Welcome to our gorgeous little village. We’re tucked away on the south coast of Cornwall in an area known as West Penwith. For those who know Cornwall, we’re located about halfway between Treen and Lamorna Cove. There are two reasons Salmonweir is largely ignored. They are called Mousehole and Porthcurno.
We don’t mind. We like being out of the way, an undiscovered gem, if you like. We do get tourists in the summer, but it is never so many as to overwhelm the place. Now that the living persons have all gone bar one, and the majority residents are ghosts, that could change.
How Did Salmonweir Get Its Name?
If it doesn’t sound Cornish to your ears then well done for spotting that small piece of trivia. It isn’t Cornish and there has never been salmon around here. The weir is long gone, probably robbed of its components when the river became a stream sometime in the Tudor period.
We know that a young monk from Glastonbury founded the modern village around the early 13th century as a monastic grange. Now, this young man originally hailed from somewhere in the midlands and had (apparently) never seen a fish. His father, not knowing what else to do with him, presumably as his inability to identify a fish was the last straw, packed him away to Somerset to become a monk.
When he first saw his first strange scaly aquatic creature that didn’t like being rudely removed from the river, he asked one of the elder monks what it was. The monk told him it was a salmon, which it probably was, but to a young man who had never seen a fish – anything vaguely fish shaped was henceforth to be known as a salmon. Delighted by his new discovery, he volunteered to be part of the building of a Grange funded by the convenient discovery of King Arthur’s grave at the abbey. Quite why he suggested this far down in Cornwall is not a matter of record.
They ended up here, in a gentle valley with a shallow stream running through it and built the grange in which the young man swore he had seen plenty of salmon. Within months, the young man and the rest of the team were forced to return to Somerset in shame.
There was no salmon and the entire catch of the settlement amounted to something like thirty eels, not nearly enough to feed the crew for more than a few day’s worth of meals, and unsuitable for the affluent monks up country. It was reported that on their exit, they told nearby Cornish villagers “the salmon weir is yours” and the name stuck.
It didn’t take much brain power for a 21st century hack journalist to add the “d” and now we’re “Salmonweird”.