Thursday, 21 November 2019

Tintagel, Cornwall

King Arthur, Merlin and the sword of Excalibur via wiki
Centuries of debate have surrounded the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as to whether or not they actually existed. On the adjacent island to coastal Tintagel, the remains of an ancient castle can be seen, and this has always been considered to be the prime candidate for his elusive home. 
However, apart from a strong presence of his folklore in and around Cornwall there are also several other areas too that claim a history of tales surrounding King Arthur, all of which also happen to have strong Celtic links, two of which include Wales and Brittany in France.  
The photo from the previous post shows the Cornish island, known as Castle Island, and the cave sitting at the base of it is supposedly where Merlin lived.  
Recently English Heritage have built and opened a brand new bridge making crossing over on to Castle Island from mainland Tintagel far easier. This has, however, resulted in a large influx of visitors, and even though we visited at the end of October, it was far busier than we anticipated. 
Walking the old route to explore the remains of 'King Arthur's castle' on the island is via a steep climb of over 100 zigzag steps to reach the summit, but now you can nip across on the new bridge quick and easily.
We, however, decided to simply view it from afar on the mainland, and then climbed back down to Tintagel via the ancient cliff top church of St. Materiana. 
Do you know why the entrance pathway to the church has a seat either side with a small dividing central wall? It is what is known as a coffin rest;  there are not many church entrances like this, but in my experience they appear to be a feature seen more in this south western corner of the country. Where I live we have a local church with a lych gate that has a coffin rest. These too are rarely seen but if interested you can see the post I did showing it here. 

St. Materiana was built almost entirely as it appears today, in its cruciform shape of nave, chancel and transepts, between 1080 and 1150, in the time of the first Norman earls of Cornwall. The church was built on the site of an oratory served during Celtic days by the monks of Minster and later replaced by a Saxon-style building. 
A Bronze-age Monolith sits amongst the grave stones revealing a long history of human habitation in and around this area.
Inside the church is a very large fine Norman font with four grotesque heads at each corner; having been carved more than 900 years ago, the lost details in the faces have now taken on a more benign appearance. Each head is linked by a serpent with their heads and tails curved upwards representing evil spirits expelled by grace. 

This is a lonely, and remote clifftop spot, but can you picture how it might look on a wild, stormy, mid-winter day, with the ancient church and tomb stones swathed in a swirling fret blown in from the Atlantic! It would be very easy to imagine the presence of those mythological knights who are said to have walked this land during ancient times. 
Now, however, it is time for us to depart and walk back down to Tintagel and view our final destination. 


We have come to see this medieval stone building which is a rare survival of a Cornish hall-house dating back to 1380. For most of its life it was used as a domestic property for a yeoman, but during the Victorian era it was used for a number of different businesses, finally ending its days as a 'letter receiving station'; an early fore-runner to a post office.               
The buildings very distinctive undulating roof of slate tiles has a profile resembling the waves seen on the nearby ocean.  Having stood the test of time for almost 800 years, I imagine that it is likely that it will still be standing here for many more years to come.  

43 comments:

  1. I'd be right with you in leaving the crowds at the castle and heading for the church and the old post office. One wonders why the church was built in such an exposed position; the builders must have had a compelling reason to use such a difficult site. I wonder if it had any even more ancient significance to them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most of our churches certainly sit in far more favourable locations than this isolated clifftop, but apparently the church was built during the same period as Earl Richard built the castle on the island. Both buildings must have dominated the landscape out to sea and along the coast. The site, I assume, would have been considered sacred, having already been used as a place of worship for hundreds of years previously.

      Delete
  2. Amazing. Some friends of mine has just bought a house in Corsham in which there is hidden an old hall house. Their main room is up in the eaves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That must be a fascinating property for your friends to own. We are all surrounded by so much history, often as you mention hidden from view.

      Delete
    2. It reminds me of the Saxon Church at Bradford on Avon. The vicar of the nearby church suspected that there may be an older church hidden in a group of hovel dwellings on his doorstep, and sure enough there was. It was saved by neglect.

      Delete
    3. I love that little Saxon church in Bradford on Avon.

      Delete
  3. It is a wonderful historic site to be sure. Perhaps the new bridge offers greater ease and convenience, but I think I would still tackle the hundred or more steps to gain a more authentic sense of what the original residents would have faced. I would also choose to visit on a day when the weather was not especially benign. That would deter many potential visitors and the crowds would not be as dense. This is the kind of location best visited without the jostle of tourists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tourists are such a big problem all around the world - my thoughts turn to all those queues of people climbing up Everest, 30 million tourists alone flock to Venice each year, and then my thoughts turn to the environment and think about all of those flights carrying people to these destinations. I am very guilty too, having travelled the world myself, but now I am questioning what I should do in the future.

      Delete
  4. Hello Rosemary, Such extremely attractive, interesting and historic buildings. Why can't other places take their cue from Britain? Today the last log-framed building in my immediate area was razed. I was kind of surprised because just last year they repaired the tile roof, which must have cost some money. I am afraid to see what is going to rise in its place!
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jim - it is a terrible shame to learn about the last log-framed building in your area being razed. Are there no government or local laws in place to protect them? There was a time in the 60s when many of our fine buildings were bulldozed too, but now, it is impossible to touch any buildings that have any historical or architectural interest whatsoever, and this also include trees too.

      Delete
  5. Fascinating old buildings. Thanks for explaining what you saw, and your reasoning! I certainly agree about crowds. The site having been used for earlier worship (and maybe even pre-Christian) may be why the church is located there. The standing stone gives credibility to that theory. Love the great hall's roof!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that your reasoning is correct Barbara as to why this old Norman church is located on that particular clifftop spot.

