A brief introduction to Archaeology Listed places

4 Reasons to Visit Historic Cornwall

There’s nowhere else quite like Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Here are some historic highlights.

With around 14,000 sites, buildings and monuments protected on the National Heritage List for England, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly offer many stories to discover.

1. Attractive architecture

The Egyptian House, Penzance

One of the most spectacular buildings in Cornwall is the Egyptian House in Penzance, built between 1834 and 1837 for John Lavin, a mineral and fossil collector and dealer.

Egyptian House, Penzance, Cornwall
The Egyptian House in Penzance, Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. DP114989.

The Egyptian style was at the height of fashion during the Regency period. The Penzance building is likely based on the now-lost Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, London, which opened in 1812 to display the private museum of the collector William Bullock.

The Friends Meeting House, Kea

Cornwall has the highest concentration of Methodist and Nonconformist chapels in Britain. One of the most outstanding examples of its type is a Quaker meeting house built in 1710 at Come-to-Good, Kea.

Friends Meeting House, Kea, Cornwall
The Friends Meeting House in Kea, Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. DP160686.

The Friends Meeting House was built using funds raised from Quaker subscribers. The Quaker James Mayo owned the land and was later leased to Vyvian, whose name is scratched on a window pane at a nearby farmhouse.

The Jubilee Pool, Penzance

In the 1920s, sea bathing became considered a leisure activity rather than just something to benefit your health. This shift in attitude led to the building of lidos nationwide.

Jubilee Pool, Penzance, Cornwall
The Jubilee Pool in Penzance, Cornwall. © Cornwall Council.

The Jubilee Pool in Penzance is a triangular seaside lido jutting into the sea. It’s not quite an infinity pool, but the design was particularly striking in 1935. The concrete has been moulded to create a series of Art Deco curves.

Along with the Saltdean Lido in Brighton, it’s one of the finest surviving examples of its type.

2. Mining memories

Botallack Mine, Pendeen

Much of the Cornish landscape was transformed in the 18th and early 19th centuries due to the rapid growth of copper and tin mining.

Botallack Mine, Penwith, Cornwall
Botallack Mine in Pendeen, Cornwall. © Crown Copyright. Historic England Archive. AA98/10384.

The development of mining in Cornwall profoundly impacted industrialisation across England and around the world.

Today, mining landscapes across Cornwall are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, placing Cornish mining heritage on a par with international treasures like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.

Geevor Mine, Pendeen

Geevor Mine is the largest and most complete surviving tin mine in Britain and Europe, remaining much as it was when it closed in 1991.

Geevor Tine Mine, Penwith, Cornwall
The Geevor Tin Mine in Pendeen, Cornwall. © Crown Copyright. Historic England Archive. BB92/14693.

The site includes many 18th to 20th-century structures ranging from small stone buildings to large industrial complexes and specialised machines.

The former National Explosives Factory, Hayle

By the mid-19th century, Cornwall was the world’s most important mining area. Hayle was identified as the ideal location for an explosives factory to supply the industry, and the site is a rare surviving example of a state-of-the-art factory structure.

The site of the former National Explosives Factory in Hayle, Cornwall. © Cornwall Council.

Opened in 1889, Oscar Guttmann, a Hungarian engineer, designed and built the National Explosives Factory near Hayle. Later the factory became a supplier to the Royal Navy during the First World War and was also a significant employer of local women.

3. Ancient agriculture

A tower windmill, the Lizard

Fascinating agricultural history can be found all over Cornwall. This tower mill is located on the Lizard peninsula and is recorded on a map as early as 1695.

Windmill, Landewednack, Cornwall
A windmill on the Lizard in Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. DP181658.

Tower mills were introduced during the medieval period for grinding grain. They were common in areas without enough water power to run watermills.

There were about 10,000 tower mills in England at the peak of their construction in the mid-18th century, but today less than 400 are known to survive.

The tower mill west of Windmill farm was re-used as a Home Guard observation post during the Second World War as part of the defences of Predannack Airfield. It is also famous as the den, in the 18th century, of the locally notorious ‘Windmill Gang’ of highwaymen!

The Blue Anchor, Helston

Brewing is an ancient occupation which became an organised industry in the Middle Ages. Until the appearance of large industrial brewers in the 18th century, most brewing was done in brewhouses attached to inns and pubs.

The Blue Anchor, Helston, Cornwall
The Blue Anchor in Helston, Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. DP220398.

The Blue Anchor in Helston started as a 15th-century rest house run by monks brewing mead on the site. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it became a tavern and a brewery, today selling its ales which it has been brewing on-site for hundreds of years.

One of only four remaining brewing pubs in the UK, The Blue Anchor has played a central role in the social lives of Helston locals for centuries. Around 100 years ago, local tin miners began receiving wages at the bar.

A crushing mill, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly contain many archaeological remains from over 4000 years of human activity.

Former mill site, Tresco, Isles of Scilly
A former mill site on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. © Historic England Archive. DP116085.

This crushing mill in Tresco on St. Mary’s is an early example of a simple animal mill and is unusual in being carved directly from the bedrock.

Local tradition suggests it was used as an apple crusher for making cider. What could be more West Country?

4. Castles, castles, castles

Tintagel Castle

No list of Cornish heritage would be complete without its impressive castles.

Tintagel Castle, Tintagel, Cornwall
Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. © Historic England Archive. DP248538.

Associated with the legend of King Arthur, the medieval Tintagel Castle was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, between 1227 and 1233, facing the full force of the Atlantic.

Richard spent considerable resources building a castle with no strategic or military value. As a result, many believe this was a symbolic location. Tintagel has long been believed to be the seat of previous legendary rulers of Cornwall.

Launceston Castle

Launceston Castle was built on an existing rock outcrop in the late 11th century. It was made for Robert, Count of Mortain (a half-brother of William the Conqueror), who later became Earl of Cornwall.

Launceston Castle in Cornwall. © English Heritage.

The castle became the administrative centre for the control of Cornwall from just after the Norman Conquest until 1272. The High Tower was used as a prison for much of the Medieval period.

Restormel Castle and more

There’s also Pendennis Castle and St. Mawes Castle near Falmouth, plus Restormel Castle overlooking the River Fowey, to name just a few more!

Restormel Castle near Lostwithiel in Cornwall, © Historic England Archive. DP221061.

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite historic Cornish places in the comments below.

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