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Family Gathering, Cornwall calling



Ben

We’ve been down in Dorset all week, since the bank holiday. I’ve had work in Poundbury. The evenings have been dreamy… 

Strange to think that last autumn, Charlie dug up the entire beds on the lawn and emptied them of all plants.  I’m not entirely sure why, I think he just wanted a change.  But what’s incredible is that we are therefore looking at the first year of a garden here.  It’s completely lush, heady in late May greens. 

The week rolled by, with friends staying and Dad popping over, and on Thursday evening our friend Ruth Guilding (aka The Bible of British Taste, both on her brilliant somewhat occasional blog and in instagram) popped in to stay en route to Cornwall.  We were heading down to her the following day, of which more later. 

A tour of the garden at sunset before supper. 

The church roof is being mended! A year ago, the incredible generosity of Charlie’s and my instagram pages, and this blog, pushed our fundraising efforts over the line and we were able to commission the start of works.  Planned to start just after Easter, they were a little late because of the builder’s last project over-running slightly.  Last week, scaffold was installed and now the painstaking, slow task of removing the Victorian roof slates is underway.  Magical to see. 

We were heading down to Cornwall for a family gathering of Pentreaths, in Mousehole and Paul.  This is where we all hailed from… a weekend of family history.

We’d actually ended up staying with Ruth in her beautiful cottage in Lamorna Cove (that you can rent, should you be interested).  We deposited Dad with the family and headed over to Lamorna. After the briefest cup of tea we were off to Trereife House for a drink and a look around, with Ruth’s wonderful friends Liz and Tim Le Grice. Stupidly, I didn’t ask to pull my camera out at all (it didn’t feel quite right) although I couldn’t help but photograph these beautiful letterpress posters in Tim’s study… the dream….

The house and garden are open and are beautiful; part of their beauty is their gently ramshackle nature, which gets rarer and rarer in this day and age. We eventually dragged ourselves off to Penzance for fish and chips on the seafront.

While the fish was cooking, I popped up the road to what is my favourite urban square in the whole of England, Regent Square. I know I’ve blogged about it before, so very loyal readers will be familiar with this ice-cream coloured confection of tiny Regency houses and cottages tumbling down the hill, with a sinuous road curving through the middle of the square, and beautiful front gardens snaking to tiny gates on the lane side.  Have I described that well enough? The photographs will have to do the rest….

I first visited Regent Square, entirely by accident, on a trip to Penzance that I must have made – with my friends Will and Monica – nearly ten years ago now.  I just had a little look to see if I was blogging back in those days. I am not sure.  But it was a revelation then, and still is.  It is heaven.

I did a scoot up to Morab Gardens….

I love Penzance. Even the flipping bin alleys look like this. Insane….

We walked back down to the Pirates Rest to collect our fish and chips….

And ate them on the seafront, overlooking the Jubilee Pool and St Michael’s Mount.

I’d posted Penzance on instagram and got a lovely message from a follower saying “OH GOD YOU ARE SO CLOSE TO WHERE I LIVE BUT I NEVER POST ANYTHING ABOUT PENZANCE BECAUSE I DON’T WANT IT TO BE SPOILED, BUT IT’S TOO BEAUTIFUL NOT TO SHARE’…..

Look at a house like this:

Around the corner, the Farrow & Ball pale brown shades on walls and matching windows, and matching pairs of Lutyens benches, are rearing their head.  Just saying…. 

The crown… we arrived in daylight, 

and left at dusk. The perfect small pub, offering no food, no St Austell Brewery sugary beers, nothing, except a few great beers brewed in the back. 

The following morning, Charlie’s bunch of flowers from the garden were opening up.

We arrived at Paul Church for the start of the family history. I can’t help but admit I was happy to find a stack of plastic stacking chairs in a very prominent position. 

Here is the Pentreath Family window:

The glass was beautiful.  I noticed a tiny signature of Alexander Gibbs, who I learn set up the Bloomsbury Stained Glass Works in 1874 – originally in Bedford Square and moving to 21 Bloomsbury Street in 1876.  Five minutes from our London flat.  I must see if he was a brother of the Art Workers Guild….

After a brilliant introductory history by my esteemed cousin Jan Pentreath, we wandered the church and enjoyed the many family tablets and memorials.  The Pentreaths moved to the Parish of Paul in the 1500s from across the bay. 

This is the plaque to my ancestor, Richard Thomas Pentreath, the Penzance artist. My uncle has just re-printed his catalogue that I designed for his exhibition at the Penlee Gallery in Penzance some eight or ten years ago now. I’ll see if we can sell some in the shop…. watch this space. 

The church is filled with pitch pine Victorian pews, although Jan (who grew up in Mousehole) said that the old Cornish families really only attended Chapel.  Church was for weddings, funerals and not much else. 

I was delighted to spot more plastic chairs in the Belfry.

There is a panel in the church describing my ancestress Dolly, which I include here for the amusement value.

Here is her gravestone, in the wall of the churchyard (which again I know loyal blog readers will be familiar with).

We had a jolly lunch in the Kings Arms Pub….

(Leaving, we discovered a fantastic wedding about to happen next door….)

My cousin Jenny revealed for the first time EVER the memorial that my great-uncle Peter had written. I love the title. 

And we made our way to the beautiful church garden, where we were interring Peter’s ashes.  There are views of the sea in all directions.  The place was incredible serene.  Peter had been a distinguished General in the British Army, with a remarkable career including valiant action in the Second World War.  Here he will now rest forever, in the home place of his family. 

We left – the wedding party was in full swing. 

Returning to Lamorna, we popped in briefly to the village hall for the Lamorna Valley Art Group show…

Before walking down to the Cove, with its ravishing turquoise water. 

Ruth’s cottage:
And then we were off for another trip, this time to Prussia Cove, owned by Ruth’s friends Peter and Hannah Tunstall-Behrens. Dream Cornwall landscape… I almost felt for a minute – the heat of the afternoon, with the stony-white tracks and the brilliant blue sea and sky, that we were touching foot in Greece. 

Peter’s grandfather had built this remarkable arts and crafts house, designed by Philip Tilden, in an extraordinary position right on the coast. 

We drove back along the coast road.  Here is St Michael’s Mount. 

We had a fine and fantastic family dinner last night, in the hotel where most of the clan had gathered… The Old Coastguard, in Mousehole.  It started early and ended late. Yesterday would have been great uncle Peter’s 100th birthday, and we sang happy birthday to the arrival of a cake. The party looked like it may carry on into the night, but Ruth, Charlie and I had a late night pint in the Old Ship before heading home… to bed. We woke early and well-rested. Breakfast at Ruth’s, and then off. 

Dorset was misty when we returned.

I’m writing this evening, lying on the sofa with Mavis next to me, the fire lit and a beautiful sunset just burning through the clouds. We’re about to have supper and film night. 

What a beautiful and happy weekend it’s been. It’s strange when life gives us a week when I’m entirely out of London for ten days; I’m back up on the train tomorrow, and it’s going to feel rather strange.

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