Constantine Cornwall

All Washed up in St Agnes

February 2020

“All Washed up in St Agnes” was the theme of February’s talk to Constantine History Group by Roger Radcliffe from St Agnes Museum. The talk was informative and very well presented. Roger explored the history of Trevaunance Cove in terms of activity on the beach and the surrounding cliffs.

Mining contributed sand rich in cassiterite and thus streaming was worthwhile, whilst the cliffs contain numerous adits. Ships were built on the beach including Roger’s great-grandfathers three masted schooner whilst the the Tonkin family built the harbour in 1793. Unfortunately, the mine companies ceased to fund it when mining collapsed in 1919. Within three years it was destroyed by the sea, thus today it is a pile of blocks on the beach.

A huge variety of marine life arrive on the beach from Fin whales to turtles and bottles containing messages to lobster pot tags from the Eastern seaboard of the USA. Then there is the present-day activity of cove fishing and surfing, activities that sometimes require the services of the RNLI, the first boat being funded by Blue Peter.

Museum Miscellany

January 2020

Constantine History Group’s scheduled speaker had to postpone and was replaced by Don Garman, the Constantine Museum Collection Coordinator who provided a “Museum Miscellany” for the February meeting. Members handled a mason’s bush hammer used to achieve a matt finish on granite and learned about the life of a well-known stone mason. This was followed by extracts from the press in 1869 about the demise of the Tolmen Stone and a poem written in 1923 about the lost landmark. The memories of school days in the 1940s by a local policeman’s son produced lots of laughter. The 1849 parish constable’s staff was examined and the role of the constable, an annually elected post, was read. The parish constable had many more duties than the Police Constable who replaced the role in 1857 Not an enviable task with only the staff as a remuneration. Unfortunately, the name of the incumbent has not yet been discovered as the Vestry Minutes for 1849 have not been found.

Sale particulars of a large property in Port Navas dating from 1926 provided information about the house, its occupants and the associated estate which included quays, cottages, a washhouse and reading room and farm and woodland. Don ended the evening by talking about his great grandfather and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Henry Garman sang the Ploughman’s Dream to the composer in 1903 who noted down the tune and used it for the British version of Little Town of Bethlehem. A recently discovered piece of family history.

Roger Radcliffe will speak on “All Washed up at St Agnes” on February 21st at 19.15 in the WI Hall Constantine.

AGM Meeting Report

Following the AGM members of Constantine History Group learned about fishing around the coast of Cornwall using sail and oar from Jan Pentreath who drew on his excellent photographic collection to illustrate the different types of fishing in the past and the range of craft that were used. The talk included fishing for pilchard and mackerel as well as shell fish. Jan explained the influences that brought about change including reducing fish stocks, the impact of steam power and later the internal combustion engine. Today it is only the oysters in the Truro River that are worked using oars and sails. Members were impressed by the distances Cornish fishing boats travelled and the speed that they were able to achieve for voyages from Lowestoft to Mousehole. Jan shared several amusing stories and a number of photographs of Cornish fisher folk, which encouraged some laughter.

The next meeting will take place on January 17th at 19.15 when Christian Boulton will share research from his book “Five Million Tides, a Biography of the Helford River” in Constantine WI Hall. Visitors welcome. Contact 01326 250604.

St Austell Brewery

July 2019

The July meeting of Constantine History Group saw members and guests visiting St Austell Brewery to learn about its history and the brewing process.

Walter Hicks, a young St Austell farmer mortgaged, his farm in 1851 and set up shop as a wine and spirit merchant in the town. He soon moved into brewing and purchased his first public house in 1863. Today the brewery is still a family business.

Local water and barley, hops from Kent and elsewhere and yeast form the key ingredients in the five brews that are completed each day. Different quantities of the ingredients and different barleys and hops enable a variety of tastes. The brewers are always experimenting using the small batch brewery, some of the products are only available online or from the brewery shop and often do not go into mass production. The most popular beer is Tribute (originally called Daylight Robbery after the Eclipse) which was first produced in 1999 by head brewer Roger Ryman.  Over 14 million pints are sold a year and 40,000 pints are produced each day. A six-acre field of Maris Otter barley produces 4 pints per square yard. The pub selling most pints is the Shipwright in Padstow.

The August meeting on Friday 16th will be a behind the scene visit to Falmouth Art Gallery at 18.30.

Guests welcome. Contact 01326 250604

Don Garman Hon. Sec.

