The Jester of Altarnun Paperweight
In medieval times noble houses would often keep a jester for the entertainment of guests. Originally they were more like a minstrel and would recite romances, or gestes, but later they became the popular fool. Our jester wears his fool’s cap and bells and eats a wafer of the kind served at feats by the early minstrels. The design is taken directly from a bench-end to be found in the Parish church of St Nonna, Mother of St David, in Altarnun. The church is renowned as one of the finest in the westcountry and the parish itself is the second largest in Cornwall containing large tracts of Bodmin Moor. The medieval church – the ‘Cathedral of the Moors’ – contains over seventy carved bench-ends and the carver has left his signature as Robert Daye, the date being between 1510 and 1530.
Bodmin Moor was extensively worked by the medieval tinners who dug and washed the tin-bearing gravels found below layers of peat and sand in these remote lands.
Bolventor – famous for the Jamaica Inn – actually took it’s name from the old tin stream- works of Bold Adventure which was recorded as being in work as late as the 1850′s. Tinners were protected by the King and even had their own parliament – the Stannary Parliament. The whole area was known as the Stannary district of Foweymoor and the Stannary towns to which the tin would be carried were Bodmin, Lostwithiel, Liskeard and Launceston.
Initially sales of tin would only be held once a year, but these were later increased to two and more. The tin, already smelted in ‘blowing-houses’ on the moors, would be sampled by Duchy agents and tested for purity at these times of coinage – when a projecting corner or coign of a bock of tin would be struck off for the purpose.
The tine used for this paper-weight was recovered from the shipwreck of the S.S. cheerful which sank en-route frpm London to Liverpool, in the early hours of 20th July 1885. She was run down in the thick fog by a torpedo ship H.M.S. Hecla and the collision resulted in the loss of thirteen lives.
The ingots, each stamped with a smelter’s mark, have been skilfully recovered from the seabed by divers. Some, in a poor condition, have been resmelted by the Cornish Tin Company to make these stunning reminders of the heritage of Cornish Tin.
Tin Paperweight Dimensions: 55mm wide x 55mm long x 20mm deep
This excellent quality, solid tin product comes complete with an information booklet and certificate of authenticity.
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