Rodney Bewes This is Your Life 1978 - written by Phil Burgess - Part One (added 22/07/21)

Photo: Rodney Bewes

It all started one summer night when we were at the Cadgwith Cove Inn. Pedro Jose, Nigel Legge, Plugger Jane, and myself were sitting at a table, pint in hand and talking about the days fishing we had, and what we caught.
At the next table there were two people, and you could sense that they were listening to our conversation. They then started asking us all about fishing, what we catch down here, and they seemed interested in what we do. It didn’t seem funny to us at the time, as visitors were usually asking questions about fishing, and the way of life in the cove.

They said that they had read that Rodney Bewes owned a cottage here in the cove and did we know him. So we started telling them a few stories, about how he likes to go fishing with us, and he is usually down with his wife and four children, enjoying the cove and the surrounding place.

After half the evening was gone they owned up to the fact that they were researchers for a program called This is Your Life, and did we know it? Well yes we said, as it was a very popular program back in the seventies and eighties.

They said that they were going to include Rodney Bewes in one of the future programs, and would we be prepared to come up to London, as Cornwall will be included in part of the story of his life.

After we agreed that we would of course, they said that we would have to keep it secret, and tell nobody. If it ever got out, they wouldn’t then be able make the program on him. We asked when do you think this will be, and they said in about three to four weeks, we will be in touch. When they were leaving, again they said do not tell anybody.

Well it was about a month after that they rang us, and said you’ve got to be in London next Tuesday, we will send you the rail tickets, and one of our drivers will meet you at Paddington Station.

So a local hairdresser offered to give us all a haircut, and armed with fisherman jumpers we boarded the train at Redruth. Barry Monday from Mullion then joined us as well. Look out London here we come.


Part Two

Arriving at Paddington station, we were told to look out for a driver holding a board, with London Weekend TV on it. Sure enough he was there, but also quite a lot of other people were as well. We walked up to him and said who we were, he said I thought you lot looked like fishermen, as we were all dressed the same in navy jumpers. The other people there soon dispersed, as they thought somebody famous was arriving, one look at us lot and they were off. The driver said while you are in London I’m here to take you around, anywhere you want to go.

Walking in the door of the hotel, we were met by one of the show’s producers who said, when you are all checked in we will all be off to the TV studio for a run though of the script. So with several of Rodney’s family, his mother Bessie who we already knew, and various other people, we boarded a coach and off we went to London Weekend TV. Running through the script we were supposed to be first on the program, then sit there. We thought well that’s no problem we can do that.

We then went back to the hotel for a meal, walked in the dining room, and the five of us sat at one of the tables. The waiter came over and said sorry but I can’t serve you, and what’s more, he more or less told us to get out. The problem was he was convinced that we were not guests in the hotel.

Well Nigel came up with a plan, we will go for fish and chips, they can please themselves. As we were walking out, Ian-la Frenais and Dick Clement who again we knew as they used to come down to Cadgwith with Rodney and also wrote The Likely Lads, Porridge, and Auf Wiedersehen Pet, came over and said what is the matter? Well they won’t serve us so we are off, we said. After they explained who we were, the waiter apologised, he couldn’t do enough for us after that.

We all should have had an early night, seeing that we have a big day tomorrow, but we went clubbing instead which was a bit of a mistake. No idea what time we got in, but breakfast the next morning did not go down too well at all. I remember Bessie, Rodney’s mother grinning at us, she knew that we were a bit worse for wear.

We all assembled on the coach at 9.30am and then we were off to the Apollo Theatre in the West End, the big day has arrived. We were there all day, doing a lot of rehearsals, then going back to a big room upstairs, where you could relax, eat and drink. Tom Courtenay was there, so was a lot of other actors, some were very nice and would talk to you, but the odd one or two were playing the big “I am”. I have seen a lot of them on TV since then, but I notice the few who played up never went to go on very far, with their acting.

The whole program was changed around as the day went on, and they then had us coming on last. The theatre was of course empty at this time, but they assured us that it will be full when the show began. It was all starting to get a bit real now. From the window above we could see people arriving for the show, and we were ushered down back stage, where there was a big screen showing the stage. We were all there waiting for the show to start. The music started and in walked Eamon Andrews with Rodney and his wife Daphne.


Part Three

Waiting back stage and watching the show unfold, we were starting to get nervous. One by one the guests were going out through the curtain and saying their bit. There was only Tom Courtney and us left to go. Then off he went and so we were next on. You then get moved to the curtains which lead to the stage. Eamon Andrews started telling a few stories about Rodney down at Cadgwith Cove, he then said, “from the West to the West-end they are here, all the way from Cornwall the fishermen of Cadgwith”. Then out we go, bang the lights hit you first, can’t see a thing. Walking to the front of the stage seems to take an age, you then see a theatre full of people. I remember thinking, I would rather be out at sea in a gale of wind at this very second, than be here. Eamon Andrews then said those famous words “Rodney Bewes This is Your Life”.

After all the applause died down we all then moved from the front of the stage to a huge back room, where they lay on a buffet. Plenty to drink of course, everyone mingles around chatting and the like. It was then that Eamon Andrews came over and started talking to us. He was a big bloke I should say about 6ft 5 inches tall, apparently he used to be a boxer in his younger days. He was very nice and said to us, I know exactly where you are all from, I was down at your Lifeboat station back in 1962.

For those of you who didn’t know, they used the station for the first live transmission from England to North America, via the satellite “Telstar”. I can just remember it happened here at about 9 ish in the evening, I suppose that was because of the time difference, so it would be in the day over there. I do know he stayed at Housel Bay Hotel that evening.

There was a Lizard girl, married and living in North America at the time, and she said she felt homesick watching The Lizard live as it was happening. The group, The Shadows wrote a song called “Telstar” based on it.

I appreciate all the young readers of Lizard Lives are probably wondering why it was such a big thing, to see The Lizard, live in real time as it was happening. What with mobile phones, video calls, What's-app, etc etc. in this day and age. But it was cutting edge stuff back then. How far we have come in a short time.

They then played the whole thing back to us all, the uncut version on a screen. Rodney then had to leave because he had to do the evening show of the theatre play that he was starring in. He said to us “you have got to come and see it”, so we said we would.

