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Pendeen Vau

Fogou

<b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by JaneImage © Jane Tomlinson
Also known as:
  • Pendeen Fougou

Nearest Town:Penzance (10km ESE)
OS Ref (GB):   SW381356 / Sheet: 203
Latitude:50° 9' 42.58" N
Longitude:   5° 40' 3.09" W


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<b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Alchemilla <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Alchemilla

Fieldnotes

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Visited 13.4.10.
What a fab site!
I parked at the farm and was happily shown where the fogou is by a helpful and friendly farmer. There was a metal railing covering the entrance (to keep the animals out) which I had to slide to one side. Luckily the weather had been dry for several days so the mud/muck from the cows was all crispy and dry underfoot. On a wet day you would get covered - take your wellies! After moving the railing I crouched down and entered the darkness into the fogou. Inside was reasonably dry and I got to the little square entrance ok. A plank of wood had handily been left on the floor which allowed you to pull yourself through the gap on you belly without getting too muddy. I then followed the passage to the ned and turned my torch off - what an experience. There were several tea lights inside and a large puddle to avoid. Even though it was a warm, sunny day outside, inside the fogou you could see your breath. I considered how similar fogous are to the 'Earth houses' I have visited in Scotland. It seems to me (in my non qualified opinion) the fogous were used for storage - seems to make most sense?
I really liked this place. Please try to visit if you can.
Posted by CARL
22nd April 2010ce

To reach the entrance of the fogou you must wade in ankle deep slurry and shooo a splendid yet shitty herd of friesians to one side of the farmyard.

Moth's maglite firmly gripped in hand, I stepped out of the slippy shit and into the darkness. The chamber has a narrow entrance and a steep drop. The height never allows you to stand up, so I walked along, hunchbacked, as far as I could go. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dark I realised that the fogou was Y-shaped, with another exquisitely corbelled passageway leading off to the left, just as long as the one I'd just come down - about 7 metres. And from the point where the two main chambers meet, down at the bottom, a little square hole no more than 18 inches high. This is the creep. Squatting down in the mud I shone my torch through the hole to view a rock-cut passageway, again perhaps 7 metres long. For a moment, I felt like Howard Carter! It was only the mud that pervented me squeezing through, though this was no bar for Moth who disappeared through it like a small boy up a chimney. We loved this fogou!
Jane Posted by Jane
15th March 2004ce
Edited 16th March 2004ce

Fantastic. After you have negotiated the farm gates and the cattle that is. Small but clear entrance leading down with a tiny entrance to the creep. Absence of a torch (or so we thought - Nic had one in her bag but didn't realise!) stopped us slithering in. Could have sat in here for hours.

The farmers were very helpful and friendly. Said they had lots of visitors and didn't mind at all that people tramped through their workspace to get to the fogou. They'd like you to try to avoid milking times though.
Posted by Zuma
31st August 2000ce
Edited 16th March 2004ce

Folklore

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An older version of something mentioned by Bottrell:
A short distance from the Cove a mysterious cave was pointed out to us, called Pendeen-Vau, which is conceived by the rustics to be interminable, for they had penetrated at least fifty yards, and still, found no end. At the entrance of it there appeared some years ago a strange lady with a red rose in her mouth, for what purpose it was not easy to ascertain, for the good people seemed unwilling to allow their imaginations to dwell on the possible horrors of the circumstance. This cave was probably used in remote ages as a place of concealment for property during times of war and invasion.
From A Voyage Round Great Britain undertaken in the summer of 1813' by Richard Ayton.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
1st October 2012ce
Edited 1st October 2012ce

Pendene vowe, a holl or deepe vaute in the grounde, wherinto the sea floweth at high water, very farr under the earth: Manie have attempted, but none effected, the search of the depth of it.
From John Norden's "Speculi Britanniæ pars: a topographical and historical description of Cornwall", written in the beginning of the 17th century. (I have transcribed this from the scan on Google Books.) I take it he didn't go in. But then I'm a coward as well.

Borlase (in 1769) didn't think much of his story - "but the sea is in truth more than a quarter of a mile from any part of it. The common people also thereabout tell many idle stories of like kind, not worth the reader's notice, neglecting the structure, which is really commodious, and well executed."

I think he rather liked the place, saying "Of all the artificial Caves I have seen in Cornwall, that called Pendeen Vau (by the Welsh pronounced Fau) is the most entire, and curious", and "You see nothing of this Cave, either in the field or garden, 'till you come to the mouth of it, as much privacy as possible being consulted."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
31st March 2010ce
Edited 2nd August 2011ce

There is to be seen at Pendeen, a cave, known by the name of Pendeen Vau, and concerning which there are many ridiculous stories.*

It appears to have been one of those hiding places in which the Britons secreted themselves, and their property, from the attacks of the Saxons and Danes.

The cave is still almost entire, a circumstance which is principally owing to the superstitious fears of the inhabitants, many of whom, at this very day, entertain a dread of entering it.
*Oh the irony. This is in 'A guide to the Mount's bay and the Land's end' by John Ayrton Paris, published 1828. You can read it on Google Books.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th February 2009ce

There is a somewhat graceful creation of fancy associated with the Vow, or fuggo, at Pendeen, which is said to extend from the mansion to Pendeen Cove, and some say it has branches in other directions, which spread faraway from the principal cavern.

At dawn on Christmas Day the "Spirit of the Vow" has frequently been seen just within the entrance, near the Cove, in the form of a beautiful lady, dressed in white, with a red rose in her mouth. There were persons living, a few years since, who had seen this fair but not the less fearful vision; for disaster was sure to visit those who intruded on the spirit's morning airings.
From William Bottrell's second volume of Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall (1873), which you can read at the Sacred Texts Archive website.

A slightly different account, from the second series, volume 4 (1868) of the Proceedings of the London Antiquaries Society
Such caves, inasmuch as they are, almost invariably, found under hedges or large banks of earth, I shall venture to place in a separate class, and term 'hedge caves.' Two of the most remarkable of these may be noticed in passing - one, at Pendeen, in the parish of St. Just, which legend connects with an Irish lady, who, dressed in white and bearing a red rose in her mouth, is to be met with on Christmas morning at the cave's mouth, where she confides to you tidings brought from her native land through the submarine recesses of that mysterious cavern...
But why call them 'hedge caves' when fogou will do?!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2006ce
Edited 21st April 2013ce

Miscellaneous

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Archsearch lists two fogous at Boscaswell with the grid reference SW3734 . Again these are seperate records ; EHNMR-625830 excavated in 1864 and EHNMR-625544 in 1954/5 . wideford Posted by wideford
16th March 2004ce