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Welcome to the home of myCornwall, a cornucopia of Cornwall and everything Cornish.

We have grand plans for the myCornwall site, our aim is to become the home of Cornwall online.  Whether you are Cornish born and bred, live in  Cornwall, a Cousin Jack or Jill or would like to know more about Cornish history, we hope you will find something of interest from our comprehensive collection of articles, news, views and opinions that cover the globe.

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Mark Pugh

Three of the Best Fish & Chips in Cornwall

No trip to the beach is complete without a hearty portion of Fish and Chips, and in Cornwall you’re spoilt for choice!


Chip Ahoy

Crisp, golden and wonderfully light; Chip Ahoy’s batter not only ticks all the right boxes but is also made to a top-secret recipe! Our lips are sealed as to what that secret something is, but we can tell you that this chippy is a firm favourite with local Padstownians.

8 Broad Street, Padstow PL28 8BS

Peckish Fish & Chips

With five stars from the Quality Fish and Chips awards, Peckish Fish & Chips are clearly picky about what goes into their fryer. Whether you go for a tasty fillet of hake or haddock it’s all sourced from sustainable fisheries, so you can tuck in to your fish without worry!

8 Victoria Road, Camelford PL32 9TH


Cafe Azur at The Valley

Carnon Downs
Fresh Newlyn Haddock in a Doom Bar ale batter with hand carved chips, mint pea puree, tartare sauce and a crisp salad. The in-house secret batter recipe ensures a light crisp batter. All elements on the plate are home-made ensuring a freshness and quality unique to Café Azur. Beautifully presented, which makes it seem like far more than just fish and chips!

Bissoe Road, Carnon Downs TR3 6LQ


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HOTEL REVIEW: The Widemouth Manor Hotel

myCornwall venture in to North Cornwall for a night at The Widemouth Manor Hotel.

The views across the incredibly long sandy beaches of Widemouth Bay, a beach known for its superb surfing conditions, are stunning and these plus the breathtaking cliff top walks nearby make Widemouth Manor Hotel an idyllic retreat.

Widemouth Manor Hotel

Standing proudly on the headland for more than one hundred years and set within its own gardens, Widemouth Manor Hotel offers elegant dining in the superb main restaurant. The Sports bar, restaurant and lounge area have all been refurbished to the highest standards and the stylish decor in natural shades reflect the beautiful surroundings.

Widemouth Manor Hotel

The menu is extensive and reflects the fact that the chefs use fresh and local produce. I opted for scallops to start with and they were simply delicious. These were followed by Grilled Fillet of Sea Bass and Black Tiger Prawns with Roasted Vegetable Cous-Cous & Chilli Tomato Dressing.  The dish was beautifully presented and the flavours complimented each other beautifully.

It took me a while to decide on which desert to choose, as they were all very tempting. I went for the Ginger & Lime Bread & Butter pudding with Cornish Clotted Cream and was rather pleased I did as this alternative take on a traditional favourite was hands down one of the best deserts I have ever tasted.

The bedroom was comfortable and relaxing, and if you are seeking additional relaxation there’s massage or beauty treatments available at the Ocean Spa Treatment rooms along with bespoke retreats and spa packages.

The early morning sunrise streaming in through the windows encouraged me to leave the wonderfully comfortable bed and head downstairs for breakfast. Again the quality of the food was outstanding and having breakfast watching the beach and sea come to life was such a relaxing experience it was hard to leave.

All the staff at The Widemouth Manor understands the importance of creating that ‘ideal escape’ experience and their attention to detail made my stay unforgettable. The surrounding area offers an abundance of activities for those who enjoy outdoor adventure and stunning landscapes.

Widemouth Manor Hotel

As mentioned earlier the miles of sandy beaches and invigorating cliff walks start only a few steps from the hotel and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to attractions offered  locally and throughout Cornwall as a whole.


The Widemouth Manor Hotel,

Widemouth Bay,



EX23 0DE

Tel: 01288 361207



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MEET THE CHEF: Olly Jackson at the New Yard Restaurant

Taya Black interviewed Olly Jackson, Head Chef at the New Yard Restaurant.

As Head Chef at the New Yard Restaurant for the last three years Olly Jackson’s experience has led to his influencing the menus and inspiring the kitchen staff that help create them. Last month Taya Black caught up with the well travelled chef to interview him for myCornwall magazine.

