Granite Quarries at Lamorna - an 1873 coloured etching, showing Flagstaff Cottage on the right
As far as I know, Flagstaff Cottage was built as the Harbour Master's cottage about 1840. I think it was built at the same time as the quay was built and also the hotel, which was the residence of the Quarry Manager and also contained a chapel. These were built by the Boskenna Estate, and the quarry being served was to the west of the Cove, and not the large one that dominates the Cove today. At some stage, the quarry was found to have poor quality granite and, after a period it was closed.
When first built, and, indeed, when my grandfather arrived in 1902, Flagstaff Cottage was a simple square structure, with two rooms and a hallway on the first floor and two rooms upstairs. This can be seen in some of the early paintings and etchings. There was probably a lean-to kitchen at the back.
I think that when it was first built, the building by the stream was built to house a pony and trap and, when my grandfather moved in, he used it as his studio.
Prior to my grandfather moving in, Flagstaff Cottage was rented by an author - Charles Marriott [(1869-1957)see book,Charles Marriott Genevra (1904)]. Colonel Paynter, who owned Boskenna Estate, did not at that time sell properties and believed only in renting. It was not until about 1930 that my grandfather was able to buy the house and the studio. He continued to rent the land by the stream between the house and the studio and developed this as a flower and vegetable garden.
When my mother was about ten, it was decided that more room was needed for her and sister Joan and so, in about 1915, the family decamped for a period to Trevider Farm, while the L shaped addition was added to the west side against the cliff. This greatly changed the cottage to really become a house. The addition included a front and back kitchen with an entrance to the back kitchen through a stable door. Selina Ladner had been hired as a housekeeper and cook, and the kitchen area was her domain, with a Cornish slab in the front kitchen and a clothes boiler in the back kitchen. Mary Ladner, Selina's sisiter would come to do the washing in this facility once a week. on the top floor, there were now two bedrooms for Joan and Mornie and a bathroom in between.
I am not certain of the dates but various outbuildings were erected in the first half of the twentieth century. Above the house and up some rather steep granite steps was a black painted wooden hut which, for a time, served as the home of a fisherman, John Jeffery. He was befriended by my grandfather and no doubt provided the family with fresh fish.
My grandmother had a small wooden shop built beside the road and on the left side of the driveway. This was to sell handicrafts, including some hand drawn postcards of Lamorna places by my grandfather. To prepare materials for the handicraft shop and also for storage, a cement block building was built above the house to the northwest.
Over the years, these outbuildings have had many different uses.Old John Jeffery must have moved on. I know his son Ben became an active fisherman in Mousehole. On being demobbed after the War, my father totally re-built the black hut out of cement blocks - a major task as all these had to be hand carried up the steps. Later in 1963, when he died, it became a rental property and various people stayed in it. In about 1990, it was extended to include a small separate bedroom and a bathroom.
My grandmother died in 1944 and we moved to Lamorna. By that time, the two bedrooms of the original house had been converted to provide a much larger bedroom with windows looking out to sea. When we moved in, my parents moved to one of the back bedrooms and I to the other. On my grandmother's death, the handicraft shop stopped trading and eventually fell apart and was destroyed.
In about 1950, my parents decided it was time to pension off Selina and to modernise the house. During my grandfather's earlier time, the original downstairs had been divided into a small sitting room and a formal dining room but it was decided to break down the wall between the two and make one larger sitting room. Selina's front kitchen, which had included a Cornish slab, was changed to a dining room and the back kitchen became the main kitchen with an Aga, and a refrigerator.
During my grandfather's last year, it was decided to build a studio above the garage that had been built as part of the much earlier extension. The idea was that my grandfather could go from his bedroom to this studio, but it was never used as such and since then has served as a sort of retail outlet for my grandfather's and other family art. My grandfather had incidentally had a much larger studio built further up the valley once he had established his reputation, but it was a bit of a walk and never used to the extent of the studio by the stream. On my grandfather's death, this was inherited by my Aunt Joan who was living in Australia and she sold the property. It has been much modified and enlarged and is now owned by a retired commercial artist, John Beresford.
My mother had for many years talked about converting the studio by the stream as a residence that she could let. Plans were made but this work did not start until her death in 1990, and it is now a comfortable little renting property that houses two or three people. Another generation change following my mother's death was to build a conservatory on the seaward side of the living room. Much earlier my grandmother had had a small bay window, but the conservatory has replaced that with a spacious area that enjoys much use including on occasions the annual champagne toast of The Lamorna Society.
