Cornish Serpentine Model Lighthouses

Several years ago I came across a stone lighthouse and a rock face with a bird on top. It was love at first sight and the start of a small collection. I found out that my purchase was a lighthouse made out of serpentine rock found in Cornwall, at the Lizard to be exact. Apparently the name serpentine came from the similarity to serpents skin. The colours occurring in bands or veins include grey, white, black, green, yellow and red.

After the decline of large commercial manufacture, closure of factories and loss of jobs in the late 1800s, workers started turning the rock into model serpentine stone lighthouses (representative of the Cornish rock lighthouses) at home for the summer tourist trade.

‘In 1893 there were 23 independent serpentine workers each turning the stone from home. Each worker learned the skills from his father and then passed them on to his son so that today workers turn the stone in exactly the same manner as their grandfather did.¬†Cornish serpentine model lighthouses are still made today at the Lizard by the same families that made them three generations ago. Serpentine rock is becoming a scarce resource and is only quarried by those who have inherited the ‘commoners rights’ to a particular source, which is kept a closely guarded secret. Any local craftsman will be able to not only date your model but also tell where it was quarried just by the colour and pattern of the rock. Usually they are models of rock lighthouses turned in exactly the same pattern as 100 years ago.’ (sourced from

The height of the manufacture of serpentine lighthouses as souvenirs would appear to have been during the 1940s and 50s, made by the Cornish Stone Company. So are these souvenir lighthouses and rock faces dating from that time? Guess I will have to find a Cornish serpentine craftsman to tell me so!



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