Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, [1873], at

p. 67

A Queen's Visit to Baranhual.

At all feasts where ale was strongest,
Sat this gracious Queen the longest,
First to come and last to go.
                Longfellow, slightly altered.

THERE is a tradition,—that has taken the form of a droll, as it is related by old people of Buryan,—which sayeth that when the Pendars lived in grand style, in Baranhual, a Queen and her retinue landed from a Man-of-war, at Moushal, for the sake of seeing the Logan Rook and Land's End. News of the intended trip soon spread, and reached Buryan ere sufficient horses could be procured to furnish out the cavalcade. On the morning of the royal progress, work was at a stand still, and nearly all who could "lift a leg" started off from house and field towards Burian Church-town, as it was rumoured that Her Majesty intended to inspect Buryan Church on her way. So, in the morning early, Buryan bells were set a ringing; and Church-town folks arrayed themselves in their best to receive the Queen with due honours.

Every soul left Baranhual except old Dame Pendar, who was rather infirm. "My lady, the Queen," said she, "is but a woman, and make the most of her, even if she do wear a crown on her head every day of her life, with velvet robes all broider'd in gold, silk stockings, and diamond-buckles on her satin shoes, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, yet she's much like myself under all her fine clothes; and it esn’t worth while to leave the house alone, and all that's in it, and go so far to see her at my time of life; besides there's the milk to scald and many jobs to be done at all hours. No, verily," said she to her son and his wife, "you may be off to Church-town with the scabbleangow (rag, tag, and bob-tail), but, indeed, I'll stay home and guard the house, and all that's in it. That shall never be left alone whilst I draw breath."

p. 68

At that time the Pendars kept a capstan in repair, and gave other aids to the fishery at Penberth,—which is partly in Baranhual ground, and received for it a certain portion of fish from the owners of each boat kept in the cove.

An hour or so after all the household, but old mistress, had started off to behold a queen, An’ Joan Taskes came up from Penberth with a cowal full of fish, as the Squire's dues from all the boats which landed that morning. Madam told An’ Joan to take the fish to the river, and that she would be down in a minute to help dean them. Before Joan had taken all out of her cowal, and laid them on the stepping-stones, that stood in the water where Baranhual bridge now crosses it, old mistress arrived, knife in hand, ready to help clean and split her fish. They had nearly finished their job,—the old lady standing on a stepping-stone, with her skirts tucked up to her knees taking the fish from An’ Joan, who waded in the stream to give them a last rinsing,—when the old fishwife, on hearing a clatter of horses’ hoofs coming down hill, looked up, turned round, and bawled out, "Can I believe my eyes; look ’e mistress, "dear; of I live, there's hundreds of kings and queens ridan down the hill. I can see more than a score, and there's more a coman round the turnan; pull down your petticoats, do! Oh, I wish to gracious I had a clean towser on, and my best hat."

Before old Joan had ceased exclaiming; and fixing herself as tidy as she could—though Madam Pendar, intent on the fish, didn't notice her commotion—a score or so of ladies and gentlemen on horseback, were within a stone's-cast. They drew reins, and a horseman started forward, rode down into the water, accosted the old lady, enquired if Squire Pendar lived in the house on the hill, and informed the wondering women that Her Majesty, on her route to the Logan Rock, well remembering that the Pendars had always been staunch friends to the royal cause, had preferred coming that way to give him a visit, instead of seeing Buryan Church, which Her Majesty and her attendants might have a glance at on their return from the Land's End. Madam replied that she was very glad to see "my lady, the Queen;" and was sorry that her son and his wife with all their servants, were gone to pay their respects to Her Majesty in Church-town, as everybody said that was the intended route, and nobody home but herself to receive them.

"My royal mistress approaches to speak for herself," said he.

