Trenance Farm Cottages

Mullion, Helston, Cornwall

tel: 00 44 (0)1326 240 639

Holiday Cottages in Cornwall
Holiday Cottages in Cornwall
Holiday Cottages in Cornwall
 3 to 4 stars
 3 to 4 stars

The Soaprock Coast

The coastline between Mullion Cove and the Lizard to the south is spectacular. The cliffs along most of the coastline are serpentine, bounded by schist cliffs north of Mullion Cove, to the south at Lizard Point and also locally at Predannack Head. Soaproack has been mined at several locations along the serpentine part of the coast as the soapstone is found in veins in the serpentine.

This has been researched by local Historian Bob Felce. For a detailed guide and further information about The Soaprock Coast please visit SOAPROCK COAST - Robert Felce.
Photographs courtesy of Robert Felce - Soaprock Coast 2011.

The birth of English porcelain

In the mid 18th century tea and coffee consumption was increasing dramatically, but the pottery in production at the time could not withstand the addition of boiling water, unlike the Chinese pottery of the time. In their quest for a formula to replicate the Chinese porcelain, the soapstone found in the local coastline around Mullion was found to provide the first solution for Britain.

The soaprock quarried along the local coast contributed directly to the birth of the English porcelain industry and in the mid 1700s the Soaprock Coast was an important industrial landscape. Soapstone porcelain was first made in Bristol in 1748. Later the Bristol factory was taken over by Royal Worcester which also took over the licence to quarry soapstone at Gew-Graze, "Soapy Cove", half way along the coastline.

Types of Porcelain

There are three types of porcelain – soft-paste, hard-paste and bone china. Soft-paste porcelain was an attempt by the Europeans to copy the Chinese makers who had perfected hard-paste porcelain. The last to be developed, bone china is extremely hard, intensely white and will allow light to pass through it.
The photo to the right shows a soapstone vein in a rock in the local coastline at Pentreath.

The Soaprock Coast and Trail

The Lizard The Soaprock Coast runs from Mullion Cove in the north to Caerthillian Cove in the south. This is a majestic Heritage coastline where in places, the serpentine cliffs rise sheerly out of the sea. As you walk along this coastline you will pass two of the jewels of the Lizard Peninsula, Mullion Cove and Kynance Cove, both in Mullion Parish. In between you will find Gew Graze (Soapy Cove), the dramatic cleft in the cliffs close to Pigeon Ogo and the Horse. Futher along the coast before Kynance Cove are the Pound and the Rill, where the Armada was first sighted. Before this you have to leave the serpentine cliffs as you walk around Predannack Head. The serpentine cliffs start again at Ogo Dour. Between Ogo Dour and the cleft at Gew Graze you walk by Vellan Head and Pengersick Point. Take your time to walk around the edge of the coast.

Soaprock Quarries

Not all the coastline was quarried. Some of the main quarries were located at Gew Graze and the area was mined west towards Pengersick Point (Old Mullion) which is just south of Vellan Head. Mullion Cove itself was quarried and mined from 1752. The southern edge of the serpentine coast was quarried around Pentreath.

The end of soapstone porcelain - The beginnings of bone china

Eventually the manufacture of soft-paste porcelain dwindled as hybrid hard-paste porcelain became the favoured material, before eventually bone china, invented by Josiah Spode in around 1800, became the porcelain body of choice for English manufacturers because of its brilliant white body and translucency, and for its superior technical attributes.

A consequence of the rise of bone chine and over soft-paste soapstone porcelain is that the local coastline around Mullion was saved from further mining scars.