      Delete
  6. Where, oh where, was that bridge 10 years ago when we were in Tintagel, LOL? My glutes were sore for DAYS after making that climb up to "King Arthur's castle." And I remember the undulating rooftops in the village -- so unique!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It only opened in August this year and cost a staggering 4 million pounds.

      Delete
  7. I loved Tintagel and the neighbouring isle. We got to it the difficult way by climbing up the stairs. There weren't too many other visitors. I am a big fan of the Arthurian legends and try to read anything I can find about this subject. We've also visited Glastonbury which also has some links to Arthur.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is the brand new bridge, opened in August, that is responsible for the current wave of visitors flocking to Tintagel. You might be interested in a post I wrote about Gladstonbury several years ago.
      https://wherefivevalleysmeet.blogspot.com/2014/01/gladstonbury-tor-was-it-island.html

      Delete
  8. I particularly like the final building and wonder if it is now a residence or still a "post office". I can understand the coffin rest as a coffin can get quite heavy after a while. It is many years since I was a pall bearer but I can still remember the weight even though the lady was not large.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1903 and was one of their first acquisitions.

      Delete
  9. Having visited a similar Irish bridge near the Giant's Causeway I know what you mean by 'busy' places but it is a cracking new bridge. Even fairly mundane places have large, year round crowds now that ten years ago received very few visitors but it's still easy to avoid them. It is what it is. At last a modern saying fit for purpose I actually like. Love that font.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right Bob it is very easy to escape the crowds. We could see all that we wanted to from where we were and had that lonely clifftop almost to ourselves. The bridge cost 4 million pounds!

      Delete
  10. What a great bridge,m I bet that was welcome.
    How fabulous are those buildings, just amazing how it was done way back when.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is easy to take our many ancient buildings for granted but we shouldn't. I remember my brother's MiL coming over to visit from Canada and she was just amazed at the age of all of properties she saw everywhere.

      Delete
  11. The medieval stone Cornish hall-house is amazing, if it dates back to 1380. The walls are in great condition and the slate tiles seem to do their job well. Mind you, being surrounded by gardens is always attractive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great survivor and has a really cosy feel inside. The timbers holding up the roof have been tested to check that it is secure, and any substandard timber has been replaced.

      Delete
  12. What an amazing, ancient place. It makes me hope that Arthur really was there! The new bridge is very stylish indeed, but it seems it will draw larger crowds, at least in the near future. The Cornish hall house is so unique and the roof so clever and special. There is a 'legend' in my family that we have Cornish ancestry, but I don't think anyone has actually proved it yet :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of people carry those hopes about King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere. I am sure that you know many of the fabulous romanticised Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings done on the subject.
      I wouldn't be at all surprised if you did have some Cornish ancestry, lots of people did emigrate to Australia from Cornwall.

      Delete
  13. Lovely post, those high bridges always gives me the creeps, I can't pass them, I get fear and can't move anymore...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do know that quite a few people find that kind of height difficult to cross, and especially so, when you can actually see the drop beneath your feet as you cross.

      Delete
  14. Imagine a roof lasting 800 years, and so incredibly gorgeous! Wouldn't mind standing in line at a post office like that!!!!

    I'm sure I visited Tintagel as a child but think I would love to return to really see all this again through much more mature eyes. Those beautiful walls - and those stones are making me wonder, being a huge Outlander fan - if I could 'pass through' them (precious gemstone in hand as required) and be a time traveler. I know I should have lived in a different age!
    Sending you hugs - and we must keep traveling whilst we can, even if it's just within our own countries. I feel that having visit all 7 continents I can be happy staying here as there is so much to see, but of course Britain will always pull at my heartstrings as she will always remain my real home. We will be off to the North Carolina coast the day after Thanksgiving, just a couple of days by the sea prior to hectic Christmas season - I'll blow you and J a kiss across the pond!!!

    Hugs from us both, Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mary - I think that you must have been reading one of my earlier comments. I have certainly been suffering with a conscience about future flying recently as a result of what seems to be happening to our beautiful planet. However, please do try to keep coming over Mary, as we would love to meet up with you both again.
      Enjoy your trip to North Carolina, blowing our love back to you.

      Delete
  15. Beautiful. You should publish a book of your amazing photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is very generous of you to say Janey 💜

      Delete
  16. I haven't been back to Tintagel since the bridge opened, it sounds as though we should leave it a while longer. A crisp winter's day perhaps. Last time we went it was February and we had the place virtually to ourselves. Very atmospheric, almost spooky, but oh so cold! I can imagine life there must have been quite challenging.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bridge costs a lot of money to cross over on, I expect they are trying to recoup some of the 4 million pounds that it cost.
      I should imagine a quiet, crisp winter's day would be a perfect time to visit, but get there early.

      Delete
  17. Dearest Rosemary,
    What a beautiful spot you went to explore and photograph the ages of history so well preserved.
    Like you, I hate crowds of tourists when taking photos, as for me it has to be pure and not distracted.
    Can't believe that things stood the tooth of time so well; if only they could tell us the many stories they are holding...
    Learned from your linked older post, and this one of course.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mariette, future generations should know exactly what has gone on today, but as you mention if only we knew more about what these old buildings have seen and heard, but I suppose that it adds to their mystery too.
      Hope all is well with you both.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Rosemary, only need to digitalize some International video tapes now, with my multi-system Sharp VCR. The mega task of digitalizing ALL Hi8 tapes is DONE! 💚

      Delete
  18. I am not sure I would trust myself to cross that bridge , it looks quite impressive to me LOL . Love that old house and the undulating roof and the tiles used , really fascinating !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks quite flimsy from a distance, but it cost 4 million pounds so very secure. If you don't like heights then I think that this bridge increases that fear because you can see the full drop below your feet whilst standing on the bridge.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh