Cawsand and Kingsand

Cornwall Information & Accommodation Guide


Cawsand and Kingsand

Cawsand and Kingsand


Cawsand and Kingsand are two small villages on Cawsand Bay in south east Cornwall

Cawsand Bay is a natural harbour.


Where to Stay in Cawsand and Kingsand


Cawsand and Kingsand in History

Today always twinned, they were for many centuries on different sides of the border, the tiny stream acting as the boundary, with Cawsand located in Cornwall and Kingsand in Devon. In 1844, Kingsand rejoined Cornwall. The sign on one of the white painted cottages shows where the division occurred.

The villages have an interesting history with much involvement in smuggling and fishing. Remains of old pilchard cellars from the late 16th century can be seen on the shoreline just beyond Kingsand. These 'Pilchard Palaces' were for the storing and processing of this most prized fish.

Smuggling was rife in the 1700s and early 1800s and the villages were the main centre of smuggling in the West country during that period. Thousands of casks of spirits were landed here every year by the fleet of over 50 smuggling vessels which operated out of Cawsand Bay.

Richard Carew, one of Cornwall's most famous historians visited the villages and recorded in his Survey of Cornwall(1769)his discovery of "Kings Sand and Causam Bay ....... The shore is peopled with some dwelling houses, and many Cellers, dearely rented for a short usage, in saving of Pilcherd.....I have heard the Inhabitants thereabouts to report, that the Earl of Richmond (afterwards Henry the seventh) while hee hovered upon the coast, here by stealth refreshed himselfe; but being advertised of streight watch, kept for his surprising at Plymouth, he richly rewarded his hoste, hyed sppedily a shipboord, and escaped happily to a better fortune".

The name Kingsand was first used in the mid 16th century. It is believed to be English in origin, rather than Cornish, and to denote that the sands were owned by a family called King.

The first recorded mention of the name, Cawsand, was as Couyssond in the early 15th century. The name is believed to be English and to derive from the words 'cow' and 'sand'(beach).


Feature contributed by Connie Rose (nee: Marks) whose family originated from Cawsand

The little village of Cawsand clings to the rugged coast of Cornwall right on the border with Devon. Today it is a charming little village with its two and three hundred year old homes painted in cheerful colours with flower baskets and “Welcome” signs swinging gently in the sea breezes.

This is where my great grandfather was born in 1819. In some ways the village would have been much the same, with the terraced stone houses lining narrow streets, and the fresh winds blowing in off the sea, but in other ways it would have been very different. The sounds and smells of the fishing boats in the tiny cove would have dominated the town square, and on market days peddlers, fish mongers, farmers and traveling merchants would have filled that square with the noise and smells of the commerce of the day.

The house in which my great-grandfather was born still stands today, and as far as we know is still lived in by descendants of his brother. It is perched above the rocky fore-shore just beyond the cove. The beach at Cawsand is tiny and centuries of pounding waves have carved deep caves into the cliffs. The house is on a narrow winding road part way up those cliffs and is one of a row of old stone structures facing the sea. It is narrow and high. Each of its four floors is only two rooms deep, and narrow stair cases wind their way from cellar to attic. Windows at each level open to the sea, but the back of the house seems to lean into the cliff. On a clear day, the coast of France is visible across the glittering waters of the English Channel. On a not so clear day, fog can wrap itself around the village shrouding it in mystery and intrigue.

In the 1800’s, the dominant activity in the coastal villages along the shore was smuggling. It was almost a reputable profession at the time, but it was beginning to decline as the authorities of the day were tightening up their surveillance. Hannibal came from a long line of smugglers. The house had a tunnel from its cellar, under the road and down into to a well hidden cave. It has since been filled in with rocks, but the access, still well camouflaged, is accessible from the house.

Hannibal, aged twenty two, and a companion were engaged in off loading contraband one night in 1841, when they encountered an “excise” man. What happened next, no-one will ever know, but the “excise” man fell to his death on the rocks below the cliff, and the two young men were never seen again in the area. They may have been aided by the crew of the vessel that had delivered the goods, but it is more likely that they made their way to nearby Plymouth, and stowed away. Heading for New Plymouth, named for that same city, in far away New Zealand, the schooner “Regina” was ready to sail. The two young men were inevitably discovered, and as they were competent sailors, they were put to work to earn their keep. It was the intention of the captain to return them to England, but they had other plans. As the Regina sailed towards the port of New Plymouth, the two realized that if they could get away undetected, they could make their way to a small rocky island three miles out from the shore. This, they managed to achieve under cover of darkness, and they hid out there until the Regina had set sail for its return voyage. They didn’t do too badly on the island. Birds were plentiful, and, being unused to predators, easy to catch and, of course, there were plenty of eggs. It was October 1841.

Hannibal was more than just a competent sailor, he was an excellent one, and he put his skills to work. Over the years he earned a “Harbourmasters’ Certificate” for every commercial port in New Zealand, and his name is mentioned in history books and museum archives throughout the country. In 1845 he married Mary Jane Vercoe, and with her he fathered twelve children – five sons and three daughters who survived infancy. His youngest son was my grand-father.

Hannibal moved around New Zealand, helping to establish ports in many of the beautiful harbours to be found on the coastline. His final posting was to Tauranga, a magnificent harbour with a wild ocean beach, and quiet protected waters tucked in behind a long sand spit. He helped develop the port of Tauranga, but it was here that his life was to end prematurely when, in 1879 he, his eldest son and his brother-in-law drowned in the harbour there. His tombstone, and that of his son, are both now part of a museum display in the city of Tauranga, but sadly, many artifacts that had been passed down to my father and donated by him to the museum were lost in a fire several years ago.

My brother and I each visited with the family in Cawsand some years ago. The old house was still in the hands of the Marks family, and our hostess laughed at our sense of awe at the age and history of the place. “It’s just a house,” she said, not really appreciating our colonial roots. Next door, her aged father-in-law, Ken Marks, enjoyed our company. As we left, he kept hugging me, and repeatedly asked me for “Just one more kiss”, which I willingly allowed him. Then, as we finally started to move away he asked one final question, “Now, just who is it you said you are?” I laughed, and give him one more hug. “I’m your cousin,” I said, “from far away New Zealand.”

Connie Rose (nee: Marks)



General Information

There are good local facilities in the villages.


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