The History of a Pilchard Palace ...

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1803 to 1920:
Liberty Fish Cellars

Pilchard industry

Pilchard cellar

Smuggling

Mevagissey Bank

1920 to 1957: Bide-A-While Hotel

Evacuees

Repossession

Conversion plans

1957 to present: Gullrock

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1957 to the present day: Gullrock

Whatever the truth about the 1956 season, Bide-A-While was repossessed that year. The Co-operative Building Society found a potential buyer in Minta Neville Curtis and Nora Winifred Curtis, who had a different idea for the building’s use. They applied for planning permission to convert Bide-A-While into a group of 7 separate properties for renting out as self-catering holiday homes, which was granted on 11th March 1957.

Once permission was obtained, on 25th March they purchased the property for £2,750. This was secured by a 100% mortgage from the Co-op 8, so they never had to put up a penny to acquire the building, although the conversion costs were unlikely to be small. They renamed the building Gullrock, by which name it is still known. The original plans show that there was to be a garage serviced by a new drive where the property called Breock now stands. There is no evidence on the ground for that projected drive, and this may never have been done. They borrowed an additional £900 on 3rd January 1961 8, most likely for the conversion of the unused space into Breock. David Bolton recalled the Miss Curtises were two charming old ladies, and when he was looking to purchase Gullrock a few years later he asked about Breock’s planning permission. They airily said “We saw that nice Mr Jones at Wadebridge and he said it would be quite alright.”16 Mr Jones probably meant that when planning permission was formally requested he could see no objections, but they took this as the go-ahead.

Despite the formality about Breock, David and his wife Sheila purchased Gullrock on 29th January 1965 for £17,000, subject to taking over the existing mortgage of £2,976.11s.6d (£2,976.58) 8. They moved into the property called Trevale with their three children, Sara-Jane, Andrew and Sally, as well as the family pets, which must have been a bit crowded in the summer. At the end of each September Gullrock closed, and the kids opened the door between Trevale and Seaways to spend the months until the Easter re-opening spread out in the bigger bedrooms. Just before the start of their third season at Gullrock came the Torrey Canyon disaster when one of the world’s largest supertankers containing 120,000 tonnes of crude oil struck the Seven Stones rocks off the Isles of Scilly and polluted 120 miles of Cornish coastline. This looked like a catastrophe for their business, but that season was actually one of their best 16. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

David, and later his son Andrew, was a stalwart member of the crew of the RNLI inshore rescue boat which had been stationed in Port Isaac from 1967. Before the days of pagers, sending up the maroon signal rockets alerted everyone that a rescue was needed. On hearing the bang, crew members dropped everything and raced to the launch. It is said that David’s car shot up Port Gaverne hill with lights flashing and horns blaring, and woe betide those who got in his way.

Sheila, and later David, became chairman of St Endellion Parish Council continuing their public service tradition. In 1975 they filled in the old fuel store to create another property called Trevose, where the present writer now lives. Sheila died in 1980, and the children had moved away, so in 1985 David decided to sell Gullrock as a going concern. This was a difficult time to find buyers, and at the end of 1986 the plan was changed to sell, over a period of years, each of the properties separately on 999 year leases, with the freehold transferred to a management company controlled by the owners once all nine had been sold. This was successful, with the first property sold in August 1987. In 1993 David got married again, to Julia. In 2008 the last, Trevale, was sold to his son, at which time David and Julia moved to St Teath.

Gullrock now has several owners, and most of the places are let out to visitors as self catering holiday homes.

At the end of this decade, the Liberty Pilchard Palace will have been serving the tourist trade for 100 years. It is to be hoped this will continue for a long time to come, but who knows what the future may bring.

Malcolm Lee
November 2011
Email: gullrockportgaverne@btinternet.com
Website: www.gullrock-port-gaverne.co.uk