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Chapter 8: Passage to Fowey, 1826

The Salt House in West Bay still stands, although now it serves as a community hall for hire. The caption on the UK Geograph website suggests it was “once used for storing salt for the local and Newfoundland fishing trade.” I have to admit that I cannot recall how I stumbled upon the salt shed when writing this chapter, or even if I was aware of the presence of one. I suspect it was clearly annotated on one of the maps I used from the early 19th century. I found a photograph of it when writing this post.

The action at the opening of this chapter occurs in West Bay and involves a chance run-in with a fugitive acquaintance. They end up sleeping in an artillery magazine, much to the consternation of Ananias. I don’t think the artillery magazine (or Bombardier’s House as it was referenced on some maps) still exists, but you get a sense of West Bay architecture from the photo of the Customs House below.

The coastal landmark of Golden Cap fades from sight. Ananias begins his journey.

Our protagonist has a passage arranged to Fowey, a picturesque village west of Bridport on the Cornish coast, once a marine terminal for the export of copper ore to Wales. The following photos give you a good impression of Fowey. I have not been there, but have every intention of doing so as soon as this ruthless pandemic subsides…

One cannot speak of Fowey in 1826 without stumbling across the name Joseph Austen, or Joseph Treffry as he was later known – he changed his name to his mother’s maiden name in 1836 after inheriting her brother’s estate. Austen was trained as a civil engineer. Today, we would probably refer to him as an industrialist. He owned the nearby copper mines and employed a staggering 1,680 workers.

This estate was, and still is known as Place House. Joseph (who to my knowledge never married) lived there with his mother. Today, if you said this was quite the place, you would not be overstating the case. It was originally constructed in the 13th century with a tower from the 15th, built to defend the town from the French. It was the restoration of that same tower that began Joseph Austen’s thirty-year renovation and extension odyssey. Below is a photograph of Place House circa 1870.

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