Michael's, St., Mount

MICHAEL'S, ST., MOUNT, an extra-parochial liberty, in the hundred of Penwith, W. division of Cornwall, ¼ of a mile (S.) from Marazion; containing 163 inhabitants. This place obtained the name of Cara Cowz in Clouze, in the Cornish language signifying "the grey or hoary rock in the woods," from its supposed situation, in the remoter ages of antiquity, in the centre of a wood; and to this supposition the recent discovery of a submarine forest extending for some miles around the base of the mount lends weight. Its present appellation, which extends to the whole bay, is derived from its patron saint, who, according to tradition, appeared to some hermits living in devotional retirement in this sequestered spot. The mount is thought to have been the island Ictis, noticed by Diodorus Siculus as the place to which the tin, when refined and cast into ingots by the Britons, near the promontory of Belerium, was conveyed in carts over an isthmus dry only at low water. A priory of Benedictine monks, afterwards exchanged for Gilbertines, was founded here prior to the year 1044, when Edward the Confessor granted to the community the whole of the mount, with its buildings and appendages, among which there appears to have been a castle. The priory, being a cell to the abbey of St. Michael, in Normandy, was seized as an alien priory during the war with France, in the reign of Henry V., and given first to King's College, Cambridge, and subsequently to the nunnery of Sion, in the county of Middlesex, with which it remained till the Dissolution, when its revenue was £110. 12. The place has at various times been the scene of martial operations: during the civil war of the 17th century, it was fortified for the king, and the Duke of Hamilton, who had been taken prisoner by the royalists, was confined here; but in 1646 it was surrendered to the parliament. After the Restoration it became the property of the St. Aubyns, its present proprietors.

This mount, which has more the character of a work of art than of nature, is connected with the main land by an isthmus 40 yards in width, formed of fragments of rock and pebbles seemingly compacted by two currents of the sea sweeping round the base of the mount: at high water it has the appearance of an island. Its circumference is about one mile at the base, gradually diminishing to the summit, which is 250 feet above the level of the sea. The surface is exceedingly rugged, consisting of large masses of granite overhanging the base, and threatening to precipitate themselves into the sea; the views are highly interesting, and the aspect of the rock is bold and striking. On its summit stands the castle, or fortified monastery, at present one of the residences of the family of St. Aubyn. The refectory of the monks is now the dining-room, and the chapel in the centre of the castle has lately been repaired. At the base of the rock is a wharf, near which is a small village inhabited by fishermen: there is also a harbour capable of affording shelter to about 40 vessels, with a pier, which was rebuilt by Sir John St. Aubyn, in 1727; and the rock is defended by three batteries mounting 18 guns. The business consists principally in the importation of timber from Norway, and coal; and in the exportation of copper-ore, china-clay, and pilchards. Among the minerals found are, mica, apatite, antimony, lead, malachite, and the triple sulphuret of copper: topazes have been discovered; and, at low water, on the south side of the rock, wolfran also; and several lodes of copper and tin have been observed.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.