St Michael’s Mount Cornwall Family History Guide

St Michael’s Mount is an extra-parochial place.

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Nonconformists include: Wesleyan Methodist

Adjacent Parishes

St Michael’s Mount is an island off the coast of Cornwall. The parishes on the main land opposite St Michael’s Mount are:

Parish History

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

MICHAEL’S-MOUNT (ST.), an extra-parochial place in Penzance district, Cornwall; in Mounts bay, ¾ of a Mile S of Marazion. Acres, 70. Real property, £408. Pop., 132. Houses, 34. It is an island, about 1 mile in circumference, and 250 feet high; and is connected with the main land by a causeway 400 yards long, flooded 8 hours in every 12 by the tide. It probably formed part of an ancient forest, continuous with the main land, and extending some distance into what is now called Mounts bay; and it was called, by the ancient British, Carreg-Ludgh-en-Loos,-and by the ancient Cornish men, Caraclowse-in-Cowse,-names which signify “the Hoar Rock in the Wood.” A charter of Edward the Confessor speaks of it as “nigh the sea;” and a statement of William of Worcester says that it was “originally enclosed within a very thick wood, distant from the ocean six miles, affording the finest shelter to wild beasts. ”The catastrophe which insolated it is thought to have been a sudden subsidence of land; may possibly have happened so late as the year 1099 when a remarkable inundation is recorded by the Saxon Chronicle to have occurred at the place; and appears to be verified by great abundance of vegetable remains, including leaves, nuts, branches, trunks, and roots of large trees, in a deposit of black mould over the bed of the bay to the limits of ebb tide. The contour of the island is somewhat pyramidal; the outlines are picturesque; and the ascents exhibit much romantic rock scenery. The surface is partly rabbit-warren, partly sparse pastorage, and partly naked crag; and it includes, at the N base of the ascent, the site of a fishing village, with a pier. Some planted firs diversify the surface; and a number of rare plants are found. The rocks are chiefly greenstone and granite, resting on clay slate; they include quartz, wolfram, oxide of tin, topazes, apatite, school, tin pyrites, and other minerals; and they have been the subject of more geological controversy than any other equal mass of rocks in the world.

St. Michael’s Mount is the Ocrinum of Ptolemy; it is believed to have been also the Ictis of Diodorus Siculus, to which the merchants of ancient Greece traded for tin; and it is thought to have had a temple to Apollo, erected on it by the Phœnicians. A poet says respecting it,-

“Mountain, the curious muse might love to gaze

On the dim record of thy early days;

Oft fancying that she heard, like the low blast,

The sounds of mighty generations past.

Here the Phœnician, as remote he sailed

Along the unknown coast, exulting hail’d;

And when he saw thy rocky point aspire,

Thought on his native shores of Aradus or Tyre.

Thon only, aged mountain, dost remain !

Stern monument amidst the deluged plain,

And fruitless the big waves thy bulwarks beat;

The big waves slow retire and murmur at thy feet.”

Some heathen worship, in emulation or in substitution of Phœnician worship of Apollo, may possibly have been established here by the ancient Britons; and some sort of Christian worship very probably followed immediately or very soon after the introduction of Christianity. Monkish record narrates that St. Keyna, a virgin of the British Blood Royal, came hither on pilgrimage in the 5th century; an old legend says that an apparition of St. Michael appeared on one of its crags to some hermits, giving rise to the name St. Michael’s Mount; and tradition points to a large rock on the W side, long called St. Michael’s Chair, as the spot where the apparition was seen. Milton, in his “Lycidas,” alludes as follows to the alleged vision:-

” Or whether thou, to our moist vows deny’d,

Sleep’st by the fable of Bellerus old,

Where the great vision of the guarded mount,

Looks toward Namancos and Bayona’s hold,

Look homeward, angel, now, and melt with ruth,

And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.”

A Benedictine priory was founded on the mount by Edward the Confessor; passed, at the Conquest, to Robert, Earl of Mortaigne; was annexed by him to the abbey of St. Maria de Pericula, in Normandy; had afterwards connected with it a small nunnery; fell to the Crown at the confiscation of alien monasteries in the time of Henry V.; was given by Henry VI. to King’s college, Cambridge, and transferred by Edward IV. to Sion abbey; went, at the dissolution, to the Arundells; passed to the Millitons, the Harrises, the Cecils, and the Bassets; and was sold, about 1660, to the St. Aubins. A garrison was placed in it by Henry de la Pomeroy, in the time of Richard I., in the service of Prince John; and surrendered on the return of Richard from Palestine. The Earl of Oxford and some companions, in the time of Edward IV., after the battle of Barnet, approached it in the disguise of pilgrims, took military possession of it, repelled several attacks by the sheriff of the county, and made such a display of heroism as induced the king to grant them a pardon. Lady Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, took refuge in it in the time of Henry VII., and was removed from it, and delivered to the king, by Lord daubeny. The Cornish rebels, in the time of Edward VI., seized it, were driven from it, seized it again, and were a second time expelled. A party of royalists, in the wars of Charles I., held it for the king, made a stout defence of it against the parliamentarians under Col. Hammond, and eventually capitulated on permission to retire to the Scilly islands. A visit was made to it, in 1846, by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; and is commemorated by a metal tablet in the wall of the pier.

Some remains of the priory, together with military works, and with modern alterations and erections, all aggregately in castellated form, are on the summit of the mount. The ascent is by a rocky path. A draw-well about 6 fathoms deep, is at the foot of the ascent; and a tank, called the Giant’s well, is a short way up. A cross wall with embrasures, terminated by a picturesque ruin of a quondam sentry-box, commands the approach above the tank. A platform, with two batteries, is beyond the cross wall; and an open flight of steps leads thence to a small saluting battery, and to the portal of the castle. The hall, the chapel, the dwelling-rooms, and the tower of the castle all possess interest. The hall was the refectory of the monks; is entered by a door of later English date; has, at its upper end, the royal arms of date 1660; and, being embellished with a cornice representing the chase of boar, stag, bull, fox, ostrich, hare, and rabbit, is now called the Chevy Chase room. The chapel is partly decorated English, partly perpendicular; and has a tower on the N side. The drawing-rooms were erected on the site of the conventual buildings by the late Sir John St. Aubin; they contain two pictures by Opie, and some family portraits; they are surrounded by a broad high terrace, with an open granite parapet; and they command impressive views of the coast and the sea. The tower is reached by a staircase from the castle; commands a magnificent prospect; and has, on its SW angle, a small projecting stone lantern, now popularly bearing the name originally given to the rock of the alleged apparition of St. Michael, -the name of St. Michael’s Chair. Sir Humphrey Davy celebrates St. Michael’s Mount as follows in his poem of Mount’s-bay:-

” Majestic Michael rises; he whose brow

Is crowned with castles, and whose rocky sides

Are clad with dusky ivy; he whose base,

Beat by the storms of ages, stands unmoved

Amidst the wreck of things-the change of time.

That base, encircled by the azure waves,

Was once with verdure clad: the towering oaks

Here waved their branches green: the sacred oaks,

Whose awful shades among the Druids strayed,

To cut the hallowed mistletoe, and hold

High converse with their gods.”

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

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Administration

  • County: Cornwall
  • Civil Registration District: Penzance
  • Probate Court: Search the courts of the surrounding parishes
  • Diocese: Not Applicable
  • Rural Deanery: Not Applicable
  • Poor Law Union: Penzance
  • Hundred: Penwith
  • Province: Canterbury