A Thousand Miles of History XXVI: Going in…

The church of St Sennen did not disappoint. It has a cosy feel; a still, silent haven from the elements and the constant motion of the sea. I wondered how many women had taken refuge here in prayer over the centuries, waiting for their menfolk to come home from stormy seas and how many had given thanks for a safe return.

The simple bowl of the font is at least eight hundred years old, and, as always, when they have so many centuries of history behind them, it seems to be a symbol of the community of the church… the people and their stories. In a village setting, this feeling is even stronger; for hundreds of years, almost every villager would have been touched by the water it has held. The font cover is of more recent date. It was carved by a local farmer named Saundry from the timbers of the Khyber wrecked in 1905.

On the wall behind the font is an unusual wooden board, containing the text of a letter from a king. The Carolus Rex is a letter of thanks to the people of Cornwall who had given their support to King Charles I. The local website, which is well worth a read for both the detailed history and the sense of humour of its writer, says of the affair:

“For some reason, probably just a very sensible dislike of Roundheads, the Cornish tended to be loyal to the King during the Civil Wars, at least the richer ones did, and because of their willingness to hide the King’s son and heir in lofts, bedrooms and stables as he escaped from the Parliamentary troops*, Charles I wrote them a letter of thanks, copies of which his son Charles II commanded to be placed in every Cornish parish church at his restoration in 1660, where they have been largely ignored ever since.

* The Cornish almost certainly didn’t hide him in any such way really, not even in an oak tree.“

Frankly, as I have chuckled all the way through reading that website, I almost feel I am wasting my time writing about the church… I certainly can’t better the website! But… I have to try, even if it is only to record my own impressions of the place.

The quiet peace is appealing, yet it has a very practical and down to earth feel to it too, as if the life beyond its walls has seeped in with the mist. The lovely but unwieldy lid of the font has a nifty hatch arrangement that allows the font to be used without lifting the heavy wood.

The base of the tower is used as a vestry and is enclosed by a modern cedarwood screen which, according to the same website, now stops “the whistling draughts which shoot down the tower, and used to shoot straight up the congregation.” And the missing head of a statue of the Virgin, for whose decapitation the writer blames the Roundheads, was given a replacement by a local lady. I find her work serene and tender.

Georgian brass candelabra are the only ornate touch to the roof which is simple and functional. Although, “the Georgian years were not a good time for church attendance, even by the clergy,” says the website, detailing examples of less than regular attendance by at least one incumbent for whom the weather was as a determining factor.

There is some really lovely stained glass, particularly the memorial window to John Giffard Everett, thirteen times elected Mayor of the City of Wells in Somerset.  Both the style and the subjects are unusual, showing St John, Jacob and Enoch. The latter raised a private smile after our encounter with Dr Dee at the Elizabethan workshop in April.

There are other memorials on the walls, some of them simply engravings below the carved and gilded panels showing scenes of local life that line the wall behind the main altar. Others are grander affairs in marble, crafted for posterity but often touched with an echo of a family’s love.

Once more, we were surrounded by angels too… carved on the bench ends in the chancel, guarding the altar with golden wings and looking down on the church from its jewelled windows.

And, as a finishing touch, a fragment of a medieval wall painting peeks through the whitewash of the Lady Chapel.

St Sennen’s is an odd mix of faith and pragmatism, beauty, extravagance and simplicity, passion and solid reliability…. much, I think, like its people. Visiting these old churches is not only a privilege… for in how many other places can you get ‘up close and personal’ with artefacts hundreds of years old and still in use? It is also a way into the heart of any community.

Christianity, of whatever flavour, was the official religion of these isles for many centuries and, for most of that time, was as much an obligation as a choice of the heart. However a church was founded, its life evolves around its people and it shows.

Perhaps the most touching and telling detail for me was the pulpit. Not for the carvings of saints, bishops and the Baptist, but for the fish that ‘swim’ through the foliate frames to every panel and all around the edges. You might miss them at first glance, but once seen, the central role played by the sea in the life of this congregation cannot be missed.

Of the thousands who visit Land’s End and Sennen Cove every year, many of whom stop at the First and Last Inn, whose car-park adjoins the churchyard, I wonder how many take the time to visit this quite and peaceful little church, the first and last in this corner of Britain?

I would like to express my thanks to the writer of the St Sennen’s church website for the comprehensive history and the laughter.

Posted in albion, Ancient sites, Art, Books, Churches, Don and Wen, historic sites, Photography, Sacred sites, Stuart France and Sue Vincent | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Proud Angel… Stuart France


“The Peacock Angel fomented a rebellion

among the Angels of Heaven,

where he had been a leading light.


He declared that he would go

and found a kingdom for himself.


