Cornish Serpentine Works

The Lizard

J.A.R Hill

Cornish Serpentine Works

How serpentine was created

This attractive stone was created millions of years ago when peridotite, a rock rich in iron and magnesium, was thrust upwards from beneath the earth’s crust. The peridotite was transformed into serpentinite through the geological process of serpentinization (a form of metamorphism involving heated seawater) far below the Rheic Ocean, in the area that is now Cornwall. Serpentinite is a rock composed of serpentine group minerals, and is often referred to just as serpentine. Our local stone is one of three mineral forms of serpentine found in different locations around the world, and is known as lizardite.

 

History of the serpentine industry

There are some improbable legends concerned with how the serpentine industry came about. One suggests that a shipwrecked sailor washed up at the Lizard noticed its colours and patterns gleaming in a rub stone polished by cattle. It’s more likely that local people became aware of the these qualities in stones polished by their daily use as stiles, cobbles, flagstones etc. and began to turn the stone for decorative purposes. The serpentine industry began to develop, and was championed by Prince Albert after he was shown some serpentine artefacts during a trip ashore from a cruise around the Cornish coast. He was impressed by the quality of the stone and the discovery of an English ’marble’ of which he was previously unaware. Serpentine pieces became very popular as a result of the royal interest, and small workshops became well established in the area surrounding Kynance. Many of these family businesses have now closed, and today only five local craftsmen remain.

 

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