This is a picture of us standing there with Eamon Andrews handing the red book to Rodney.
We are standing behind him, myself on the left, next is Nigel Legge, then Dick Clements (co writer) Barry Monday, Parry “Pedro” Jose, and Peter Jane.


Part Four (added 04/09/21)

We all stayed on at the after-show party for a while and then thought we better get going on to the theatre where Rodney was. Our driver was there waiting for us, so we jumped in the car and off we went. To be honest we were quite glad to get out of the theatre, having been there all day. When we arrived at the theatre where his stage play was running, we all headed for the bar, instead of going in and sitting down in the theatre, which was a bit of a mistake. It had already started by the time we all got in there, and we did make a bit of a racket getting to our seats, Rodney said after I knew when you lot turned up, I could hear you.

After the play finished we had a message that Rodney wanted us to meet him in his dressing room. So we was shown back stage by one of the theatre staff, he was busy taking off his make-up, when a tall man walked in. I thought, ‘I recognise him’, he was in fact Simon Williams from the long running and very popular TV series Up Stairs Down Stairs.

Rodney then said “we are all off to a restaurant and you are all coming”. So we all left the dressing room and off we went. Funny thing though, when we went out through the side door, it was the very door that we walked past the night before, when we went out clubbing. If we had been seen it would have given the whole game away. We could never explain away what we were doing in the West End to Rodney if we bumped into him.

The restaurant that we went to belonged to Dai Llewellyn whose brother Roddy was friendly with Princess Margaret at the time.

On the bottom floor was a huge night club and on the top floor was the restaurant.

We all sat around on a big table, I should think about a dozen of us. I sat next to Simon Williams and his wife Lucy Fleming, whose uncle Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond books.

After dinner had finished, as it was now getting late, Dai Llewellyn said to us, “as the restaurant is closing it’s all yours now”, the piano player stayed on with us and everybody stood around the piano singing. I always remember one he sang was American Pie by Don Mclean he didn’t half bang that one out. It always reminds me to this day of that evening all those years ago when I hear it. Mike Winters also walked in who used to be on TV in the Mike and Bernie Winters show. As did about twenty tiller girls, the high kicking ones who used to dance around at the London Palladium.

We left at about 3am, and someone suggested we go to Billingsgate Market to see the fish being landed, but I don’t think any of us by now were able to walk around there. So it was back to the hotel, and the next morning we were on the train home. The day after that we were all out at sea, crabbing, it was like we had been in a dream.

Somebody I have not mentioned is his co-star James Bolam. Although in the Likely Lads the chemistry between them worked very well, but off screen though, they didn’t get on at all. When asked to appear on This Is Your Life, he declined, which to my mind was a bit petty.

Rodney came down on holiday to Cadgwith many more times over the years since then, but when he was down in 2017 he got taken ill and was rushed to hospital.

The four of us went up to see him, in what was to be the last time, and he sadly died the next day.

Daphne his wife died several years before that, but they had four children, Daisy, and triplets, all boys Tom, Joe and Billy. Luckily they were able to keep the cottage in the family at Cadgwith, and Daisy and her children now come down on their summer holidays. So his legacy lives on.

Phil Burgess

The Way We Were (from February 19 magazine - added 23/01/19)

Click to enlarge

Polbrean House is located just south of the lighthouse and was built around 1868, when a Mr Thomas Hart moved there from Falmouth. The picture showing the house and lighthouse was from around 1905.

The house was commissioned by Thomas and included an artist’s studio. His very popular painted subjects were mostly areas of The Lizard, Polbrean and Kynance Cove.  He became a very well-known artist which allowed him to live in some style. The 1871 and 1881 census show the family living at Polbrean with outdoor servants, a governess, cook and a housemaid.  Thomas lived in the house up until his death in 1916.   It finally left the families hands in 1921 when Claude M Hart sold Polbrean at auction.

Mrs. J. A. Hill, proprietress of Hill’s Hotel (now the Top House pub) successfully bid and became the owner at the Truro auction of Polbrean House for the princely sum of £1,050!  It was around this time the building became an Hotel operating as such for many years with quite a few changes of ownership along the way. The Polbrean Hotel became a popular venue for visitors and locals alike.  

In August 1993 the National Trust bought the then empty Polbrean Hotel along with its 2.18 acres.    The building itself had become quite run-down and was subsequently restored by the NT at a cost of nearly half a million pounds utilising a £425,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  It was fully re-furbished and became what we know it as today with the grand opening of YHA Lizard Point taking place in April 2003.

The Way We Were (from February 18 magazine - added 01/02/18)

Not too many changes over the last 120 years or so?
We are a village very well blessed with our public facilities, from our welcoming hostelries to our cafe's and shops, and The Housel Bay Hotel sits very well among these. Over the last century or so it has entertained many high-profile guests since opening in 1894, among others, George Bernard Shaw (1913) and the radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi (1900). Other notable visitors who have stayed include G K Chesterton (1922) the wife and daughter of Benjamin Disraeli; Baroness Von Richthofen in 1904 (Mother of the infamous “Red Baron” Manfred Von RichthofenWorld War 1 fighter pilot) along with the silent movie star Harold Lloyd.  It is also said that the future George V, grandfather to our Queen, stayed at Housel Bay in 1908? Many of the famous faces whose pictures hang in the public rooms have had associations with the hotel over the years and it is well worth a visit just to see how many you can recognise?

Housel then and now. Click to enlarge.

The Way We Were (from December 17 and January 18 magazine)

Ah, the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd  .......  Pantomime season is upon us!  

"The Lizard Lights" were our very own village thespian group and some of them are pictured here in 1983 building the stage in The Reading Room ready for their next presentation. They regularly produced a pantomime as well as summer variety productions. 

As with most amateur dramatic companies each member has to play many "parts" - everything from tea maker, stage builders, prompters and producers - not counting the "stars" of the show who can later be spotted sweeping the floors, stacking the chairs and putting out the lights!  

Pictured are a few stalwarts of the company including, John Ford, John Edwards, Syd Yorston, with George Sallybanks and Mrs Yorston  in the background - for the life of me I cannot remember the silver haired gentleman's name but I'm sure someone will enlighten us and let the editors know! Once again,  many of our school children made up the chorus line and they loved every minute! 

