It was time to see some sights unconnected to Genealogy (and besides, it was Sunday and the libraries were closed) so we took the train to Falmouth Barracks House, 19 c. Docks. It is a half-hour trip on Wessex Trains from Truro, this time just two cars and perhaps a dozen passengers. We chugged through hilly countryside (West Virginia, we agreed) and through several tunnels before coming to the end of the line near the waterfront.
We bypassed the town of Falmouth this time, preferring to visit the headland crowned by Pendennis Castle. The Falmouth harbor contains sailboats and some powercraft, including a few very small freighters heading toward the river Fal. Our first sight was a most impressive ship's bridge, which turned out to be a huge Irish Ferries boat, being reconditioned in a large dry dock. Although Falmouth is supposed to be one of the largest natural harbors, the ship-repair area is small; perhaps a hundred workers are steadily employed here. Henrician Castle, 16 c.
The wind was blowing steadily and coldly, and the clouds provided only hazy views, but nevertheless Falmouth looks interesting, with its immense hotel dominating the waterfront and a sandy beach just beyond. We climbed the hill, enjoying glimpses of the harbor and, as we turned the corner, the ocean, and there was the first of the castle buildings looming ahead.
Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to protect his country from attacks by France and Spain. Since his day, the castle has been the site for defense in many wars. Displays begin with the Guardhouse at the entrance which has been fitted out as a First World War military post. The building we had first seen is actually a barracks, built at the turn of the twentieth century. The earliest building, and the most fun, is the Henrician Castle, which was Firing the cannon built in 1547. It has always been used for military purposes, from earliest days when cannons were placed before openings on all sides and wooden stakes were planted along the center of the dry moat, until the Second World War when it was one of the staging areas for Operation Overlord leading to the Normandy Invasion. A variety of guns illustrates this history.
The thick stone walls, the ledges to hold cannon balls, the steep spiral staircases also of stone, all were called into action during the English Civil War. Pendennis was the next-to-last castle to fall to the forces of Oliver Cromwell. Today, the heavy doors still are covered with metal studs, and it's possible to imagine the displined chaos of the troops. Below the castle, a series of batteries is maintained, including one World War Two-era "disappearing" gun which could be raised and lowered hydraulically -- the process, while protecting the gun, made it too slow for effective use. Guard room mess
There are lots of walks and views around the grounds, which we would have appreciated much more if it had been just a bit warmer -- no, lots warmer! We were told a north-easterly wind is bringing the sharp cold, and of course we were right on the ocean.
Deciding that we'll have many more sights to see in the next months, we have purchased a year's membership in the English Heritage. This is different from the better-known National Trust in that English Heritage is concentrating on sites and buildings of archaeological and historic importance -- many more prehistoric places and ruins and fewer lavish palaces, although there's a fair amount of those as well.
Climbing back on our little train, Elsa discovered that she had lost her return ticket. But the conductor, remembering us from our morning's journey, just smiled and said not to worry. We're learning to expect this frlendliness and common sense; we may well be spoiled when it's time to leave.