News from Budock Vean

Discovering Rosamunde Pilcher in Cornwall

“Happiness is making the most of what you have, and riches is making the most of what you’ve got.”
– The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher

Since publishing her now iconic book, The Shell Seekers, in 1987 the Cornish novelist, Rosamunde Pilcher, has gathered a huge international following and critical acclaim for her beautifully observed books inspired by her childhood growing up in the area around Penzance and St Ives. We are proud that the author visited us at Budock Vean back in the early 2000s so we wanted to take a closer look at her life and reveal some of the locations in Cornwall connected to her stories.

There can be little doubt that Cornwall with its beautiful scenery and slower pace of life has been a constant source of inspiration to countless writers and artists over the centuries and Pilcher’s work certainly captures the comforting nostalgia of the past. With her witty writing style and her gritty and fearless observations of people and place however her books are far more than naive romanticism.

Born Rosamunde Scott in the little village of Lelant between Hayle and St Ives in September 1924, she attended the School of St Clare in Penzance, later Bolitho School. This rather smart girl’s school stood high on a hill at Polwithen with stunning views across Mounts Bay to St Michael’s Mount and beyond.

As a child she was surrounded by the beauty of the coast and countryside as well as the warm and simple rural community and she clearly absorbed and treasured these memories.

“There was time to dawdle, space to stand and look. And nothing could ever alter that marvellous blue, silken sweep of the bay, not the curve of the headland, nor the baffling muddle of streets and slate-roofed houses tumbling down the hill to the water’s edge.”

After serving in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the Second World War Rosamunde married Graham Pilcher and the couple settled in Scotland. Her writing career began in 1949 when she began producing romance novels for the well-known publishing company ‘Mills and Boon’.

Although she found some success in this genre, writing under the pen name Jane Fraser, it was those memories of Cornwall that truly inspired her and after publishing thirteen romances she wrote The Shell Seekers. The book was a huge success and was adapted into a film starring Angela Lansbury in 1989. The story has since been turned into a stage play and a TV mini-series with Vanessa Redgrave in 2006, as well as being voted as one of the UK’s top 100 Best Reads in 2003. In an interview Pilcher said of The Shell Seekers:

“Everything I love was in that book. Bohemian people, painters, paintings, Cornwall, the way London used to be. I was terribly bereft when I finished it. I had walked round the fields talking to all my people for so long and suddenly it was all over. I had nobody to chat to any longer.”

Pilcher went on to write many more short stories and novels set in Cornwall, selling over 600 million copies worldwide, and her books have been translated into forty languages. Her work is particularly popular in Germany where the national TV station, ZDF, has dramatized all her novels. For many years local people in Cornwall became very used to seeing German film crews springing up on the cliff tops and in the streets of the quiet villages and towns during the summer months.

“The gulls still filled the sky with their screams, the air still smelled of salty wind and privet and escallonia, and the narrow lanes of the old town, mazelike, were as confusing as they had ever been.”

Many admirers of her work travel to Cornwall and journey all across the region in a kind of pilgrimage so that they can tick off the various filming locations as they go! You may even recognise some of the scenery around Budock Vean and the Helford in some of the German TV adaptations, there have often been film crews in and around here. Have fun exploring!

Rosamunde Pilcher retired from writing in 2000 after more than fifty years as an author and was awarded an OBE in 2002. She passed away in Scotland 2019 at the age of 94.

Places to visit inspired by Rosamunde Pilcher:

Lelant, near Hayle

School of St Clare, later Bolitho School.

St Michael’s Mount – appeared in TV adaptations of The Shell Seekers and Coming Home.

Penzance, Marazion and Land’s End – seen in 1998 film of The Shell Seekers, and in Summer On The Sea and Looking To The Horizon.

Caerhays Castle and beach – appeared in TV adaptations in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Mousehole harbour and Lamorna Cove – used as film settings for The Empty House, Snow in April, Another View and Voices in Summer.

Trelissick House and estate – used for filming 2011.

Bodmin Railway Station and Bodmin and Wenford Steam Railway – has appeared countless times in the TV adaptations.

The Bonython Estate – used for the German adaptations of The Prime of Life, Summer Awakening and Never Kiss A Lawyer.

Tregenna Castle, St Ives.

Trewithen House and Estate – used for The Blossom of Life in 1999 and Amazing Grace in 2005.

Prideaux Place, Padstow – this Elizabethan house features in some 16 different film versions of Pilcher’s novels including: Four Seasons, End of Summer, Winds Across the Sea and Coming Home.

Lanhydrock House – used in A Question of Love and Cliffs of Love.

Pencarrow House & Gardens – stars as the location of the vineyard in the film English Wine as well as interior shots of the ground floor rooms of this beautiful Georgian house. It was also used in The Red Dress and The Weekend.

St Agnes Beacon and Wheal Coates – this amazing high point was set alight as it would have been during the Napoleonic wars.

Chapel Porth and Towan Head, Newquay – film locations for Nancherrow, the sequel to Coming Home.

Bedruthan Steps, Godrevy Lighthouse and Gwithian beach, Church Cove, Gunwalloe, Mullion Cove – all stunning scenery that has been used as film backdrops.