Hilarity always ruled each performance (sometimes perhaps when it shouldn't have) but all was taken in good part by the actors and audience participation, whether requested or not, was rife!  

Looking back, we really have to thank these village elders for their keen selflessness and enthusiasm, and mostly for keeping the company going for so long.  

The Way We Were (added 23/10/17):

Not so many years ago at the end of October and beginning of November The Lizard held an annual show in the Reading Rooms known fondly as "The Chrysanthemum Show". There was always a local dignitary on hand to open the show and it was a day to look forward to and enjoy with many villagers entering their flowers (chrysanthemums to the forefront) vegetables, arts and crafts, home-cooking and baking exhibits, all hoping for that much coveted 1st Prize certificate and Cup! There were also many entries in all categories from our neighbouring villages.  Unfortunately, over the years, support dwindled and eventually, with sadness the show was discontinued. 

The picture collage shows something of the 75th Chrysanthemum show held in 1985, with Landewednack School children and local villagers admiring the entries.  The school was a stalwart supporter of the show with most schoolchildren exhibiting in many categories.  There was always a good show of entries from our  neighbouring villages too. The Lizard children pictured with their trophies are, top left, Sally Richards, bottom left Demelza Hill and top right Yvonne Skerten who had been crowned our village Carnival Queen for that year.  Billy Lovell is also pictured with a well deserved trophy for his prize winning onions!! 

It's sometimes easy to forget just how much hard work behind the scenes goes into producing these events, but wouldn't it be great if we could manage to revive this event? Village activities such as this, along with our carnival and feast days go such a long way in bringing our village together - so it is really pleasing to know that there are people in the village who recognise this and have already made a start in reviving some of our favourite village traditions.

This collage shows something of the 75th Chrysanthemum show held in 1985,
with Landewednack School children and local villagers admiring the entries.
(Click to enlarge)

The Way We Were (added 29/07/17):

Beginning in 1903 Great Western Railway (GWR)  operated a motor bus service  between The Lizard  and Helston Railway Station. The motor bus service was inaugurated as  a much cheaper alternative to a railway line from Helston to The Lizard! (the mind boggles as to how the Bochym and Gwleath road ups and downs would have been engineered for a railway track?) Anyway, considering the busy, oh so very busy summer we have had with vehicles simply everywhere, it's good to reflect back to the relative traffic serenity of the early 1900's when Hill's Hotel was the terminus - wonderful instantly recognisable view of The Lizard square and Hill's Hotel (aka The Top House!) with hardly anything changed .....

Hill's Hotel
(click to enlarge)

The Old Church Hall, Landewednack (added 29/09/17):

The Old Church Hall
(click to enlarge)

Two years ago we bought the Old Church Hall in Church Cove and as you may or may not have seen, we are slowly restoring it and its garden.   Due to the architectural significance of the building, we are having to be very careful with how the work is carried out and we are making sure it is going to be done to the best standards possible, so it will take a while longer.
Because of the halls use for over a century, so many people have told us how they used to use it, or visited it, but what would be interesting would be to see if any of the community have any photographs of it.
I would like to appeal for any pictures, stories or background information of any work carried out to the hall before the Church decided to sell it.
We would be most grateful and can't wait to hear from anybody or to see their photos.

Anthony Culmer tonyculmer@me.com

The Way It Was:

"Our Market Town hasn't changed outwardly in appearance too much over they years, it is still instantly recognisable in most pictures - However, the biggest change to be seen over the last few decades  in our 2 pictures of Meneage Street is the direction of the traffic! Now when did that happen? Anyone remember? Answers on a post card please ............."

Kynance Cliff House was built in 1938.  When the National Trust bought it in the late 1990's it was decided that it was not in keeping with the area of outstanding natural beauty and so it was completely demolished.

Angelic wedding guests? - Landewednack Church

Swallows in the porch (added 28/07/17) Photos by Simon - click to enlarge.

Serving something of the function of modern wedding gazebos, porches were commonly added to Cornish churches, as elsewhere, from the early 15th century on.  Medieval marriage was a secular affair with vows being said outside the church, followed by Catholic mass inside.  Baptism began in the porch, as today, with three godparents or ‘gossips’, two the same sex as the baby.  Churchings, when women were re-admitted to church services after giving birth, also began in the porch with a thorough holy water dowsing.
The porch at Landewednack is one of the finest of any in Cornwall with a holy water stoup and fine 15th century doorway with quatrefoils in the spandrels.  This door was inserted into an earlier Norman south door destroying the tympanum (serpentine pillars and brick infill being 19th century additions).  Four very expressive angel corbels support the stone ribs of the porch vault with large boss of a scroll-holding angel.  It is possible that a corbel with two angels supporting a shield now on display in the north chapel may once have been sited here, too.
The oldest part of the church is the 12th century south wall with Romanesque door from when the church was just a chancel and nave.  Transepts were added in the 13th or early 14th century to accommodate burials and additional altars and the font given by the rector Richard Bolham must date to 1404-15 when he served as priest here.  The two-stage serpentine tower with slit window on its north side (to light the stair), and porch appears to be 15th century, while the north aisle with fluted capitals and tracery-less cusped windows looks early 16th century.  Thomas Levelis, who was a landowner and tax-payer in 1522-4, paid for the east window glazing.  The passage squint could well be the start of an aborted south aisle; a feature also found at Cury where money was left in a will of 1543 for that project.  As processions round the church before Sunday mass were banned in 1548, neither south aisle was ever built.  This left both Landewednack and Cury with the lop-sided plans so typical of Cornwall’s many unfinished churches.
Joanna Mattingly, 22 June 2017

Photos taken by Amanda Csobá

We all miss the annual August Whippet Racing evenings on the Football field - much fun was had by all (especially the dogs!)and welcome funds were raised for our local charities - who knows, perhaps someone will be able to revive it? In the meantime, here's an amusing reminder of just how special those evenings were!

This does "tickle my fancy"!

