Morwenstow, Cornwall

morwenstow cornwall towns

Morwenstow village, near the high, wild great cliffs on the coast, is perhaps best known for its vicar/poet Robert Stephen Hawker.

As vicar of Morwenstow, he served a motley collection of smugglers, wreckers and dissenters from 1834 for the next forty years. He was concerned that the bodies of drowned men received a Christian burial, and would scramble down the cliffs, and carry back the bodies for a church grave. He sat in which his driftwood hut , smoked opium and wrote poetry. The hut is now owned by the National Trust.

His poem Song of the Western Men, became Cornwall's National Anthem. "And shall Trelawney die? Then twenty thousand Cornishmen Shall know the reason why!" Hawker also did other strange things like dressing up as a mermaid and excommunicating his cat for mousing on Sundays.

The Morwenstow church is dedicated to St Morwenna and St John the Baptist. It was appropriated by the Bishop of Exeter to St John's Hospital at Bridgewater before 1291. In a document dated 1296, the church was referred to as an 'old and well-known structure'. Although this is a Norman church, it must have replaced an earlier Saxon structure. The chancel is separated from the nave by a richly-carved screen erected in 1575 by the Kempthorne family. It has a a fine Norman doorway.

As you enter Morwenstow churchyard, there is a Lych House on your left, and it was here that the corpses of drowned sailors were laid out. The Reverend Hawker buried over forty unfortunate sailors who were drowned at sea and washed up at the bottom of Vicarage Cliff. There is a white memorial figurehead of the "Caledonia" commemorating her Captain and crew who lie buried here. The "Caledonia" was a boat of 500 tons, from Scotland, which floundered on the rocks of Higher Sharpnose in 1843.

Echelon. Dominating the skyline for miles around are the massive white satellite dishes Cleeve Camp built in 1969. This controversial global monitoring system targets international civil communications channels passing through satellites. At Morwenstow, Cornwall, millions of satellite phone calls, faxes, e-mails and data links are monitored every hour. Information is relayed automatically from Britain to the US. It is highly dependent on sophisticated computer filtering software, called dictionaries, which hold thousands of key words or other templates for selecting messages of interest.

The Bush Inn used to boast a fine old thatched roof but in November 1968 a fire destroyed the lovely roof and roughly half the ancient inn but today, after restoration, the pub still generates an old-world atmosphere.

Holy Well, Morwenstow is in a stone well house which is set into the cliffside and looks out across the sea. Although the spring has long been dry, a drainage channel cut into the cill, shows that it once ran with water. The well house was repaired in 1874 by Rev. Hawker himself.

Hawker's Hut is the driftwood building which is one of the NT's smallest buildings. Here in seaman's jersey and cassock, Parson Hawker smoked his pipe, gazed at the surging breakers and wrote poetry. There are views from the hut down the coast to Cambeak, Tintagel, and Pentire, with Lundy Island visible in the distance.

Morwenstow Vicarage with its unique chimneys modeled on church towers that had a special meaning for him, was the home of Rev RS Hawker. The Chimneys are modeled on the church towers where Hawker had served before coming here. The old kitchen chimney is a replica of Hawker's Mother's tomb.

Morwenstow, Cornwall, Vicarage of Rev Hawker

Morwenstow, Cornwall genealogical information, from Genuki

 

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