Rock cut chamber, Sharrow Grotto, Sharrow Point, Looe to Plymouth, Cornwall

Record ID:  90403*0 / MNA101425
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: None Recorded
NT Property:  Looe to Plymouth; South West
Civil Parish:  Antony; Cornwall
Grid Reference:  SX 3929 5211
Choose map:
Map Aerial
Choose labels:
No label ID SMR No.


A cave cut or enlarged to form a grotto, 4.5m deep and about 2m high, overlooking the tip of Sharrow Point.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • GRAFFITI (Late 18th C to Late 19th C - 1784 AD to 1900 AD)
  • ROCK CUT CHAMBER (Late 18th C to Late 19th C - 1784 AD to 1900 AD)
  • CAVE (Late 18th C to Late 19th C - 1784 AD to 1900 AD)


A cave has been cut or enlarged to form a grotto, 4.5m deep and about 2m high, overlooking the tip of Sharrow Point, it, apparently, was "hewn out of the solid rock by the uncle of the late Joseph Lugger, Esq., and he is said to have escaped the gout for many years, in consequence of the laborious exercise required in its formation", (Gilbert's History of Cornwall).

There is a bench cut around the inside and inscriptions have been
cut into the roof and walls. There are joist holes in the rock
face in which the cave is cut, which may suggest that the site
was already in use, possibly as a fish cellar. Rock-cut steps
lead down to the platform in front of the grotto and on to the
beach. A side path leads to "Sharrow Palace". There is another
seat with the inscription: "Mo bono publico, 1780" on the beach

A sign warns that the cave is in danger of collapse and the
entrance has previously collapsed and been rebuilt. The rock fall
removed most of the inscription over the entrance and damaged
part of two of the inscriptions inside the cave, (for a
transcription of the surviving inscriptions please see the
appendix of the report). Water seeps into the back of the cave
through the slate, and part of the eighteenth century
inscriptions have been damaged, and defaced by modern graffiti.

From Plymouth Local History Library ref: 971 WB:-
Visitors to the Grotto on Sharrow Point, Whitsand Bay, often
speculate upon its origin. Who was he that made it? It would be
easier to answer what he was and why he made it, for the
Inscriptions he left upon its walls, which alas, were more
legible thirty years ago than now, provide us with much
information about this eccentric character who laboured here so
long ago.

The Grotto takes its name from the Point on which it is situated
and dates from 1784. It was then indeed a sequestered spot. No
road existed along the cliff-top; the present road was a military
one, providing communication between the forts of which Tregantle
was one of a ring of defence works protecting Plymouth, and dates
from about 1860. Previously a bridle path led from Anthony to a
point well above the cliffs and from thence access to Sharrow
Point was by a tortuous footpath. There Is, however, evidence
that it was approached by fisherfolk in calm weather by sea. In
fact there was a building hereabouts known as Sharrow Palace. The
word "Palace" had no regal significance; in Cornish terms it
simply meant a building for curing and storing fish. Mention Is
made of this building on the Grotto wall: "Near to this place
once Sharrow Palace stood with rocks surrounded and the briny
flood ... Sunk in ruins are its once strong wallsO

Here to this (then) lonely spot came a man named Lugger to make
for himself a home by the sea, as the Inscription above the
entrance of the cavern describes it. He had served at sea from
about 1750 until 1783 in the days of Hawke and Rodnqy. During the
American War of Independcnce, 1776-1783, which also involved
Britain in war with France and Spain, Lugger was stationed In the
vicinity. Cawsand Bay was then the western fleet anchorage, the
breakwater at Plymouth being but a distant dream. Indeed the
importance of Cawsand was such that a Master Attendant (Old term
superseded by Captain of Dockyard) was stationed there. Smeaton
Tower, now on Plymouth Hoe, then lit the Eddystone rocks where
it had then stood for more than 20 years.