Olly Jackson, Head Chef at the New Yard Restaurant on the beautiful Trelowarren Estate, has a lot to offer those diners who travel the extra mile through the estate’s grounds to feast on the exquisite dishes on the menu. When using suppliers, like Kernow Sashimi for fish and Primrose Herd in Redruth for pork, Olly’s preferred choice is to keep it as local as possible when sourcing ingredients.

The chef’s reputation has grown in leaps and bounds thanks to the wide variety of experiences, from travelling on a food tour across Australia to his appearances on Channel 4’s ‘Three Hungry Boys’ and ITV’s ‘Britain’s Best Dish’.

New Yard Restaurant

So what makes him tick?

When I was younger, I wasn’t really sure what to do with my life career-wise. I never really liked school and I’ve always been far more practical than academic, so my mum suggested that I should become a plumber or a chef. I’ve always liked cooking and so the choice was easy.  When I was 16-years-old I went to a college in Northampton, where I’m originally from, and eventually worked my way up through mostly two-rosette rated restaurants and hotels, from a part-time pot wash to being a head-chef at the age of 26.

I have been in the cooking industry for 14 years now, and have worked for Ruth Watson and travelled around Australia for six months with Bill Granger, a self-taught Australian chef. I eventually became the head-chef at New Yard Restaurant about three years ago after moving down to Cornwall to join my wife.

My earliest food memory is probably of my mum cooking cakes for our local church’s bake sale in Northampton. Our family wasn’t particularly ever cooking-orientated but I remember my mum baking regularly and I would help her out with it.

At New Yard, all the ingredients we use in our dishes tend to be from local sources. We use local companies such as the Cornish Duck Company and Beef off the Heath, our fish comes fresh off of the local dayboats and we use pheasants, rabbits and pigeons that have been hunted on the Trelowarren estate. All of the vegetables used are also sourced from local farmers. At the moment the main ingredients we are using are the garlic leaves found on the estate, Cornish new potatoes and all of the usual spring greens such as asparagus, sprouts and broccoli.

The hardest thing about being a chef is the unsocialable hours. A lot of my family and friends are getting married this year and it’s really hard getting the time off, I’m usually here all day.  However the thing I love about this job is that everyday is different, it’s never boring as there’s always something happening and always a challenge to overcome.

The main people who inspire me are the producers, such as the Cornish Duck Company, who supply us with the products. We only use the best of the best and so it makes me want to turn the products into something great for our customers. One of my most prominent ‘chefing’ memories is from using a beef fillet supplied for an outside company for a function I was working at, it was so tender you could have cut it with a spoon – definitely the best beef fillet I’ve ever seen!

I’m often asked what my signature dish is, but the truth is I don’t really have one, I believe that every thing you cook should be your signature dish. I guess the most popular dish we serve, the one that everyone comes back for, is the pork belly, (a personal favourite) – we cook it really slowly overnight a 95 degrees with loads of herbs and salt and then roast it again the following day, it’s lovely.

I love the French style for cooking and so I would say this hugely influences my own cooking style. I’m not about small portions and I want my customers to leave New Yard feeling full. There’s nothing worse than leaving a restaurant thinking ‘that tasted great, but I’m still hungry’ so its very important to me that we deliver great tasting food that will satisfy our customers.  Presentation is also extremely important, because at the end of the day, people initially eat with their eyes.


Warm Asparagus with a deep fried hen’s egg yolk

New Yard Restaurant

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a light meal

16 Asparagus spears

4 Egg yolks

Pea shoots

Rapeseed oil

Flour, an Egg and Breadcrumbs for coating of the egg



Trim the asparagus so all spears are the same size, making sure the woody part is snapped off

Blanch the asparagus spears in boiling water for 3 minutes – to check they are  ready use a small knife it should just slide through the stalk

Once cooked, place the asparagus in an ice bath to chill and stop from overcooking

Poach the egg yolk in simmering water for 3 minutes, remove from the hot water and transfer straight to an ice bath to chill.

Once chilled remove from ice bath, place on a clean jay cloth or tea towel and gently dry

Carefully coat in the cooked egg yolk in flour; then beaten egg and then breadcrumbs

To serve

Reheat the asparagus spears by placing in boiling water for 1 minute

Fry the egg yolk at 170oc in deep fat fryer for 1 minute

Arrange on the plate and serve with pea shoots and a drizzle of a rapeseed oil


New Yard Restaurant, Trelowarren, Mawgan, Helston TR12 6AF

01326 221 595



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HOTEL REVIEW: The Tregenna Castle Hotel and Estate

Mark Pugh takes a trip to St Ives to put the renowned reputation of the Tregenna Castle Hotel to the test

With a view across St Ives to die for and the Tregenna Castle Hotel’s huge presence it is hard not to use the word impressive, but impressive it is. I’d arrived with my companion not really knowing what to expect but would leave relaxed and determined to visit again…and again.

