Pengersick Castle

Pengersick Castle

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The King of Portugal


One of the most colourful episodes in the history of Pengersick was involvement in the wreck of the carrack “The St Anthony” which floundered off Gunwalloe on 19 th January 1527. Most of the cargo, valued at the time ₤18,880, vanished for ever.


However a local diver, Mr. A.C. Randall, carried out an official exploration of the site about 20years ago. He recovered some 300 artifacts. Seeking to find a permanent home for these relatively minor items, he offered them to the Pengersick Trust, provided suitable arrangements could be made for permanent display.

A grant was obtained from “Awards for All” to set up the display. Added to this was a scale model of the Carrack, together with a selection of maps and documentary evidence to link the contemporary account with an ever growing background history of international events concerning Cornwall and beyond.

The King of Portugal

The St Anthony

“On a wild and stormy night, the St Anthony, bound for Lisbon was blown off course and foundered near Gunwalloe; yet another victim of the treacherous Cornish coast. This was no ordinary ship – this carrack was the flag ship of King John of Portugal 's fleet carrying a particular valuable cargo. On passage from Antwerp , it struck rocks beneath the cliffs at Porth Lingey, now known as Halzephron Cove. Of the crew of 86 more than 40 died.

The story of what became of much of its cargo is a mystery which developed into a political intrigue involving Henry VIII and the King of Portugal. Contemporary Star Chamber Papers catalogue the goods known to have been recovered from the wreck and there is good evidence that the cargo, worth an estimated 4,000 times a man's annual wage, included the dowry of Princess Katherine, sister of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor who had recently married King John.

The salvage from the wreck by opportunist local landowners nearly led to war between England and Portugal over the return of King John's property. There are differing accounts of what followed in the days after the disaster as the cargo disappeared, but three prominent local landowners became defendants in a law suit as King John sought the return of his property. William Godolphin, a J.P., John Milliton of Pengersick Castle, Captain of St.Michael's Mount and Thomas St Aubyn of Clowance, all local stalwarts of law enforcement were summoned to the scene.

Reports suggested that the wreck was plundered in the early hours of Sunday morning as the storm abated and the tide fell, leaving the vessel in a fathom (6 feet or 1.8 metres) of water. Local Cornish people began taking goods from the ship and the remaining crew members complained to the three magistrates who appeared only at midday, however, when much had gone missing. According to the Portuguese accounts, the magistrates or their men raided the Portuguese's lodgings, forcing them at sword point to give up what they had salvaged. Next day, they obliged the Portuguese to sell the remainder of the cargo at a derisory sum.

When the surviving Portuguese returned home, King John began the process of recovering his goods, aggravating the relationship between England and Portugal , already in decline. King Henry VIII was seeking a divorce from King John's aunt, Catherine of Aragon and his ships were beginning to usurp King John's monopoly of the spice routes.

Despite several court cases, the affair dragged on for at least a year. Later documents suggest that to avoid worsening relations, King Henry ordered the return of what cargo remained , but much was missing - either taken by sea or smuggled away to Cornish homes and some perhaps to Pengersick Castle . A full account of the wreck and the ensuing wrangle can be found in theJournal of the Royal Institute of Cornwall, volume V part 4.”

Some of the finds