Mousehole is a small fishing village on the south coast of Cornwall which the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, described as “the loveliest village in England”. He must have thought so as he spent his honeymoon in Mousehole. At a pub. So no surprises there.
The history of the village goes right back to 1283. In those early days, Mousehole was a bustling fishing port, fishing mainly for pilchards.
The Spanish Raid
This seems a rather quiet existence although in 1595 war came to Mousehole in the shape of the Spaniards. These chaps, presumably still smarting over the defeat of the Armada in 1588 sailed into Mounts Bay bent on destruction.
Led by Carlos de Amésquita they sailed close in shore and bombarded the village. Almost all the buildings were destroyed aside from one pub ‘The Keigwin Arms’. The pub is now a private residence though there is a plaque with the wording “Squire Jenkyn Keigwin was killed here 23 July 1595 defending this house against the Spaniards”.
After the raid
Once the Spaniards had gone the village was rebuilt and continued as it did before so by 18th century, records speak of 55 boats and five Seine nets working from Mousehole. This seems a large figure to me when compared to the size of the place. That said, it increased again to over 60 boats in the 1880’s.
Mousehole could support several fairs and markets, so this diminutive village must have been packed full of people with everything reeking of fish.
The Pilchards seemed an endless resource at the time, though in the 20th Century, the stocks rapidly declined and slowly the industry all but disappeared. Today, most of the fishing boats are gone, and Mousehole makes most of its trade through tourism.
These days Its narrow streets are populated with small shops, galleries and restaurants. On the harbour front, I spotted these fine sturdy granite structures, built to withstand the very worst that the North Atlantic can throw at them.
I took the opportunity to do a small preparatory watercolour as the basis for a larger piece at some point in the future. Which I expect I will never complete.
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