village of Zennor, on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall, lies only a few miles from
the town of St Ives. It is bounded on one side by high, wild and rocky
cliffs, and on the other by rugged, boulder-strewn, granite hills (Zennor Hill
had a stone quarry, and much of St Ives was built with its stone, as was the
Falmouth Harbour walls). Low farmhouses huddle close together in the brooding
landscape of this wild and windswept coast; habitation here dates back to the
early Bronze Age, 4000 years ago.
The belt of land between was described in the last century as:
" very fertile, particularly abounding in milk and
"Zennor church-town is disfigured by many ruinous houses, due to the
immigration which of later years has (deprived) this and other once populous
districts of some of its best blood. The continuous parishes of Zennor,
Towednack and Morvah are locally termed the "high countries" and preserve much
of the social aspect of former ages. Here may still be commonly seen the
immense open chimney, with dried furze and turf piled up on the earthen floor
of the kitchen. "
"It was said that Zennor people would contrive, by their
thrifty habits, to live like goats. Hence the nickname "Zennor Goats", or "as
careful as Zennor people"
"Grain is produced in the rich level country which lies
between the Zennor hills and the sea; but the farms within the four parishes
are, for the most part, pastoral and not agricultural. In the first half of
the eighteenth century, even the pasturage of cattle in Cornwall was
restricted by the difficulty of feeding the stock in winter; but about the
year 1747 the turnip was introduced into West Cornwall by a Norwich farmer
named Mathews, whose son Thomas Mathews, brought this well-known root into the
Saint Ives district."
From the Hill
"The houses cling to the hillside as if hung
there by the wind. Waves still lick the ledges in the coves, and a few
fishermen still set out to sea in their boats. In times past, the sea was
both the beginning and the end for the folk of Zennor. It gave them fish for
food and fish for sale, and made a wavy road to row from town to town. Hours
were reckoned not by clocks but by the ebb and flow of the tide, and months
and years ticked off by the herring runs.The sea took from them, too, and
often wild, sudden storms would rise. Then fish and fisherman alike would be
lost to an angry sea. At the end of a good day, when the sea was calm and
each boat had returned with its share of fish safely stowed in the hold, the
people of Zennor would go up the path to the old church and give thanks.
They would pray for a fine catch on the morrow, too."
In Sep 1748, the John Wesley preached to about 300 people in Zennor. He
found "much good-will in them, but no life".
By the road leading into the village is a large stone said to have been used
as a pulpit by John Wesley to convert the locals to Methodism in the 1750ís.
In years past, the local people lived mainly by farming, fishing,
quarrying and mining, but today, tourism is the major industry.
D.H Lawrence and his German wife lived in Zennor during the First World
War, whilst he was writing "Women in Love". The suspicions of the local
populace that they were signaling to German U Boats eventually drove the
Click on photos to see larger
May I beg forgiveness from those whose photos I have borrowed
for this page. If possible, I would like your permission to use them, and
will give appropriate acknowledgement. However, if you don't want them to be
used, let me know and I will remove them.
Part of Zennor parish, seen from the window of
Tregeraint House, a superb place for Bed and Breakfast accommodation, with
wonderful hosts - recommended!
The Church of St Senara
In Cornwall, churches are usually small and ruggedly built to withstand the
storms and gales which sweep across the county. There are very few spires, and
their Celtic origins can be seen in their dedications, three-quarters of which
are to Celtic saints. In the churchyards, there are numerous Celtic crosses.
The church of St Senara in Zennor dates from Norman times, but probably
stands on the site of a 6th century Celtic church. It is possibly named after
the princess Azenor of Breton, the mother of St Budock. It was restored in 1890.
Prior to the restoration , the whole edifice was in a very neglected state, with
whitewash and green damp and rotteness everywhere. A rickety old kitchen table
stood inside the altar rails, and the floor of the chancel was paved with common
red bricks, and it "preserved for our instruction a sad picture of the
surroundings amid which our great-grandfather's were content to worship. The
original carved oak seats had all (with one exception) disappeared, and been
replaced by family boxes".
two medieval bench-ends remain - now made into a seat. One end is a famous
carving of a mermaid, ("morveren" in Cornish) with the conventional comb and
mirror held up in each hand. This siren is said to have enticed a the
churchwarden's son and handsome chorister, Mathew Trewhella, into the sea, and
he was never seen again. Trewhella, like Berryman, is a very old Zennor family.
