Prussia Cove in Cornwall
Smuggling, Copper Mining & Poldark
A Visit to Prussia Cove in Cornwall
Prussia Cove is one of those beautiful hidden areas located on the south coast of Cornwall. As I was lucky enough to stay at Trevnor Farmhouse near Goldsithney, getting here was only a five-minute drive. It is still a fair distance to get to Prussia Cove though as the car park is at the top, then a ten-minute walk. I would not recommend trying to get here if you have difficulty walking or other disability that would restrict you from using rough tracks.
Before arriving, I did a little research and was fascinated by how this place was used over the years. When I read about a harbour or cove, it usually involves having had some involvement with the fishing industry or some association of a famous export during its peak. Whilst the two I have mentioned have been in existence here; there is also a lot more.
Prussia Cove & Smuggling
Smuggling in Cornwall during the eighteenth century, especially in the south was pretty much a common occurrence. The reason why it was easy to hide illegal items, especially back in those days, was access to these coves dotted around the Cornwall coastline had very poor or no road access, making it a haven for anything illegal.
Penzance, a nearby town that had a custom house, had a collector and staff who had the arduous task of collecting from these smugglers within the Penzance area.
But this effort was all but futile as no suitable roads were built or access was poor around the time. A major highway was built eventually around 1760, but this had only reached to Marazion, a nearby village.
As I found out about this, I recalled my journey down on the A30 where it took the best part of the day to reach the south. It was not the best of trips, but to think that if this was an arduous journey in these times of highways and modern roads, then I shudder to think how these areas could be reached during those times of smuggling.
A Way of Life
Smuggling was pretty much a way of life, and with the lack of access to these areas, it was a common practice. To put into perspective how popular it was in the eighteenth century, one particular mayor of Penzance, John Tonkin, was even having involvement in smuggling, but this was short lived as we was later convicted.
During this time there was also a family at Prussia Cove which would make this place the way it is today, including the reason why Prussia Cove is so-called... Enter the Carters.
The Carters of Prussia Cove
The Carters were a famous family of smugglers. They operated from three areas, Prussia cove perhaps being their more popular area. They were a family of seven children but only five survived. The most notable one was John Carter who was famously known as the King of Prussia and the reason why this place is called as it is today. Before the change of name, it was known as Kings Cove.
John Carter along with his brothers operated in smuggling for many years until 1778, when Harry was caught by a man-of-war while on his boat. His crew fought but it was a futile struggle, and he sustained injuries that almost ended his life. Remarkably Harry was able to reach shore and heal from the wounds. He spent three months after the attack recovering mainly at Acton Castle.
Once recovered he moved to America where he was working on farms amongst slaves that were associated around that time, a far cry from his smuggling days. During this time he also became a Methodist. Around 1790 he returned to resume his smuggling affairs until he was warned to move again for fear of betrayal.
Away from Smuggling Life
John Carter moved to Roscoff in France where he resumed being a Methodist until war broke out between France and England and placed under house arrest. It was during this absence that significant efforts were being undertaken to destroy the remaining Carters at Prussia Cove, but they put up high resistance, managing to operate for a while longer.
John Carter returned once again but would no longer have any part in smuggling, instead, living in Poverty at Rinsey while still practising as a Methodist.
John Carter died in 1803, but the smuggling did not end until around 1825 when a boat to prevent smuggling was based at the cove. Coastguard cottages were also built at Prussia Cove in 1825 which still survive today.
Prussia Cove after Smuggling
Not much has changed to the cove since. It has almost been untouched apart from natural erosion. On 27th April 1947 a warship, HMS Warspite ran aground on the rocks which led to spending four years at the cove. The original Poldark series was filmed at Prussia Cove during the 1970's including some films being produced here too. Notable films are Ladies in Lavender starring Judie Dench including Summer in February starring Dan Stevens.
Aside from its history, it is also a site of particular scientific interest.