St Winnow

June 2019

A visit on a beautiful evening in June was made by Constantine History Group to St Winnow Church and St Winnow Barton Farm Museum. 

Canon John explained that the Celtic Llan (religious enclosure), established by the Welsh missionary Winnow, beside the River Fowey, was replaced by an Anglo- Saxon Church, later by a Norman structure and then by a 15th century building, much of which remains. The development of the church has been influenced by the successful local agricultural economy, key families such as the Robartes, national events and incumbents who were in post for long periods. Renovation took place in the latter part of the 1800s and into the early 20th century. Later work was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement.

The church has some very impressive late Medieval and 16th century carvings in the pew ends and some magnificent Medieval stained glass. The Church serves a widespread parish of 800 and services are regularly attended by over 35.  It is well supported by a successful Friends Group and exudes a feeling of being a well-loved building.

Following the Church visit Members visited the eclectic agricultural museum of St Winnow Barton Farm.

On Friday 19th July there will be a visit to St Austell Brewery at 11.30.  Guests are welcome. Please contact 01326 250604 

From the Archive

March 2019

The programmed speaker cancelled at short notice, but the Constantine Museum’s archive provided a rich miscellany of Constantine’s past from the 1800s to the 1970s. The Museum’s Collection Coordinator, Don Garman, read several memories and accounts to members which covered granite quarrying, key to Constantine’s growth in the latter part of the 19th century, education, farming, first and second world war experiences, growing up and working the Helford oysters.

An early reminiscence was written in 1925 by James Roberts who described himself as an “Old Constenten Boy”. He was born in the parish in 1839 and became a pupil teacher at Ponjeravah Academy before formal training in London He later taught in Yorkshire. A keen Cornish history exponent he wrote on a range of topics. His description of working in the granite quarries alongside  his stone mason father  and his tales of smuggling on the Helford and Lizard were read. The “Reminiscences Grave and Gay, facts, Folklore and Legend” can be viewed in the Constantine Museum. Stuart Hodge’s memories of working in the Helford oysterage were also read, very apposite as the new tenant prepares to start work in the Helford.

On April 19th at 19.15 in the Constantine WI Hall Michael Carver will share the History of the Falmouth Polytechnic. Visitors welcome 01326 250604

Iron mining in Cornwall

February 2019

Tony Brookes, a retired Camborne School of Mines lecturer and Gorsedd Bard shared his research at the Constantine History Group’s February meeting into iron mining in Cornwall. A veritable Cinderella to the mining of copper and tin. Mining of iron was small scale in Cornwall and evidence on the ground is often absent as the waste was not poisonous and could be used. However, crop marks can often be seen from the air.

One of the largest mines was the Restormel Royal near Lostwithiel. The remains of surface working are still to be seen and Queen Victoria visited with Prince Albert in 1846 and went underground.

Within the parish of Constantine there are two known mines one on Polpenwith Creek called Wheal Mary Ann and the other between Constantine and Port Navas. The Brogden mine was owned by a Welsh company and worked from 1854 – 1875.Between 1869 and 1875 the mine produce just under 10,000 tons of ore. It was a seasonal mine and was pumped out with a portable steam engine each spring. Today all that can be seen is a thicket around one of the shafts and a few mounds of waste.

Charlotte Mackenzie will be speaking about Captain Joseph Banfield, a Cornish sea captain, on March 15that 19.15 in the WI Hall Constantine.  Visitors are welcome.

The Enys family of Penryn

January 2019

Terry Chapman shared the history of the Enys family of Penryn, the house, gardens and the estate’s influence on Mylor at Constantine History Group’s January meeting.

The earliest record of the family dates back to 1272. The Elizabethan property was burned down in the 1820s and replaced by the present house. In the late 17th century. Samuel Enys restored the family fortunes by importing wine and built a house in Penryn close to his wharves. His successor amassed 41 properties across Cornwall and built a town house in Truro. 

The garden benefitted from the family’s travels and a number of plants from the antipodes can still be found. Unfortunately, the house fell into disrepair during the 20th century but is now gradually being renovated and is, amazingly, still in the ownership of the family.

Although not the principle landowners in Mylor Parish the estate had a strong influence on the village. The Enys estate rented land, employed trades people, funded a school for 60 years and provided a village pump as well as directly employing gardeners, grooms, gamekeepers and house staff from Mylor. 

A truly fascinating story reflecting the history of Cornwall from Medieval times to the present.

