Polperro Postscripts

A blog for anyone with an interest in Polperro, publishing and people... with occasional musings on history and humanity.



1814 Map of Polperro

Posted on March 11, 2022

Last autumn I was contacted by a lady living near Truro, saying she had come across an ‘antique’ map while clearing her late aunt’s house relating to properties owned by Zephaniah Job in Polperro. When I visited her, she produced the map, dated 1814 and described as a ‘Plan of Polperro Harbour and lands situate at Polperro belonging to Zephaniah job Esq. Surveyed 1814’. It was drawn on calf skin vellum and had obviously been kept rolled up for some considerable time.

The map, drawn by surveyor James Dunstone, shows a number of properties leading down from the Coombes to the harbour where the quays and limekilns were marked. Properties coloured red were shown as belonging ‘to Mr Job’ and included the buildings on the inner quay; several along The Warren overlooking the inner harbour, including the lime kilns; others on Talland Hill along with their gardens; another in Fore Street with a large garden, and a stable and plot of land on the west side of the Coombes.

It was almost certainly drawn for Zephaniah Job, the ‘Smugglers’ Banker’, following the sale of the Raphael Manor estate on the west side of Polperro in 1813 when many of the tenants, including Job, were able to buy their homes. Job himself paid £630 for seventeen properties in Polperro, including the sand quay, the two lime kilns on The Warren, the slip where coal, goods and merchandise were landed and even the harbour itself:

‘... all that the Haven or Harbour of Polperro extending from the sea at low water mark up the Beach to the Street called Lansallos Street as far as high water mark together also with the two Piers or Quay walls standing in the said harbour and the mooring rings and mooring places .... also all the Rock at the entrance of the said harbour called the Peak which is the sole defence of the said Harbour and Quay Walls in stormy weather .... and also a right is hereby given and granted to and for the said Zephaniah Job his heirs and assigns his workmen and labourers to dig search for and take stones wanting and sufficient for the reparation and rebuilding of the said Piers and Quay Walls from the path leading from Jane Mark’s house by Chapel House to the Peak Rock.’

The harbour proved to be Job's one bad investment. In January 1817, just four years after he bought it, Polperro was hit by a storm of such terrible severity that it destroyed almost everything in the harbour. It was a devastating blow for Job who at once set about having all the damage repaired at enormous cost to himself. The effort of repairing the damage left by the storm took its toll on him. Although nearly 70 years old, his banking and commercial activities still demanded a great deal of his attention and, exhausted by the strain of rebuilding Polperro's shattered economy, his health began to suffer.

For the last few years of his life Zephaniah Job lived in a cottage at Kellow near Crumplehorn Mill in the coombe above Polperro. During his final illness he was treated by Dr Jonathan Couch until his death at the age of 73 on the last day of January 1822.

The 1814 map showing the properties and land he owned is believed to be the oldest known plan of Polperro. It has now undergone conservation by a Harrogate based restorer; professionally cleaned, flattened and framed, it will be displayed in the Polperro Museum.   




Bill Cowan

A tribute to Bill Cowan, who has died aged 97.

Posted on October 5, 2021

Bill Cowan, who died this year at the age of 97, came to live in Polperro in 1947, having been born in Plymouth and grown up by the Barbican. Apprenticed as a carpenter before the war, Bill joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war and his love of the sea never left him. He survived the sinking of one of the ships he served on in a bombing raid while another sank in a storm. 

His post war career as a fisherman proved just as hazardous when, fishing out of Hull, he was part of the crew of a trawler fishing off Iceland when he was badly injured after falling down into the hold. The experience did not deter him from life at sea and once recovered from his injuries, he headed for Newlyn in search of a job there.

‘I was walking along the harbour in Newlyn when I met Frank Oliver, skipper of the Patsy Ann which was registered in Polperro,’ he later recalled. ‘He offered me a job straightaway.’

Bill arrived in Polperro, living with the Oliver family for a while and eventually he and Frank went into partnership together.

‘It was very hard going,’ he said. ‘There was no radio or life jackets. It was done with a compass and a clock. We would fish around west Cornwall for maybe a week and then come back to Polperro for the weekend.’

Bill stayed with the Patsy Ann for a few years, marrying a local girl, Madge Curtis, in 1952. Madge died in 1970 and five years later Bill married Fay Jolliff, eventually to become father, grandfather and great-grandfather to a large and loving family while also continuing to be very active in the village. He was a Trustee of the Harbour for over 50 years, during which time he was both Chairman and Harbour Master, eventually being made Life President.

Bill’s most enduring legacy perhaps will be the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling & Fishing which he was instrumental in setting up in 1994. Based in what had previously been the Teglio brothers pilchard factory in The Warren, it has proved to be a valuable asset to both the harbour and the village, visited every year by thousands of visitors.

Cornwall’s Forgotten Art Centre

Cornwall's Forgotten Art Centre

Posted on March 26, 2021

The art colonies of Newlyn, Lamorna and St Ives are well-known but somehow that of Polperro has failed to attract the same degree of attention despite the fact that the village has drawn numerous artists over the years. Furthermore, unlike most other Cornish art centres, Polperro has largely retained its attractive features and had not been unduly spoilt by modern development.   Margaret Tarrent - The Inner Quay, Polperro (1946)

Now, at last, an impressive two-volume work has been published that should change all that. Art historian David Tovey, whose great-grandfather William Titcomb was among the many artists to have visited Polperro in the 20th century, has produced a handsomely illustrated publication, Polperro: Cornwall’s Forgotten Art Centre, encompassing work by artists spanning two centuries.

Not only are both volumes fully illustrated with colour plates throughout, but the author weaves an enormous amount of well-researched social history in with an account of the artists’ work featured.