THE MINACK THEATER in Porthcurno, Cornwall

The Minack Theatre is one of the world’s most famous outdoor theatres. Today, they welcome more than 110,000 people a year to their performances and 170,000 people come just to look round...

Carving a theatre from a cliff...

The theatre which you see today has seen big changes over the past eighty years but if a member of the audience from the very first performance on 16 August 1932 were to visit the theatre today, they’d certainly recognise the place.

In 1929, local drama enthusiasts put on an out-door performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a grassy meadow about a mile inland from the Minack. It was a great success and a couple of years later the players were looking for a venue to perform The Tempest.

Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House, decided that the cliffs below her garden would be the perfect setting, and over the winter of 1931 and into 1932 she and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, moved endless granite boulders and earth, creating the lower terraces of the theatre, much as they are today.

The Tempest was big success, even gaining a positive review in The Times, and over the next few years Rowena and her gardeners made many improvements, building a throne for Antony and Cleopatra and creating the beginnings of the stage structures you see today. The stage was still grass-covered, players changed in Minack House, and the audience bought their tickets from a trestle table before clambering down steep slopes to the theatre.

Rowena Cade: She was born in 1893 in Derbyshire. The Cades moved to Cheltenham when Rowena’s father retired in 1906. After the First World War, Rowena’s widowed mother sold their home in Cheltenham and rented a house at Lamorna. Rowena discovered the Minack headland which she bought for £100 (!!!). She built a house there for herself and her mother using granite from St.Levan.

Throughout the twenties Minack House and its garden provided the setting for many amateur productions. Rowena had a talent for designing and making the necessary costumes. After successful productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the open air at Creanin 1929 and 1930, it was decided to stage “The Tempest” in the rugged coastline scenery of the gully above the Minack Rock. It took six months for Rowena and two local craftsmen to build a simple stage and some seating. The first performance in the summer of 1932 was lit by batteries and car headlights.

Rowena Cade was already thirty eight when she began her ambitious project. Over the next seven years there were many improvements and extensions. Then, with the coming of the Second World War II, it seemed as though all the back-breaking work might have been wasted. But in 1944 the Minack was chosen as a location for "Love Story" the film starring Stewart Grainger and Margaret Lockwood.

Over the years, Rowena Cade had developed techniques for working with cement. Using the tip of a screwdriver she decorated surfaces with lettering and Celtic designs before they hardened. She fetched the sand from Porthcurno beach and carried huge beams from the shoreline up to the theatre. Even though she looked frail, Rowena Cade continued working on her theatre in all sorts of weather each winter until she was in her mid-eighties. When she died, just before her ninetieth birthday, she left sketches suggesting how the theatre might be covered on rainy days...  Cornwall Guide


ST MICHAEL'S MOUNT in Marazion

St Michael's Mount (Cornish: Karrek Loos yn Koos, meaning "hoar rock in woodland") is a small tidal island in Mount's Bay, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The island is a civil parish and is linked to the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water. It is managed by the National Trust, and the castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since approximately 1650.

St Michael's Mount may have been the site of a monastery from the 8th to the early 11th centuries. Edward the Confessor gifted the site to the Benedictine order of Mont Saint-Michel and it was a priory of that abbey until the dissolution of the alien houses as a side-effect of the war in France by Henry V, when it was given to the Abbess and Convent of Syon at Isleworth, Middlesex in 1424. Thus ended its association with Mont St Michel, and any connection with Looe Island (dedicated to the Archangel Michael). It was a destination for pilgrims, whose devotions were encouraged by an indulgence granted by Pope Gregory in the 11th century. The earliest buildings, on the summit, date to the 12th century.

The island today:

The chapel of St Michael, a 15th-century building, has an embattled tower, one angle of which is a small turret, which served for the guidance of ships. The chapel is extra-diocesan and continues to serve the Order of St Johnby permission of Lord St Levan. Chapel Rock, on the beach, marks the site of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, where pilgrims paused to worship before ascending the mount. Many antiquities, comprising plate armour, paintings and furniture, are preserved at the castle. Several houses are built on the hillside facing Marazion, and a spring provides a natural flow of water. There is a row of eight houses at the back of the present village; built in 1885 they are known as Elizabeth Terrace. Some of the houses are occupied by staff working in the castle and elsewhere on the island. The mount's cemetery (currently no public access) contains the graves of former residents of the island and several drowned sailors. There are also buildings that were formerly the steward's house, a changing-room for bathers, the stables, the laundry, a barge house, a sail loft (now a restaurant), and two former inns. A former bowling green adjoins one of the buildings. The population of this parish in 2011 was 35.

The harbour, enlarged in 1823 to accommodate vessels of up to 500 tonnes deadweight, has a pier dating back to the 15th century which has also been renovated. Queen Victoria disembarked from the royal yacht at St Michael's Mount in 1846, and a brass inlay of her footstep can be seen at the top of the landing stage. King Edward VII's footstep is also visible near the bowling green. In 1967 the Queen Mother entered the harbour in a pinnace from the royal yacht Britannia.

Another noteworthy point of interest on the island is its underground railway, which is still used to transport goods from the harbour up to the castle. It was built by miners around 1900, replacing the pack horses which had previously been used. Its steep gradient renders it unsafe for passenger-use, thus The National Trust has made it out-of-bounds for public access.

The causeway between the mount and Marazion was improved in 1879 by raising it by one foot (30 cm) with sand and stones from the surrounding area. Repairs were completed in March 2016 following damage from the 2014 winter storms. Some studies indicate that any rise in ocean waters as well as existing natural erosion would put some of the Cornwall coast at risk, including St. Michael's Mount.


LONDON more photos to come... such an amazing city!

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom, and the largest city in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans...


CHARLESTOWN more to come...

Charlestown (Cornish: Porth Meur, meaning great cove) is a village and port on the south coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom, and in the civil parish of St Austell Bay. It is situated approximately 2 miles (3 km) south east of St Austell town centre. The port at Charlestown developed in the late-18th century from the fishing village of West Polmear. Whereas other areas of St Austell have seen much development during the 20th century, Charlestown has remained relatively unchanged.


TINTAGEL CASTLE more to come...

Tintagel Castle (Cornish: Dintagel) is a medieval fortification located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island adjacent to the village of Tintagel, North Cornwall in the United Kingdom. The site was possibly occupied in the Romano-British period, as an array of artefacts dating to this period have been found on the peninsula, but as yet no Roman era structure has been proven to have existed there. It was settled during the early medieval period, when it was probably one of the seasonal residences of the regional king of Dumnonia. A castle was built on the site by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century, during the later medieval period. It later fell into disrepair and ruin.

Archaeological investigation into the site began in the 19th century as it became a tourist attraction, with visitors coming to see the ruins of Richard's castle. In the 1930s, excavations revealed significant traces of a much earlier high status settlement, which had trading links with the Mediterranean during the Late Roman period.

The castle has a long association with legends related to King Arthur. This began in the 12th century when Geoffrey of Monmouth described Tintagel as the place of Arthur's conception in his fictionalized account of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey told the story that Arthur's father, King Uther Pendragon, was disguised by Merlin's sorcery to look like Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, the husband of Igraine, Arthur's mother.


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