Tony Brooks will speak about iron mining in Cornwall in the Constantine WI Hall at 19.15 on February 15th. Visitors are always welcome. Contact 01326 250604

Visit to Harvey’s at Hayle

22 June 2018

On a lovely summer’s evening 19 members of Constantine History Group were given a fascinating and informative tour by Kingsley Rickard of the Harvey & Company businesses at Hayle. John Harvey a blacksmith and engineer was born in 1730 & established Harvey & Co at Hayle in 1779. By 1780 he was already employing 50 people!

The tour started by the railway viaduct, built in 1852, which is situated above an earlier railway station of the old Hayle Railway Company of 1837. This earlier railway was initially for transporting minerals but later carried passengers and after runningthrough lower Hayle and along the wharf serviced Harvey’s various businesses.

Three Rivers flow into Hayle Harbour and sluices were used to retain water. Har-vey’s later built Carnsew Pool, a tidal reservoir, and both these sources were important for flushing silt out from the harbour.

We learnt that the Port was established in 1720 and the South Quay in 1819. The latter was where Harvey built ocean-going ships, including the USS Cornubia of 4,000 tons in 1858, which when fully fitted out was too big to ever return to Hayle!

Nearby was another Quay where Harvey’s imported timber for use in making engi-neering patterns and beside the road still exists the old and original ventilated building used to store drying timber.

On South Quay in 1819 Harveys had its very own gas works! The Harbour was also a major importer of coal and exporter of Ore to South Wales.

Moving away from the Harbour we walked into where the main works were situated. Some of these buildings have now been tastefully renovated to serve local businesses. We saw the remains of the early 1800’s Boring Mill building, the Foundry, astore where the wooden patterns were kept behind which tunnels lead into the hillside. Nearby was the old horse stables which serviced the hundreds of horses a day that would visit Harveys businesses at their peak! To think this is where the three biggest steam beam engines in the world were built in 1843 for pumping out water to drain the Haarlemmermeer in the Netherlands. Their cylinders were a massive 144 ins (12 ft) in diameter! Sadly the foundry was closed in 1903, although the company continued to trade as a general and builders merchant, eventually merging with UBM to become Harvey-UBM in 1969.

John Harvey and a massive Haarlemmermeer pump cylinder
John Harvey and a massive Haarlemmermeer pump cylinder

We moved on across the main road by the Mill Pond and looked across to the old Mill Building which in its hey-day had been five stories high but was reduced to its current size in the war. Then along Millpond Avenue where the sea captains lived in terraced cottages and then past the opulent houses that belonged to the Harvey’s directors, before seeing thesite of the old smelting works closed in 1919.

Returning towards the Harbour we walked past the remains of the rope making business, which closed in the 1900’s and the brass foundry.

There are stories of conflict over 30 years between the two local Hayle foundries. Eventually the Cornish Copper Co Foundry business was bought out by Harvey’s in 1875  which finally resolved the issue.

John and his son Henry Harvey, were certainly very successful and enterprising entrepreneurs running many different businesses in Hayle. John had four sons and four daughters. Sadly two infant sons died and one was killed in the Harvey works, which left Henry Harvey, who took over and further expanded the business after his Fathers death in 1803. At its peak the Harvey & Co employed was around 1,200!

Returning to the Square by the White Hart Hotel we heard how Jane, one ofJohn Harvey’s daughters, had married the great engineer Richard Trevithick. But due to his poor handling of financial matters he was unable to provide properly for his wife and six children, so Henry Harvey had a boarding house built for her which is now the Masonic Lodge. This business proved so successful that the White Hart Hotel was then built in 1838.

Henry had ten children by his common-law wife Grace Tonkin but he still lived to 75, dying in 1850, after which the businesses were split up amongst the family!

The group all expressed their appreciation to Kingsley for his knowledgeable and enjoyable tour.

Peter Tatham

Oysters

Oysters, a food item since Neolithic times and a product of the River Helford for several hundred years, was the theme of Don Garman’s talk to Constantine History Group at their January meeting.

The first record of harvesting of the Native Oyster is dated 1580 when the oysterage for Merthen Manor was valued at £2- 10 shillings. Until 1915 when the river was purchased by the Duchy of Cornwall, the ownership of the oysterage was divided between Merthen Manor and the Diocese of Exeter. Tenants managed the oysters layings including the Tyacke family, farmers at Merthen. In 1904 the depot was moved to Port Navas from the Pond House in Polwheveral Creek and from 1890 to 2005 was managed or tenanted by members of the Hodge family.

