PLHG News February 2017

News update from the Penwith Local History Group,
February 2017

Tin slag has been turned up in a field at Wicca in Zennor. A preliminary assessment is that it is probably either medieval or, perhaps, prehistoric. Tin slag, the waste from tin smelting, is difficult to date unless there is contextual evidence, such as charcoal, which can be carbon dated. Whatever the date turns out to be, if it can be dated at all, it is highly likely that it is from a small local smelting operation.

The Owl's House cover

 Crosbie Garstin at the Morrab. On 28 January The Morrab Library hosted the launch of David Tovey's new book on Crosbie Garstin, eldest son of Newlyn School artist Norman Garstin. Entitled The Witty Vagabond, the book is a biography of the extraordinary life of a man whose CV included cowboy, gold-miner, artist, cavalryman, writer and traveller. As writer of the Penhale trilogy, Crosbie Garstin is also widely credited as the inspiration behind Poldark.

The Cornwall Association of Local Historians Spring Conference will take place at Newquay on the 25-26 February 2017. With the title A Bundle of Old Documents, it's no surprise that the focus is on attics, deed boxes, parish chests and similar cough-inducing locations wherein the gold dust of local history is often to be found. And speaking of gold dust, the opening paper for the second day is Ivor Bowditch on Cornwall's White Gold. Promises to be a good week end. Full details here. Full details here.

Penwith Landscape Partnership is a multi-organisation project focused on the development and conservation of the unique Penwith landscape. In late 2015 the group secured HLF support and a variety of projects are now under way. Of particular interest to historians is the project to survey and secure access to the many outstanding heritage sites in the area. Access and agriculture do not everywhere sit happily together though personal experience suggests that the mist is a bigger obstacle than the fence in Penwith. An outline of the projects run by the PLP can be found here.


The Celtic from the West thesis will be familiar to many readers – the idea that the Celtic culture evolved along the Atlantic fringe of Europe and spread inland from there, as opposed to evolving in central Europe and spreading in the opposite direction. The February 2017 issue of Current Archaeology contains an interesting update on research progress on this interdisciplinary archaeology, genetics and linguistics project. Genetic data from Ireland suggests that the people who went on to form the Atlantic maritime Celtic culture emerged from the Pontic/Caspian area in the early Bronze Age. The Irish evidence suggests a significant disconnect between neolithic DNA and bronze age DNA but no further significant interruptions until the Anglo-Normans which places the Celts much earlier in time than the traditional Iron Age interpretation. It's also being postulated that the integrated Celtic maritime culture of the Atlantic seaboard collapsed with the appearance of the Phoenicians in the Iberian peninsula c900 BC. All this is very much ongoing research and subject to reinterpretation but it looks as if migration as a cultural carrier may be back on the agenda.

Those of you who remember Alan Freeman might find it difficult to imagine him opening up with Greetings, port pickers! And at number 14 it's Penzance with Jubilee Pool. No? Well that what the New York Times has come up with, unexpectedly listing Penzance at 14 in its list of the top 52 places to visit in 2017! The must see attraction is the Jubilee Pool while Poldark gets the obligatory mention. Where else merits a mention? Well, you've got Canada at number one, Detroit at nine, Madagascar at 19, Athens at 28. It's a pretty eclectic not to say eccentric list but Penzance is the only UK location included. Relax, he probably doesn't read the New York Times!


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The Morrab Library showing the new extension
The Morrab Library showing the new extension.
Photo Glyn Richards
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