22 January 2017

It’s a sign: Cornwall

As well as the collection of pub signs from my Christmas holiday in Cornwall, I also have a selection of miscellaneous signs to share.

St Just Holy Well
Along a little path from the Church of St Just in Roseland there sits a scheduled ancient monument. It may not look like much but this holy well / spring is likely to have been revered as a sacred site for several thousand years, certainly prior to the coming of Christianity to this area. There is an interesting write up about the site on the Historic England website.

St Just church and bar
This one just appealed for its rather odd combination of holy and alcohol, and I do like these old fingerpost signs.

Farrier and blacksmith, St Agnes Head
You don’t see too many signs for farriers and blacksmiths these days, though I’m sure these traditional skills are still much in demand as sports like horseracing, show-jumping and eventing, as well as riding at pony clubs and on hunts, are still very popular here in Britain.

Cameron Camp Sentry Box, St Agnes Head
As the sign explains, this ‘sentry box is all that remains of a training camp for the 10th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery’. It was built in 1939/40 and was ‘also used later by American troops prior to the D-day landings’. Named after a local landowner, this Second World War camp once contained bungalows, Nissen huts, a NAAFI and a theatre and, though the bungalows were occupied by local people after the war, all but the sentry box have since been demolished.

The Golden Maggot, Mevagissey
This was intriguing! 

It seems there used to a television programme of this name, which consisted of a competition to see who could catch the most fish. 

The winner’s prize was a golden maggot. 

As the sign gives a list a people and their associated boat names, I assume the Mevagissey concept is similar.

John Moor & Son Boatbuilders, Mevagissey
As well as mining, fishing has long been an important industry in Cornwall and fishermen obviously need boats, so there is also a long and strong tradition of boat building. Wooden boats, ranging in size from dinghies through racing yachts to ocean-going trawlers, have all been built in Mevagissey, and the traditional skills of the local boatbuilders were known, admired and sought after around the world.

Chip Ahoy, Padstow

Cornish ice cream, Perranporth
Cornish ice cream is traditionally made with the clotted cream they also spoon in great dollops on to their scones and raspberry jam. As my visit was in mid winter I didn’t try any ... just one more reason to return in the warmer months!

21 January 2017

Cardiff: Gabalfa Lodge

The Grade II-listed Gabalfa Lodge (sometimes known as Park Lodge) was built in the early 1870s and sits alongside the Taff Trail at the northern entrance to Bute Park. Designed by estate architect Charles Rigg, it was intended as the north lodge for the 3rd Marquess of Bute’s Cardiff Castle Park, though, these days, it is privately owned. It’s a pretty building, perfectly sited beside the River Taff and at the end of a tall avenue of lime trees, so it looks lovely whatever the season. My photos here were taken last week, in late spring, and mid summer.

20 January 2017

Cornwall: pubs and their signs

I’ve already included some of the many wonderful pub signs I discovered in Cornwall in my blogs about the places we visited but wait, there’s more!

Plume of Feathers, Porthscatho
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Porthscatho’s 17th-century Plume of Feathers pub would have been packed with local fishermen, celebrating (or commiserating about) the size of the day’s pilchard catch. The town is still a fishing port but these days the pub is more likely to be full of tourists and holidaymakers.

Interestingly, the plume of ostrich feathers on the pub’s sign is the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales, and there are many pubs with this, or similar names, in areas of Britain that are associated with royal estates.

The Red Lion, Newquay
The Red Lion was once the most popular name for a pub in Britain, with over 600 back in 1986. This particular Red Lion sits on a hill high above Newquay and enjoys lovely views over the old harbour, town and beaches. With its front verandah, it looks like it could be located somewhere in the colonies rather than a town in Cornwall: there’s a wonderful old photo of it, dated 1888, in the Francis Frith collection.

The Old Custom House, Padstow
As the name indicates, this building once contained Padstow’s Custom House, with a bonded warehouse and neighbouring house for the Customs officials. Sitting right on the edge of the picturesque harbour, the oldest part of the building probaby dates from the 18th century, though there have been later additions and alterations. The sign presumably shows a Customs official at work recording goods in his ledger.

The Shipwrights, Padstow
This pub’s website says the Shipwrights is a ‘traditional brick pub built originally to serve the fishermen and tradespeople of the bustling historic port of Padstow’ but, according to a photograph and text in the book Padstow History Tour by Malcolm McCarthy, the building was not always a public house. In the 1920s, ‘H. Brown, painter and decorator, was using it. In earlier times, this building was the site of the saw pit, where great baulks of timber were cut by hand for the flourishing shipbuilding industry in the port.’ Regardless of the truth of the matter, it’s a wonderful old pub that was being very well patronised on the day we were in Padstow.

The Golden Lion, Padstow
Finally, a website that includes details of the pub’s history. You’d think it would be something to celebrate for all old historic buildings. The site says: ‘The Golden Lion dates back to the 14th century and is the oldest in in Padstow.’ And ‘The Golden Lion is the stable of the Old ‘Oss which, on the 1st May each year, dances through the streets of Padstow to the sound of drums and accordions’. You can read more about that May Day event here

The London Inn, Padstow
The London Inn’s website also tells the interesting, if slightly garbled story of its history. I interpret their text to mean that the buildings that originally housed three fishermen’s cottages were converted to a public house in 1803, and, rather than referring to the city of London (which is what the sign seems to infer), the name London came from a local sloop that operated out of Padstow between 1877 and 1878.

Tywarnhayle Inn, Perranporth
The Tywarnhayle Inn sign, an interesting shape that has an image showing the local beach landscape, says this pub was established around 1830 but I’m afraid I’ve uncovered no further information about its early history. More recently, though, it has suffered a series of rather smelly problems – according to an article dated 13 October 2014 on the Cornwall Live website, the pub had several times suffered ‘from internal flooding, which means that raw sewage waste travels up through the floorboards, sinks and toilets when nearby storm drains overflow.’ The floods were so bad they had forced the landlords to go out of business. Presumably, the local council has since rectified these problems.

The Green Parrot, Perranporth
Congratulations to Wetherspoons for exploring and celebrating the histories of their pubs:
‘Wetherspoon’s chairman and founder, Tim Martin, said: “We take immense pride in the restoration and refurbishment of wonderful buildings into Wetherspoon pubs. We feel that it is right to celebrate the history of the buildings.”’ 

The website gives the following information on the Green Parrot:

'Built as a private residence, this building was converted into The Green Parrot in c1977. The old house stood in wooded grounds and was originally named Pentrig House, from the Cornish meaning ‘end of the sea’ or ‘low tide’. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, it was the home of Joseph Teague, ‘Capt. & Hon. Major’ in the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, Perranporth.'

That doesn't explain where the pub got its current name but it's certainly a handsome pub sign.