The Way We Were - another photo from the past:

Joan, Pete and Thora 1985 taking the new community bus
(click to enlarge)

Parish Councillors Joan Farnsworth and Thora Hill with Pete Morris are shown standing next to The Lizard Villages Community Bus in 1985.  The community bus was a real asset to the village and those of us who can remember seeing and using it still miss it.  There was a small dedicated group of volunteer drivers who ran weekly shopping trips and other outings to Helston and sometimes further afield, a boon to some of our elderly and/or non-drivers.  It could also be hired privately by villagers  for a reasonable sum which helped to pay for its upkeep.  Possibly the advent of more car owners and the ever rising price of fuel helped put paid to the bus - can't help thinking though how good it would be if we still had a bus for use by the villagers today?

'The Way it Was':

The Lizard's beautiful church of St Wynwallow or Wynwalloe is believed to date from around 600 AD. The feast day of St Wynwallow is 28th April.  The name Landewednack, previously Landewennac, is likely comprised of the Cornish word 'Lan' meaning 'sacred enclosure' and 'Wennac' from the saint's name "Wennac". Some historians believe this Saint may well be one and the same as St Wynwalloe. 

The picture shows our church in 1908 with the building facade as unchanged today as then and probably not too far off the original 7th century building. Note the "unoccupied" grass areas alongside the path to the church in 1908, now that picture is certainly not the same as today.


My Brief Career as a Lighthouse Keeper Part One … by Edwin Carter (from March issue of Lizard Lives)

It was in 1957 that I decided I wanted to be a lighthouse keeper and well remember leaving The Lizard on the Western National bus which for me was an epic journey to Harwich, up on the east coast.

Hard to believe now, but there was a railway station at Helston which ran a service to Gwinear Road, where passengers could get the main line service from Penzance to Paddington. Some nine hours later I arrived in the capital, then underground to Liverpool Street, where I was confronted by the rush hour. What a terrifying experience.

A few hours later I arrived at the Trinity House depot in Harwich, tired and feeling positively filthy from my journey in those steam locomotive carriages. Harwich was the training establishment for all new recruits and during the four weeks training we became self-sufficient in the arts of cooking, baking, washing, ironing, first aid, rope work and principles of the then paraffin light.

At the end of the month, the eight recruits split up and were assigned to certain land lights for more specific training. I was sent to Nash Point in Glamorgan, South Wales, for mechanical management of the powerful Hornsby piston engines, which were the work horses of the foghorn system.

A month quickly passed before more training, this time at Start Point in South Devon, where I learnt semaphore signals and how to use the radio telephone equipment which would come into play when stationed on a rock lighthouse, and was used three times a day sending in weather reports.

It had now been two months since I left The Lizard. Mum was getting anxious, bless her, surely I must be due for some leave soon. Not a bit of it.

Lundy Island was my next assignment. This however was the real thing. A time to coordinate the past two months training and put it into practice on this lovely romantic island, eleven miles off the North Devon coast. Lundy is rather high, three miles in length by half a mile wide, with a population, then, of about fourteen, but swelling in summer by tourists.

The original lighthouse, now a bird observatory, was a very tall structure, built on the centre of the island, but within a short while became a white elephant, being so high from sea level, the light became extinct during the slightest mist or low cloud and was finally replaced by two smaller towered lights, one at each end of the island and nestling in the cliffs. This is a lovely place to visit having peace, tranquillity and the magic of a small island. Lundy’s emblem is the Puffin and during those days, some four hundred pairs were breeding on the slopes of the northern end. However, since then a serious decline has taken place due to the influence of rats that swam ashore from wrecks and gradually colonized the area.

After two wonderful months on Lundy, I was finally allowed to leave and wasn’t it lovely to see The Lizard again after four long months. “

Next month - see here what drama happens!

Lundy Island (Old Light) Lighthouse


My Brief Career as a Lighthouse Keeper Part Two … by Edwin Carter (from April issue of Lizard Lives)

However, my joy was short lived, a telegram arrived six days later “please report to Plymouth for a spell of duty on the famous Eddystone rock lighthouse.” I recall now the thrill and fear of that message, way back in ‘58 and both of these came into play, two days later after having visited one of the large stores with my list for two months supplies which would be shipped off with me. The following morning I arrived bright and early at Millbay docks. The air was cold, a grey mist hung low over the sea occasionally lifting to unveil the ghostly silhouettes of destroyers and frigates anchored in the sound. A rather large man emerged from the wheelhouse of a dirty looking tug which was moored alongside the quay and in real Devonshire dialect shouted out “all aboard for the Eddystone”. Some half hour later we were on our way slipping past the breakwater and out into the open sea and there on the horizon, like a giant needle, lay my home for the next two months. Two hours passed before we came up close to the Eddystone reef. My heart started pounding as I gazed in awe at this 162 foot high man-made achievement built in solid dovetailed granite blocks straight out of the sea and tapered like a tree so as to withstand everything that nature’s forces could throw at it. High up on the galley two keepers were preparing to winch me up on a rope to the tower, then a loud clattering broke the silence and brought me back to reality, the engines had stopped and a launch was being lowered from the tug which would allow us to get closer to the tower. Within a few minutes we were bobbing up and down like a cork close to the reef. Heavy seas were breaking over the base of the tower and cascading down close to the launch, quite a frightening experience but worse was to come. …

Next month - see how the drama unfolds ….!


My Brief Career as a Lighthouse Keeper Part Three … by Edwin Carter (from May issue of Lizard Lives)

A rope was thrown from the tower and attached to the bow bollard of the launch, from the rope hung a loop, just large enough for me to place my foot in. I was then instructed to lie back, catch hold of the rope with both hands and then slowly, inch by inch, I found myself being winched over the sea and up to the tower. I was instructed not to look down but remember doing so nearly dying with fright at the maelstrom of white water below me: one slip with the hand and it would have been curtains. It seemed like hours before I was dragged by the scruff of the neck and hauled into the doorway. I shook like the proverbial jelly. By now heavy seas were crashing around the rocks, the wind had veered to the south and increasing, there was still oil and stores to be landed. Fortunately, all this went well and in just over the hour we were waving goodbye to the crew of the tug and the keeper, who was going ashore, for his one month leave. The tug gave us a blast on the siren and disappeared into the gathering gloom. A sudden feeling of despair overwhelmed me, as I contemplated having to spend eight weeks with two complete strangers and fourteen miles from land. I was shaken out of my reverie by the principle keeper “come on lad, work to be done. There are stores to be unloaded and a meal to be cooked but first I’ll show you over the premises.”