Tregenna Castle Hotel

Tregenna has been an impressive hotel and estate since its early days as one of the many properties owned by Great Western Railways. Now an independent hotel it caters for everyone, from those just off the train to those taking time out for a weekend treat. For my companion and myself it was the latter.

On arrival I was met by a huge smile at reception, just what one needs when taking time out to smooth away the weeks worries. The smile, belonging to the helpful reception staff, encouraged me to investigate my room. Comfortable, large and with a superb sea view, the room was yet another additional aid to my relaxation mission.

A short time later my companion and I headed to the restaurant for a delightful six course meal. Yes, six courses. Properly proportioned, presented and cooked beautifully the food was a treat in itself.
The prices of the food are the kind to fit anyone’s budget, the food was exquisite. The first course was a deliciously prepared Massala Tandori Westcountry Chicken. Next was a beautifully presented South Devon Beef Salad with Thai Twist, followed by a superb Tempura King Prawns with a Vegetable Spaghetti Salad. Italian style St Ives Mackerel  with fresh Orange Scented Olives. Confit of Grampound Duck served with a Port and Redcurrant Reduction.

Tregenna Castle Hotel

Despite our already being more than satisfied by the food offered so far there was one more course to enjoy. Ah maybe pudding, one shouldn’t miss pudding and so we didn’t.
Pudding consisted of various chocolatey delights. An Assiette of Chocolate; Callestick Farm Double Chocolate Ice Cream, home made profiteroles and dark chocolate brownie. I’d have to say despite only having been at the hotel for less than three hours my weekend mission to relax was already successful. I’d already arrived.

Executive Chef Scott Young, the man who designed the six course meal spoke about what he was seeking to do with the food he presented: “I am extremely inspired by the fine local produce that Cornwall offers and I like to present food creatively so that it is appealing to the eye.” He succeded in so many ways.

Tregenna Castle Hotel

In addition to the fantastic rooms and food on offer Tregenna has a bar, two heated pools – one indoor and one outdoor, a fully equipped gym, hair and beauty salon, luxury cottages and apartments. It also has a 18 hole links golf course. With all this and the St Ives location how can you go wrong?


Tregenna Castle Estate, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 2DE

Telephone: 01736 795254



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MEET THE CHEF: Chris Graham at the Buchter’s Bistro, Newquay

myCornwall interviewed Chris Graham, Head Chef at the Butcher’s Bistro in Newquay.

In a professional kitchen, timing is essential. I found it to be the hardest aspect of becoming a chef when I opened the Butcher’s Bistro in 2005, having spent most of my life as a butcher. I made the switch as I could see that Newquay was changing, and even though it was a big risk, I now love it when the pressure’s on and you’ve got to send out dishes for 60 or more people – it’s a great buzz!

Butcher's Bistro

I’m often asked what my favourite meal is and my answer is always the same – I’m yet to eat it!  Cooking for me is about trying new things, so I always say that my favourite meal is the one I haven’t had. My tip for cooking is simple: stay open-minded and don’t approach the kitchen with blinkers on. My pet hate is when people decide they don’t like things before they’ve tried them!

Butcher's Bistro

My earliest food memory is sitting on an egg box as my father delivered eggs all around Cornwall. We were a poor family, and I’d go out hunting rabbits so that we were not eating cabbage most nights! It could be tough, but it has meant that I’ve always felt very connected to the source of my food. I can also remember my mum cooking up beef broths. It was simple traditional fare, but full of flavour.

To catch fish for the restaurant I’ll head out to Trevose as early as 3.30am, and then visit a farm in Ladock to choose the best bullock for my beef. My passion is to keep the food as Cornish as can be and if you want to serve the best, you have to start from the beginning. All of our beef has a ‘passport’, which we have on show in the restaurant so people can see what they’re eating, and where it’s from.

I recently became a grandfather again, and it has encouraged me to wonder what the world will be like in another 50 years. I think it’s vital that kids know where their food comes from, and food education needs to start early. We often have families in from France and Italy, and their children are very much more connected with their food. I’ve had 8 year olds telling me how they like their scallops cooked! I think we can learn from that.

Butcher's Bistro

My food hero would be Paul Ripley – the head chef at Rick Stein’s Seafood Bar in Falmouth. When I was a butcher I’d supply him with meat, and no matter how busy he was he always had time for me. He really cares about his work and is a great influence.

