The advent of the railway in the nineteenth century made the distant areas far more accessible to everybody. But it was the quality of light and the low cost of living that attracted many artists. In France, they went to Concarneau and to Pont Aven in Brittany, in Britain they camel to Newlyn.
The first of the painters to settle in the town in 1882 was one of the greatest. Walter Langley had already established something of a reputation and his paintings are powerful depictions of the hardships suffered by the local population and particularly by the seafaring community. Although he used other mediums at times, Langley achieved marvellous effects with his unusual use of watercolours. Stanhope Forbes arrived in 1884 and quickly assumed the leadership of the community. by September 1884 'The Cornishman' newspaper noted that there were no less than twenty-seven artists residing in Newlyn.
The community dispersed towards the end of the century, although Stanhope Forbes founded a school in Newlyn for budding artists.
Today painting from the Newlyn School fetch large sums of money, but there are still many in the hands of local families since the painters used them to pay for services. No doubt many of the owners live in complete ignorance of the value of the painting hanging on their wall.
This is the view you see at the top of Penzance's main street. The statue is a monument to Humphrey Davy and behind it is the Old Market building. This was bought up by Lloyds TSB and now serves the town as a bank.
There are also a couple of souvenir shops.
Humphrey Davy was born in Penzance, on 17th December 1776. The town has a statue of him and a pub named after him. There is also a chemists, once the apothecarys where he was apprenticed after his father died and where he gained his interest in chemistry. (see above tips.)
Davy went to Bristol University at the age of 19 to study science. He became interested in gases, experimenting particularly with the effects of laughing gas ( nitreous oxide). He was to discover several chemical elements including potassium and sodium.
He received a knighthood in 1812 and a special dispensation from Napolean ( The Napoleanic Wars were ongoing at this time) to travel through France. During these travels he discovered an element he called "X" and which is now known as iodine.
He became a professor of the Royal Institute and later a member of the Royal Society.
He took as his assistant the famous chemist and physicist Michael Faraday.
Fondest memory: In 1815 he received a letter from a group of Newcastle miners telling him the dangers they faced in their job. The problem was methane gas which often flooded the mines. In those days the only light a miner carried was a candle stuck to the brim of his hat. Many deaths were caused by the resulting fires and explosion.
Drawing on the earlier rather complicated ideas of an Irishman called Clanney, Davy invented a safety lamp for miners that emitted enough light to work by without the resulting explosion. He never got around to patenting the invention which is why George Stephenson is often accredited with it.
He died in Geneva in 1829 and his death was at the time attributed to the many gases he'd inhaled in his career.
http://step.sdsc.edu/projects95/chem.in.history/essays/davy.html to read more of Davy's works, there are many.
Penzance is a small town and the best to explore it is to wander on foot and discover all those little alleyways. It was while taking a turning off the main street that I found the little chemist where Humphrey Davy had his apprenticeship. Humphrey Davy is a town hero; there is even a pub in Penzance named after him ( the ultimate British accolade!)
He is famous for inventing the light on miners hats.
Click on the photo to read the plaque.