Bluebells at St Anthony


A new publication in the Poem by Post Series, in collaboration with visual artist Susan Bennetta, a creative outcome arising from a recent residency “Making Light Work”, at the former Paraffin Store to the Lighthouse (see Research page). I responded to one of Susan’s cyanotypes, bluebells.  This hand-sewn pamphlet is available from our press.


Bluebells at St Anthony…

From the lighthouse

along cliff track

between them

(argand and electric lamp)

an empty stretcher

wooden, bed-flat, hung up.

Here, above the sea

at the paraffin store

you make cyanotypes

potential for light contained

scrape-marks on old stone

miracle and lost things

hedge and kissing gate

for the years between

you choose bluebells

and this poem, you.

After day’s light

distance safe

a secret place

is wildflower deep

coffin, cattle-trough

by churchyard path

in Roseland



© Philip Bennetta, 2018

Making light work

Making Light Work, 2018               Susan & Philip Bennetta      5-11 May St Anthony Head, Cornwall

We carry rucksacks, bring something of ourselves, and make artwork, short films and poems, during and following time in these special places.

The Lighthouse came into operation in 1835 and switched from Argon Lamps to Paraffin and then to electricity in 1954. We decided to respond to the site by making artwork from sunlight, using a printmaking/early-photographic cyanotype process. [Please see Background Notes, below, for more information about Cyanotypes]

We considered a range of objects from which to print and wanted them to be relevant to the St Anthony Head site. As St Anthony was patron saint of lost objects and miracles, among other things, we agreed to make our prints from found objects, principally flora and detritus from cliff and shore…

Background notes:

John Herschel (1792-1871) discovered the actual process of making cyanotypes in 1842. His work influenced the botanist and photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1871) who used the cyanotype process to illustrate books on ferns, flowers and algae from 1843 onwards. In 1839, she became a member of the Botanical Society in London, one of the few scientific societies that were open to women.

A cyanotype is made by placing the object to be printed on paper treated with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide and exposing it to sunlight. The paper is then washed in water, leading to the uncovered areas turning vivid blue.

Susan & Philip Bennetta – artists working as volunteers at National trust sites around the main headlands of Cornwall. This is their second year at the Former Paraffin Store, St Anthony Head; other sites include the Net Loft, Polperro and The Watch House, Dodman Point and previous collaborations range from an installation in an Allotment Shed, to a year-long project on the White Cliffs of Dover. They live and work on Bodmin Moor and will be part of Open Studios, Cornwall, 2019.

with thanks to the Ranger Team at the South Cornwall National Trust, past and present, for supporting this arts residency at Former Paraffin Store for Lighthouse, St Anthony Head.