Fishing for Pearls

Since before Roman times, writes Marjorie Sykes, pearl-fishing has been practised in North Wales, Cumberland and Perth.

Pearl-fishing in Britain has a surprisingly long history. Certainly it goes back to pre-Roman times, for Julius Caesar dedicated a breastplate to Venus in her temple at Rome, which was studded all over with British pearls. These he must have obtained from the Britons, for he himself penetrated nowhere near the fishing-grounds, which were in North Wales, Cumberland and Scotland.

It has even been said that a desire for British pearls was one of the prime motives for the Roman invasion. There were, of course, weightier reasons behind the strategy of conquest, but there is no doubt that along with corn and slaves and supplies of metal ore, pearls formed a desirable fringe benefit. It is probably no accident that there were Roman settlements at the three principal pearl-fishing sites of Conwy, Ravenglass and Perth.

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