Mullion Cove

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Coordinates: 50°00′54″N 5°15′29″W / 50.015°N 5.258°W / 50.015; -5.258

Mullion Cove
Mullion Cove from the sea

Mullion Cove or Porth Mellin is a small harbour and cove on the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is situated facing west into Mount's Bay approximately six miles (9.7 km) south of the town of Helston and one mile (1.6 km) southwest of Mullion village.[1] The harbour was completed in 1895 and financed by Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock as a recompense to the fishermen for several disastrous pilchard seasons. It is protected from southerly winter gales by two sea walls and Mullion Island, half a mile (0.8 km) offshore. The old pilchard cellar and net store are preserved. Mullion Cove lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Almost a third of Cornwall has AONB designation, with the same status and protection as a National Park. Mullion Harbour, along with Mullion Island, was donated to the National Trust in 1945 by the Meyer family.[2]

Geography and geology[edit]

The cove is situated on the eastern side of Mount's Bay and on the western coast of the Lizard peninsula. The harbour entrance is open to the south-west but is protected by the natural breakwater of Mullion Island half a mile (0.8 km) offshore. The village of Mullion and the parish church is to the north-east, approximately one mile (1.6 km) inland. There are cliffs on either side of the cove and to the south is Mullion Cliff which is part of The Lizard National Nature Reserve and is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.[1] The rocks are hornblende schist originally thought to be a basalt or a gabbro which has been changed by the heat and pressure, produced by the intrusions of peridotite.[3][4]


A pilchard fishery started in the 18th century with seining controlled by seining companies whose main interest was at the busier fishing ports. The pilchards were cured at Newlyn and exported to Mediterranean countries. Mullion had a unique payment system. In the 1870s the two net shooters were paid 10/6d a week, plus one and a quarter shares each of 25% of the catch, plus 2d each on every hogshead (3,000 fish) of the seine owners' share of the catch; each huer was paid 17 shillings a week plus every twentieth dozen of the caught fish and the master of the cock boat; the bowman each receive 9 shillings a week, plus one and a quarter shares each of 25% of the catch, plus 1d each on every hogshead of the seine owners' share of the catch; the remaining crews each received 9 shillings a week plus a share of the 25% of the whole catch.[5] During the 19th century the Isles of Scilly smack or ketch called into the cove to collect locally caught lobster and crab, which was taken to Southampton.[5] Construction of the harbour commenced in 1893 and was completed, two years later, in 1895 with the west harbour wall first, followed by the southern quay. The harbour opens to the south-west and is protected by Mullion Island. Building of the harbour was authorised by an Act of Parliament which allowed for the embarking and disembarking of passengers, animals, fish, goods and merchandise of every description.[3] Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock financed the building as recompense for several poor pilchard seasons in the late 19th century.[3] The Robartes have a long association with the area having owned the manor of Predannack Wollas since at least 1696.[3] The cove and harbour was acquired by the National Trust in 1945 when they spent £5,000 on repairs.[5][1] The harbour is still home to a small shellfish industry and both the grade II listed west and south piers have been badly damaged during the 2013–14 winter storms.

The area has been subject to much smuggling activity. In 1801, the King's Pardon was offered to any smuggler giving information on the Mullion musket-men involved in a gunfight with the crew of HM Gun Vessel Hecate.

During World War II an anti-tank wall measuring 5 ft (1.5 m) high and 4 ft (1.2 m) wide and consisting of concrete blocks with a solid infill of concrete. Approximately 50% of the original wall still exists. Additional defences included barb wire along the harbour walls and cliffs.[6]

In January 2014 the Daily Mirror ran a front page story featuring photographs of a man holding a young child up to peek over the harbour wall during a storm and then being engulfed by waves.[7] The photographs were also featured in other national newspapers including the Daily Mail[8] the Daily Express[9] and The Times.

Lifeboat station[edit]

Mullion Cove had a lifeboat station from 1867 until 1908, receiving only fourteen service calls.[5] On her first launch, on 21 March 1867, the Daniel J Draper help save three lives from the Achilles which was wrecked at Pollurian.[2] In the six years up to 1873 there were nine wrecks along a mile-and-a-half stretch of coastline under Mullion cliffs with the loss of sixty-nine lives.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 203 Land's End ISBN 978-0-319-23148-7
  2. ^ a b Felce, Robert (2012). The History of Mullion Cove. Mullion: Westcountry Printing and Publishing. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Tanner, Kenny (1991). The National Trust. Coast of Cornwall 13. National Trust. p. 12. 
  4. ^ Lawman, Jean (1994). A Natural History of the Lizard Peninsula. Redruth: Institudt of Cornish Studies and Dyllansow Truran. ISBN 1 85022 071 9. 
  5. ^ a b c d Pearse, Richard (1963). The Ports and Harbours of Cornwall. St Austell: H E Warne Lts. 
  6. ^ "Monument No. 1422525". Pastscapes. English Heritage. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Cornwall Storm Pictures in the Daily Mirror. Retrieved 5 January 2014
  8. ^ Family Engulfed at the Daily Mail Retrieved 5 January 2014
  9. ^ Daily Express Retrieved 5 January 2014