Madam was still standing on a stone, knife in hand, her coats tucked up, and kirtle drawn through her apron-string, when the Queen, understanding that her gentleman was speaking to no less a person than Madam Pendar, rode into the water, shook hands with her, and said, "If all are gone to see the Queen and left

p. 69

[paragraph continues] ’e alone, the Queen is come to see you; and I, and my attendants, would be glad to rest a while to have something to eat, and to mend the rents in our clothes that are torn to 'skethans' with thorns and brambles that overhang the narrow lanes." "The Lord love ’e, my dear lady, the Queen," exclaimed she, making a low curtsey, and quite overcome with honour. "Do ’e put your hand, now as mine, on that side, is fishy and wet—into my left pocket, take out the key of the fore-door, and my huzzey (house-wife) you will find in it needles and thread of all colours, ride up to the house, let yourselves in, and I'll follow with the fish, and do the best we can to entertain ’e." We should like nothing so much as some of that nice fish, draining on the stones," said the Queen, in trying to get a key, large enow for a church-door, out of Madams pocket. Bless your life, and you shall have them," replied the old lady. "I am so flambustered (confounded) with the honour you have done me, that I hardly know which end I stand upon. But you will want my scissors, pieces of stuff, and other things in my pockets, for mending," continued she, in untying the string from around her waist, that kept up her pockets; "take them all as they are; you will find most everything in them."

The precious pockets, like knapsacks, were handed to a gentleman who slung them across his saddle-bow, and the Queen rode on well pleased with Dame Pendar.

Joan stood gaping and staring, nodding and smiling, without speaking a word, though many spoke to her; but their backs were no sooner turned than she said, "Why, mistress, dear, can you make out their lingo? Can that lady, who spoke to ’e, be a Queen? Why, where's her crown? It wasn't upon her head, I'm sure." "Cease thy clack, be quick and gather up the fish," Madam replied; "she put her crown in her pocket, I suppose, that the thorns might’nt sweep it off her head and under the horses’ feet; thee west see her wearing of it when she's seated in the great parlour, by and bye, eating bread and honey: I'm glad, though, thee hast brought up a lot of nice mullett, bass, whiting-pullocks, and other fish for pies and frying, besides good large cod and ling for boiling."

When Dame Pendar and Joan got up to the house, they found the Queen and her ladies in the parlour busy sewing up rents in their garments; and the gentlemen—having stabled their horses—had made a blazing fire on the hearth. A large brass brewing-pan was placed on a brandes (trivet); pounds of butter and lard cast into it, and the nicest frying-fish cooked therein.

Mullet-and-parsley pies were put to bake on the hearth; large fishes boiled, and conger stewed, with fennel, in as many crocks

p. 70

and kettles as it would contain, with other things. Ladies and gentlemen—Queen and all helped: some got the best pewter platters, plates, and flagons—only used on grand occasions—out of a chest, those on dressers and shelves, for ordinary, use, wern’t half enough; others peeled garlic and hollick, chopped fennel, tarragon, and other herbs to flavour sauces. Several tried to grind .mustard, but none could give the right motion to their knees to make the bullet spin round in the bowl, and old mistress was obliged to grind it all, or have it spoiled. They dished up fried and boiled fish, swimming in butter; bowls of cream were poured into the pies; lucky, too, Madam had a batch of barley bread just baked, hot and hot.

Two gentlemen laced a high-backed carved oak chair, with several pillows thereon at the head of the hall table and Her Majesty was seated in as much state as she desired. They ate, one and all, with such an appetite, as if they hadn't tasted "meat" for a week, so old Joan Taskes said. The Queen imbibed old ale from a silver goblet; her ladies from pewter tankards and flagons; her gentlemen drank beer and cider from black-jacks and brown-georges (leather drinking vessels), which were often replenished.

Wasn't Dame Pendar delighted to see it all, as she bustled about to help Her Majesty to all sorts of sauces, of her own compounding. Indeed it was, as she said, "the proudest day of her life." She was, above all, elated when her royal guest smacked her lips after a sip of brandy, and swore, "by cock and pie," that "true as she was a sinner, never before, in all her born days, had she so much enjoyed a repast."

When the Queen and her ladies returned to the parlour, Dame Pendar placed before them white bread, cream and honey, brandy, sweet-drink (metheglin), and other cordials, of which they all partook with great pleasure. Having mended their garments, the ladies thought it full time to proceed on their journey, if they were to see the Logan Rock and Land's End that day.

But Her Majesty, bless her honest heart, was so well pleased with her entertainment that she preferred to stay there with old Dame Pendar till her attendants returned; so they, with her permission, rode away to Castle-Treen.

When the Queen's suite had departed, Dame Pendar produced from her own private cupboard, a bottle of rare old mead, and a flask of extra-strong brandy, for Her Majesty to taste; and she liking them well, drank glass upon glass of mead, with several sips of brandy, to keep the fish from "flowing on her stomach," and to show their loving regard for each other, they exchanged all the contents of their pockets for keepsakes; yea, every item,

p. 71

except their crooked sixpences, which they kept for good luck.

