by GB from Devizes
Devizes, United Kingdom
December 9, 2004
The term Cape actually refers to "a headland or place where two seas meet," and the crashing, foaming breakers below testify to the strong currents that never cease throughout the year.
There was once a bronze age burial site here, situated alongside the ditches and mounds of an earlier Iron Age hill fort. Around the 4th century AD, it was the site of one of the first Christian chapels in west Cornwall, namely, St Helen’s Oratory. The site is now occupied by a ruined farm building.
A mile offshore are the treacherous Brison Rocks, cause of many a shipwreck down through the centuries and widely reported in more modern times to look like " General De Gaulle in the bath". The rocks are also an important breeding ground for sea birds.
Amazing views stretch away in both directions, south across Whitesand Bay towards Sennen and north towards the rocky bastion of Kenidjack castle. Two lighthouses can be seen; the Longships Light, a couple of miles away, and way beyond, on a clear day, the Wolf Rock Light. If you are very lucky and visibility is excellent, it is possible to glimpse the Scilly Isles, some 22 miles distant.
Regarding the chimney stack again, it dates from 1850 and was built to serve the boilers of the Cape Cornwall mine which extracted tin and copper from beneath the sea bed from 1836 – 1879, when it then merged with the St Just United mine, just south of the Cape.
In the early 20th century, the cape was owned by Captain Francis Oates, a prominent mine owner who started his working life at age 12 in Balleswidden mine and worked his way up to be Managing Director of De Beers in South Africa. He eventually returned to west Cornwall, where he built the imposing Porthledden House in 1909.
Cape Cornwall is a wild, wind-swept place that conjures up all that is untamed about the Cornish coast and the memories of the pioneers who made fortunes from her mineral deposits.