The oysters were of value and not surprisingly the court in Helston records several cases of stealing, which resulted in imprisonment and hard labour. A group of fishermen wishing to fish the waters were deterred by armed miners in boats who were employed by John Tyacke. Other incidents recorded include a timber vessel bound for Gweek anchoring over the oyster beds and then drying out on them. The Captain in his defence blames the local pilot! Disease, silt and algal blooms have also threatened the oysterage from time to time.

Ownership by the Duchy of Cornwall prompted three royal visits in 1921, 1937 and during the 1970s. The Constantine Museum has recently been given a photograph of the 1925 Port Navas annual oyster festival. This is the only evidence thus far of this event.

Port Navas Oyster Festival 1925
Port Navas Oyster Festival 1925

During the 1950s and 60s the Dutch Oyster Farm’s 12 employees operating three dredgers and a transport boat were producing 75,000 oysters a week during the season. This formed a third of UK production. Oysters packed into wooden casks had to leave Port Navas by 11.10 to catch the London train.

Henry Warren and Ernie Waters sorting and grading oysters circa 1955
Henry Warren and Ernie Waters sorting and grading oysters circa 1955

Following strong easterly winds in 1963 50% of the oysters died from suffocation by silt build up, this led to the introduction of Pacific oysters in 1964 which then formed 25% of production. Outbreaks of Bonamia in the 1980s also decimated the oysters. From 1990 – 2005 the oysterage was rarely worked, however the Wright Brothers became tenants and laid 30 tons of young oysters in the river, unfortunately algal bloom was the next challenge in 2009 and Natural England gave permission for Pacific oysters be farmed. New techniques from Brittany were introduced to increase rates of growth, hence the raft which operated as a nursery at the entrance to Port Navas Creek. Once large enough the oysters were placed in cages off Bosahan before being laid in the oyster beds west of Port Navas Creek and then harvested at three years.

Unfortunately, the use of a non-indigenous species was not supported by environmentalists and a strong lobby encouraged the owner to call in the tenancy in Spring 2017. The Oysterage is currently in the processes of being re-let.

The next talk will be on” Mine Buildings of Cornwall by Kingsley Rickard on Friday 16th February at 19.15 in Constantine WI Hall. Visitors always welcome. Contact 01326 250604

A vet in the Boer War

A short AGM was followed by John Head, a retired vet from Helston sharing the experiences of his grandfather, a vet, in the Boer War (1899 ‚ 1902). In 1898 Alfred Searle Head, a recently qualified veterinary surgeon from East Grinstead, obtained a post with a Mr Hoadley in Helston, but at the outbreak of the war in South Africa, described by John as a war of horses, he signed up to join the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, but not before making an impression on his employer young daughter.

Following a month on board ship, Lieutenant Head arrived with the dragoons and 407 horses. By now the animals were already in a poor shape. Long rides north to the Orange Free State followed. The Boers burned the grassland to reduce the fodder, and there were few oats and mealies available, so the animals were poorly fed. Clear water was also an issue and poor hygiene meant mange spread freely. The horses also had to carry heavy weights (rider and all their equipment) and trek through either very dry environments or the horrendous wet season and experience extremely cold nights when the horses had to be walked all night to stay warm.

Not surprisingly there were heavy losses and vets were in limited numbers with few aids, to treat the animals. Of the 570, 000 horses 70% died, of which only 5% were lost through enemy fire.

The huge losses of animals led to improvements in horse welfare and following re-equipping and a supply of fresh horses in 1901 each soldier was allocated his own horse with severe punishment if the animal was not properly looked after. Losses of animals then reduced.

Following the end of the war Alfred remained in the army and served in Sudan. On his return to Helston he married his employer daughter. During the World War 1 he ran a hospital for horses and ensured animals going to the front were in good condition before they were shipped to France. During this war losses of horses was reduced to 20%. In World War II he took command of the Home Guard in Helston. The veterinary practice he established is still trading.

The next meeting will be on January 19th in the WI Hall Constantine at 19.15. Visitors and new members are welcome. Contact 01326 250604.

Don Garman email: djgarman@btinternet.com

Dolly Pentreath and the Cornish Language

Jan Pentreath delved into the myths and realities of Dolly Pentreath life and her significance in the history of the Cornish language at the Constantine History Group October meeting. Jan talk was based on extensive and very thorough research. As the only child with the Pentreath surname in Mousehole he had been intrigued by the monument funded by Louis Bonaparte to another Pentreath, Dolly, in the wall of the churchyard at Paul and wondered whether she was a relation.

