B for Boscawen, Branwell and Bennetts: Julia Grigg's Morrab Miscellany

B is for lots of things, so many B’s…

Firstly it’s for Canon BOSCAWEN, celebrated horticulturalist and a BENEFACTOR of seeds and plants to Morrab Gardens in the late 1800’s when Morrab’s meadows sloping down to the sea were being laid out by Penzance Corporation as a park.

Boscawen, Rector of Ludgvan from 1893-1939, benefited from family connections to the famed gardens of Lamorran and Tregothnan.

A young Trachycarpus fortunei, or Windmill Palm, growing in Morrab Gardens, Penzance
A young Trachycarpus fortunei in Morrab Gardens
Photo: Paul Brett

Other benefits were that his south-facing Rectory garden had been laid out in 1722 by naturalist William BORLASE on the area of extraordinarily fertile soil known locally as the ‘Golden Mile’; and that his eldest brother in the New Zealand Forestry Service could regularly supply him with exotic trees and shrubs.

The Trachycarpus fortunei palms which Boscawen imported stand at Ludgvan to this day, the tallest now over 33 feet high.

Canon Boscawen himself collected anemone seeds while holidaying in the Mediterranean. These seeds, ‘white and woolly’, on germination provided a crop which sold well at Covent Garden, significantly helping the village’s economy.

As did the introduction of BROCCOLI (as cauliflower’s known in Cornwall) for which Boscawen procured seeds from BAVARIA.

On Christmas Day 1908 Canon Boscawen listed the flowers on display in his garden, reaching a total of 100.

Another B is for BRANWELL.

Thomas Branwell, successful Penzance brewer and merchant trader, built some of the fine houses around Morrab Gardens and lived at 2 and 3 South Parade in his last years, dying in 1808.

The Branwells' house in Penzance, home of Maria and Elizabeth Branwell, the mother and aunt of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Brontë
The Branwells’ house in Chapel Street, Penzance. Photo: Paul Brett

Thomas’ BRONTE granddaughters Charlotte, Emily and Anne grew up in Yorkshire’s West Riding. After their mother Maria, eighth of Thomas’ twelve children, died in 1821, an older sister, Elizabeth, cared for the girls, along with their brother. Kindly Aunt Branwell encouraged her nieces’ writing, and the substantial inheritance she left them on her death released them from lives as governesses/teachers, also helping in privately publishing their poems and phenomenal novels.

All three young women wrote as males, under the pseudonym BELL.

The weather up on the wild, windy moorland around the Parsonage at Haworth can’t have made for easy gardening – but the Brontes created a sheltered spot for BLACKCURRANT bushes alongside their blooms. At midsummer, the berries were made into jam and pies. Surely there were times when Aunt Branwell, never returnng to her native Cornwall, must have hankered after some delicious Cornish cream to enjoy with these?

B is also for BENNETTS’ BANDSTAND.

Centrally positioned on an elliptical lawn at the heart of Morrab Gardens, the bandstand has stood proudly since 1905.

On August 15 that year it was inaugurated with a celebration serenaded by the Penzance Military BAND.

The bandstand in Morrab Gardens, Penzance from a postcard published around 1905
The bandstand in Morrab Gardens, Penzance; a postcard probably published shortly after its inauguration in 1905

Historic England describes the octagonal grandstand as a ‘rusticated granite drum surmounted by slender cast iron columns supporting a pyramidal roof with an elaborate wrought iron finial and matching ornamentation to the eaves.’

John Henry Bennetts, colliery agent, coal merchant and shipowner had generously gifted the magnificent construction to the people of Penzance so that open air concerts could feature in the town’s entertainments.

Aged 63 at the time of the donation and assuredly a music lover, we do not know which tunes Mr Bennetts would have most favoured.

We do know of his success managing the supply of domestic coal to Penzance’s homes. For over a quarter of a century (1886-1919) ships registered in Bennetts’ name plied from Penzance to the port of Liverpool, where Lancashire coal from the Ellerbeck collieries was loaded for transporting to Cornwall.

His first ship was a sailing vessel, the two-masted schooner ‘Secret.’ Soon though, the age of steam took over, Bennetts’ vessels then being the ‘Ormerod’ and the 440 tons ‘Vril’, Iron Steam Screw ships.

The Coal Depot was in Coombe Lane, Treneere and the office at 72 Market Jew Street.

We know too (from Google and photo archive searches) Bennetts Fuels was bringing coal to Penzance by train in the late 1940s, unloading at the Long Rock railway siding (the site now of Morrison’s supermarket.) And that the name lives on in Penzance, Bennetts Fuels still operating today from Chyandour Coombe, registered as a shipping agent and supplying the community’s calor gas and coal.

B is for THE BARD: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

“Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste”

Coming from ‘Richard III’, 15 January’s quote is to be read allegorically. There is little sweet to be found in this play about deposition, death and destruction. When coming into contact with ‘charismatic, dramatic, tyrant Richard’ who, according to Shakespeare scholar, Emma Smith, is also ‘beguiling, seductive and ravishing’ woe betide you if he sees you as a ‘weed’ – you’ll likely soon be uprooted…!

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