Village's communal cookhouse is dying out

Penny on Weekdays, 2d on Sundays

A CENTURIES-OLD Cornish custom which still survives here will come to an end shortly - because the new council houses are being fitted with electric stoves. Mevagissey is the last Cornish village to have its communal bakehouse, where housewives take their meat and pasties each morning and call for them at lunch time, running through the narrow streets with trays laden with hot food.

In Cornwall it used to be only the rich who possessed their kitchen ranges. Until electric stoves became general communal bakehouse existed all over the county.


At Mevagissey, where it is claimed that electricity was used before any other town in England, gas has never been introduced. Consequently the old communal system of cooking has never died out. The food prepared early in morning. It is then taken to the communal bakehouse and all is put into the oven together No distinction is made for the different classes food, whether the lunch consists of Cornish pasties, lamb cutlets, roast duck, or a round of beef. Fruit pies, baked apples and puddings go in with the meat. This has the "advantage" of giving a flavour of the next door neighbour's meal to one's own.

All goes well as a rule, but mistakes do occur and occasionally people find when they reach home that instead of roast potatoes to go with their joint they have fruit pasties. But Mevagissey takes it all in its stride. Whatever you cook it all costs the same, a penny weekdays and 2d Sundays, whether it is roast beef or a pasty.


There is one stipulation: housewives must collect their meals at 1 o'clock precisely on weekdays and 12.30 on Sundays - which makes the few minutes prior to lunch a time for motorists to avoid driving through the streets.

At the best of times Mevagissey's streets are not easy to drive in, but when the whole female population seems to be running through the streets with piping hot lunches they are almost impossible.

The absence of pavements and the narrowness of the streets add to the general confusion.

For some time now the villagers have been installing electric stoves into their homes, and the local council's decision to put electric stoves into the corporation houses is expected to seal the doom of the old bakehouse

Most of the villagers have never cooked in their lives-so there are likely to be a few burnt meals in Mevagissey during the next few weeks.