The Porthtowan mermaid pool

Our recent trips in search of tidal pools has reminded us of our favourite: the mermaid pool at Porthtowan which is C20th. This is located on the east side of the beach, requiring some scrambling over rocks at anything higher than half tide.

A friend recently shared a wonderful letter with us:

As this may be difficult to read, here is a transcript:

From the Duchy of Cornwall Office, dated 30th July 1908 to Francis F Beringer Esq

Sir, Cornwall Foreshore, Porth Towan Beach

In reply to your letter of the 15th instant, I beg to inform you that permission could be granted to move boulders and to erect a concrete dam to form a small bathing pool on the Foreshore, as shewn on the tracing supplied, on payment in advance as from Michaelmas next of an annual acknowledgement of 1s/-. The permission would be during the pleasure of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and the acknowledgement should be paid to the Duchy Land Steward, Mr AM Webster, Duchy of Cornwall Office, Liskeard.

I am, Sir, Your obedient servant, Walter Peacock

Francis Beringer was one of a family of local businessmen in Redruth, owning a chain of jewellers and shoe shops. His descendants still live in Cornwall.

We wonder if the payment of 5p is still made and if so, then by whom.

Francis Beringer did indeed arrange for the movement of some boulders and for the construction of a concrete dam which survives today.

Porthtowan mermaid pool from above
Porthtowan mermaid pool: a postcard of unknown date featuring some ‘fine chaps’ in their ‘bathers’
Porthtowan mermaid pool: a modern swimmer

The pool is still popular today although a comparison of the water level in the historic postcard and this recent picture suggests that it is leaking a bit. Local rumour has it that prior to the leak, the pool was rather ‘full of seaweed and eels which brushed against your legs as you swam’. We suspect that the ‘eels’ were just kelp fronds.

A final nostalgic thought about all these beach pools: how easy it was to construct such things when you had willing and experienced miners (or ex-miners) around, happy to set off explosives on the beach or smash any bit of hard rock which was in the way. How many permissions would you need today?