I’d say that my cooking style is traditional. Butcher’s Bistro is like a home from home with a nautical feeling – a place where the whole family can come and enjoy freshly baked bread with such dishes as our spectacular Seafood Marinere. I love good food, but I love serving it to people even more. I want the world to know just how much Cornwall has to offer and to put it on the food map. If I can do that, I’ll be a happy man.


Chris’ Seafood Marinere

Butcher's Bistro

Ingredients (serves 2)

100g butter

1 clove garlic – finely chopped

250g leeks – cleaned and sliced

¼ pint Cornish Rattler

250g cleaned mussels

2 large cracked crab claws

4 tiger prawns

½ cup shrimps

2 scallops

2 tablespoons of double cream

2 small fillets of Pollack

2 small fillets salmon


Preheat wok and melt butter.

Add garlic and leeks. Cook until soft but not brown.

Add crab claws and rattler. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Add mussels and tiger prawns. As the mussels start to open, add scallops, shrimps and fresh fish.

Simmer until fish has cooked through, and then add cream.

Serve in deep bowl to share and enjoy!

Butcher's Bistro


Butcher’s Bistro

26 Cliff Road



01637 874 470


Want to see more like this?

‘MEET THE CHEF: Chris Graham at the Buchter’s Bistro, Newquay’ is taken from our April/May 2012, Vol.2 Issue 11. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.

The Great Families of Cornwall: the Edgcumbes

Take a walk through time with the powerful Edgcumbes of North Cornwall

In the 14th century, the de Cotehele family was one of Cornwall’s most powerful. Ralph and Hilaria de Cotehele, the orphaned children of this dynasty, were the wards of John, Earl of Cornwall, brother of the King, Edward III. In 1353, Hilaria, heiress to her brother’s estates, married William Edgcumbe and brought to the union her land at Cotehele.

The Edgcumbes, her new husband William’s family, actually originated from the Devon side of the Tamar, near Tavistock. In the 13th century, the family is recorded as living in the parish of Milton Abbot, where many buildings still bear the Edgcumbe name today. William Edgcumbe’s elder brother John, despite remaining in Milton Abbot, founded a second line of the family in Cornwall, with descendents based at Tregeare, near Launceston.

For five centuries, the Edgcumbes were based at Cotehele, near Saltash. Now owned by the National Trust, Cotehele is a Tudor mansion built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe and his son, Sir Piers, during the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Until the end of the 15th century, the Durnford family owned vast amounts of land around Plymouth, Stonehouse and Rame. In 1493, Sir Piers Edgcumbe married the heiress Joan Durnford and created a deer park, marking the site of the new Mount Edgcumbe estate. His son Richard would later instigate work on a fine manor house overlooking the River Tamar.

Cotehele Arch by Steve Parkes-Flickr

Cotehele Arch by Steve Parkes-Flickr

Located near Plymouth, on the Cornwall/Devon border, historically Mount Edgcumbe was interestingly positioned in times of conflict. In practical terms, this meant that the house needed to be more extensively fortified than Cotehele. The house, as well as its incumbents, frequently became caught in the crossfire during times of war.

One of the most notable characters to feature in the family history is Sir Richard Edgcumbe, father and father-in-law to the previously mentioned Sir Piers Edgcumbe and Joan Durnford. During the Wars of the Roses, Sir Richard fought for the Lancastrians, who were briefly defeated by York and Richard III.

In his survey of Cornwall, Richard Carew notes the interesting reason behind Sir Richard’s decision to build a chapel on a specific area of Cotehele land. Its construction was inspired by a fortuitous escape from danger while coming under attack from Richard III’s troops. Carew narrates the tale:

‘Sir Richard Edgcumbe was driven to hide himself in those his thicke woods, which overlook the river, what time being suspected of favouring the Earl of Richmond’s party against King Richard the Third, hee was hotely pursued, and narrowly searched for; which extremity taught him a sudden policy, to put a stone in his cap, and tumble the same into the water, while these rangers were close at his heels, who, looking down after the noyse, and seeing his cap swimming thereon, gave over their farther hunting, and left him liberty to shift away, and ship over into Brittaine; for a grateful remembrance of which delivery, hee afterward builded in the place of his lurking, a chapell.’