Postcard of Lamorna c 1922. On the left is the lime kiln and above this the Magazine. At the top is Flagstaff Cottage. Donated by David Evans
In 1912, Frank Heath purchased ten acres of land at the top of the Lamorna Valley from Col. Paynter, one of local large landowners, on which to build a house.The architect was a Mr Stacey, who lived locally, and the house was built by the Matthews family from Newshop, St Buryan. The land, when bought, was just a scrubland field enclosed by a stone wall.As was then common, granite from which the house was built, was hand drilled out of the ground on the site and then split and shaped into the sizes of blocks required. The house took a year to build, cost £1,000 and was christened 'Menwinnion'- perhaps taking its name from the Cornish- men (meaning stone) and gwynn (meaning white or speckled).
The house consisted on the ground floor of the hall, morning room,dining room,kitchen, scullery and cloakroom. Upstairs were 5 bedrooms, a bathroom and 2 attic rooms. In the garden, Cornish stone walls were constructed and fuchsia and escallonia hedges planted as windbreaks. From the holes made by the excavation of granite, several 'courts' were created and named 'Lavender', 'May' and 'Wood'; below these courts a pond was dug out. The bottom half of the garden was planted with Monterey pine and it was here that Frank Heath built his first studio. He subsequently built another adjoining the main house.
The years of the Great War cannot have been easy for Frank Heath's wife, Jessica at 'Menwinnion'. Frank had enlisted into the 2nd Sportman's Battalion in 1915. Food was short; vegetables and fruit were grown in the garden, and eggs, butter and meat were available from the surrounding farms; in addition food parcels were sent from Jessica's parents from Penzance. The water for the house had to be pumped up by hand from the well in the courts.
Several other local artists used to visit and enjoy the hospitality at 'Menwinnion'. These included Alfred Munnings and his first wife, Florence, who became great friends, Stanhope Forbes (Frank and Stanhope used to play music together - on their cello and violin respectively), Laura and Harold Knight (Laura had a studio at the bottom of Heath's garden) and 'Seal' Weatherby.
Frank featured both the interior and exterior of his property in his paintings. For instance, shortly after the house was completed, he exhibited The Morning Room at Menwinnion at the Royal Academy in 1914. This featured Jessica playing the violin, whilst later works featured his children in different rooms in the house. Accordingly, The Little Maid (RA, 1923) shows Nancy in the hall, whilst The Butterfly, (RA, 1928) shows Gabriel in the bathroom. The Lily Border, which was featured at the Newlyn Art Gallery in 1916, shows Jessica in what was a distinctive section of the garden, whilst a large painting The Fairy Story, shows all four children by the pond at the bottom.
In the 1930s Frank heath's health began to fail, due to continuing chest problems and he died in a London hospital in 1936 aged 63. Shortly afterwards, Jessica decided to sell 'Menwinnion', now enveloped in ivy, and moved up to Dorset. The house was bought by John and Nicky Williams, the brothers of Colonel James Howard Williams, known as 'Elephant Bill' from his exploits in Burma during the 2nd World War. The brothers had been brought up in St just. Before the War, 'Elephant Bill' was employed by the Bombay Trading Company, who used elephants to transport teak. Using his rapport and expertise with elephants, in 1942, when the Japanese invaded Burma, he joined the Special Forces Unit that specialised in guerrilla warfare, with the Elephant Company helping with the building of bridges and the ferrying of weapons and suuplies for Gen.Slim's 14th Army.
After the War, 'Elephant Bill' returned to West Cornwall and, after an unsuccessful time as a market gardener and a farmer, he lived at 'Menwinnion'. Clearly, he had always had a soft spot for Lamorna., as he called his daughter that name. To his utter amazement and amusement, his books recording his time in Burma- Elephant Bill (1950) and Bandola (1954) were enormous successes. The first proved a record-breaking best seller, and he was able to sell the film rights for both books, being flown out to Ceylon and then Siam to locate suitable locations for filming. He also found himself in demand as a lecturer around the country. His portrait, painted, at this time in his library at 'Menwinnion' by Midge Bruford, is now owned by Penlee House. In 1956, he wrote the Foreward for the second addition of Crosbie Garstin's The Owl House, in which he said that his own taste for adventure had been sparked by those of Garstin, whom he described as 'my first, and only, boyhood hero'. He died in 1958 in West Cornwall hospital following an operation for appendicitis at the comparatively early age of 61. In 1963, his widow, Susan Williams, wrote an account of their life together called The Footprints of Elephant Bill, in which she commented (at p221), 'Our final home together, 'Menwinnion', just above Lamorna Cove, did perhaps fulfill the dream that Jim had always had. For the first time in our lives, there was a beautiful garden always made for us. Just beyond lay his favourite cliffs, where he would sit and write or paint; I don't think anyone could have been happier'.
