Article by Frankie Hackett
The westernmost point of mainland England is as famous as it gets. Lands’ End is doused in hundreds of years of folklore, cultural reference, and stories. As the area has become more popular as a tourist site in Cornwall, businesses have flourished trying to sell its legend as a point of interest. The history of these commercial ventures are a key grounding in the historical foundation of what makes Cornwall such a unique and distinct place. From the First and Last Inn to the famous Lands’ End signpost, read on to discover a somewhat chronological path of how the commercialisation of Lands’ End has come to be and why more than 500,000 visitors from all over the globe travel to Lands’ End every year!
The First and Last Inn
The First and Last Inn was a place for the many visitors of the headland to stop and rest as they toured Cornwall. Built over 700 years ago, it is said that as many as 100 people could be present at one time during the lifetime of the Inn, especially during the 17th century and into the Victorian era. Situated in the local village of Sennen, the Inn landowners built another outhouse further to the actual lands’ end to look after the horses the tourists used to reach the area. This outhouse was eventually repurposed into the hotel it is today. The Inn itself still operates for the public, too and is rich in its history as a centre for smugglers and the criminal underworld due to its remote location but easily navigable path to France where illicit goods would be imported in the 1800s. Used by the smugglers to evade the government’s eye, the Inn has access to many hidden passages and tunnels such as a well which are still available to view today.
It is unknown how old Greeb Farm is, but it is very old! While no longer actually farming, the small farm has been conserved and for a fee tourists can visit and see the plethora of farm animals ranging from turkeys to goats. The farm also sells decorative handmade items using material from Cornwall only.
Developed from the horse stable owned by the First and Last Inn in the 1800s, the hotel on Lands’ End has expanded itself into a luxury venue for an expensive but beautiful experience. The hotel was developed to cater to the huge influx of visitors that developed during the Victorian era, as the growth of demand for getaways grew as the cities grew more foul.
Lands’ End to John O’ Groats
One of the earliest records of the journey from Lands’ End to John O’ Groats was in 1879. This famous expedition takes you to the northernmost point of Scotland down to the tip of Cornwall (or vice versa) The journey has become a commercialised venture through the hundreds of charitable causes it helps to promote. Millions of pounds have been raised by sponsors for members of the public to make the distance by whatever means possible. The standard is usually cycling, but people over the years have been intuitive in what form of transportation they use to get from A to B, from walking to exclusively using public transportation.
The famous Lands’ End signpost is the most important place to take a photograph for any tourist visiting. It has become such a convention that it is now a stamp of proof that you have made the journey to the end of the land! The signpost was built in the 1950s and was made into a product by enabling people to edit the sign to show the distance to your hometown for a fee. The signpost also includes the distance to New York, John O’ Groats (owned by the same company) and the sometimes-visible Isles of Scilly.
The Shopping Village
When a new company took over Lands End in 1996, the commercialisation of Lands End entered into overdrive as an entire shopping village, children’s playground and a theme park were constructed. Biweekly in August, a fireworks display is also hosted to pull additional tourists. The theme park is sponsored by various media companies at different points usually catering to new animated films or series for children. The shopping village sells many local Cornish products from independent businesses as well as external franchises which helps to promote the Cornish identity and bring wealth to the area.
The journey of Lands’ End commercialisation reflects on a wider scale on that of Cornwall itself. From the humble begins of Greeb Farm, Lands’ End existence was for subsistence only. As trade and commerce grew in the 1600s, foreign goods from mainland Europe circulated the region and held host to the growth of the Inn used by smugglers. In the 1800s, the desire for getaway and pleasure of the wealthy classes opened up Lands End to a touristic market and by today this excelled to the set up of the headland today. Cornwall itself is experiencing this same experience, as the growth of the tourist industry either provides great wealth or tears the soul out of the culture of the land depending on your perspective.