OS Grid Ref:- SW468264
Picturesque Mousehole lies two miles south of the town of Penzance.
It is the archetypal Cornish village and boasts what is said to be one of the most beautiful harbours in Britain. Once a thriving centre for the Cornish pilchard fishing industry. Its narrow streets are filled with small shops, galleries and restaurants, while its granite cottages progress quaintly down the steep hillside to the waters edge. Pronounced 'Mauzel' the name possibly derives from the Cornish 'mouz bel' or maiden's brook.
The tranquil village has a surprisingly violent history, it was sacked by a Spanish raiding party under the command of Carlos de Amésquita in July 1595, during the course of which the whole village was burnt. One house survived the holocaust, that of Squire Keigwin, who was tragically killed while defending it. The Elizabethan manor house, distinguished by a porch of granite columns, the oldest in the village, still stands to the present day.
The last recorded speaker of the ancient Cornish language, Dorothy or Dolly Pentreath, was a native of Mousehole and died there in 1777 at the age of 102. Her grave can be seen in the churchyard of Paul on the hilltop above the village. Dolly was born in 1692, the daughter of Nicholas Pentreath, a fisherman. She lived in the parish of Paul, next to Mousehole.
In 1768 the antiquary Daines Barrington searched in Cornwall for surviving speakers of its native Brythonic Celtic language and found Pentreath at Mousehole, she was then a fish seller said to be aged about 82 at the time, Barrington recorded that she "could speak Cornish very fluently". Dolly is famous for cursing people in a long stream of fierce Cornish whenever she became angry. Her death in 1777 is seen as marking the death of Cornish as a community language. According to legend, her last words were "Me ne vidn cewsel Sawznek!" ("I don't want to speak English!").
In 1860 a monument in her honour was set into the churchyard wall of the church of St Paul Aurelian by Louis Lucien Bonaparte, a nephew of Napoleon. It reads-
'Here lieth interred Dorothy Pentreath who died in 1778, said to have been the last person who conversed in the ancient Cornish, the peculiar language of this country from the earliest records till it expired in the eighteenth century, in this Parish of Saint Paul. This stone is erected by the Prince Louis Bonaparte in Union with the Revd John Garret Vicar of St Paul, June 1860. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Exod. xx. 12. Gwra pethi de taz ha de mam: mal de Dythiow bethenz hyr war an tyr neb an arleth de dew ryes dees. Exod. xx. 12.
As with many other "last native speakers", controversy exists over Dorothy Pentreath's status. After her death, Daines Barrington received a letter, written in Cornish and accompanied by an English translation, from William Bodinar, a fisherman from Mousehole, who claimed that he knew five people who could speak Cornish in Mousehole alone. Barrington also reports of John Nancarrow of Marazion, a native speaker of Cornish who survived into the 1790s.
Mousehole was described by one of its admirers, the poet Dylan Thomas as 'the loveliest village in England'. The Ship Inn celebrates an annual Cornish tradition at Christmas time. On Tom Bawdock's Eve - 23 December dish of Stargazy pie is baked in the pub, in remembrance of the courageous fisherman who ventured out to sea in a ferocious storm to save the town from starving over Christmas 200 years ago and returned with a huge catch of fish.
Near to the village stands the Wild Bird Hospital, over the last 70 years it has saved the lives of thousands of wild birds, particularly seabirds. It was started by two sisters, Dorothy and Phyllis Yglesias.
The Mousehole Christmas Illuminations are held every year to raise money for charity and carried on in memory of the victims of the Penlee lifeboat disaster. The lights are switched on in mid December and remain until the Friday at the end of the first week in January. The switching on ceremony is attended by the Mousehole Male Voice Choir and accompanying brass band.
A walk from Mousehole to Lamorna Cove
Distance - 4 miles
Duration - Around 2.5 hours
*Commencing at Mousehole harbour follow the steep road which leads out of the village. On reaching the top of the hill continue along the footpath thrrough fields to the village of Kemyel Crease.
*Cross further fields to Kemyel Wartha before following the wooded path which passes a now disused quarry to arrive at Lamorna Cove.
*Return to Mousehole via the coastal path which passes scenic Penzer Point.