Spiral granite steps wended ever upward to the tiny circular kitchen with not enough room to swing a cat. Golly, my legs were tiring already. A few more steps brought us to the sleeping quarters. Three bunks, one above the other, were arranged in a semi-circle around the room, the shape of a banana. Next stop the service room, where a powerful radio telephone was installed and where watchkeeping was maintained. Just above this room, the massive lens which reflects and magnifies the light was turning. It was lighting-up time. There was no electricity in those days, the light being akin to a giant tilly lamp with mantle and fed by paraffin from tanks at the bottom of the tower and pumped up by hand. The massive revolving lens had to be wound up several times during the watch. But as well as the light, explosive signals were set off at five minute intervals during fog. This was an arduous task. Giant arms which held the explosives were positioned outside on the gallery which meant running outside every ten minutes, loading the explosives and winding the arms high above the lantern and then back inside to press the plunger at the correct time. This could go on for many hours, as it did when I was on the smalls lighthouse twenty three miles out in the Irish sea, when it lasted for ninety three hours and almost drove us balmy.

Click lighthouse painting to enlarge it.


My Brief Career as a Lighthouse Keeper Part Four (final instalment) … by Edwin Carter (from June issue of Lizard Lives)

As well as working on the light and fog signals, shipping had to be monitored and weather reports logged and radioed in to the nearest coastguard station twice a day. Daily cleaning of either the lens, glazing or brass work was rather time consuming. Being chef came up every third day, and we took great pride in serving up nice meals and trying to be ‘one-up’ on the others in friendly rivalry. Our off-duty time was spent catching up on sleep or busying ourselves with a variety of hobbies, such as making rugs, corn dollies, ships in bottles, reading and, when on the Eddystone and weather permitting, flying a kite we had made out over the reef to catch Mackerel and Bass. This was without question an unique form of fishing. A long piece of nylon trace with hook and silver foil on rubber were attached to the kite, which was then flown out over the rocks to calmer water. Lots of skill was needed to manipulate the ropes from the balcony in such a way as to get the artificial bait just below the surface and yet keep the kite out of the water. We caught many fish by this method. As well as being great fun, it supplemented our menu. The weather played a big part in our daily lives on these lonely rock towers. Some days the sea would be flat calm and others a boiling inferno with mountainous waves hitting the tower and running up and over the top, cups, plates, saucers shaking in the process. A few days prior to the end of one’s term of duty, the shipping forecast received a little more attention than normal and the worst possible news was to hear that low pressure was intensifying in the Bay of Biscay and that a gale was imminent. This actually happened on my first visit to Eddystone and, for eleven long days, we were battered by a force 9 - 10 from the south west. No relief was possible.
Helicopters had not been tried and tested for relief work in those days and of course no helipads built, so we had to sit it out and wait and allowance our rations accordingly. By the twelfth day the wind had abated and the following morning we looked out onto a rather different scene; the raging inferno had spent itself and, slowly, sanity was restored. An hour or so later, we spotted a whiff of smoke on the horizon. A quick scan with the telescope confirmed what we had hoped. Yes, it was the tug on its way to take two of us home and back to civilisation. The drop down the rope, instead of up, was filled with joy - we were going home! The ten weeks spell on the Eddystone, my first of many rock stations including the Longships, Wolf Rock, Bishop Rock and the Smalls, was quite an experience which would fill many more pages. During my 51/2 years as a Trinity House Lighthouse keeper I visited many weird and wonderful places, among them: the Island of Sark in The Channel Islands, with its quaint pony and trap conveyances; Skokholm Island with wonderful sea bird life off the Welsh coast; and the weird and haunted Island of Flatholm in the Bristol Channel; other highlights including: the fantastic feeling when standing amongst 22,000 gannets on the tiny islet of Grassholm, plus the landlights such as Pendeen, St Anthony, Trevose Head, Padstow, Orfordness, Dungeness, Hartland Point and last, but not least, The Lizard. On the downside, the fears when being washed off the landing stage by a freak wave on the Smalls and just managing to hold on to a station protruding out of the rock, and the ducking I received when being winched on to the Wolf Rock. Alas this is now past history and these now silent sentinels, which down through the years have saved many thousands of men, have become automated. Edwin Carter


The walk down to The Lizard's Church Cove, so many Cornish Villages seem to have a Church Cove don't they? This view shows the scene then and now. With about a hundred years between the pictures it proves that in today's "demolition" world, very fortunately, some things stay about the same! (added 29/05/17)

Click to enlarge


THE LIZARD LIGHT RAILWAY from April issue of Lizard Lives:
When the Light Railways Act was passed in 1896, the hope was that it would help open up rural areas, by allowing them to be connected to the railway stations at the larger towns and villages. The maximum speed allowed was 25 miles an hour, and certain other requirements were done away with. Perhaps the principle benefit, to the promoters at least, was that they no longer had to apply for a private Act of Parliament, with its associated costs, instead they could give due notice to the Light Railway Commissioners, who would then hold a local inquiry, hear the evidence for and against the need for the railway, and advise the Commissioners their opinion.

There was a feeling in Cornwall that this Act would be of considerable help to the agricultural community, plans were afoot for several such railways in the Eastern part of the county, including one from Megavissey, whilst further west the Penzance, Newlyn and St. Just Light Railway was proposed.

The Promoters of the Lizard Light Railway were quick off the mark, in April 1897 they gave due notice to the Commissioners that a Company was in the process of being formed, by Mr Pearce Jenkin and others to construct a railway from the Helston Railway Station to the Lizard Village, a distance of just over 11 miles.

The Inquiry was held at Helston in October 1897. Mr Duke, the Solicitor for the promoters, said that they were asking for the sanction of the Commissioners for a draft order authorising the construction of the proposed Light Railway from Helston Railway Station to The Lizard. The district was well known to most people as a picturesque neighbourhood, but it was not as well known with regard to its agriculture and industrial character and the occupations and necessities of the people living there. It was a peninsular with a length of about 11 miles on the Northern part of it. He thought also that the railway would confer large advantages on the other side, such as Manaccan, St Martins and the St Keverne districts.

