When I started writing fiction I knew my stories would be set in Cornwall. The first one would be in 18th century Cornwall. There would be looming cliffs and thrashing seas, fishing boats and smuggling, a dark mystery involving a grand house, a willful heroine and the handsome skipper of a Cornish lugger.
My journey into 18th century Cornwall began when I unearthed a copy of an old book, A Week at Land’s End by JT Blight. I found it in a little shop in St Just, and it was a treasure. First published 150 years ago, and beautifully illustrated by the author, the book takes the reader on an enchanted ramble around this most mysterious part of Cornwall.
One particular story fascinated me, that of celebrated Cornish historian Dr William Borlase. He was born at Pendeen Manor in1695, so we set off to find the house. According to my OS map it was a right turn off the B3306 coast road towards the Pendeen Watch lighthouse, where the scenery is truly spectacular. The house itself was at the end of rough track, but it was worth the effort to get there. Pendeen Manor, which is now a working farm, is one of the most beautiful old houses I have ever seen. Built on the cliff top, it commands spectacular views of the Atlantic. It’s no wonder the BBC chose it for the Poldark house, Nampara, in the popular TV series.
I could already see my fictional St Neot family living there. The first seeds of Danger at Mellin Cove were sewn. The novel was subsequently published as a My Weekly Pocket Novel in June 2011, and later as a Linford Romance paperback, available at public libraries. It continues to be my best-selling Kindle novel at Amazon.
<img class=”size-thumbnail wp-image-3734 alignright” src=”http://renageorge.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Image122-150×150.jpg” alt=”Zennor Church” width=”235″ height=”235″ />Tucked away down a bend in the twisting coast road from St Ives to Land’s End, is the charming village of Zennor. We must have been visiting Cornwall for almost twenty years before we discovered it. The village pub, The Tinners’ Arms, will be well known to cliff path walkers as a welcome stopping off place to enjoy a cold drink and a ploughman’s lunch.
Opposite the pub is the medieval St Senara Church, the foundations of which are said to be a thousand years old. People come from all over the world to see the famous image of a mermaid carved into the wooden on the end of an ancient pew.
<img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-3733″ src=”http://renageorge.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/zennor_mermaid.gif” alt=”zennor_mermaid” width=”97″ height=”154″ />According to folklore the mermaid, Morveren, was entranced by the beautiful voice of local man, Mathew Trewella, when she heard him singing in church. It was love at first sight for both of them. Mathew followed Morveren back to the sea, and was never seen again.
The Mermaid Church was the inspiration for my short story, Return to Cliff Cottage, published by Take a Break.
During the First World War DH Lawrence and his German wife, Frieda, came to live near Zennor, renting a cottage on the cliff top when he was writing Women in Love. However all was not well with the locals, who believed the Lawrences were German spies.
Some thought Frieda was sending coded messages to German U-boats out in the Atlantic when she pegged out her washing to flutter on the line. It was hardly surprising that they didn’t trust the eccentric writer since he apparently thought nothing of being openly critical of them.
Under pressure from the local community, the police eventually told the couple to leave the area.