Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
From the entrance-gate to the mansion alluded to, we have a view of an old cottage which ought to be regarded with much interest, as it was the home of Pellew (Admiral Lord Exmouth) during his boyish days. Here he lived with his aged grandmother Madam Woodhouse, until he left to commence his career of usefulness and glory that added much to the renown of the British nation. I have heard many anecdotes of the hero's boyish days from an old lady of the west country (the daughter of a gentleman farmer of Sennen), who, when a girl in her teens, was sent to Penzance to reside with her uncle and aunt, that she might attend a better school than was to be found in the country. At this time boys and girls often went to the same school until they were much older than it
would be considered decorous for them to remain together in these thin-skinned, fastidious times.
Young Pellew went to the same school as the girl from the Land's-end, who, being two or three years older than the boy, called for him at his grandmother's house (the old thatched cottage near the Alverton entrance to Fox's gardens); but the country girl always had a hard task to get him to school, and often, in spite of all she could do, and the threats of the old lady's cane, young Pellew would take off to the Quay, whither the girl had to follow, as, if she was known to have let him escape, she would get a sound thrashing from her own aunt, who was a great friend of the boy's grandmother and paid the same attention to Edward Pellew as to her own children. As soon as they reached the pier he would spring into the first boat he found afloat, cast off the painter, and away to sea, without staying to notice if there were oars in the boat or not. His companion and guardian in petticoats would remain on the battery rocks, or pier, with her knitting or needlework, that she might signal to Pellew when it was time for him to come in, to return home to dinner. Often the fishermen and sailors at the quay, who all loved the daring boy and kept a watch over him, would go out in another boat and help him to come ashore in time to save his bacon; sometimes one or other, or both, of the old ladies would find out the truants, come down to the quay after them, and beat them both home to Alverton-lane, where Pellew would take refuge with old Mr. Boase, who always took the boy's part, as well as that of his niece (the west country girl) in spite of all the old ladies and the schoolmaster might say. To make amends for the beatings the Sennen girl got for letting Edward Pellew escape from school (which she liked to do very well herself now and then), and for doing his sums for him (whilst he occupied himself in making boats and ship's gearing under the desk), he would often drive her uncle's cows from the Weeths (the ground that is now Mr. Bolitho's lawn) down to Alverton to water, or bring them home to their yard in Alverton-lane to be milked of an evening. As he was soon taught to be a famous boxer by his friends the sailors of the quay, who would always have him with then if they could, he wanted to put his science in practice by thrashing any boy double his size, if they happened to offend his protectress, who, when fourscore years of age, has often shown me a lot of trifles Pellew sent home to his grandmother for his old schoolmate; among other things a variety of perforated foreign coins, such as sailors like to suspend from their watch chains, a pair of lady's silver shoe-buckles, &c.
When Pellew went to sea the old lady his grandmother used often to say, "If I could live to see my Teddy made a captain I would die contented," The old lady lived long enough to see him knighted, and I think made an admiral, before she died.
It is said that Pellew only once ran from the foe, and that was a woman. The story goes that when home on a furlough, one day he and
his comrade "did a shooting go." They passed up Polgoon lane, and when they came in the rear of the cottage in Castle Horneck avenue, which was then inhabited by two elderly spinsters, Pellew or his mate, for a bit of fun, fired a few shots through a little latticed window of the spence, and made the old maidens’ pewter platters ring. Away the lads scampered, as fast as they could run. They had scarcely passed the stile in Polgoon lane, when they heard and saw a long-legged raw-boned dame coming after then full chase, with the fire-hook in one hand and her hat in the other. Then it was a race of dear life. Away they went at a slapping pace, as fast as they could fly. Up in Lesingey the old dame dropped her hat and stopped a moment to tuck her skirts under her apron-strings. Leaving hat and hook on the road, away she flew for a new chase, and gained so much on the sailor that he had to drop his heavy musket in Polteggan lane, and just turned the corner in Madron churchtown to take the other road back to Penzance, when the old maid was nearly up with him; but when he turned the hill, and the dame saw him going down the lane like a hare, she turned tail and gave up the chase. On her way back she gathered up the spoil abandoned by the retreating foe, as well as her own arms and clothing, dropped in the heat of the chase.
How Sir Edward Pellew would have none, or few, but Cornishmen for his crew; how the Mount's-bay and St. Just men would volunteer for him, when the press-gang (who wanted men, and the devil a man could they get for other ships but his) were beaten out of Mousehole by the women, led on by Ann St. Doyd (Ann's right name was Pentreath). armed with the red-hot poker, is well known.
As every incident of his life, after he went to sea, became matter of history, we cannot claim any more of his life as belonging exclusively to Penzance.
From the house in which Admiral Lord Exmouth passed his boyish days, there was a pleasant footpath, long after that time, through the fields to Alverton, separated from the lane by a high hedge and shady trees; and the lane itself, from the Ellis's mansion (or the site of the "Western" hotel) to the seat of the Daniels in Alverton (or probably the Jenkins at this time), was like a bower all the way, with the overhanging trees, except a good stop of green extending from Buriton House down almost to the pathway leading to Alverton well. On this green the fair was formerly held;—it has but recently been removed to a field. All the high roads at this time were pleasant green lanes. There was no such thing as a cart west of Penzance;—here and there an ox-butt might be found. We will return to the green lanes, and those who jogged along them on bow-pad or pillion, when we come to take a retrospective view of the country.