In the middle of Truro was Pasty Square. Everyone knew there were five pasty shops on that square but what most people didn’t know was that there was a sixth pasty shop on Pasty Square. It was called the Little Cornish Pasty Shop and it resided between a fast food restaurant and a jewellery shop. It was only a doorway wide. Inside the shop there was only enough room for three customers but if there were three customers in the shop then the last two in would have to leave to let the first one back out. The Little Cornish Pasty Shop was owned by Hugo Pascoe, Cornishman and pasty baker. Unfortunately, Hugo had never had more than one customer in his shop at a time. Sometimes he did not even have one in a day! Everyone went to the big brand pasty shops and didn’t even notice his.
Hugo had known for quite some time that if he did not get enough custom he would have to close his shop, and he had now come to that point. So, at the end of the day, he took all the pasties off his counter, walked slowly out on to the street and gave his final pasties to the poor and homeless. He then went back, and with a tear in his eye, cleaned his little shop for the last time.
The next morning however, he woke to the smell of fresh pasties creeping up the stairs from his shop. He got up and went downstairs to investigate. To his surprise he found his counter filled with the most perfect, beautiful pasties he had ever seen. More than that there was a queue of people outside peering through the window in the door. Hugo didn’t quite know what to do so he did the only thing he could, he opened the door and sold every single pasty. The next day the very same thing happened. But this time, when there were no pasties left, there were still people queuing up outside. Hugo had to apologise and ask them to come back tomorrow. When tomorrow came he found a man with a notebook at the front of the queue. The man told Hugo that he was from the paper and that he wanted to write an article about The Little Cornish Pasty Shop. “‘Pasty shop pops out of nowhere’, that’s what the title will read Mr Pascoe and it should be in the paper tomorrow” he said when he had finished the interview.
That night Hugo decided to stay up, hidden out of sight at the back of the shop and find out just exactly what was happening in his shop when he was asleep. It wasn’t until just gone midnight, when Hugo was on the brink of falling asleep, that anything happened. Five little figures popped out from under the counter. Two began to make pastry, two others began to dice meat and vegetables and the fifth got the oven going. It took Hugo a few minutes before he realised who his tiny saviours were; they were Cornish Knockers! Now Hugo knew the story of the Knockers and he knew that miners used to leave the little lump of pastry from the end of their pasties for them to bring good luck. Hugo instantly knew he mustn’t disturb them and he also knew what he would do to say ‘thank you’ so he carefully crept up the stairs and into bed.
The next day Hugo put a little table just outside his shop with a bowl on it and a sign which read: Please leave crusts for the Knockers. Now once their work was done the Knockers moved on to help other good, honest Cornish men and women. Although they had left, Hugo’s shop continued to draw people from all over Cornwall, and as his fame continued to rise Hugo Pascoe decided he needed a bigger shop and he decided to sell more Cornish produce. He didn’t want to go too far though so he bought a property just off Pasty Square up a small street called Walsingham Place and re-named his shop, The Cornish Food Box Company.
Now if you go to Pasty Square and walk up Walsingham Place today you might find that you can see Mr Pascoe’s Shop, and the beautiful Cornish fruit and vegetables the shop now sells.
(Story inspired by The Cornish Food Box Company. Image by Steve Tanner. Part of Trading Tales at Truro Festival, April 2014)