Despite this close shave and the appearance of defeat, Sir Richard and the Lancaster claim were able to return to the battle stronger than ever. Taking revenge on his old adversary, Sir Henry Bodrugan (who had played a key role in his persecution), Sir Richard forced him to flee the country and, as the victor, was granted Bodrugan’s lands. When Richard III was defeated at Bosworth, Sir Richard Edgcumbe was knighted on the battlefield by the victorious Henry Tudor.

During the reign of Henry VII, Sir Richard became an influential character, carrying out several assignments for the King. His descendents were to continue this tradition of power and position.

During the Civil War, Colonel Piers Edgcumbe, like so many members of the Cornish gentry, fought for the King. Colonel Edgcumbe commanded a regiment at Plymouth, but his home at Mount Edgcumbe came under attack in 1644 as Parliamentarian forces invaded.

Despite being fortified, Maker Church, which housed the family crypt, was captured. After his garrison at Mount Edgcumbe was forced to surrender in 1645, Colonel Edgcumbe retreated to the family home at Cotehele. There he remained until his death in 1666, having witnessed the coronation of Charles II; an event at which his son was created Knight of the Bath. After the death of Colonel Edgcumbe, the family lived primarily at Mount Edgcumbe, with Cotehele becoming an infrequently-used second home.

In 1742, another Richard Edgcumbe (this being a family name that was used regularly) became the first Baron Edgcumbe after a successful career as a politician and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1781 and 1789, Richard’s second surviving son, Admiral George Edgcumbe, received the additional family titles of Viscount Mount Edgcumbe and Valletort and Earl of Mount Edgcumbe.

In 1941, the realities of war were once again brought home to Mount Edgcumbe as the house was gutted by fire caused by enemy bombing; possibly a wayward strike meant for Plymouth. In 1944, concrete roads were laid on the estate so that tanks and jeeps could be transported for the D-Day landings.

American troops embarked on their mission from Barn Pool on the Mount Edgcumbe estate. Sir Piers Edgcumbe’s 16th century deer park became a home to barrage balloons and an anti-aircraft battery. The fire-torn house remained ruined until 1958, when restoration was begun; work which was finally completed in 1964.

In 1971, large amounts of the estate were jointly purchased by Plymouth City Council and Cornwall County Council, after which the grounds were opened as a Country Park and the house leased back to the family. In 1987, family occupation of the mansion ended, though the title Earl of Mount Edgcumbe still exists and is currently held by Robert Edgcumbe, the 8th Earl.

Key Characters

Sir Richard Edgcumbe

c.1443 – 1489

Born at Cotehele to Piers and Elizabeth Edgcumbe, Richard grew to be a rebellious and controversial character. Despite serving as an MP for Tavistock in 1468, he struck out against the establishment and the Crown after rumours circulated that King Richard III had murdered the ‘Princes in the Tower,’ the two sons of Edward IV. Outlawed for his disloyalty, he escaped the King’s horsemen at Cothele and fled to Brittany, joining the forces of Henry Tudor. After Henry claimed the throne, Edgcumbe was knighted and lived prosperously. He died in Morlaix in Brittany in 1489.


Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Baron Edgcumbe

1716 – 1761

In 1758, Richard Edgcumbe succeeded his father, Baron Edgcumbe of Mount Edgcumbe, to become the 2nd Baron. Once Lord of the Admiralty, he was also known as a talented artist. Horace Walpole, an art historian and writer, described Richard Edgcumbe as ‘a man of fine parts, great knowledge and original wit […] who was calculated by nature to serve the public and to charm society.’ He was also, however, what Walpole termed ‘a man of pleasure,’ an incurable gambler who squandered his money. He never married and died childless in 1761, succeeded by his brother George.


Richard Edgcumbe, 2nd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe

1764 – 1839

The son of George Edgcumbe, 1st Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, he pursued a career in local politics, becoming MP for Fowey and Lostwithiel. However, it is as a writer on the subject of music that he is now best known. In 1834, he wrote Musical Reminiscences of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe. In 1789, he married Lady Sophia Hobart, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, with whom he had five children. When he died in September 1839, he was buried at his own request in Richmond, where he spend much of his time, rather than at Mount Edgcumbe.


Want to see more like this?

‘The Great Families of Cornwall: the Edgcumbes’ is taken from our Dec/Jan 2011, Vol.2 Issue 9. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.


Reflections are certainly a theme with artist Elisa McLeod, they permeate her life and work. Whilst interviewing Elisa at her Studio, situated in a former school building in Redruth, I hear tales about how her parents always encouraged creativity and how Elisa discovered art at a very early age.

