Mawnan Smith is found in a very sheltered part of Cornwall, with exotic and semi-tropical plants flourishing. It is a quiet village, with a thatched inn and cottages.
In Mediaeval times all traffic passed through Mawnan Smith. En route from the Lizard Peninsula and bound for the Falmouth and Penryn area it crossed the Helford River ferry. Until the end of the 18th century practically all of the County's merchandise was carried by mules and packhorses, so it can be assumed that there would have been a smithy in this locality. This is probably the reason for adding "Smith" to the Parish name.
The Mawnan Smith church is on the cliff edge overlooking the mouth of the Helford River.
South of Mawnan Smith are the National Trust gardens of Glendurgan,This valley garden of great beauty was created in the 1820s and developed over many years by the Fox family. Running down to the tiny village of Durgan and its beach, the garden has many fine trees and rare and exotic plants, with outstanding spring displays of magnolias and camellias. In their season glorious displays of wild flowers carpet the valley slopes. The laurel maze, dating from 1833, puzzles young and old. An original cob and thatch schoolroom has been reconstructed. The house is privately occupied.
Penjerrick where fine gardens surround the house owned by the Fox family. The property (10 acre) was bought by the Fox family in the early 19th century. Robert Were Fox (1789-1877), was an English geologist and natural philosopher. A mining expert, Robert wrote many scientific papers. He is credited with naturalizing over 300 species of plants. He married Maria Barclay and had three children: Anna Maria, Barclay and Caroline. Barclay took his father's mantle. It was he who was responsible for enlarging the existing cottages to make a house and, in the 1840s, for the developing the gardens around it.
Unfortunately, the old house became derelict and had to be pulled down and Waldo Trench Fox built the present slate-hung house in 1935. The extensive collection of sub-tropical trees and shrubs includes original early hybrid rhododendrons, crossed by Barclay Fox and by Mr Smith, one of his head gardeners. Penjerrick was left to the National Trust by Janet M.K. Fox along with a substantial endowment. Sadly the endowment was not considered to be adequate and this bequest was turned down. The garden is now owned and looked after by her daughter Mrs. Rachel Morin.
Along the riverbank to the west is the Ferry Boat Inn, with a passenger ferry across to Helford. The Ferry Boat Inn dates back certainly 300 years, perhaps even longer. The Inn is situated on the North bank of the Helford River, it is a sailor's paradise and has a very safe beach directly in front of the Inn.
Also nearby is the hamlet of Porth Navas, which is a popular yachting centre. At Porth Navas is an oyster farm traditionally owned by the Duke of Cornwall.
Mawnan Smith Anvil Trust In 1851 Mawnan Smith had four working smithies serving nineteen farms in the parish, but fifty years later only one remained. For over a hundred years the smithy, operated by blacksmith Billy Jones and followed by his son Dryden, was the centre of village life until, on Dryden's death in 1994, the smithy doors were closed. The owner of the smithy and the Parish have created a project which would bring about the restoration of the premises to its former glory and make the anvil ring once more, hence the formation of the Anvil Trust.
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall genealogical information, from Genuki
Book of Mawnan, The: Celebrating a South Cornwall Parish
Glendurgan: A Personal Memoir of a Garden in Cornwall Charles Fox