The promoters could not do everything at once and therefore they were dealing first with the need most pressing in the district, which was to a large extent an agricultural district, but there was some rough ground in the centre, consisting of downs. In the parts towards the sea, there was rich agricultural land of great value and capable of much greater cultivation that was much more profitable cultivation, if the farmer was able to compete with other people in getting his produce to the great markets. Although there was suitable land for very advantageous farming and for market gardening, the lack of transport almost prohibited any kind of cultivation.  The fact, roughly, was that there was rich agricultural ground there which was capable of cultivation, or the early vegetable trade and the fruit trade, which was kept much less than its value in consequence of the inability of the farmer to get to the market on such terms and in such time to be able to compete favourably with other farmers.

In addition to the agricultural interest there was a considerable fishing interest. At Mullion there was an important fishing centre, so important that Lord Robartes had, on his own, and out of his own pocket, paid out something like £15,000 for the building of piers to make it a fishing harbour. Lower down, on the coast, there was the Lizard Village and a fishing cove, whilst on the eastern side were Ruan Minor and the important fishing village of Cadgwith, which was one of the principal fishing centres in that part of Cornwall. There were other fishing villages further round, Porthallow and Coverack, but they were not so directly affected.

This map shows the Proposed Railway line, starting NE side of Helston,
looping east above the Goonhilly Downs and down to The Lizard (click to enlarge).

Continued July 2017:

There were good fisheries of the best class of fish and the effect of the isolated position was such that the fishermen took turbot and other high class fish in considerable quantities and it was not an uncommon thing for the fishermen to use them for bait in their crab pots because they could not send them away. Lord Robartes’ expenditure at Mullion Cove showed the existence of the fishery there and the desirability of promoting it. There were also numerous places in the district  which were tourist attractions and where people wanted to get to the coast to live. Mullion, for instance, was a very great centre of attraction to people who sought a pleasant place to live.

The dairy factory system had also been introduced and was within a few hundred yards of the proposed railway. There was also the experimental fruit farm of the Cornwall Council. At the Lizard itself there was a great tract of land where the geological formation was such that the outcrop was Serpentine rock that was not worked at the present time except by the people there who made smaller objects but it was a stone of high value iif it could be got at and sent away. There was also brick clay in great quantities. The district is about 37,000 acres in area and a resident population of about 5,580 which, during the summer, is increased by about 1,000 visitors.

The proposed railway was an easy and cheap railway. With regard to industries, he would like to mention broccoli growing. The growers would tell them that they could grow broccoli of greater weight and value than anybody else in Cornwall, the soil was deep and had not been at all exhausted by past cultivation and they had a very great advantage in this respect. The Broccoli land was worth about £40 an acre , but it cost about £15 an acre to deliver the broccoli say to Sheffield. Further they could only send a certain quantity because of the distance and time taken in cartage and they said that if they had a railway they could send at least five times more than they did. Much of the land was also suitable for the growing of strawberries, just as well, if not more than the land in East Cornwall.

There was also the question of the supplies into the district.   For instance the coal for the lighthouse at the Lizard had now to be carried by road. This was not a new scheme, for the original plan for a railway into the Meneage district was 30 to 50 years old. There had been a railway at Helston since 1887 and the station was designed and laid out by Mr Suvanus Jenkin with the idea of an extension to the Lizard and the level was such as would admit of a direct extension, the junction would be at the existing station and from there it went with very easy gradients to the Lizard Village. The cost of the railway was estimated to be £5,500 per mile. No County Roads would be interfered with, there was not one level crossing over a public road, no tunnels, the line would run along the natural level of the land.

As proposed the railway would start with an arch across the Goldolphin Road, then along the Wendron side of Cloggy lane, with the first station at Dobson’s Gap where there were several cross roads and it would be advantageous to Gweek, Gunwallow and the village of Cury. The second station was at Griglow Green, near the double lodges, so as to tap Mawgan, St Martin and St Keverne.. The railway would then go across Goonhilly to Penhale and Meaver with the third station for Mullion. The fourth station was near the Ebenezer Chapel in Ruan Minor but on the right hand side of the Lizard road and it might be used for reaching Kynance Cove. The terminus would be at the Lizard in a field near the Free Methodist Chapel.

Colonel Baughley, one of the Commissioners, then asked Sir James Szumpler, the engineer ‘You have gone out of your way to avoid level crossings’ whereupon Sir John replied ‘I do not think level crossings are desirable if, with easy expenditure, they can be avoided. 18 or 20 miles per hour would be the maximum speed. There are no engineering difficulties’

Mr Bolitho, a fisherman from Cadgwith, said that at present they used turbot, brill, cod, plaice, Pollock sole and everything that comes up for bait for crab pots. The crabs were kept alive and taken away by boat. If they had a railway by which the fish could be taken away the fist buyers would come there.

The number of landowners was small, none of whom opposed the railway. It was proposed to work the line in conjunction with the G.W.R. The caused the chairman to ask if there would be any difficulty in raising the capital. The solicitor representing the promoters replied that he was not aware that promises from people in the locality have been asked for yet. In his opinion everybody would be willing to invest some money to carry out the proposed scheme.

The chairman, in his final remarks, said ‘that it was quite evident that there was considerable support for the railway and they had great pleasure in recommending to the Board of Trade to make the Light Railway Order asked for.

Capital for the proposed railway was not forthcoming which meant no work had been done. Under the terms of the order the compulsory purchase of the land required had to be completed by April 21st 1901 and the railway had to be built by April 1903. The only remedy open to the promoters was to seek an order from the Light Railway Commissioners to complete the land purchase by April 1903 and the works to be finished by April 1905, and such an order was sought, due notice being advertised in the West Briton newspaper for October 25th 1900.

A scheme had been proposed by Sir Hiram Maxim to work the line by electric power, but the railway’s directors were of the opinion that steam power was better, cheaper, and more suitable for working this railway and so the idea was dropped.

