Porthoustock Cottage

Memories of Billy Moyle

With the sale just recently of the old thatched cottage on the left hand side of Porthoustock Cove, a chapter has ended and a new one begun in the history of the village. The owner for many years, Mrs Kay Lory of Langleybury, Hertfordshire, has within the last few weeks sold the cottage. Situated along the road that leads to the now redundant Porthoustock side quarry, it is one of the finest thatched houses in the area.

During the years of the First World War, it was the home of two nurses, Miss Beckwith and Miss Williams. They were the Sunday School teachers at St Keverne Parish Church and, with no facilities for a separate Sunday-School building for the Church Hall had not yet been built, they held their classes in the Vicarage study.

In my boyhood days, I can remember my sisters, Ethel and Edna, taking all the church Sunday School scholars down to the cottage to practice the items for St Keverne Feast Sunday and for the concert on Feast Tuesday.

Later Misses Beckwith and Williams left Porthoustock and purchased a cottage at Carne near Manaccan.

Even earlier in the village history and following a succession of shipwrecks on the nearby Manacles in the nineteenth century, the cottage had been used as a coastguard house. Although it is difficult to be sure about the occupants of the cottage, there were coastguards stationed at Porthoustock from, at least, as early as 1840. In the early days coastguards were often retired naval men and at Porthoustock this was certainly true. Names appearing in this category on the census returns include John Matthews, William Searle and Stephen Old. However, by about the 1860s there were "full time" coastguards stationed at Porthoustock - James Connor in 1861, Edward Ward twenty years later and William Fisher in 1891. Possibly some of these lived in the thatched cottage.

Probably as a result of the loss of the SS Mohegan in 1898 it was decided to build a coastguard station at Porthoustock as soon as possible. A coastguard look-out building("the watch-house") was constructed by Edwin Nicholls at Manacle Point, a position overlooking the Manacles and the Lowlands. With the station in operation, it was necessary to build coastguard houses and these were duly built at the top of Porthoustock Hill. In the 1901 census three coastguard families lived in these new purpose - built houses - Fred Hooper, Thomas Preston and William Leigh. Later names include Frederick Webb, William Morshead, Joseph Mowlem, Albert Scorey, James Dodd, Stanley Thomas, Jack Humphries and ------ Rowland.

For many years the thatched cottage was the home of the Tonkin family - Norman and Ethel Tonkin and their children, Lilian and Sylvia. The family was closely connected with Porthoustock chapel and Norman was a local preacher for many years, as well as holding many offices within the Methodist church locally. He was also employed for many years by the St Keverne/Porthoustock and, later, the West of England, Stone Companies and worked in the Quarry office. I have a postcard, dated 2 June 1928, signed by F.N.Tonkin on behalf of the St Keverne Stone Company for the shipment of 60 tons of dust on the barge Silex from Porthoustock to J.C.Annear and Company, Penryn. Mr and Mrs Tonkin lived in the cottage until Norman retired in the 1960s and then they moved to Constantine to be nearer their daughter. Since then the cottage has been privately owned.

Billy Moyle March 2004