Despite the research the family link is still not clear. Jan efforts to find out more about Dolly resulted in several puzzles that needed to be solved. Did Dolly really exist? There was no registered birth and no death but there was a Dolly Jeffry recorded in 1777. Evidence suggests that a son born out of wedlock may have given the surname Jeffry on her death. A Doartye Pentreath , whose father was a Nicholas Pentreath, was baptised around the time of her likely birth was this Dolly? Interestingly, the need of her eight-pall bearers to halt on Paul Hill to refresh themselves with half a bottle of gin is recorded!

The monument records her age as 102 but this does not relate to her birth and death in 1877. An ode may have created this myth to achieve a good rhyming structure also there were calendar changes and the years were calculated according to the reign of the monarch. So, plenty of room for error.

William Borlase, claimed that the Cornish language had died out by the 1750s, however, his friend Danes Barrington, a lawyer sought, to find out if this was true and was put in touch with Dolly. Was she the last Cornish speaker? Evidence suggests she was not as a fisherman wrote to Danes Barrington in Cornish, a language he purported to have learned from the ‚ old men. His family, the Bodinars were responsible for the location of Dolly monument, however a relation of the undertaker declared it was in the wrong place. It was later moved to where it was thought Dolly was buried. Were the Bodinars jealous of Dolly fame?

Jan suggested that Mousehole smugglers retained their Cornish language to enable communication with their Breton counterparts. Therefore Dolly, probably born into a smuggling family, would have spoken Cornish and later learned English. To claim that she was the last native speaker is probably justified.

The next meeting is on November 17th. The AGM will begin at 19.00 in the WI Hall, Constantine and be followed by ‚ Exploits of a local vet in the Boer War given by John Head. Visitors welcome ‚ contact 01326 250604

Falmouth artists

by Henrietta Boex

Falmouth’s artists

by Henrietta Boex

Crime and Punishment in 18th and 19th Century Cornwall

by Pete King

Mine buildings of Cornwall

by Kingsley Rickard

The growth of early Falmouth

by Tom Weller

Dolly Pentreath and the Cornish Language

by Jan Pentreath

Penrose

Following a gentle descent into the valley of the Cober from the Penrose car park, a parkland vista with Loe Pool in the distance appeared, this was the beginning of an evening exploration of a small part of the 1600 acre Penrose estate led by National Trust Ranger, Greg Cross. The parkland was set out for the Rogers family by landscape architect Gilpin. Eighteenth century maps also showed a small deer park and extensive orchards. Many of the specimen trees were brought to the UK by the plant hunters. Unfortunately, some are now reaching their lifespan.

Members were intrigued to see the bathhouse with is deep plunge pool, this gothic building awaits renovation. Further down the valley the house came into view. There has been a house on the site for at least a thousand years. Wealth obtained from mining by both the Penrose and Rogers families enabled the house to be expanded from time to time, so it incorporates a range of styles. Later the original front was observed with the remains of the grand drive, here there was much greater symmetry apparent.

The group were able to visit the coach house, which still retains some of its original fittings and members were intrigued by the slate lined chests in the window embayments. The stables and farrier tunnel, unused for many years, remain as they were when the last horse left. Several of the buildings are occupied by bats, in fact the estate is bat rich and has a good collection of UK species.

Next the walled gardening dating from 1772 with the remains of hothouses and frames and then the Dial Garden with its Ginko, Japanese Pine and Eucryphia. Mrs Rogers walled garden once had a pool at the centre whilst the gardeners bothy still has an original potting table. The line of buildings at the northern end of the walled garden included a laundry and school room, all waiting a new roof.

The yard behind the walled garden contained a timber store and the carpenters workshop, which was used to process the abundant timber from the estate.

The Temple Plantation one provided the pleasure grounds for the house but are now overgrown as are some of the formal garden areas, providing a reminder of Heligan.

The lecture programme begins on Friday September 15th when Jo Mattingly will talk about ‚ Cornish House Fires at 19.15 in the WI Hall, Constantine. Visitors welcome.

Greg Cross, National Trust Ranger, explains the history of the Penrose Estate to members of Constantine History Group

Cornish Country House Fires

The Cornish country houses of Tehidy, Lanhydrock, Godolphin, Trelawne, Arwenack and Mount Edgecumbe and many more have an event in common, a major fire. Jo Mattingly shared her research on country house fires with members of Constantine History Group at the September meeting.