Elisa McLeod

Her current work conjures up dreamy images, almost hidden by mist. Are those Palm leaves and grasses? One’s imagination can run away with itself trying to work out what it is in front of the eyes. At first glance the voyeur will spot the almost familiar until our critical mind steps in and uncertainty returns. “It’s not what you thought,” the mind says.

As implied earlier Elisa began her artistic endeavours as an enthusiastic young child and this enthusiasm continued through her school years. Next stop was a foundation course in Wimbledon followed by three years at Falmouth College of Arts, now known as University College Falmouth, where she came away with a First Class Fine Art Degree.

The learning didn’t stop there. Elisa was then mentored by sculptor, video and installation artist Jonty Lees, himself a former Falmouth College of Arts University College Falmouth student in earlier days. “Although my work and the materials I use are very different from Jonty’s work, the guidance was invaluable,” explains Elisa.

Her earlier art was the mainstay of many an artist with figures and realist images being captured on canvas. The dream-like and stunning images of Elisa’s current work developed in her second year at UCF when she started painting reflections in glass.
What was behind this recent change of style? “I always felt that I was missing something when expressing myself through my art. I felt there was this other way for me, but I wasn’t sure what or how to tap into this feeling,” answers Elisa. “I get inspiration from the natural environment and seeing the world from the ground up. I wanted to involve this inspiration in my work”.

Using the camera like a sketchbook enables Elisa to inform her art. “My camera allows me to see things from a different perspective. I love the effects you can get just by exaggerating the depth of field and focussing on something unexpected.” said Elisa.

“My recent work is informed by the natural environment. I like to get down, close to the earth and look up at trees and other objects,” explains the artist. “I recently walked through a beautiful Pine forest in France and felt as if I could have walked around all day finding new inspiration for my paintings.”

The visit proved to be an inspiration as it resulted in a series of five pine-influenced works. Other influences for her work range from places to people with Turner prize nominee Peter Doig being one of her favourites.

Elisa McLeod

Like her previous artworks the oil paints used on the latest works appear thin in some parts and thicker in other areas of the canvas. All part of the style according to Elisa “It stems from my days as a student when I had to use the paint sparingly. I always like to leave a small area which reveals the first layer of paint on the canvas – something to encourage viewers to think about the process and the history of marks.

As you’ll see from the photograph of Elisa in her studio it is obvious she has found a home from home in her studio. She looks comfortable, happy and content in her surroundings and her art reflects this contentment. Now she has discovered what was missing from her earlier work, it appears the artist has found a balance, one that her work reflects.

Discovering what was missing and using nature to inspire her beautiful work provides a greater reflection of Elisa McLeod and her artwork than any shop front window. You can see what I mean at the galleries listed below.

Open Space Galleries, 40 Lower Market Street, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 8BH
Tel: 01326 373415  www.openspacegalleries.co.uk

The Summerhouse Gallery, Market Place, Marazion TR17 0AR
Tel: 01736 711400 www.summerhousegallery.co.uk


Want to see more like this?

‘ARTIST PROFILE: Elisa McLeod’ is an adapted feature from our Feb/Mar 2012, Vol.10. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.

Lake’s Pottery: One Of The Oldest Working Potteries In Cornwall

Sue Bradbury investigates Lake’s Pottery which, for more than a century, reflected changing times in Cornwall.

“Missus put your washing in, we’re firing today.”

The call was a familiar one – sending housewives living in Chapel Hill, Truro, scurrying to their clothes lines.  Usually shouted over the wall by Bill Lake, owner of one of the oldest working potteries in Cornwall, it signalled the start of the monthly firing weekend that would begin on a Friday at 8am and end the following Monday morning.

In its 1950s heyday, Lake’s Pottery was producing hundreds of items for domestic use including plant pots, pitchers, bread pans, cream pans and salters.  A new kiln had been built in 1944 which, according to Mike Edwards who worked there from 1947 to 1958, was fired with Welsh long flame coal that had been kindled with a faggot of dried furze (gorse) in each of five ground level fire eyes.

Lakes Pottery

Bill and Muriel Lake with friends. Photo taken by Vivien Prideaux.

“Bundles of furze were lit and stuffed down into the ash pits under each eye until they caught,” he said.  “The firing would continue all day and right through the night, finishing around 8 o’clock on the Saturday morning by which time about five tons of coal would have been used.  On Monday, the doorway would be unbricked and the kiln unloaded – a day’s work in itself.”

Mike was a pupil at Truro Secondary Modern when he started visiting the pottery room at Truro Arts School once a week.  He found the work interesting so, when his teacher told him that a job was going at Lake’s Pottery, now the site of Truro Baptist Church, he jumped at the chance of applying.