Continue reading at Stuart France


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Polarity #midnighthaiku

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Old Blue Devil ~ Steve Tanham


Within the sky

You formed one day

I have you said

With dipping horn

Not gone away

Continue reading at Sun in Gemini

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The (dead) crow, the red fox & the turkey (feather) ~ Alethea Kehas

Reblogged from Not Tomatoes:

I used to keep a journal just for animal encounters. Not just animals, insects too, and birds, and all manner of non-human life forms I met up with each day. I was interested in their symbolism and what it might mean to me. Synchronicities and patterns. The universe talking in code. I used to do a lot of things I no longer do, and these days I am acutely aware of how much I am allowing myself to be wrapped up in the mundane, favoring it over the magic of life. Not because I want to, but because I have somehow convinced myself that I must. I must search not for encounters, but for artificial messages. Messages that I must send to get readers for my new book. It is a task I do not like, but that in itself is a lesson and, therefore, a gift. How do I make magic out of the mundane? Somedays it’s easier than others.

Continue reading at Not Tomatoes

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Principles of Fire (3) Essence and Origin ~ Steve Tanham


Part One

It is unusual to be able to say definite things in the teaching of spirituality, and yet, with essence, we can…

We can say three definite things: that Essence is our life; and that everything that is not essence is reaction and the history of reaction. We can also say, as did the ancient alchemists, that essence is not an idea, not a creation of the mind, not a thing to be imagined and created, but a physical pre-existing thing with substance. The alchemists, with their gift for hiding things under our own noses, described this ‘stone of the wise’ as ‘hidden in plain sight’.

You may never have heard of the word essence in the context of spirituality. Its use was an attempt by practical mystics of the last century to resolve the profusion of ideas surrounding the real meaning of the word ‘soul’. The word soul is used all the time, and we may already have an idea as to what it is. We think of something as ‘soulful’ when it touches us at a depth beyond the usual reaction. We think of our lives as, perhaps, a journey towards our own soul. We may consider that our soul will survive the death of our body, and travel through some afterlife. Or you may not… You may love the idea of a very exact definition of something that has been described as the centre of our real existence.

Continue reading at The Silent Eye

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Pleasure and passion

Neither will survive the scythe

When the Reaper calls

Only the truest of hearts

Embraces eternity

For Colleen’s Poetry Challenge


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Thursday photo prompt: Circle #writephoto


Every Thursday at noon GMT, I publish one of my photos as a writing prompt.  If you know where the photo was taken, please keep it to yourself until the challenge is closed and I usually share something about the place during the round-up.

Throughout the week I will feature as many of the responses here on the Daily Echo as space allows. Every Thursday at 10 a.m. GMT, a full round-up of posts will be published linking back to the original posts of contributors.

You can find all last week’s entries in the weekly round-up. Please visit and read the stories and poems and explore the sites of their writers. I will feature as many contributions as I can on the blog during the week.

Use the image below as inspiration to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… light or dark, whatever you choose, by noon (GMT)  Wednesday 22nd August and link back to this post with a pingback to be included in the round-up.  There is no word limit and no style requirements, except to keep it fairly family friendly.

Please be aware that I may be away from the computer for a day or two, so responses and reblogs may be delayed.

If you are unsure of how to create a pingback, Hugh has an excellent tutorial here.

Pingbacks need to be manually approved, so either check back to make sure that the pingback has appeared or simply copy and paste your link into the comments section of this post.

Feel free to use #writephoto logo or include the prompt photo in your post if you wish or you can replace it with one of your own to illustrate your work. Don’t forget to use the #writephoto hashtag in your title so your posts can be found.

Have fun!

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Photo prompt round-up: Summer #writephoto


Slowly unfurling
Summer gives up her secrets
Those who wait prosper
No moment can be hastened
No rose bloom out of season


The photo for this week’s prompt was taken at Avebury, on our way back from Cornwall. A little green wormhole opened through the trees, leading us to stones we had not seen before, except from a distance, and a barrow we had long wanted to visit… sometimes you just have to wait until the time is right.


Thank you so much to everyone who took part this week. I reblogged as many as I could and all the posts are listed below, so please click on the links to read them and leave a comment for the author! Thank you too, to everyone who reblogged the prompt, round up and the individual resposes!

A new prompt will be published later today. I will reblog as many contributions as space and time allows, as they come in… and all of them will be featured in the round-up on Thursday.

Pingbacks do not always come through… if you have written a post for this challenge and it does not appear in the round-up, please leave a link to your post in the comments and I will add it to the list.

Come and join in!

