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  • The pub, featuring its original thatched roof, before it burned down at the turn of the 20th century

  • Edward Wearne and a young Marjorie, taken 1896 - 1920             Credit: Historic England Archive

The Fire Engine

The history of The Fire Engine can be traced back to 1780, when it was first turned into a public house after spending its primary years as a mine engine house.

He remained the landlord for five years until 1856, and there is then an unknown period of a further five years, until 1861, when Joseph’s relative William Mildren takes over.

The pub has seen plenty of drama over the years, not least when it was razed to the ground by fire in at the turn of the 20th century.

Originally featuring a thatched roof, after the fire the pub was rebuilt in stone, with a slate roof, and has remains largely unchanged in its appearance ever since.

There was tragedy a few years later, when landlord Edward Wearne killed himself in 1928 and was found by his young daughter Marjorie. His wife Clara took it on for 11 years after that, before handing over to Marjorie, who ran it alongside Ernest Beare for most of the Second World War.


Two of the longest serving landlords have been James Wills, who was in charge for 40 years between 1861 and 1902, while Douglas and Pauline Mason clocked up 31 years between 1944 and 1975.

The pub was closed between Laurie Flockhart leaving during the 1980s and Dave Lee reopening, although the time period of this is unclear.

Matt and Emma Ferguson became the 21st landlords of the Three Tuns in 2017, although their links to the pub and the village of St Keverne date back much further. Indeed, Matt’s mother fell down the steps of the adjacent parish church as a child, landing right in front of the pub. Little did she realise then that her future son would take it over some five decades later.

Local Shipwrecks

The village of St Keverne lies just over two miles from sea off Porthkerris, where the treacherous Manacles Reef can be found. 

Just how many ships the rocks have claimed is still not entirely known, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to as many as 3,000. Many of the shipwrecks and the resulting loss of lives are remembered in the graveyard of St Keverne Church, which sits adjacent to the pub. 

The nearby dive centre, Porthkerris Divers, offers day trips out to see some of the remaining wrecks, for qualified scuba divers, both on the Manacles and further afield. More information on this can be found on the Local Area page of this website. 

  • The SS Mohegan sinking

SS Mohegan 

Perhaps the most famous of all the shipwrecks in this area is the SS Mohegan, who ran aground on the Manacles on 14 October 1898. The ship struck Vase Rock before drifting onto the Maen Varses reef. 

The ship sank just 12 minutes from impact, causing the loss of 106 lives. Among them were the captain, a Captain Griffith, along with the assistant engineer William Kinley and all of the officers. 


The engine room was flooded also immediately and it was not long before the steam gauges broke, causing the crew to rush to deck. Many of the passengers, who were being served dinner at the  time, were initially unaware of the severity of the incident. It was not until the subsequent loss of power that they also began to make their way onto deck.


Attempts were made to launch the lifeboats, but in the event only two made it into the water, one of which was almost immediately swamped and the second capsized. By the time the Porthoustock lifeboat Charlotte arrived, 30 minutes in, only the Mohegan's funnel and four masts could be seen above the water. The lifeboat crew managed to rescue most of the survivors from the wreck and water, saving 44 people. 

A mass burial was carried out for some of the victims at St Keverne Church, where the site is marked by just a simple cross. 

SS Volnay

Built in 1910, by Russell & Co of Port Glasgow, the SS Volnay was a British merchant steamer weighing in at some 4,610 tons. 

On 14 December 1917, the Volnay was hit by a mine from a German submarine while two miles off the Manacles. She had been en route from Montreal to Plymouth, via Barry in Wales, carrying a cargo of butter, jam, coffee, tinned meat, potato crisps, peanuts and cigarettes, as well as anti-personnell shells and timber. 

Despite trying to make it to the beach at Porthallow, she foundered and sunk, although there were no casualties. 

  • The SS Volnay. Credit: Dive Falmouth

  • The Bay of Panama. Credit:

Bay of Panama 

Described as "possibly the finest sailing ship afloat" by those who saw her, the Bay of Panama was another to perish in the area, this time off Nare Point near Gillan, just three and a half miles from the pub. Built by the Belfast shipping firm of Hartland and Wolff in 1883, she sailed for less than a decade before being claimed by the Cornish sea. 

One of the largest steel sailing ships of her day, she had left Calcutta in November 1890, bound for Dundee, carrying 17,000 bales of jute. 


Her demise came as she approached the Cornish coast in rapidly deteriorating weather on 10 March 1891. After experiencing bad weather for 42 days in a row, a blizzard, said to be the worst for over two centuries, swept in and engulfed the ship as she reached the mouth of the Helford River and became exposed to the full force of the sea. 


A huge wave crashed over the stern and the ship rolled forward, soon afterwards being driven headlong into the cliffs. As she hit rock, she swung around before running firmly aground, causing some of the topmasts to fall. 

Another huge wave broke over the ship, washing away the second mate and completely swamping the cabin, resulting in the death of the ship's captain, Captain D Wright, his wife and six crewmen. Other men who took refuge in the rigging were frozen to death, as although close to the shore it was impossible for the lifeboats to reach the ship. 

Of the 40 people who sailed on the Bay of Panama, just 17 survived. 

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