“I was living in Perranporth and, although work started at 8 I had to get the bus in which meant I didn’t get there until 8.30,” he said.  “My job was to scrub the ware boards out in the yard by the well.  They were always covered in clay. I also helped prepare the clay outside, put pots in the kiln and wheel fired items up to the store.  It was hard, physical work which included Saturday mornings too. “

Months after joining, Mike got his chance to try his hand at pottery making.

“There wasn’t any training as such but the Lakes had told me I could go and watch Barry Pascoe who was a wheelman (thrower).  He got very cross and there wasn’t much time because it was a very busy place.  Then I found a very ancient kick wheel in the storage barn which hadn’t been used for years.  It had to be fixed up because, to start with, the water went right through but Mrs Lake asked me to try and copy a pot on it.”

The pot was a success and Mike was allowed to give it to his mother as a Christmas present.  He went on practising for a couple of hours per week until Bill Lake decided to invest in an electric seated wheel for him that was positioned just inside the making shop.

Lake's Pottery

Barrel-shaped jug with distinctive ‘trout-back’ effect glaze, caused by furze ash falling on the lead glaze during the firing. Date mid-1900s.

“We never counted the items we made – they were just done by the board,” said Mike.  “We didn’t weigh or measure anything either – everything was done by gauge.  I made myself a metal one with a butterfly nut so I could adjust it.”

W H Lake and Son founded their pottery in 1872 – on a site that is said to have been producing pots since medieval times.  For more than a century, the business supplied the Cornish community with domestic ware of every size and description but, after a devastating fire in 1975 and a general decline in sales, Lake’s Pottery finally closed for good a decade later.  Now, thanks to a very generous donation of more than 200 Lake’s pieces from local collector Robert Buscombe, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro is staging an exhibition entitled Every Pitcher Tells a Story from 28th November to 24th December that includes audio-visual interviews and archive material to recount the fascinating history of a once thriving Cornish industry.

Curator Sarah Lloyd-Durrant is the person responsible for pulling it all together.

“Robert gave us his collection last year and since then we’ve been busy cataloguing each item prior to putting as many as possible on show,” said Sarah.  “I didn’t know much about Lake’s before the donation but now I’ve come to realise that it represents an intriguing insight into a century of enormous cultural and social change in Cornwall.

When it started, the business was producing functional domestic earthenware implements like pitchers, cloam ovens and chicken feeders.  In the 1920s they made art deco pieces that people could decorate and in the 1950s the advent of pre-packaged food reduced the need for containers so they turned to the tourist market and made glazed products like flower-arranging vessels and pottery pasties.  Sadly it wasn’t enough to maintain profits and, after a succession of owners in its latter years, the pottery was ultimately closed down.”

Iris Rowse, 85, is one of the people interviewed by Sarah for the exhibition.  After being recruited to work as a secretary by Mrs Lake in 1968, she spent nearly 20 years in the business – ultimately running a small museum and shop there.

“Lake’s has been an important part of my life,” she said.  “I did everything I could to keep it going but we couldn’t raise the finance and in the end everything was auctioned, which was heartbreaking.  I have some very fond memories though.  One of them is selling Mrs Thatcher a casserole dish when she came to visit.  The poor woman had just had rotten eggs thrown at her by someone in the crowd outside and was looking a little wind-blown.  I felt sorry for her but she seemed to enjoy the pottery and stayed for quite a long time.

Lake's Pottery

A demonstration by Mike Edwards 1951 (Mike Edwards Collection)

“Another memory is of the ghost.  There was an old chimney at the bottom of the yard where someone called John Pryn is said to have hung himself after getting drunk.  I’ve been in the shop when there was banging on the door and the catch went up by itself.  I wasn’t frightened but I know I wasn’t imagining things because other people saw it too.”

Collector Robert Buscombe’s interest in Lake’s began around 1997 when, whilst studying for a degree at University College Falmouth, one of his tutors talked about the pottery.  It was whilst helping his uncle renovate an old cottage on the Roseland Peninsula, however, that he made his first Lake’s discovery.

“There were lots of unusual things in the house and quite a few smashed plates,” he said.  “A small jug was amongst them.  It was covered in paint when I found it but the glaze inside was particularly good.”

Initially, Robert collected pre-1940s pieces but then became interested in the glazed ware that the pottery turned to when the more functional items it produced went out of fashion.  As a potter himself, he appreciated the artistry and went out of his way to find more and more examples to add to his growing collection.