At length the Queen feeling drowsy, reclined in a long window-seat, thence rolled on the floor, where she lay puffing and snoring, unable to rise. Dame Pendar, by so often drinking "Here's health and long life to ’e, my dear lady, the Queen," was too fuddled to help her up, so she lay down with her for company; and old Joan, who had been sipping of all sorts, and drinking everybody's health, was stretched under the kitchen table.

The Queen's attendants, having passed hours in viewing the Logan Rock and other wonders of Castle-Treen, 'couranted' about amongst the rocks, where they found pleasant places for courting, till nearly sunset. They then, concluding it was too late for going to the Land's End, mounted and returned to Baranhual, that they might wait on their royal mistress, and reach Moushal in time to be on board before dark. They galloped away in hot haste, expecting to find Her Majesty impatiently awaiting their return; but, sad to say, they found her all her state forgotten—lying helpless on the floor, beside Dame Pendar. The royal lady was hastily lifted on her palfrey; Joan Taskes—now the least drunk of the three—helped to fasten a giss (hempen girth) across her Majesty's lap, to keep her safe in the saddle, and they quickly departed.

Now it so happened that Squire Pendar, his wife, and their servants, tired waiting for the Queen, in Church-town, till near night, returned home across the fields, Selena way, arrived at the Green-court gate just in time to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty under the trees that darkened the avenue. He had the merest glance of her going downhill with her, head drooping over her horse's mane, and a gentleman holding her steady; and that's the last seen of her in Buryan. Squire Pendar, his wife, and their servants were all rather muddled too, from having passed all day at Church-town with hundreds of gentle and simple, in drinking "Here's to the Queen and ourselves, comrades; "yet he and his wife expressed great surprise and ill-humour at finding their house all in disorder.

Joan told them how they all enjoyed their entertainment. "Bad luck to them all!" murmured; "our cellar-floor is like mud with spilt liquor, and not a gallon of beer or cider left in the casks. What mother said was true enow; the Queen, for all her fine clothes, is much like another woman, especially when drunk." Next morning he could hardly be persuaded that Her Majesty had been there at all, till his mother showed him what fine things she had as keepsakes. "My thimble, as thou knowest, was brass," said she, "and my bodkin silver; but see, here's my gracious lady's silver thimble and golden bodkin:" then, with

p. 72

great pride, drawing from her pocket the Queen's huzzey, she continued "if anything more is wanted to assure thee how I've been honoured by my gracious lady, behold this!" She then displayed what one may conjecture to have been a remarkable contrivance for containing many requisites of a lady's work-box or bag, and several toilet articles besides. It was a yard long when unfolded; every little pocket and flap of a different port of rich stuff, all worked in elegant designs, with gold and silver thread, coloured silks, intermixed with pearls and precious stones, or what passed for such. It folded into strong leather covers, fastened with silver clasps like a book; and the upper cover was lined with a mirror.

Hundreds of people came to see it suspended, at full length, the looking-glass at top, over the parlour fire-place, where it was kept in remembrance of the Queen's visit.

The shell-room was built after, and some say is was intended to commemorate that honour. This apartment was incrusted with shells,—mostly from Parcurnow. Among other devices, a cavalier was pourtrayed, as if pursued by robbers; and under this shell-picture, the legend,—"This is the heir, come let us slay him, that the inheritance may be ours."

We have frequently remarked to old persons, who related the above story, that nothing is said in any county or other history of a Queen having visited Baranhual. "Perhaps your history-makers never heard of it," they reply: "no one belonging to Buryan saw her plainly, that's true, except the two old women." Squire Pendar and his servants only had a glimpse in the twilight of a company on horseback passing down the road, which was ten overhung With large spreading sycamores,—three rows of them on each side,—which soon hid his royal guests. But the Pendars, even in our time, poor as they were, many of them labourers and fishermen, had always preserved something among them that the Queen was said to have left with old Madam hundreds of years ago; and all of the name, that we have met with, say that Pendre, Baranhual, Trevider, and other lands in Buryan, once belonged to their forefathers.

Click to enlarge

Next: The Small People's Cow