Most of the fires mentioned happened during the nineteenth century, but some were earlier e.g. Arwenack in 1646 and others more recent such as Carclew in 1934. Records often do not mention the cause, but many seem to have been chimney fires whilst other were caused by careless use of candles, installation of modern heating and electrical systems in old house and some, possibly, by arson. Most fires happened at night or early morning when few members of the household were moving about the house. A daytime fire at Trevethan in 1815 was not noticed because, apart from one occupant, all were in the fields for the harvest.

A common feature in attempts to fight the fire was a lack of water, Trelissick was able to limit damage in 1880 because of the plentiful supply from its water tower. Several large houses had their own firefighting equipment such as Tehidy. Often the equipment was also used to fight fires in the local area.

Country house fires created architectural loss to the county and often collections of valuable art work, books and archives were also destroyed.

Following fires houses were sometime reconstructed such as Lanhydrock, but frequently owners took the opportunity to redesign their home. The remains of building are sometimes incorporated into the replacement. Occasionally, as at Carclew the house remained a ruin. During the nineteenth century and earlier houses were often not insured and owners had insufficient funds to rebuild.

Fortunately, there are few deaths recorded although sometimes owners such as Lady Robartes died of shock a few days after the Lanhydrock fire in 1881. Owners often seem to have found time and a safe area to get dressed before they appeared on the scene of the fire!

Next month talk ‚ Dolly Pentreath and the Cornish Language by Jan Pentreath will take place in the WI Hall Constantine at 19.15 on Friday October 20th Guests welcome. Contact 01326 250604.

Don Garman, Hon Sec.

Winston Graham walk

A wet morning transformed into a lovely summer evening, which ensured an interesting and dry Winston Graham walk around Perranporth, led by Perranzabuloe Museum Curator, Karin Easton. Winston Graham (formerly Winston Grimes) moved with his family from Manchester at the age of 17 and lived in the town for the next 34 years.

The walk encompassed sites relevant to the author life and locations that influenced Poldark. The first location was the Tywarnhayle Hotel where his family stayed whilst considering their move from the north, then the capped shaft of the real Wheal Leisure followed by Graham brother outfitters and haberdashery shop, the site of the author house in area called Nampara and the grass tennis courts, with a pavilion dating back to 1896, where he played. The former site of the Miners and Seiners Inn, now a housing estate, is where the meticulous author met local miners to ensure he got his details correct for the series of Poldark novels. The walk ended with a view of Perran Beach – Hendrawna Sands in Poldark and the site of the Coastguard Station where ‚ Ross Poldark took shape whilst watchkeeping during World War 11. Later Graham used a wooden bungalow for writing on the dunes, this is no longer in existence.

The group then returned to view the excellent Perranzabuloe Museum where there were several Graham artefacts. Members were surprised to see how many books he had written, many more than the Poldark series. Winston Graham was former President of the Museum, a role his son, Andrew, now holds.

The last summer visit will be a guided walk around part of the Penrose Estate, Helston on Friday August 18th. Members and guests are asked to gather at Constantine Church Car Park at 08.00. Contact: 01326 2450604.

Bodmin and Wenford Railway

Twenty one members of the Constantine History Group enjoyed a visit to the Bodmin and Wenford Railway for their June meeting. The group were led by committee member Richard Clowes, also a firemen on the heritage line. Members boarded the 11.15 for Boscarne Junction where on arrival they watched the run around of engine 4247, which is now over 100 years old and has a Cornish pedigree having been used for the haulage of China Clay to the docks at Fowey and Par. On return to Bodmin General, the group then travelled to Bodmin Parkway and enjoyed a pasty lunch and a commentary from Richard.

On the return to Bodmin General the group alighted and had a tour of the loco works where they were able to see tank and saddle tank engines and the oldest engine currently on the line a T9 No 30120, dating from 1899. Once there were 66 of these locos, this is the only one to survive in steam. The visit ended with a look into the very spik and span signal box.

The next visit will be Friday 21st July to Perranporth to visit the Museum and follow the Winston Graham trail around the town. Members and guests are to meet at 17.30 at Constantine Church. Contact Don Garman 01326 250604 or email: dj.garman@btinternet .com

Constantine History Group visiting the loco works on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway

Constantine History Group member Peter Tatham investigates the engine while the group look on.