When the railway was first planned there were no level crossings, all the roads being crossed by bridges, but, with a view to saving money, a later inquiry was held to seek the Board of Trade making an order to permit the railway to substitute level crossings for these bridges. They were all to be open level crossings, with no gates, [which would have required a man stationed there to work the gates] Now it was quite in order for a light railway to have unmanned level crossings, but the trains had to reduce their speed to 10 m.p.h. and sound the whistle and a notice placed by the road some 30 yards from the crossing warning all users of the road to beware of the trains on the crossing.

An interesting legal case was reported in The Cornishman for May 1905. It seems that an order was given to Messrs James N. Tozer and Sons to construct the line. However, they quickly realised that no money was forthcoming and the contract was handed over to The Works Syndicate, for agreed to carry out the work for £1,500 cash and 1,000 fully paid up shares. This was agreed on the understanding that the local landlords would give the railway 66% of the necessary land and £10,000 share capital would be created. That never materialised and the company sought to recover the small expenses that had incurred in the preliminary work, but to no avail.


In August 1903 readers  of the West Briton newspaper read that the Great Western Railway have now started running motor car trips from Helston to the Lizard on a regular daily basis. The Helston Branch was, until 1897, still a railway company in its own right, although worked by the Great Western for a percentage of the income received.  There was nothing new in this, quite a few lines were run on such a basis, but in 1897 the Great Western bought the Helston Railway Co, although they only paid 33% of the cost of building the line.

It could well be that the Great Western was fed up with the failed attempts to build the Lizard Light Railway and they went for the cheaper alternative No doubt they wished to develop the tourist traffic to the Lizard, and which was an area very suitable for the trials, the nearest station being some 10-11 miles away, a district very popular in the summer compared to the winter traffic.

The Great Western’s General Manager felt he could not let the opportunity pass by and, receiving the authority from the Directors he went ahead and obtained two coaches.  One for running the service, the other one to be held in case of breakdown or excursion parties. They were built by Milnes-Damlier Co at a cost of £800 each. They had four forward gears and a reverse gear, the top speed being between 12-16 M.P.H. They were fitted with a 14 gallon petrol tank which enabled the bus to run for 140-150 miles. They also had three specially strong brakes including a tyre brake for emergencies [solid tyres were fitted] Each seated 16 passengers inside, with another two being allowed to sit with the driver. The drivers had been specially selected, and were under strict instructions to show every consideration for other traffic on the road and to avoid accidents with restless horses.

The timetable allowed for three trips a day. The fixed stops were at Dobson’s Gap for Gunwallow, Cury Cross lanes for Cury, Penhale for Mullion, Ruan Crossroads for Cadgwith, but drivers could pick passengers up anywhere along the road. The service was:-

Helston dept. 7.05 a.m. 11.35 a.m. 4.05 p.m.
Lizard Arrive 8.20 a.m. 12.50 p.m. 5.20 p.m.
Lizard dept. 8.35 a.m. 2.35 p.m. 6.00 p.m.
Helston Arrive 9.50 a.m. 3.50 p.m. 7.15 p.m.

From Helston the fares were:

To Dobson’s Gap 6d and to Helston 6d
To Cury X Lanes 9d   9d
To Penhale 1/-   1/-
To Ruan Croads 1/3   1/3
To the Lizard 1/6   1/6



An Account of a proposed Cornish Railway, but never built.



"The way we were" from April issue of Lizard Lives:

The picture on the left shows the final goodbye, or so we thought, of the auxiliary coastguards and volunteers at Bass Point lookout on its final day in March 1992.

Click to enlarge

The picture on the right shows David Harris MP, actress Jenny Agutter and local girl Lyn Carpenter at the re-opening of the lookout point in March 1995! Lyn worked tirelessly and was instrumental in getting Bass Point lookout re-opened.


Helston Museum from Rosie Kliskey

“This lovely old fashioned museum, housed in the town’s historic Market Buildings, is spread over five display halls on three floors, and the thousands of objects will keep you fascinated, entertained, and coming back for more!

The museum houses one of the largest social history collections in the South West, and ranges from archaeological evidence of the earliest settlers to the Lizard Peninsula, to a fully stocked 1950s kitchen. Come and learn about Helston’s famous inventor, Henry Trengrouse, whose ingenuity helped to save thousands of lives at sea. Marvel at the huge 5 ton cider press, meet Henry the parrot and see if you can spot our smallest object – made from a lion’s tooth!

The museum is renowned for its costume collection, and a regularly changing display showcases some of the elegant fashions of the past. Of course, no visit to Helston would be complete without mention of Flora Day, and the museum holds a fabulous collection of photographs of this unique custom. We also play a starring role on the day as the Midday Dance winds through the museum! Don’t miss the Flora Day clock, which for a small fee, will burst into life with a rendition of the famous Furry Dance.

There’s so much more to explore, and we welcome all ages with a programme of activities and events. There are themed quizzes throughout the year and our Cornish language trail is ‘splann!’ Our ‘Krafty Kids’ sessions run during the school holidays and for adults there are our ‘Lunchtime Lectures’ in the spring and autumn. We also host special events – check our website ‘what’s on’ page or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest.

Helston Museum is managed by the Charity South Kerrier Heritage Trust, and our volunteers work hard to make sure your visit is the highlight of your holiday or day out. Entrance to the museum is FREE, but we encourage donations to keep this wonderful facility open. You can also support us by joining Para HenHellys’ our membership scheme, which gives access to behind the scenes visits and inside information from the twice yearly newsletter. Contact us for more details.

There is disabled access to all areas of the museum, however, we have sloping uneven floors. There is a lift to all floors, a disabled toilet and baby changing facilities. We welcome dogs on leads, and there is usually a dog biscuit available in the tin behind the reception desk!

We can offer guided tours, talks, reminiscence sessions and handling boxes, and have a lively education programme. Contact us for more details or to book.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm all year round. We are closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and on Flora Day. Flora Day is usually May 8th, but can vary, check with us before you visit. For more information and directions, please visit our website.”

Rosie Kliskey Marketing & Events Coordinator
Visit Helston & Helston Museum 01326 564027

Visitors enjoying the museum (click to enlarge)


The Way It Was!
"Lizard Argyle Football Team March 6th 1982"

They were a very successful team.

In those days the football club itself only had changing rooms available for the players so it was all back to Caerthillian Pub for team talks etc; Geoff Taylor the landlord of Caethillian played a big part in getting the football team into shape!

