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Marazion in 1837

Marazion, or Market Jew, is in the hundred of Penwith, on the coast of Mount's Bay, 281 miles from London, through Exeter, Launceston, Bodmin, Truro, and Helston ; and 15 miles from the Land's End. This town is built on the slope of a hill, which rises towards the north and shelters it from cold winds. The mildness of temperature which results from its situation, renders the town and neighbourhood inviting to invalids, though these advantages are partly counterbalanced by the quantity of rain. The town contained 260 houses in 1831, and had a population of 1,393. The parish church (that of St. Hilary) is two miles distant.

There are two dissenting places of worship, if not more. This town was formerly of more importance than it is now. At present there is one market held on Saturday, and well supplied. Ready-made shoes are sold in considerable quantities. The chief trade of the town consists in the importation of timber, coals, and iron, for the use of the neighbouring mines. The origin of the popular name of this town, Market Jew, has been much disputed : some have supposed it had at an early period a market to which foreign Jews came to buy tin ; others that the name was derived from a market held on Thursday (die Jovis) ; it more probably has arisen from a popular corruption of the ancient name, which appears to have been variously written, Marchadyon, Merdresein, Marghasyon, and Marghasiewe, from which last Market Jew seems to have sprung. It appears to have been burnt by the rebels under Humphrey Arundell of Lanherne, in 1549, and most of the public buildings and dwelling houses lay in ruins till long after.

Marazion has a corporation consisting of a mayor, eight burgesses, and twelve capital inhabitants. It appears to have elected two members of parliament in the year 1658, but it does not appear that they ever took their seats : it is thought to have had representatives at an earlier period.

The parish of St. Hilary, in which Marazion stands, had in 1831 a population of 1,728, besides the population of the town, making 3,121 in all : many of these are engaged in mining. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter and archdeaconry of Cornwall, of the net annual value of £311, with a glebe-house.

Opposite the town of Marazion is St. Michael’s Mount, which is connected with the main land by the sands when the tide is out, but is insulated when it is high water. Across the sands is a narrow causeway of pebbles to render the communication more perfect. According to some ancient traditions, the Mount was formerly attached to the shore, and surrounded with trees ; but an examination of the geological features of the spot has shown that the traditions are groundless, and that the Mount could not been separated from the land but by some great convulsion far beyond the reach of tradition or historical record.

It is supposed, and apparently with reason, St. Michael's Mount was the depot for the tin refined and cast into ingots by the Britons. Previous to 1044 a priory of Benedictine monks had been established on the island ; in that year Edward the Confessor gave to the monks the Mount, with all its appendages ; but before 1085 Robert earl of Moreton (Mortagne?) and Cornwall, annexed it to the abbey of St. Michael in periculo Maris in Normandy. It was included in the suppression of the alien priories in the reign of Edward III, but restored as a religious house, and afterwards given, first by King Henry VI to King's College, Cambridge, and then by King Edward IV to the Brigitine nunnery at Sion, in Middlesex. At the Dissolution the lands belonging to this house were valued at £110 and 12 shillings. The Mount is said to have been regarded with religious reverence as early as the fifth century. In the dark ages it was much resorted to as a place of pilgrimage. It was regarded also as a stronghold, and a castle was built on it. The Mount was seized and the monks expelled by Henry de la Pomeroy, who supported prince (afterwards king) John in his attempt to seize the throne during the captivity of his brother, Richard Coeur de Lion. It was however surrendered by Pomeroy on the approach of the royal army, supported by the sheriff with the posse comitatus : the monks were restored, and a small garrison placed in the castle. In the War of the Roses, the castle was seized by the earl of Oxford, a Lancasterian, after the battle of Barnet ; the Yorkists besieged the place for several months, and at last took it by capitulation. Perkin Warbeck had possession of this castle for a while, and left his wife here as in a place of security. Upon the suppression of the monastery, the Mount was given to Humphrey Arundell of Lanherne : and when he placed himself at the head of the Cornish insurgents in 1549, the possession of this strong-hold was obstinately contested. In the civil war in the time of Charles I, the Mount was held for the royalists by Sir Francis Bassett, but was taken by the Parliamentarians in 1646. In Leland's time, there were houses at the foot of the Mount, with shops for fishermen ; but before 1700 the place had so far decayed that there remained only one cottage, inhabited by a widow woman. In 1726-27 Sir John St. Aubyn rebuilt the pier, and since then the number of inhabitants has much increased. In 1831 there were 42 houses and 161 inhabitants ; but in the pilchard season the number is generally increased. The Mount is extra-parochial.

The island, containing the Mount and a level piece of ground at its foot, is about a mile in circumference, and comprehends 70 acres of surface. The Mount is 231 feet in height from the level of the sea to the platform of the chapel tower. The ascent is steep, and is defended by two small batteries ; the summit is occupied by the remains of the monastic buildings, which have been repaired and converted into a dwelling-house. Formerly the inhabitants had no other water than rain water collected in drains ; but about the middle of the last century, on sinking a well, a fine spring was found, at the depth of 37 feet. Specimens of tin ore are said to be very plentiful all over the Mount, which is principally composed of granite. Human bones are frequently dug-up wherever the soil was deep enough to allow of interment.