St Nonna’s Well & a 17th century Cure for Madness

“Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, St Nonna, the reputed mother of St David happened upon this pleasant place . . .” The Cornwall Village Book, Cornwall W.I., 1991 The moorland village of Altarnun nestles in a river valley. Idyllic, secluded and peaceful. The ancient church, often called ‘the cathedral of the […]

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Building the Royal Albert Bridge

The opening of Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge in May 1859 marked a turning point in Cornwall’s history. No longer cut off from the rest of the country by the wide, watery barrier of the River Tamar, from that moment on travel to the region became quicker and easier than ever before. Within just a few […]

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Mary Newman of Saltash – Wife of Sir Francis Drake

On 4th July 1569 St Francis Drake married his young sweetheart Mary Newman in St Budeaux Church on the Tamar estuary. While Drake was to become a household name and the greatest seaman of the Elizabethan Age his Cornish wife remains an obscure figure. Something I hope to rectify that a little here. Mary Newman […]

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The Disastrous Final Voyage of the Cromdale


Imagine yourself standing on the clifftop at Bass Point, not far from the Lizard Lighthouse. It’s May, the sea is smooth, you can hear gentle waves flopping onto the rocks below. But it’s not a clear night. There is a thick, damp mist hanging in the almost still air. Then, quite suddenly, a ship in […]

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‘Jack the Ripper’ in Cornwall

In the Whitechapel district of London in 1888 a series of grisly murders were terrorising the population and confounding the police. Far from the capital the ripples of those terrifying events were making themselves felt in the most unlikely of places – the quiet towns and villages of Cornwall. The fear was palpable – could […]

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Saints, Kings & Mermaids – Discovering Breage’s Medieval Wall Paintings


In medieval Cornwall, as in the rest of Britain, the majority of ordinary folk were unable to read and write. Bible stories and Christian teachings were learnt and understood through oral repetition in church services, watching religious plays such as the Ordinalia and through colourful, attention-grabbing wall paintings. While most of these ancient murals have […]

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Anne Basset – Mistress of Henry VIII & Almost Queen of England

In 1528 Honor Basset found herself in need of a husband. John Basset had just died at the age of 66 and Honor, an ambitious woman from an ancient Cornish family, knew only too well the advantages that a good marriage could bring, not just for her but for her children too. It is unlikely […]

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Burial Place of Theodore Paleologus – Soldier, Assassin & Descendant of the Last Byzantine Emperor

On the 29th May 1453 the last emperor of Byzantium fell in battle at Constantinople. Emperor Constantine Paleologus had been fighting the Turkish army led by Mehmet the Conqueror and his death marked the end of an ancient Royal Dynasty, of an empire that had lasted a thousand years and it forced his surviving family […]

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The Mystery of the Gold Bars of Pentreath Beach


This story is part recorded fact and part local legend. And what makes it all the more fascinating is that this tale of buried treasure didn’t happen back in the mists of time. It happened only around 50 years ago. On the 15th November 1973 the West Briton newspaper ran a front page story about […]

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