The coastal village of Mousehole in Cornwall is a favourite painting subject for members of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Unpicking its appeal, Mall Galleries Marketing Manager, Liberty Rowley, delves into the rich history behind this picturesque place.
The first thing I learnt about Mousehole from its regular depiction in Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA) works is that it isn’t pronounced ‘Mouse Hole’, but Mowzal.
The paintings I’ve seen over the years of working with the RSMA Annual Exhibitions suggest that Mousehole is a sunshine-filled place, with low-terraced houses running the length of the harbour, and people enjoying what Wind in the Willows’ character Ratty referred to as ‘messing about in boats’.
Leaving the Harbour, Mousehole by Tim Hall RSMA: Oil, 132 x 162.5 cm - £36,000
The contented figures in these paintings row leisurely or manoeuvre sails with confidence, garbed in t-shirts and shorts, while the water looks blue, warm and welcoming. Such images create an instant sense of familiarity, warmth and nostalgia – even though I have never been to the place.
But what of the real Mousehole? Today it’s a small village, but Mousehole was once one of the principal ports of the area. It was a merchant hub, bustling with fairs and markets that traded fresh fish caught by the local fishermen with goods arriving in the port from other regions.
Mousehole Moorings by Peter Barker RSMA: Oil, 51 x 69 cm - £2,450
Mousehole flourished until the Sixteenth Century when, during the Anglo-Spanish War, the town was almost completely destroyed by cannon fire from Spanish galleys. The only building to survive was the local pub, the 'Keigwin Arms'. The Landlord, Jenkyn Keigwin, was killed defending the pub from the bombardment. He is commemorated with a plaque which can still be seen on the building today.
Mousehole is surely a place with a richer history than its welcoming waters and quiet streets might suggest. Another lovely morsel of Mousehole culture is Tom Bawcock’s Eve - an annual festival, commemorating a local legend, Tom Bawcock, who saved the village from starvation.
Evening Sky, Mousehole by Peter Barker RSMA: Oil, 28 x 33 cm - £495
During a long and bitter winter in the Sixteenth Century, legend has it that Tom Bawcock braved the stormy seas in his boat, when all the other fishermen thought it too dangerous to set sail. Despite the storms and broiling waters, Tom managed to catch enough fish to feed the entire village.
The catch, which included seven types of fish, was baked into a ginormous pie, and the village was saved. Since the 1950s, Tom Bawcock's Eve has been celebrated on 23rd December by villagers parading a large ‘stargazy pie’ around the village before eating it. Sounds delicious!
Moored at Mousehole by Peter Barker RSMA: Oil, 47 x 37 cm - £995
All of these paintings will be on display during the Royal Society of Marine Artists Annual Exhibition. They are also available to purchase prior to the exhibition. For more information on purchasing an artwork, email email@example.com or call us on 020 7930 6844.