The Gazetteer


Bodmin - Wassail, on Old Twelfth Night (17th January) - wassailers, in gentleman's hand-me-downs such as top hats and flowery waistcoats carry their greeting of "Wassail" around the houses of Bodmin and sing the Bodmin Wassail, the Old Song and carols and Cornish songs. They are rewarded with hospitality and with money collected for charity. Contact Peter Marlowe (+44(0)1208 76373).

Falmouth - Oyster Festival. The Oyster Festival has been held annually in mid-October since 1996, on the Events Square on Falmouth's Discovery Quay. The organisers say "The oyster plays a unique role in our local economy and heritage. the Falmouth Oyster Festival explores and celebrates that role. Timed to coincide with the start of the oyster harvesting season in October, the festival celebrates one of the only remaining oyster fisheries still dredged under sail and oar. Oyster tasting, cookery demonstrations, live music, an oyster ball, local produce and craft fairs are accompanied by an exciting Working Boat Race." For more information, call Joke Snel at Carrick District Council on +44(0)1326 377321 or look at the festival web-site.

Green Men of Cornwall
St Bartholemew, Lostwithiel, has a carving of an abbot disgorging leaves on the font.

Halsetown - John Knill celebrations - An odd ceremony takes place on 25th July once every five years at the pyramid-shaped Knill Monument. Both monument and ritual were provided for in the will of John Knill, who died in 1811. Headley and Meulenkamp describe it in their book "Follies, Grottoes and Garden Buildings" (Aurum, 1999): "ten girls, each ten years old and dressed in white, climb up to the monument accompanied by two widows, a clergyman, a fiddler, the Mayor of St Ives and the local Customs and Excise man. There they sing the 100th Psalm, after which the girls dance around the monument for a quarter of an hour to the tune of the fiddler, singing an old song which begins 'Shun the banter of the bay Hasten upward, come away ... ' For performing this inexplicable ceremony the young girls, the fiddler and the two widows receive ten shillings each, while the parson, the Mayor and the VAT man get £10 each, which they must use to give a dinner party to which they can invite two friends." Although Knill planned the monument, which he had built in 1782, as a mausoleum, he died in London and is actually buried in Holborn. The ceremony took place in 2001 - one of Knill's descendants has a web-site with information about him and details of the ceremony.

Hayle - Midsummer Ramble, on the longest day (June 21st). Shirley Oliver, Trenoweth, Viaduct Hill, Hayle, Cornwall TR27 5HT.

Helston - Furry Dance, on 8th May, the Feast Day of the Apparition of St Michael (unless it is a Sunday or Monday when it takes place on the previous Saturday). This is an ancient festival ('feur' or 'fer' is Cornish for a fair or jubilee) on the feast day of Helston's patron saint, and features a dignified procession and floral dance through the town which is decorated with the first greenery of spring, particularly bluebells and hazel. Contact +44(0)208 563 3035.

Padstow - The Padstow 'obby 'oss is reputedly the oldest dance festival in Europe. There are two 'osses, the older Red 'oss and the Blue "Peace" 'oss which dates from the early 1900s. The Blue 'oss starts the procession, coming out from the Institute at 10am and the Red 'oss sets off on a different route from the Golden Lion an hour later. Both are goaded by a Teaser and lead a proecession of onlookers carrying spring flowers and singing the May Song. There are also two children's 'osses that appear at around 8.00am and dance around the town for about an hour (thanks to George Bennett for information). Contact Padstow TIC, +44(0)1841 533449.

Parish Maps of Cornwall

Calstock, Cargreen, Falmouth, Forder, Luxulyan Valley, St Dominick, The Tregellas Tapestry.

Penzance - Corpus Christi Fair, on Trinity Week in early June and Golowan, staring on the Saturday nearest St John's Day, 24th June) Now a ten day festival culminating in Mazey Eve, Mazey Day & Quay Day (or Sea and Sail). This is a revival of the Feast of St John (Gol-Jowan) with fireworks and bonfires on the hills on St John's Eve. Mazey Eve, also St John's Eve, sees the Golowan Band leading hundreds of people through the streets in the ancient Serpent Dance and there are torchlit processions throughout the town. Penglaz, Penzance's 'Obby 'Oss, parades the streets and each village displays its distinctive banners. The Quay Fair is on St John's Day and, the day after, Mazey Day sees the town decorated with laurel leaves and banners remembering when girls in dresses decorated with laurel leaves and decked with garlands danced through the streets. Laurel leaves have signified divination and recognition of the gods authority since Roman Briton, and many May Queens wear wreaths of laurel on their heads. The last day of the festival is Sea and Sail which maintains the harbour's place at the centre of the celebration. All kinds of working and classic craft make their way to the harbour from Cornish Luggers to square riggers called Kruzenshtern. Contact +44(0)1736 334675, Golowan Festival, 5 The Penwith Centre, The Parade, Penzance, TR18 4BU or look at the Golowan web-site

St Columb Major - Cornish Hurling match. This is an ancient game with few rules played over a 25 square mile playing field on Shrove Tuesday in February. In mid afternoon a man climbs a ladder in town throws a silver covered applewood ball to the opposing teams of townsmen and countrymen below, shouting "Town and country do your best, for this parish I must rest". The teams scramble for the ball in order to pass it through their goal, one a mile into the country, the other a mile out of the other side of town.

St Dominick -Daffodil Weekend, Cotehele Gardens in March. Daffodil meadow containing hundreds of cultivated varieties once grown in the Tamar Valley by market gardeners. Cotehele Gardens (NT), St Dominick, nr Saltash, Cornwall PL12 6TA (+44 (0) 1579 351346)

Towednack - Cuckoo Feast on 25th April. A parishioner is said to have put a log on his fire out of which a cuckoo flew. He kept the bird and from then on he held a cuckoo feast, a tradition that survives.

Apple Day, October 21st

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