“I think the Lake’s story has been underplayed because not only is it of very significant importance in terms of Cornish culture, it’s also important nationally,” he said.  “Even Bernard Leach visited to find out how he could improve handles on his own works.”

Robert bought one of his favourite jugs in Truro Auction Rooms.

“I like its size and its concentric circles remind me of the swell when I go surfing.  The quality of the glaze is excellent and, for me, it symbolises life in Cornwall during the twenties and thirties. Other favourites are a pasty moneybox made in the 1930s which I find very intriguing, a piggy bank, a beautifully-made two pint milk jug with its trademark ‘V’ at the bottom of the handle and a two gallon pitcher.”

Pitchers were a staple of the Lake’s production line. Predominantly used to carry water, they were a must-have in households before the age of bathrooms and kitchen plumbing.

“We used to have seven different sizes of pitchers and they all had individual names,” remembers Mike Edwards, a former Lake’s employee.  “The largest, standing around 18 inches tall, was the Thirdell, then, a little smaller, came the Gullie, which china clay workers loved.  They would put a little hinged wooden lid on it to keep the dust out and keep their drinking water cool.

Lake's Pottery

Lake’s Pottery pig, slip glazed earthenware, made in the 1980s. Lake’s began producing pottery pigs in the 1890s. Photo taken by Lucy Marie Hill

“Others were the Pinchgut, Tivvy, Eighty, Threehalfpenny and, smallest of all, the Penny.  The two largest had a double straight collar on top, not for decoration but purely for strength.”

Mike has many memories of his first job – one that earned him just 12 shillings (about sixty pence) a week when he first started.  It was hard, hot work but, toiling alongside characters like ‘Fred the Wedger,’ yard men George Wright and Sam Hankins, kiln packer Sam Hankins and highly skilled wheelman Barry Pascoe, one he has always cherished.

“They were wonderful characters and I made firm friends,” he said.

Lake’s Pottery may no longer be firing up its kiln and sending housewives running to fetch in the washing but, thanks to champions like Robert, Mike, Iris and Sarah, its legacy lives on.

‘Every Pitcher Tells a Story’ runs from 28th November to 24th December at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.  Entry is free.  Mike Edwards will give a lunchtime talk as a potter on 15th December from 1-2pm – entry is free but places are limited so booking is essential.

Call the museum on 01872 272205.  For further information about museum opening times, visit www.royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk

Photos supplied by the Royal Cornwall Museum.


Want to see more like this?

‘Lake’s Pottery: Every Pitcher Tells A Story’ is taken from our Dec/Jan 2011, Vol.2 Issue 9. Subscribe to myCornwall magazine for more stories like this one.


Cornish Wear Smocks

We spoke to Liz Wilkin about the comfortable fashionwear with a Cornish connection

Supremely comfortable yet entirely practical – the Cornish Smock is a rare example of a design that seems to have mastered the balance between form and function. It began life hundreds of years ago as work attire for Cornish fishermen and is today seeing something of a renaissance thanks to Liz Wilkin.  “I wanted to breathe new life into this old classic, it was a great garment that hadn’t gone anywhere”. Coming from a family who have farmed the same Cornish land for 400 years, it certainly seems that Liz is the right person for the job. “I can remember my friends and I wearing our own smocks as children – we’d be in them all the time!.”

Cornishwear Smocks

Winter midnight blue Cornish smock

Perhaps it is these childhood memories which sparked the desire to update such a versatile piece of clothing, one that has in just two years found favour throughout Cornwall and beyond,  “I hadn’t appreciated the kudos of the Cornish tag,” explains Liz, referring to her trips up-country. Such positive esteem is justly deserved; shortlisted for ‘best new product’ at London’s Country Living Spring Fair, Liz cuts her various designs in linen, twill, wax and fleece fabrics from her workshop in Lamorna. They are then sown by three skilled ladies in nearby St Just in a local process which Liz is very proud of.  “I’m making a Cornish garment in West Cornwall – it couldn’t be more Cornish.”

Clearly a business based on her love for her home, it wasn’t until Liz spent seven years as a solicitor in Helston before moving on to be a full-time mum that she took a chance to follow her passion. “I’d say to people who want to start a small business – just do it. Put some money aside and give it a go.” For many, such words will be encouraging advice, especially as Cornwall is such a hotbed of creative talent. “If someone said to me a year ago I’d have a shortlisted product, and have sold smocks to people all over the world, I’d have said no way!”

Cornish Wear smocks are available online from www.cornishwear.com


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