Photos Don Garman

RNAS Culdrose

Lawson Tickell, Business and Visits Manager at RNAS Culdrose related the station history to members of Constantine History Group at their March meeting.

Culdrose, named after one of the farms previously located on the site, was established in 1947 following a survey and selection in 1942 as the Royal Navy second air station in Cornwall. The base is also known as HMS Seahawk but at the time of its opening HMS Chough was also considered, however, this bird species was becoming very rare.

Lawson set the development in context of the history of flight in the Royal Navy, which dates back to 1909. The first Naval airfield on the Lizard area was the airship base at Mullion during World War 1.

Initially planes involved in anti submarine warfare were based at Culdrose but by the late 1950s they were being replaced by helicopters, which could carry loads, move people, undertake air sea rescue as well as conducting antisubmarine warfare.

Culdrose today provides training for air-crew, observers, engineers, fighter pilots and deck crew. A current focus is training in readiness for the introduction of the new aircraft carriers.

The next meeting will be held on October 20th at 19.15 in the WI Hall at Constantine.
Peter Searle will speak on ‚ The Legacy of a Falmouth Family, the story of Falmouth greatest photographic dynasty.

Don Garman Hon Sec.

Penrose Estate

Greg Cross, a national Trust Woodland and Access Ranger from the Penrose estate, Helston, took members of Constantine History group on a historical journey of the Penrose estate, which has only had three owners in the last 1000 years: the Penroses, Rodgers and since 1974 the National Trust. The journey began at Gunwalloe where archaeological digs discovered dwellings dating back to the Bronze Age. Mining on the estate dates possibly from Roman times with Wheal Rose along the coast and Porkellis in the Cober Valley. The upper reaches of Loe Pool have been infilled with mine and streaming waste whilst other influences on this large expanse of freshwater have also included World War II activities and flood alleviation which has seen Loe Bar cut through to solve flooding in Helston.
The house originally of Medieval origin is still occupied by a member of the Rogers family. The formal gardens of the 18th century have almost disappeared but the parkland and the influences of the nineteenth century plant hunters are still visible.

The March meeting will be held on Friday 17th at 19.15 in the WI Hall Constantine. The speaker will be Lawson Tickell on the History of Culdrose. Visitors are always welcome.

Don Garman, Hon Secretary

Perran Foundry

The name ‚ Perran Foundry on a piece of iron on a beach in the British Virgin Islands prompted mining geologist Chris Burton to research the Perran Foundry located near his home in Perranwell. The metal on the beach was part of the beam from the mine engine on the cliff above. Chris shared his fascinating research with members of the Constantine History Group at their January meeting.

The development of the Perran Foundry begins with the Fox family resettling in Falmouth from Fowey. The family of Quakers were attracted by the increasing commercial activity in the port and mining in the surrounding area.
The enterprise began with two Fox cousins leasing land on either side of the Kennal Valley in 1776. Here they developed a wharf for the shipping of copper and the import of coal, timber from the Baltic (hence the Norway Inn), guano and limestone. George Fox was appointed to manage Perran Wharf and he built a house on the hill called Tredrea. The port proved valuable to the Gwennap mines for the next 40 years.

In 1791 the Fox decided to build a foundry which would enable heavy machinery, particularly steam powered beam engines, to be constructed closer to the mines. The foundry, with power to be provided by five water wheels, was to be built just above the Perranwharf. Although members of the family knew little about the foundry business they recruited experts to help them, particularly Peter Price, a Welshman from Neath.

A lease in South Wales provided an opportunity to obtain iron and produce pig iron, which could then be shipped in their ‚ Welsh fleet of ships to Cornwall. Initially the engine parts were made in Neath and assembled at the foundry. By 1830 both the beams and the engines were being produced at Perran and the highly skilled workforce, working twelve hour days, six days a week , was being managed by Charles Fox, an intelligent 25 year old.

The Gwennap mines were at their zenith between 1825 -50 and were responsible for one third of the worlds copper. By now the company was servicing machinery previously supplied and thus Charles sought new markets abroad including Mexico and Australia. Wherever Gwennap miners migrated orders for Perran Foundry equipment soon followed. Steam pumps were also sold to the Dutch to drain the Haarlemermeer.In 1842 Charles retired to Trebah and Barclay Fox, his nephew, took control, a man of incredible energy. Through marriage he gained an interest in coal mines in the north east of England.

