There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of wayside crosses across Cornwall. You can find them on crossroads and in village squares and sometimes marking graves. They can, however, also pop up in unexpected places.
Just above the churning seas that rumble against the rocks close to Lamorna Cove stands a small Celtic Cross. Carved into the granite pillar, perched close to the cliff edge and is turned towards the sea, are 3 letters and a date.
There is no other explanation as to what this little cross commemorates. But what seems clear is that every walker that passes on this well trodden coastal path must surely pause to look at this small memorial. Many leave coins here as some kind of remembrance. I decided to try and find out the history behind this melancholy little cross.
After a little research it transpires that on the 13th March 1873 David Wordsworth Watson died at Lamorna Cove. He fell to his death from the cliffs, known locally as Carn Mellyn, where the cross now stands. The local population were so moved by the tragedy that they erected the simple cross as a memorial to him.
A Tragic Tale
David was just 23 years old when he died. The youngest son of Rev. John David Watson, the vicar of Guilsborough in Northamptonshire. He was a bright young man, who had been admitted to Jesus College in Cambridge aged 19 in 1869. His name appears in the universities list of former students. David’s tragic death was reported in The Times newspaper on the 20th March.
The young man lived with his sister in Cambridge. It was with her that he had come to Cornwall on holiday. He and his sister were staying in Penzance and had made the short journey to Lamorna Cove with another female friend. The dramatic coastline thereabouts was extremely popular at that time with artists and visitors.
According to newspaper accounts it appears that the party went for a walk along the cliffs. But David decided to stop to gather ferns, while his sister and her companion walked further on, to sketch the scenery without him. When they returned they were horrified to discover that he fallen from the clifftop. Perhaps striking his head, he had been drowned. Sadly, due to the tides, his body could not be recovered until the following day.
The cross cuts a lonely silhouette against the ever-changing waters of the cove but having discovered its origins, it seems sadder still.
But I am not the only one to find its presence affecting. Many passers-by have left little tokens here, perhaps never even knowing the tragic details of it’s history.