At that period Lugger was serving as a Purser in a vessel of the
Sixth Rate. This was a ship of about 400 tons, 125 feet in length
and mounting between 20 and 30 guns. Her complement was 180 men
and she was in the lowest category of Rated ships. His rank was
Warrant Officer, although it is suspected that he had held
commissioned rank for he styled himself as %aviculator, lately
PurserC Promotion without much influence was slow in Lugger's day
and it was by no means unusual for Midshipmen at 40 years of age
to apply for Warrant rank in order to increase their pay. A
Purser ranked with the Boatswain and Gunner, but. being as a rule
of more gentle breeding and better educated than other Warrant
Officers, dressed accordingly. He wore a three cornered cocked
hat instead of the glazed tophat and white knee breeches and
stockings instead of "trowsers". Under theregulations the Purser
of a Sixth Rate ship was required to find security for œ400 and
the support of two gentlemen "proper and competent" as guarantor
For a First Rate ship the security required was œ1200. Thus
Lugger held the most junior grade of Purser. though he was not
without a certain amount of influence.

After the American War ships were laid up and his service afloat
terminated. Cone were his emoluments and "perks" and all the
authorities could offer was advice to seek poor relief. He also
suffered from gout, a common complaint especially among those
eighteenth century Pursers Yto drank much neat port wine and in
order to restore deficiencies diluted what they served out to
others. It was a common saying that Pursers could turn water into
wine or wine into water. There were of course honest Pursers, but
they were few and it is proverbial that many became rich at the
expense of poor Jack Tar. It was not an uncommon practice for a
Purser to omit to transfer the pay due to sailors drafted to
other ships and sent abrDad, then to forge their pay tickets and
pocket the money. Nor did they scruple to charge slops to dead
sailors and to "pocket" the slops and the money presumed to have
been paid. It was often said'that a Purser could make a corpse
buy clothes, chew tobacco and drink his allowance of grog. The
perks were legion, some legitimate, but most of their own cunning
devising and far exceeded their monthly pay, which for a Sixth
Rate was œ3. 16. 8d. This was fifteen shillings less than a
Boatswain's whose only perk was the rattan or cane with vhich he
wns authorized to thresh the laggards. He had the power to make
the lamm to skip, and woe betide the last man down from aloft
who, alas, was generally the first man up. Pursers were indeed
in good company, but let us hope that Mr. Lugger was one of the
honest few and his conscience was clear, mben, deprived of his
job and his perks, he inscribed these words on the Grotto wall:-

"I Lugger, Naviculator, lately Purser, with some others claimed
an order from His Majesty in Council for all Pursers of 6th Rates
... continued in *ordinary, but by chicanery we were dismissed
for Borough dependents ... after 30 years seafaring retired to
this Grott A.D.1784"
*not In commission.

Though it is possible that some sort of cavern existed before his
time the Grotto could not have been made without much hard
labour, perseverance and pain by one afflicted with gout, but it
is pleasing to know that: "By exercise here oft endured even the
gout for many years was cured".

Finally, who but one who had mastered his sense of grievance
could Write:-

"Whenever thou dost enter this sequestered Grott
May every jarring passion be forgot.
Behold yon scenes. how vast. how grand,
Proclaim the wonders of thy Maker's hand
Who gave thy soul its evely thinking power
And kindly shields thee every passing hour"


  • SZC10377 - Article in serial: Anon. 1815. 2.

  • SZC1723 - Monograph: C S Gilbert. 1820. An Historical Survey of Cornwall.

  • SZC274 - Document: Plymouth City Library. Local History Section: file on Whitesand Bay.

  • SZC5921 - Article in serial: B Little. 1949. Lugger's Cave. 4.

  • SZC5922 - Article in serial: Anon. 1912. Doidge's Western Counties Illustrated Annual.

  • SZC6566 - Unpublished document: W R Wilson North. 1992. Sharrow Grotto, Anthony Parish, Cornwall.

  • SZC852 - Monograph: J Polsue. 1872. Lake's Parochial History of the County of Cornwall. 4.


None Recorded

Other Statuses and References

  • HER/SMR Reference (External): SX35SE/41

Associated Events

None Recorded

Associated Finds

None Recorded

Related Records

None Recorded