Mermaid of Zennor, Cornwall’s mysterious maritime tale

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The Mermaid of Zennor is remembered on an ancient church pew in Cornwall….

Mermaid of Zennor Village
Vintage postcard showing Zennor Village, with the Church of St Sennara and the Tinner Arms.

Not too far away from St Ives, in between the North Cornish coast and the West Cornwall moors, stands the little village of Zennor.

And in this little village is a medieval church that bears with it a very interesting story. St Sennara’s Church is known around the village as the origin of the story of the Mermaid of Zennor. 

Many years ago, there was a beautiful and elegant lady who regularly showed up at St Sennara’s in Zennor for service.

Nobody knew who she was, and they had no idea where she came from, but the natural beauty she possessed as well as her glamorous dressing caught the eyes of all those who lived in the village. Little did they know she was actually a mermaid in human form!

There was a large number of men who wanted her hand in marriage as expected given how beautiful she was.

One of these “suitors” was Matthew Trewella, who was a very handsome young man with the best singing voice in the whole of Zennor.

Some say it was this beautiful voice that attracted the mermaid to him in the first place. It is said she would dress up as a human so she could sit at the back of St Sennara’s Church and listen to Matthew sing.

Some say every night, the Mermaid of Zennor would come out to hear him sing, and when they finally locked eyes, it was love at first sight. He was so stunned by her beauty that he put it upon himself to follow her and find out exactly who she was. 

So after service on one fateful day, Matthew followed the mermaid as she made her way to the cliffs. Some versions of the story state that she was being chased by some of the townsfolk after they found out she was a mermaid.

Matthew however, did not care as he was deeply and completely in love with her. He said he would go with her into the water, for with her was where he belonged. And into the water did they go, and neither of them was ever seen again for a long time.

Several years passed, and people forgot about Matthew and the Mermaid of Zennor.

That was until one Sunday morning when a ship cast its anchor just off Pendower Cove, near Zennor. The captain of the Ship was sat on deck when he suddenly heard a sound coming from the sea.

It turned out to be a beautiful voice singing, and when he looked over the side of the ship he saw a beautiful mermaid in the water with her flowing blonde hair all around her. She complained to him that his anchor was resting on the doorway of her house in the sea, and asked if he would be nice enough to raise the anchor. She said she wanted to get back to her husband, Matthew, and their kids.

So it turned out that the beautiful woman who attended Church in Zennor was one of the daughters of Llyr, the King of the Ocean. She was a mermaid, and her name was Morveren. 

The captain was quite a superstitious man, and he had heard stories of people that experienced ill-luck because of their meetings with mermaids. So he quickly raised the anchor and rode down towards the town, in fear that the mermaid would bring him bad luck.

He got to the town of Zennor and told all the townsfolk about what had happened to Matthew. The people became very worried about the mermaid and for that reason, the image of a mermaid was sculpted into the pugh of the Church.

Although, the people have reported hearing the voice of Matthew.

Fishermen have told tales of hearing a beautiful voice coming from the ocean. In fact, they say he instructs them on when it is safe to drop the anchor and when the waves might be quite rough. 

Mermaid of Zennor chair at St Sennara's Church in Zennor, Cornwall
Mermaid of Zennor chair at St Sennara’s Church in Zennor, Cornwall

You can still see the Mermaid of Zennor’s chair in St Sennara’s Church in Cornwall to this day. The bench end, believed to be at least 600 years old, depicts the Mermaid of Zennor admiring herself in a mirror. It also has carvings of fish on the seat.

Have you visited St Sennara’s church to see the Mermaid of Zennor chair? Tell us about in the comments below!

Watch Mermaid of Zennor, Cornish Legend Video

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