Mousehole History

Aspects of Mousehole History

compiled by Harriet Rowse, Mousehole School, July 2020.

No school for me on Friday so I spent the morning with my Nannie looking at local history in Paul and Mousehole, and the possible links between Mousehole and the SS Schiller.

My Nannie knew that some Mousehole fishermen had picked up a couple of bodies from the wreck and brought them into Mousehole harbour, but no more than that. It meant clambering around the old churchyard at Paul looking at the graves but we couldn’t find anything.

SS Schiller was a 3,421 ton German ocean liner, one of the largest vessels of her time. Launched in 1873, she plied her trade across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying passengers between New York and Hamburg for the German Transatlantic Steam Navigation Line. She became notorious on 7 May 1875, while operating on her normal route, when she hit the Retarrier Ledges in the Isles of Scilly, causing her to sink with the loss of most of her crew and passengers, totalling 335 fatalities.

Amongst those lost were the ship’s purser Edward Schmettan, and Krender the chief baker of the ship - we did some more computer research at home and this is what we found out...

Western Morning News - Saturday 15 May 1875

The inhabitants of Mousehole in considerable numbers dropped their ordinary avocations this afternoon to attend the funeral of the two drowned men, the purser and chief baker, whose bodies had been previously placed in substantial oak coffins by Mr. Matthews directions. Willing hands were not wanting to carry the dead. A long    procession of inhabitants, all the women being in mourning, moved slowly through the little fishing town to the parish burying ground at Paul, Mr. Matthews and Mr. Beringer, of Penzance, followed Immediately after the coffins, upon each which had been placed a small flag, the thoughtful act of the Mousehole Coastguardsmen. Reverently the bearers carried their burdens into the old church, so hallowed in its associations to many present for Churchmen and Dissenters alike in this parish love the sacred building. Many eye was moist as the beautiful service was impressively read by the vicar, the Rev. R. Malone; and at the graveside, the two coffins were lowered into the one grave, the vicar's voice only broke the solemn quietude of that brilliant May afternoon. Many a tear fell one on the other as they were laid in the ground overlooking that sea which had so lately caused their death. Poor fellows, it was the last that could be done for them, and their surviving friends will know that in a foreign land their remains were as respectfully and reverently consigned to the dust as if they were among their own kindred. Mr Beringer, although for many years resident in Penzance was visibly affected, and feelingly expressed his gratitude for the respect shown to his deceased countrymen.

Nannie and I did some more newspaper research and we found this article in the Western Morning News dated Friday 14 May 1875:

Mr. Polemann (2nd Officer SS Schiller) proceeded to Mousehole, where were three bodies landed from the fishing-boat Fearless, of that port. He identified the bodies as that of Mr. J. J. Brunner first class passenger; Edward Schmettan, the purser; and Krender, the first baker. A telegram has been dispatched to Mr. Brunners friends at Hamburg, asking what is to be done with his body. The others will buried today. (Mr Brunner was buried in Penzance Cemetery on Saturday 16 May 1875)

Now we want to locate their grave in the old cemetery at Paul.

Editor's note
The Burial Register (1846-1877) for Paul Church has the following entries:
No.3253; Krounder (sic), 1st Baker of Steam Ship Schiller. Wrecked on a reef of rocks near the Bishops Rock light-ship, Scillies. Body found at sea two miles SE of the Seven Stones light-ship. Buried by Coroners order No.6. Age unknown. Placed under the following:
No.3253. E.C.H. Schmettan, Purser of Schiller. Supposed to be of Altona, Germany. Buried by Coroners order No.4. . Age unknown.
We have no knowledge of a headstone but as coffins had been provided it is most likely that funds did not extend to a headstone. I note that out of a total 345 passengers and crew only 45 including one woman were saved. Over 100 bodies were recovered and buried in St Mary’s Churchyard. Some were embalmed and returned to New York.
In 1969 Westward TV won a gold medal for their 30 minute documentary on the loss of the SS Schiller. It was shown on Tuesday 12th August at 1030pm.


The carved stones in Paul Lane

We also found another carved stone in Paul Lane - dated 1987 bearing the initials JV VC SE - or is it J V VOSE?

There are two other carved stones in Mousehole Lane (just after the School playing field on the right in the wider section) - C T 1887 and SARAH.
We cleaned them up and cut back all the ivy.

It was the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, and Charles Tregenza, father of Douglas Tregenza, chiselled his initials CT in the granite as he came down the lane with his hammer and chisels.
SARAH was carved by a workmen many years later when the road was widened.

There was also a memorial called ‘The Monument', which marked the spot where Martha Blewett was robbed and murdered in November 1792. She was robbed by a young fisherman, William Trewavas on her way to Paul Church. William Trewavas was executed for killing Martha at Launceston on March 28th, 1793.

‘The Monument’ was taken down lots of years ago, but the stones which made it have been used to build the hedge, now part of the school playing field.    It was situated in exactly the same area as the 'SARAH' stone, opposite the gate and steps which lead to Cherry Meadow.