Tales from the Sea Garden

Tales from The Sea Garden

Email me: theseagarden@btinternet.com

Saturday 16 February 2019

The Egyptian House

In an ordinary street in Penzance lies a quite extra-ordinary building: The Egyptian House.
It is a rare survivor of a style that was in fashion after Napoleon's campaign to Egypt in 1798. In 1834 a Penzance bookseller called John Lavin bought two cottages in Chapel Street, raised the height of the building by one storey and added the remarkable pseudo-Egyptian facade. John Lavin sold maps, guides and stationery but his main business was in minerals. Many of the rare geological specimens he sold were found by Cornish miners, both in the county and from those working overseas.
 This is where I have spent the last four nights on my mini break. I have seen this building many, many times throughout my life but never imagined that one could actually stay in it! The Egyptian House is just one of the remarkable places available to rent from The Landmark Trust, a charity set up in 1965 by husband and wife John and Christian Smith, to save from demolition or decay buildings of historic and cultural interest.

Detail of one of the pillars at the front door. At the back of the building is a steep spiral staircase.....
which leads to the apartments on three floors. The doors are actually curved, something I have never seen before!
Inside the rooms are tastefully furnished with antique wooden furniture and appropriate period pictures. It was cosy and welcoming, with plenty of interesting books to read. It is a policy of The Landmark Trust not to supply its properties with televisions, radios or Wifi; a real break from modern life.

Living a bit out in the sticks as I do, it was great to be able to walk out the door and explore Penzance on foot, its many interesting shops, galleries and museums. I saw the most wonderful exhibition of photographs of Cornwall in the 1880's at the Penlee Museum; such evocative images of Cornish villagers in Newlyn, Mousehole and Sennen eking out a meagre existence from fishing and mining, living in the most humble of cottage dwellings. Now those same cottages have been turned into chic boutique holiday retreats; just what would those fisherfolk have thought of that I don't know!
One day I drove to Cape Cornwall and Priest's Cove. Only Land's End a short distance away is more westerly than this. Nothing but ocean for hundreds of miles until you reach North America. One of the photographs I saw at Penlee was of the mine that used to be here; now there are just a few cottages. 

The fishermen who still use Priest's Cove have built little shelters into the cliff edge using any materials to hand.
I was sat on a bench outside one of them when this little robin came and perched on a lobster pot, and we conversed in our own fashion for quite a long time. I was only sorry I didn't have any titbits to give him.

This shed had a boulder and several heavy iron weights holding the roof down. I can only imagine what it must be like here during a gale!

The beach is littered with the most beautifully rounded granite pebbles

Life here really is living on the edge. Bleak, desolate, wild.

Oh joy of joys! A new discovery for me; this amazing antique shop in St. Just selling all things maritime.
Walking in here was like stepping back in time and I just loved everything!
That chequerboard floor.....
Bits salvaged from wrecks, bottles, lamps, weapons, coins, ropes, floats, blocks, compasses, models of ships in glass cases, sea charts, even bi-corn hats, I could go on.....

I chatted with owner Craig Chapman for well over an hour, we shared an obvious love for old and interesting 'objets' and it was lovely to talk to a fellow trader.

The next day I walked from Newlyn to Mousehole. Along the sea edge were a number of quirky little garden plots, with wonderful views of Mounts Bay and Penzance in the distance.
In the harbour at Mousehole I searched for sea glass and china, and watched the cute turnstones as they skittered back and forth on the tideline.
On my return journey home on Friday I stopped at St. Ives. The weather was glorious, the sea at Porthmeor a perfect blue. 

I live in the most beautiful county and even in February I wouldn't want to go anywhere else for my holiday. Thank you Cornwall!


  1. we are so lucky to live in such a wonderful beauty spot. I live just on the boarder of devon and cornwall and I feel lucky to have the best of both. Such a wonderful places you have shared...So much beauty in your photographs!!!! love the antiques and unusual architecture just stunning!...The sea scape leaves me spell bound thanks so much for sharing ;)x

  2. thank you for sharing! beautiful pictures and that shop!

  3. That all looks so beautiful, I have visited St Ives several times but don't remember having been to Penzance, and the shop, what a find not many left like that any more.

  4. What a wonderful trip you've had. Love the house. Beautiful pictures and thank you Christine for sharing With US.
    Hugs from

  5. Just stumbled across your blog and love this post. We very rarely holiday anywhere other than Cornwall and still have relatives there. Growing up in Plymouth, if we fancied going to the beach on a Sunday, we’d always pop over into Cornwall. We’re staying in Hayle this year, but Mousehole is my favourite place!

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