Discovering Cornwall

The Banqueting Hall at Porth Newquay is one of a series of short videos sharing information about aspects of Cornish heritage and places of interest throughout Cornwall. This is an extension of an ongoing project on behalf of Newquay Museum entitled Discovering Newquay, with those videos included within this larger project.

The Banqueting Hall, Porth, Newquay

Beautiful caverns at Trevelgue Head, Porth Island, Newquay were much admired by Victorian tourists. One would be very special to Newquay people as its vast size and wonderful acoustics meant that when it was low tide local people would flock to what would become known as the 'Banqueting Hall' for concerts. People brought their candles and stools and the chaps organising the event would bring the piano. Hundreds of people traipsed across the sands to enjoy these events for many decades. In time it was deemed dangerous and by the 1980's long after the concerts had ceased the cavern was destroyed. But, Newquay people still remember and this is a short video telling the story, including an interview carried out by Chris Blount from Dorothy Wood who remembered attending the concerts.

The 'Banqueting Hall' a vast cavern where people would enjoy concerts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A travellers description from 1879 of the caverns at Porth

Striking northwards for about two miles, we came upon the western end of Watergate bay, where we found a wonderful concentration of varied natural phenomena. First came the "Banqueting Hall," a remarkable concavity in the solid cliffs, its stone vaulted roof unsupported by a single pillar, and capacious enough for the festive gathering of a whole company of Nereid' and Tritons, with King Neptune himself at their head. In order to avoid the deep pool, which forms a very effective bar to the stony portals of this wonderful apartment, we were obliged to crawl through a small artificial opening in the cliff. Admission thus ignominiously gained, our astonishment was well-nigh unbounded at the capacity and symmetry of the place, its prolonged echo, and the mysterious gloom with which it is deeply pervaded. What an appropriate chapter house to the equally wonderful ‘Cathedral’ cavern close by, with its grand scheme of choir, nave and pillars, and even its pulpit, formed by Nature's self out of the solid rock, as if in rude, though majestic emulation of man's handiwork-meet shrine for the wayward tourist to make a pilgrimage unto; standing there in stern massiveness with its stately portals open wide to the wild waves of the western sea.

In addition to the forgoing, we found also other interesting cave formations, smaller and of less remarkable proportions, but still of considerable variety and beauty, especially the " Fern Cavern," which takes its name from the profusion in which the ‘Asplenium Marinum’ grows high overhead, filling up every clefs and crevice of the natural masonry, and forming appropriate natural bosses to the stony vaulting of its lofty roof.

 It should be borne in mind that this war our first sight of the famous Cornish caverns, of which we had heard so much, and our minds were proportionately impressed, both with their capacity and variety of foundation, combined with the dignified grandeur of their timid, natural beauty. Hardly less unbounded was our admiration of the various islets and stupendous rocks scattered profusely around. Here also we were at last face to face with the far famed " Cornish Lions," concerning which our curiosity had been considerably aroused by the highly noteworthy pictures of them which we bad previously admired at the Royal Academy; and which, indeed, had more than anything else induced us to direct our footsteps to this most romantic coast. Colossal natural configurations. having a rude resembling to the king of beasts, grim and gray with age, heedless alike of storm and flood, or of the wild Atlantic surges that dash themselves vainly against their rugged breasts, Not a soul was in sight, and not a sound was heard save the endless song of the sea waves breaking incessantly upon the lonely rocks. There was a strange weirdness in the scene, and we would fain have lingered long to have enjoyed it but the flood tide began to make strongly landwards, and would have long held us captive, had we been caught within the stony palisade formed by the precipitous cliffs which towered high overhead. Reluctantly enough we took our leave of those majestic rock formations; feeling that as there in solitary rugged grandeur they have stood for ages past, so there they will continue to stand in ages to come ; heedless alike of all who preceded us. and of all who may follow In our footsteps; immovable types of the Eternal Hand that placed them there, and during whose pleasure there they shall remain.