The fire engine arrived… eventually!

On this day in 1899 James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

Fire at Sellan burnt three ricks of hay in mowhay [rick-yard] of Mr. Hosking, helped to keep the other ricks and buildings from burning by throwing water over them till the fire engine arrived from Penzance, which was delayed hour and half for want of horses to bring it. Then they had an accident of the way, coming in haste they injured a man and horse. It forced the water from the river about 300 yards off and put the fire out. (Wednesday 16th August 1899)


Mr. Westlake’s generous donation

On this day in 1896, James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

The offertory last Sunday was £5 11s 2d for the debt on Churchyard, Mr. Westlake gave the £5 note. (Sunday 9th August 1896)

This was Professor Westlake, who had a Summer home in Zennor called ‘Eagle’s Nest’. Born in Lostwithiel in 1828, John Westlake was Professor of International Law at Cambridge. He had previously given financial support to the restoration of the local church (St. Senara’s) in 1890.

To put the £5 donation into context, in 1902 James’s farm labourer (Fred Thomas) earned £4 5s for 3 months work!

James also records that the Westlake family and their guests were sometimes involved in Zennor entertainments…

Attend harvest tea in schoolroom and the Westlakes’ entertainment showing enacting the milk maid, Bluebeard etc. (Saturday 17th September 1892)

At the entertainment given by Mrs. Westlake and friends… (Saturday 14th September 1895).  Of interest, Mrs. Alice Westlake (nee Hare) was an artist, and a key supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.

At harvest tea took at tables and door about £4 4s. Westlakes party gave the concert. (Saturday 11th September 1897)




“London is not in my District” – a fact-finding visit by Messrs. Harris Stone & Parker

On this day in 1909, James Stevens wrote in his Diary…

James [James’s son] drive Penzance in evening for two gentlemen Messrs. Harris Stone and Parker, they being writing a book about Sancreed etc. (Saturday 7th August 1909)

Then over the following days James wrote…

Tuesday 10th  –  James drives the gentlemen to Ding Dong and Zennor.

Friday 13th  –  James drives gentlemen St. Levan.

Tuesday 17th  –  James drives Mr. Harris Stone to Penzance leaving, Mr. Parker having left before.

Messrs. Harris Stone and Parker had already stayed at Glebe Farm for two nights the previous year (19th-21st April 1908). The end result was the book England’s Riviera by J. Harris Stone, published in 1912 (no mention of Mr. Parker!)

James and his Farm appear on page 257…

The grey granite church, with the vicarage snugly nestling close beside it on the north-west side, is simply embosomed in a grove of sycamore trees, lofty and graceful, from whose feathery summits come the almost never-ceasing “caw, caw” of numberless rooks. From the belfry windows may be seen flitting in and out an occasional jackdaw, and perhaps “amid the sticks and straw,” ends of which protrude and are clearly visible, who knows but one might find a ring or other relic in the nest of “that little jackdaw”?

Opposite the grey-stoned and lichened sacred edifice, just across the road, is the plain, solidly build glebe farmhouse, set well back in a recess from the thoroughfare, with a well in front (now closed in and surmounted with a pump), looking altogether very much like an old-fashioned wayside inn. In fact it used to be an inn, “The Bird in Hand,” but some twenty years ago the then vicar relinquished the licence after a man had fallen into the well on his way home, and not being accustomed to cold water, or indeed water of any temperature, had suffered from the immersion. Evidence of its tavern days are still visible inside, though where the old signboard went I know not. The little back parlour, which was formerly the bar, still has affixed to the walls the ancient settles in which sat the local politicians and gossips.

The present occupier of the glebe farm, Mr. Stevens, is warden of the church over the way, and runs the farm chiefly as a butter and poultry producing business, and is himself in perfect keeping with the harmonies of the place. He told me that once he went as far as Truro, whither he had been summoned as a juryman, that being the extent of his wanderings from the Land’s End, and when I mentioned the metropolis he replied, “London is not in my district.”

… but Mr. Harris Stone does misquote James when he says he’s only travelled as far as Truro.  James had been to Bodmin… twice!

Wet weather in Augusts past…

… recorded by James Stevens in his Diary.

Thursday 18th August 1898  –  Very hard thunder and very heavy rain at Penzance and Madron and Zennor way, and big hail stones, one at Penzance measuring five eighths of an inch in diameter, but very little rain fell here at Sancreed.

Saturday 5th August 1899  –  Heavy thunderstorm last night, rain and hail breaking glass at Penzance and elsewhere.

Saturday 29th August 1908  –  The weather this week has been outrageous rough, rain falling like sheets of water at night, with lightning and thunder and at times very hard wind.

Saturday 12th August 1911  – Awful storm of thunder and lightning early this morning and hard rain and thunder most of day.

Saturday 3rd August 1912  –  Very hard rain all day. Much hay out yet in many places. 

Monday 26th August 1912  –  This has been the wettest hay season and harvest ever remembered, farms up the country and houses flooded and thousands rendered homeless by their houses filled with water. 

How often do we say “August never used to be this wet when I was younger”, but maybe we just remember the sunny days and forget the downpours!




Happy 170th Birthday James Stevens!

James Stevens was born on 1st August 1847, 170 years ago today.  In his Diary he wrote about some of his birthday presents and cards…

1903  –  My 56th birthday.  Had pocket handkerchief of Annie, and big cup and saucer of Kate, and a case each from Lillie and Mabel to hold razor and spectacles. 

1904  –  My birthday 57.  Had 3 postcards and letter and Prayer and Hymn book from my family here.  

1907  –  My birthday 60 now[Maid] Honor and Kate sent me 11s to buy new gold rimmed spectacles. I bought them last Thursday at 6s 6d. Lillie and Mrs. Roach’s children sent me P.Cs [postcards?].

1908 – My birthday 61, had cup and saucer bought by Honor, two post cards from [Maid] Honor and Kate and letter from Annie and post card from M. Pearce.

1910  –  My birthday 63.  Had a new prayer book with hymns from Honor and Kate and a walking stick from Annie.

1911  –  My birthday 64, had letters from Annie, [Maid] Honor and Kate with 2s 6d each from the latter two and some money and stamps from Annie and post card from Lillie and Fred [Olds].

1912  –  My birthday 65.  Had letter from Annie, cards from Honor and Miss Buckland, and card from Mabel of Godrevy lighthouse, she being at Hayle Towans with a party from Bologgas.