Weren't we lucky in those days to have 2 village pubs. Caerthillian was known as "Bottom House" as opposed to officially named "Lizard Hotel" which was always known as "Top House" which of course is now it's official name! What's in a name!!?

The Lizard Argyle Football Team 1982 p 31 March edition. Robin and Barry identified:
Top Row: Tommy Johnson, David Johnson, Robin Ford, Sid Taylor, Mike Atkins, Keith Johnson, Barry Browning.
Second Row: Geoff Taylor, Steve Johns, Terry Stephens, Ralph Mitchell, Rob Casley, Phil Tiddy.
(click to enlarge - a little)


The Great Western Railway Bus Service 1903

This photo is a copy of the original timetable from 1903 (click to enlarge)

“History was made when GWR hit upon running a bus service from Helston to The Lizard. GWR had plans drawn up to extend the railway from Helston to The Lizard. The route would have been across Culdrose to near St Martin, then taken a route to Penhale for Mullion and onto The Lizard, costing £85,000. The motor vehicle was in existence by then, so it was decided to purchase two Milnes Daimler Wagonettes; these were powered by a 20hp petrol engine with a top speed of 14mph on solid rubber tyres. The service commenced on 17th August 1903 with three trips from Helston to The Lizard each way, with intermediate stops at Cury Cross Lanes, Penhale, Ruan Minor known as Tammy Dawes and on to The Lizard, the fare being 1s-6d (today 71/2p) for a single journey.

It was during 1978 on the 75th anniversary, a celebration run was organised to commemorate the only Bus service run by a railway company. This was organised by Helston Town Council, The Western National Bus Company, Wincanton Garages and Landewednack Parish Council. This carried on every year afterwards on August Bank Holiday Sunday. It was organized by the Cornwall Vintage Vehicle Society and became known as the Les Vincent run but unfortunately this was on the decline with just a few cars doing the run.

With my good friend Ken Bright and his wife and my wife, we offered to help Les by organising this end; by then Ken and myself were in the vintage vehicle clubs, Ken had an ex library van and myself an Austin Gypsy Fire Engine. Les almost bit our hands off by asking us to take it on completely for which we did and we organised this for the following 21 years and we retired on the centenary celebration. Today it is organised by the Cornwall Vintage Vehicle Society.

After a break of a few years, I found myself getting involved again, although it’s not the same; there are no bands to entertain today, as they cost too much and charitable stalls are most welcome to take part. All they earn is theirs but we could do with a few more - it keeps the ladies interested!

Remember, it’s the Vintage and Classic Vehicle Display at The Lizard on August Bank Holiday Sunday, see you there.” Neville Green

GWR buses in front of Hill's Hotel

(click to enlarge - a little)


Extract from Wikipedia:

The Lizard is a peninsula in southern Cornwall, the most southerly point of the British mainland and is in the civil parish of Landewednack. The valleys of the River Helford and Loe Pool form the northern boundary, with the rest of the peninsula surrounded by sea. The area measures approximately 14 by 14 miles (23 km × 23 km). The Lizard is one of England's natural regions and has been designated as national character area 157 by Natural England. The peninsula is known for its geology and for its rare plants and lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The name "Lizard" is most probably a corruption of the Cornish name "Lys Ardh", meaning "high court"; it is purely coincidental that much of the peninsula is composed of a rock called serpentinite.

The Lizard's coast is particularly hazardous to shipping and the seaways round the peninsula were historically known as the "Graveyard of Ships". The Lizard Lighthouse was built at Lizard Point in 1752 and the RNLI operates The Lizard lifeboat station.

There is evidence of early habitation with several burial mounds and stones. Part of the peninsula is known as the Meneage (land of the monks).


The fieldwork section of the Royal Anne Project Group (MAST, Bournemouth University and the National Trust) have recently completed archaeological investigations in Pistil Meadow

Many will be familiar with the legend of the burial of 200 mariners in mass graves in Pistil Meadow following the sinking of the Royal Anne Galley in 1721, with the loss of all the crew and passengers bar three – two sailors and a boy. Two seasons of geophysical work revealed several likely anomalies which were then investigated with a limited archaeological dig in September 2016. However, the mystery of what happened that stormy November night almost 300 years ago remains unresolved.

The five evaluation trenches revealed buried features, but none of these were associated with any grave structures or led to the discovery of any human remains. While this does not exclude the possibility of small or individual graves being missed, it is felt that burials of the scale described in the various accounts written over 120 years after the event would most likely have been discovered during this work. In 1848 CA Johns reported the tale that there were 200 bodies buried in pits each containing between ten and thirty bodies. The story was subsequently retold by such well known authors as Wilkie Collins in 1850, who incorrectly suggested the Pistil meadow was so named because of the quantity of firearms, especially pistols, found in the meadow. By 1881 it was claimed by Mrs Craik there were over 200 bodies of "foreign sailors" from a complement of 700, who were found with pistols in their hands. In 1948 JC Trewin, who grew up on the Lizard, changed the numbers in the burial pits to between twenty and thirty and added that the meadow has a queerness, pungent with the scent of seaweed and camomile. Daphne du Maurier in 1967 romanticised the event further by suggesting the burials may be associated with a small grove of "grotesquely shaped" windswept willow trees. The first report stating that dogs scavenged the washed-up bodies on the beach perhaps mistakenly turned into the belief that dogs dug up the bodies from the graves. The area is said by some to be haunted to this day.

These tales may contain some truth in that it is likely that there are bodies from the sinking of the Royal Anne buried in the vicinity. Perhaps the tamarisk trees, presumably planted much later, on the other side of the stream hide a story, or has coastal erosion already claimed any grave site. A contemporary newspaper account of the Board of the Admiralty enquiry into the sinking, reported that people had rifled through some of the victim's bodies on the beach immediately following the sinking and these bodies may have well been buried in the vicinity. However, it is possible that the numbers washed up near Pistil Meadow may not have numbered anything like the claimed 200 on board, when currents and tides would likely have swept many bodies out to sea or further along the coast to be washed up and buried elsewhere.

So while the case is far from closed, the reported accounts may well appear to differ from what we can tell happened after this tragic episode in British Naval history.

James Parry, National Trust Archaeologist October 2016