On the south side of the tower is a small bronze dial, bearing the figure of a
mermaid, and the inscription: "the Glory of the world Paseth. Paul Quick fecit,
The Parish Registers started about 1590, but the early portion was almost
entirely destroyed by damp. The first volume is a small quarto bound in cloth.
The first legible entry is "1618 Baptised Nicholas son of John Beryman"
At the gate to the church, there is a "coffin rest". In the olden days, the
dead might be carried in their coffins quite a distance from the church. Before
carrying the coffin into the church, the coffin was placed on the coffin rest
for a time and the pallbearers sat on the stone benches alongside, to assure it
to be under good control when it was carried into the church for the burial
The Berryman family
Berymans, Berrymans and
Berrimans have lived in and around Zennor since at least 1550, when William
Beryman ("alias Porthmeo")farmed at Porthmeor, some 2 miles down the coast from
Zennor. Berrymans have lived at that same farm since that time, and still live
there today. Not many families can boast such a long, unbroken occupation of
their family home! It is therefore not surprising that there are still quite a
few Berrymans living in the area, with very many more buried in the Zennor
Another ancestral home of the Berrymans at
Zennor was "Treveglos" ("Trev"--farmstead; and "eglos"--church: Thus, "farm of
the church" or "church farm"). As a farm, "Treveglos" was known as early as
1270, but the present farm house was probably originally built in the late
1700s. The farm was once the property of a family named Treveglos; from 1384 to
about 1661, it was the property of the Gerveys family, before passing to the
Grylls. It is believed that Berryman families were the tenants from the 1600s to
the mid-1800s. By 1872, however, it was owned by a Mr. Branwell of Penzance.
In 1841, the population of Zennor Parish was
just over 1,000 people. In 1851 it was 918. There were at that time nine
Berryman families and two single Berrymans (one a charwoman and the other a
Most Berrymans of those times were farmers, but
there was also an innkeeper. At the end of the 1800s, the population of Zennor
Parish was 601, including several Berrymans, Chellews, Eddys, Hockings,
Osbornes, Quicks, and Thomases, who were mostly farmers. Mrs. Hocking was a
shopkeeper at Zennor Churchtown and Miss Elizabeth Berryman was the mistress of
the National School (average attendance 80). John Trudgen end John Thomas were
smiths. The chief landowners were the Earl of Sandwich; Caroline, Duchess of
Cleveland; and Walter John Groves. Agricultural lands were devoted mostly to
pasture and production of barley, oats, and wheat.
Col. "Freddie" Hirst, archaeologist and founder of the Wayside
Museum, Zennor, made the following observation in the 1930s:
"In Zennor, the progenitor Adam has been replaced by
Berryman, with the following result:-
It is only a matter of time for all Zennor
people to be called Berryman - the Vicar (1925) called everyone Berryman until
corrected, and thus learned the names of his parishoners".
last bastions of the Cornish language were the West Penwith parishes of Zennor,
St Ives, Lelant and Towednack. John Davey (1812-1891) of Boswednack,
Zennor (left) was one of the last people with a traditional knowledge of the
Henry Quick (1792-1857) of Zennor was a poet. A book has been written about
him - "The Life and Progress of Henry Quick of Zennor" - P.A.S. Pool (Ed), 1994.
D.H.and Frieda Lawrence rented Tregerthen cottage, near Zennor.
The "Witches' Rock" at Trewa, between Nancledra and Zennor, was where the
witches of Penwith are supposed to have "assembled at midnight to carry on their
wicked deeds". However, anyone touching the rock nine times at midnight was
insured against bad luck.
Smugglers of Zennor
The Mermaid of Zennor
West Penwith Resources
Old Chapel Zennor
1. "The Parochial History of Cornwall" , founded
on the manuscript histories of Mr Hals and Mr Tonkin (1838).
"A history of the
parishes of Saint Ives, Lelant, Towednack and Zennor in the county of Cornwall",
by John Hobson Matthews, 1892.