felt safe enough to write
It also meant that she was also able to entertain The Queen and Prince Philip
there in July 1962.
Tommy died in 1965 and Daphne was now living alone at Menabilly when Philip
Rashleigh began pushing for her early departure. She had four years left on the
Menabilly lease and had been negotiating for a further fifteen years, although
she had also paid a deposit on the Kilmarth property. The two parties
negotiated quite keenly, even having a serious talk at Menabilly where Philip
Rashleigh told her he may extend the lease for seven years if she paid for the
demolition of a decaying wing at the property.
Daphne was always willing to fight for her dreams but was still feeling fragile
from her so recent widowhood.
Eventually Rashleigh decided that he would not renew Menabilly when the current
lease expired and he intended to move there with his family. He would however allow
her to have Kilmarth for her lifetime.
Daphne signed the lease for Kilmarth in 1968 and began more renovations
and repairs there which she complained were draining her finances. She had
spent so much of her own money on Menabilly that it is of no surprise that she
complained. But the house was beautiful and had the lovely views and privacy
she craved. She could walk down to the beach and along the coast path with her
West Highland Terrier, Moray at least once a day.
She had the builders convert a small basement room into a chapel. She kept in
the orchard, what was left of Ygdrasil, the boat in which
Tommy had first chugged past Ferryside all those years ago under the eyes of
Daphne and her sisters and in which they had honeymooned at Helford.
Daphne soon realised that Kilmarth had a wonderful atmosphere and the epic
views from the house of St Austell Bay, she wished Tommy could have seen.
She finally moved to Kilmarth in June 1969 and began her new routine. She
initially often walked over to Menabilly but soon stopped because it distressed
her so much. Instead she took her walks around the fields at Kilmarth and down
to the beach there. It was several years before she began her regular Monday
visits to the Rashleighs at Menabilly.
As Daphne settled at Kilmarth, she began writing yet another novel, ‘The
House on the Strand.’ It was based on her research of her new property and then merged
with her own incredible imagination.
In 1989 Daphne was 81. Most of her friends were dead and she had decided she
wanted to die too. She stopped eating and dropped down to six stone. On the 16th April she
asked her friend to drive her down to Pridmouth beach where Rebecca had died,
followed by a visit to Menabilly and lastly, to her sister at Ferryside.
Daphne went to bed on the 18th April and
died in her sleep.
Her funeral was on the 26th April with a thanksgiving
service at Tregaminion Chapel by the famous gates at Menabilly. The chapel was
filled with her favourite camellias.
Her ashes were scattered on the beach below Kilmarth, where she had walked
almost every day of her life there.
The Cornish Banner / An Baner Kernewek is Cornwall’s foremost cultural magazine. Now in its 41st year and having reached No. 163 it is the land’s longest running serious quarterly.
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