15 January 2017

Cornwall: The signs of Tintagel

After spending time in Newquay and Padstow, we were racing against time on Boxing Day to reach Tintagel before the light failed: I was hoping for a stunning sunset-over-the-ruins photo but you’ll have to settle for this rather uninspiring sunset over the local parish church instead. You see the days are short in Britain in winter and, because of that, tourist attractions often close earlier, so Tintagel Castle was closed by the time we arrived.

Since we were there, we did have a meander around Tintagel village, partly because we wanted to buy a present for the folks who had very kindly lent us their cottage for the week. Unfortunately, the shops had already shut as well. However, there were some mighty fine signs scattered around, so here’s a rather different look at Tintagel.

This place will forever be associated with King Arthur so, of course, there is a pub called King Arthur’s Arms. We didn’t venture in but it seems from their website that the publican has a sense of humour:

Jerome George Dangar is your host and is a native of Tintagel, he was born and brought up in Tintagel.
Jerome's father, Terry Jerome Dangar, was born and brought up in King Arthur’s Arms.
It is interesting to note that the historical notes of Tintagel record that John Dangar (who died in 1578 ) had two grandsons who both had sons called Jerome and from that time to this there has been Jerome Dangar in every generation except one!
Since names such as Zias, Rychabb and Jease were also chosen by previous Dangars, Jerome had a lucky escape.

Not surprisingly given the number of tourists that flock to this place, this small town boasts more than one pub. Just up the road we found the Tintagel Arms Hotel. The building dates from 1750 and was originally a private home. It has a very attractive pub sign, showcasing the ruins we didn’t get to see.

Another of the many hotels was The Wootons. It has a very minimalist website which tells nothing of the hotel’s history, nor does it explain the sign, which appears to show a crow looking over the ruins. Perhaps Wooton was the name of a previous owner. It’s an ancient surname, dating from Anglo-Saxons times, if not earlier. It’s a combination of the old English words wudu meaning wood and tun meaning settlement or enclosure, so the very first Wooton lived in a town by a wood, which I imagine would apply to 90% of the population in Anglo-Saxon times.

What a shame the Tintagel Toy Museum and Collectors Shop wasn't open – I imagine I might have spent rather a lot of time there and perhaps a little money as well. It is, apparently, a family-run business which, as well as being a model and general collectors’ shop, also houses Cornwall only toy museum, including ‘The Geoff Cann Collection’ of toys dating from the 1920s to the 1980s. I was certainly very impressed with the wonderful collection of old signs afixed to the building’s exterior.

We conclude our tour of Tintagel’s signs with these two rather bizarre offerings. I confess to knowing nothing at all about Spriggans until that day in Tintagel. I knew Cornwall was a magical place but I had no idea it was populated with faeries of all different kinds:

The more ill-tempered cousin of the piskie or browney, Spriggans were especially spiteful to those who offended them. Reputed to be the security force of the faerie society, they stood ready to measure out justice to those who would harm their otherworldly brethren. Some of the punishments believed to have been doled out by the Spriggans were storms sent to blight crops, and the leaving of changelings in place of stolen mortal children. They were most often found in old castle ruins and barrows, guarding buried treasure. Spriggans are described in literature as grotesque, with wizened features and crooked skinny bodies. Though small, they were purported to have the defensive ability to expand themselves to gigantic proportions.