After 'Elephant Bills' death, 'Menwinnion' was sold and became a very comfortable Country House Hotel. The ivy was removed and the large garden continued to be well kept. Then in the early 1980s, it was sold again to become a Country House are Home, which it remains today, although now so greatly extended that the original ambiance is lost. A plaque was erected in the entrance to the Home in 2012 to celebrate the first 100 years of the house.
Hugh Bedford and David Tovey
Prior to moving to Lamorna in 1912, the painter, Charles Napier, and his wife, Ella, a jeweller and potter were living in Looe. Quite how they selected Lamorna as the place, for their new home is unclear, but they probably heard of its attractions through friends in the art world. In any event, they bought off John Richards, of St Buryan, three meadows, of about two acres, for £250, with help from charlie's family. These were just behind 'Trewoofe Farm' and the leat for 'Clapper Mill' ran through the land. Charlie designed the house- some of the seven years spent at the Royal Academy School being spent on architecture. He also later designed 'Duncans'. The house, built in granite, was very small, really a cottage; two bedrooms upstairs, bathroom, kitchen,with a coal fired Rayburn, and sitting room downstairs. As well, there was a large open plan room of one storey, which was part of Ella's workroom and, until after the war, Charlie's studio. This was built of some kind of block-work, with a corrugated roof. The existing studio was built at right angles to the open plan room when charlie returned from the war. The water was from large tanks collecting rain water and remained like that until the 'mains' came to Trewoofe in 1960s. I don't know when electricity was installed, but I believe that Charlie did the wiring himself! They did not garden all the land, but they made flower beds around the house, using granite from the first Cornish hedge, which was demolished. They grew their own vegetables, with Ella even selling garlic to Harrods during the Second World War! At a later date, Charlie kept bees, and became absorbed with the leat, building a sluice gate which created a large pond deep enough for trout at the far end. John Lamorna Birch's painting Ella's Garden (1938) shows the pond. I have made this into a bog garden,as it was completely overgrown when I came to live here. They also planted an orchard. THe rest of the land was let out between the wars for early flower growing. Two ladies, Dod and Palmer, worked it for a while, growing violets, anemones and daffodils. When I took over in 1975, Wellee Clemens, a nearby farmer was growing vegetables and daffodils.
Charlie died in 1968 and Emma in 1972, when I inherited Trewoofe. I could not manage to come and live here until the summer of 1975. I had four school-aged daughters, so it was necessary to make some changes. Ella thought that I would be able to make bedrooms above the single story room but I knew I couldn't as it was falling down. I also had the electricity disconnected as it was unsafe. I had to have an architect draw up plans and apply for planning permission, although I knew the layout I wanted.
There are now six bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs. I moved the kitchen to the open plan room- it is now a large kitchen and dining room with an oil-fired Rayburn. I also added a single storey sitting room at right-angles to the kitchen, as the original sitting room was not large enough for all of us and the girls' friends. The studio has been much in use over the years, sadly not for its original purpose as none of us have Ella and Charlie's artistic talents. I did hear that during the twenties and thirties it was a popular place for courting.
One of the first things I did was to have a drive made up to the front door from the lane. This involved having a bridge built over the leat strong enough for cars. While all this was going on, we had a winter holiday let at 'Oakhill'.
The farm was sold by the Trewerns in the early seventies. Over time, all the barns were converted into holiday lets and it was then that the GPO decided to name the properties individually and we became 'Trewoofe House'.
I have always loved gardening, so I took back the meadows straight away to make a vegetable garden. I planted espalier and cordon fruit trees. The first shrub bed was planted in April 1976; now there are many mature trees and shrubs and there is always something in bloom.