Many thanks to this weeks contributors:

Bobby  Fairfield

Robbie Cheadle

Kerfe at methodtwomadness

Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie

Hayley R. Hardman at The Story Files

RH Scribbles

Dorinda Duclos at Night Owl Poetry

The Dark Netizen

Jordy’s Streamings

Hello Lauren

Geoff Le Pard at Tangental

Michael at Morpeth Road

Anurag Bakhshi at Jagahdilmein


Reena Saxena at Reinventions by Reena

Willow Willers at willowdot21

Ritu Bhathal at But I Smile Anyway

Fandango at This, That and the Other

Jane Dougherty Writes

Deepa at Sync with Deep

James Pyles at Powered by Robots

Neel Anil Panicker

Rosemary Carlson, Writer

Marilyn Armstrong at Serendipity

Lady Lee Manila

Sisyphus at Of Glass and Paper

Jan Maliqe at Strange Goings on in the Shed

and one from me

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A Thousand Miles of History XXIV: The ‘first and last’ church

We were sorely in need of grounding after our visit to Boscawen Un stone circle and set off in search of breakfast. Okay, second breakfast. Land’s End…now a tourist attraction rather than the end of the land…was full of visitors and wreathed in, if possible, even thicker mist than the day before. There seemed little point in paying to park there if we would barely see the edge of the cliffs, let alone beyond them. As it was a little later than the previous day, we tried the First and Last Inn… but we had no better luck there either. It was still closed. I remembered a little café that we had passed on a back road, so we headed that way, catching a glimpse of crosses in the churchyard of St Sennen’s. That would have to be our next stop.

Duly fortified with a breakfast that would serve us as both lunch and dinner too, we returned to the church to explore. The sea-mist had settled around the tower, hazing everything with grey. The sign proudly proclaimed that the church had been founded, by St Sennen himself, in 520 A.D., though, as the church admits, ‘the identity of the saint himself is a bit vague.’

Sennen is thought to be the St Senan who was born near Kilrush in Ireland in 488 where he founded a goodly number of churches. The story goes that he visited Land’s End on his way to Brittany and founded the little church en route. The faith in this area is Celtic Christianity, the Ionian faith of St Columba, rather than the Roman variety imposed after the Synod of Whitby in 664; Cornwall goes its own way… it has its own distinct identity and in everything except legal terms, is as much another country as a county.

The current building, however, bears no trace of that original church, except, perhaps in the wayside crosses within its churchyard…and even they are not supposed to be there. A Rector of the parish in 1878 thought, for some reason, that all the crosses should be collected and erected within the shadow of the church. Only two now remain there… it seems that he was ‘encouraged’ by the locals to put the rest back where they belonged. I approve of that; such stones were erected where they stand for a reason.

The church is under the patronage of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, who is also Duke of Cornwall. That title has its place in Arthurian legends which tell that Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, was the husband of Igraine, the lady desired by Uther Pendragon. Gorlois, to protect his wife, rebelled against the king and was killed… and Uther took both Igraine and Gorlois’ castle of Tintagel, where their son Arthur was born.

St Sennen’s is mediaeval. Parts of the nave and chancel are still the original thirteenth century stonework, but most of the building dates to the fourteenth and fifteenth century… with the inevitable Victorian ‘restorations’ throughout. The church was dedicated to its saint in 1327, re-consecrated in 1440 and the Victorian works were undertaken in 1867. Just to confuse matters, a Latin inscription on the base of the thirteenth century font inside the church assures us that it was dedicated in 1441 on the Feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist. The information given on the church also points out the sealed north door, used during baptisms to let the devil out….and suggests that one should be careful where one stands at a baptism as ‘the devil now has only one way out!’  Perhaps the sea-borne tragedies it has witnessed encouraged the little church to develop a wry sense of humour to preserve its sanity.

The sea is never far away… a mere stone’s throw from the church. Many of the memorials in the churchyard and within the church speak of those who were lost at sea. One stone tells the story of the Mary Sanderson. Her husband, Samuel, was the captain of the New Commercial, sailing from the Mersey to Jamaica in 1851. The ship struck the Brisons during a gale and the captain, his wife and crew were overwhelmed by the mountainous waves. Most were lost to the sea or dashed against the rocks. Only one member of the crew managed to gain the beach at Sennen, clinging to broken timbers. Mary and Samuel were cast up on the Brisons… the rocky islets whose name means ‘the breakers’. They were cut off, marooned for two days and nights while local fisherman and even the revenue cutter Sylvia tried to rescue them. Finally, the rescuers manged to get a rocket line across to the couple and Sylvia, wearing only her nightdress, crossed on the precarious line, through the raging, gelid sea… only to die before reaching the shore. She was thirty-four.

Samuel was rescued later that day and he buried his wife in the churchyard at Sennen on 19th January, 1851. In recognition of the gallant efforts of the rescuers, the National Shipwreck Institution (now the RNLI) awarded medals to many of those who had tried to help. Even tragedy may be turned to serve a greater good; Mary’s unwitting legacy still serves the area, its people and the many visitors who come to these shores. In 1853, the first of many lifeboats arrived in Sennen, in recognition of the “…gallant conduct of Coastguards and fishermen of that place.” In 2011, to honour Mary’s own courage and her inadvertent gift, the Cornwall Coastwatch renewed her gravestone.

Every gravestone tells a story, though the stories may have vanished from memory. But this little church that has seen so many tragedies is not a place of sadness, but of inclusiveness and warmth. There are rabbits amongst the stones, birds on the pinnacles and swallows nesting in the porch… it is a place where nature is as welcome as the people. We just hoped the door would be open…

Posted in albion, Books, Churches, Don and Wen, History, Photography, Sacred sites | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments