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(Extracted from The Industries of Penzance by Peter Laws; 1978)

(xi) SERPENTINE WORKING (Crofts: 7th and 14th June 1883)

On the Lizard peninsula to this day, are to be found small quarries producing serpentine, a curious marble-like stone that had been used in several mediaeval churches in the district, notably Landewednack. The earliest mention of commercial working was about 1825, and in 1828, the famous geologist, Sir Thomas de Ia Beche, suggested that Signal Staff Hill, east of Lizard Point, was a good source. The stone varied enormously in colour, red, bright red with gold spots, green with red stripes and jet black.

Queen Victoria visited Penzance in 1846, and admired serpentine so much that she ordered a table and other pieces for her new house then being built at Osborne in the Isle of Wight. The London and Penzance Serpentine Company was formed in 1851, but three years earlier, three Penzance business men, John Organ, John Bromley and Richard Millet, were employing thirty-seven workers in their Wherrytown works, and a Mr. Murphy associated with the industry, brought to Penzance, ‘Blue John’ turners from Castleton in Derbyshire. John Organ was awarded a Prize Medal at the Great Exhibition (1851) for his font and obelisks.

By 1883, there were five works in Penzance, producing slab stone at 4s.0d. (22½p) per foot, and chimney pieces at 70s. (£3.50). They also made tourist ware, model crosses and lighthouses, as well as pulpits, fonts, clock cases and tazzas.


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