Hawker's Hut – Cornwall, England - Atlas Obscura

Hawker's Hut

A writer's tiny retreat built from salvaged shipwreck timbers. 


Despite being the retreat of a clergyman, a visit to Hawker’s Hut was probably a pretty good time.

Robert Stephen Hawker was vicar of Morwenstow from 1834 to 1875. Regarded as being a good minor poet and ballad writer (including Cornwall’s unofficial anthem “The Song of the Western Men”) is remembered today for being an eccentric. 

A small cliff-top hut, Hawker’s Hut was built around 1844 from driftwood and shipwreck timbers particularly from the Alonzo.  A small rectangular hut with a stable door built into the cliff and overlooking the sea, the interior has a slate floor and fixed timber seats, and the roof of hut is covered with turf.

Among other things Hawker used his hut for writing poetry, coast watching, and smoking opium. 

Both Alfred Tennyson and Charles Kingsley are known to have visited Hawker in his tiny self-built hut, and one can easily imagine them sharing the pipe, staring out at the ocean and talking about the mysteries of life. It is probably best described by C.E. Byles, Hawker’s son-in-law and biographer. It has not changed much. 

Out of the timbers cast ashore from these wrecks Hawker built the little cabin in the face of the cliffs which is known as “The Hut.” The door is in two hatches; so that a person inside can close the lower hatch as a protection from the weather, while from the upper he looks out on a magnificent prospect of shore and sky and sea. If you sit at the back of the hut, with both hatches open, you see nothing but a few feet of earth, apparently the edge of a precipice, and just over the edge the points of dark and sinister rocks rising amid a swirl of foam hundreds of feet below. The ceaseless thunder of the breakers echoes in your ears; those lions of the deep which “roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God.” The lurking presence of sunken reefs, their tops visible only at low tide, is revealed by patches of a duller hue on the surrounding water. There they lie, like the horns of some monstrous bull, ready to rip open the side of any hapless vessel that comes within their reach. From such a height are you looking down upon the sea, that you seem to be gazing at a great wall of water. In the midway space between, white-winged gulls float calmly to and fro, uttering their plaintive call.

Hawker’s Hut has been well maintained since its original construction and much of the original material is still present. It is currently the smallest property belonging to the National Trust.                            

Know Before You Go

A short walk from the church. Go from the church towards the cliff and the coastal footpath. Hawker's Hut is to the left. It is signposted.

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December 23, 2012

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