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Mevagissey shown within Cornwall
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||ST. AUSTELL|
|Police||Devon and Cornwall|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||St Austell and Newquay|
The village nestles in a small valley and faces east to Mevagissey Bay. The inner and outer harbours are busy with a mixture of pleasure vessels and working fishing boats, the remains of a once major industry. However, tourism has supplanted fishing as the dominant industry in recent years.
Mevagissey village centre consists of narrow streets with many places to eat and shops aimed at the tourist trade. The outer areas are built on the steep slopes of the surrounding hillsides and are mostly residential.
History and toponymy
The first recorded mention of Mevagissey dates from 1313 (when it was known as Porthhilly), although there is evidence of settlement dating back to the Bronze Age.
The old name of the parish was Lamorrick and it was part of the episcopal manor of Tregear. The church was dedicated to Saints Meva and Ida in 1259 by Bishop Bronescombe and in 1329 Sir Otho Bodrugan appropriated it to Glasney College. The Norman church was cruciform and some Norman work remains but the church was more or less rebuilt in the 15th century. In the Commonwealth period the tower became ruinous and the bells were taken down and sold to a Quaker of St Austell. According to tradition there has been a church on the same site since about 500 AD. Meva may well be the same as St Mewan and Issey is also the patron saint of St Issey.
Mevagissey is home to three Cornish holy wells. The Brass Well and Lady's Well are both situated in the manor of Treleaven, the other holy well is within the gardens of Mevagissey House, the old vicarage.
Towards the end of the 17th century, Porthhilly merged with the hamlet of Lamoreck (or Lamorrick) to make the new village. It was named after two Irish saints, St Meva and St Issey (or Ida, the "g" comes from hag, the Cornish word for "and"). At this time the main sources of income for the village were pilchard fishing and smuggling and the village had at least ten inns, of which the Fountain and the Ship still remain.
Mevagissey had a power station built in 1895, powered by pilchard oil, which provided electricity for the lighthouse and surrounding streets. Local sources claim that it was the first town in the country to have electric street lighting.[dubious ]
There is a humorous local folktale about Mevagissey, which takes place during the Napoleonic Wars. It is said that a French ship was wrecked in the harbour, which had a monkey on board. The monkey reached the shore alive, only to be hanged by the townspeople as French spy.
The current harbour is built on the site of a medieval quay. The first Act of Parliament allowing the new port to be built was passed in 1774. The inner harbour, consisting of the current East and West Quays, was constructed from this time. An outer harbour was added in 1888, but seriously damaged in a blizzard in 1891. The outer walls were rebuilt by 1897. The harbour was given charitable trust status in 1988.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) stationed a lifeboat at Port Mellon in 1869 but in 1888 moved it to Mevagissey. It was kept afloat in the harbour for a few years but in 1896 was moved into a purpose-built concrete boat house. The following year a new boat, the James Chisholm (RNLI number 403), was installed. This operated until 1930 when the station was closed. The neighbouring station at Fowey had recently been equipped with a motor lifeboat and this could cover the coast around Mevagissey. The old boat house has since been used as an aquarium; that at Port Mellon has been converted into a house.
There are currently 63 registered fishing vessels in the harbour worked by 69 fishermen. The harbour also offers tourist fishing trips and there is a regular summer passenger ferry to Fowey.
The Heligan estate is located on the steep slopes above Mevagissey, albeit mostly in the adjoining civil parish of St Ewe. The long term home of the Tremayne family, the estate is now best known as the location of the Lost Gardens of Heligan, a recently restored Victorian garden.
Each year at the end of June, Mevagissey celebrates Feast Week, a week of family fun, music, and floral dances through the streets; finally at the end of the week there is a carnival and a fireworks display.
Mevagissey is within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) which along with National Parks, are considered to be the most special landscapes in the country and belong to an international family of protected areas. It is a designation aimed at conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area.
The writer Susan Cooper based two of her books (Over Sea, Under Stone and Greenwitch) from her awarded The Dark Is Rising series in Mevagissey, where she used to holiday as a child. In the books she just changed the name to Trewissick. Mevagissey House is the vicarage from the first book 'Over Sea Under Stone' where Jane first meets the mysterious Mr Hastings.
The Wurzels wrote a song called "Mevagissey".
-  GENUKI website; Mevagissey; retrieved April 2010
- Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 204 Truro & Falmouth ISBN 978-0-319-23149-4
- Cornish Church Guide (1925) Truro: Blackford; p. 160
- Ellis, Peter Berresford (1992) The Cornish Saints. Penryn: Tor Mark Press; p. 16
- Jenner, Henry (1925) "The holy wells of Cornwall", in: Cornish Church Guide. Truro: Blackford; pp. 249-57 (pp. 251, 254)
- Ash, Russell (1973). Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain. Reader's Digest Association Limited. p. 135. ISBN 9780340165973.
- Leach, Nicholas (2006) . Cornwall's Lifeboat Heritage. Chacewater: Twelveheads Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-906294-43-6.
- Smit, Tim (1999). The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Victor Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-06765-9.
Media related to Mevagissey at Wikimedia Commons