ZENNOR


The 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:  Ref

" very fertile, particularly abounding in milk and honey.............."

"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."

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Tinners' Arms

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From the Hill

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Zennor Quoit

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Zennor c1890

 

"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 Lawrences away.

Click on photos to see  larger   versions
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.

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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".

bench_small.jpg (6962 bytes)Only 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, 1737".

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 service.

 

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 churchyard.

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 servant).

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".

Local Facts

wpe42288.gif (20222 bytes)The 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 language.

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.

Zennor Links

The Smugglers of Zennor
The Mermaid of Zennor
West Penwith Resources
Zennor Quoit
Old Chapel Zennor Backpackers


1.   "The Parochial History of Cornwall" , founded on the manuscript histories of Mr Hals and Mr Tonkin (1838).
2
"A history of the parishes of Saint Ives, Lelant, Towednack and Zennor in the county of Cornwall", by  John Hobson Matthews, 1892.