The foundry began to feel the impact of reducing copper production and was sold to the Willams family who closed the foundry for a year to refurbish, but in 1880 the last engine left on a barge and they closed it down. For a brief period it was owned by the Sara and then it was purchased by Edward Bros and converted to a corn mill, although between 1881 and 1911 it was also producing woollen cloth. Corn merchants, Libby, purchased it in 1969 and the final closure happened in 1988. Intentions to develop the site for housing were eventually realised in 2005, but are still to be completed.

The Chairman for the evening Richard Clowes thanked Chris for sharing his research which made a fascinating story.

History of Port Navas

The Constantine History Group November meeting began with a short AGM followed by John Shepperd who spoke about the early history of the hamlet of Port Navas. His mother and father researched the history of the community and produced a book ‚ The Story of Port Navas. John worked with his mother to produce a revised second edition for her centenary year in April. Members were delighted that Peggy Shepperd was able to attend.

John pointed out that Port Navas did not really exist as we know it today until Jonathan Mayn developed the creek at Cove, an earlier name, for shipping granite in the late 1820s.

Despite the late development of the present day community that we are familiar with, John began by pointing out that there were 321 sites of archaeological interest in a 6 mile radius of the hamlet. There is evidence of man on the Gower peninsular dating back 33,000 years ago. This is only 100 miles away in a direct line so it is likely that there were people in this area also, particularly as the Bristol Channel was dry land. Seven local finds of hand axes and arrow heads provide evidence of Mesolithic occupation (10,000 BP) whilst Neolithic implements of Gabbro from the Lizard are distributed over England as are Gabbroic clay pots from clay pits at St Keverne. The clay was able to withstand direct heat unlike pots made of clay from other sources where water would be heated by placing hot stones in the pots. By 3600BC bronze was being produced in the Indus Valley and by 2200BC there is evidence of Cornish tin being exported to make this valuable metal. Tin streaming of the local water courses would probably have contributed to Cornish production. There is also evidence of Bronze Age communities within 8 miles of Port Navas, however, Iron Age people certainly lived in the area and there are seven rounds in Port Navas, three of which are at Calamansack. The Iron Age people dont seem to have used money yet traded with the Romans, this may explain why several Roman hordes have been found in the area, the tribes of the time had little use for it!

Following the departure of the Romans the tin trade collapsed and the battles with the Anglo Saxons meant the Cornish were soon confined within the current county boundaries but trade with Brittany continued and several Irish Saints settled in Cornwall.

During Medieval time a number of local estates such as Calamansack, Trenarth and Treviades developed, each one having access to the river Helford to enable fishing, dredging for oysters and trade by sea.

Members concluded that although the present community was relatively recent, the area has a long history of occupation and traded with both other parts of England as well as the continent.

Chairman for the evening, Peter Tatham thanked John for providing an interesting timeline and for setting Port Navas in context.

The next meeting will be on January 20th in the WI Hall, Constantine at 19.15 when Chris Burton will be talking about the Perran Foundry, once a business owned by the Fox family. Visitors are welcome. Contact 01326 250604

Battle Beneath the Trenches

Constantine History Group October 2017 Meeting Report

A grandfather silver cigarette case with an inscription began an investigation by Ken Johns, a retired ICT expert, into the work of the 251st Tunnelling Company resulting in a book ‚ Battle Beneath the Trenches. Ken shared his research with intrigued members of Constantine History Group at their October meeting.

The silver case led Ken to an archaeological dig near St Quentin, in the Pas de Calais le Nord region of France. Here tunnels beneath German trenches were being exhumed they included graffiti, candle sticks and other artefacts. The experience encouraged Ken to investigate further.

Mining under defences was a strategy learned by Europeans from experiences in the Middle East during the Crusades and it was deployed widely by both sides during World War 1. The British Expeditionary Force of 250,000 men was holding the German advance in 1915 but was experiencing the effects of successful German tunnelling and explosions under the front lines.

A successful engineer working in Manchester, Sir John Norton Griffiths, was engaged to recruit men and manage the tunnelling under the German defences. Not only did he recruit his own employees but he also sought out Cornish miners recruiting 220 from the 10th Battalion DCLI and established the 251st Tunnelling Company. Unlike the infantry who were paid 1/- members of the tunnelling companies were paid 6/-.

The Company were posted to Bethune to protect the northern coalfields. Their activity soon limited the German tunnelling and explosions to no man land. Excavations took the Cornish miners down to the aquifer working in both chalk and clay, this placed them underneath the German tunnels. Work took place in silence, each side established listening posts but despite this caution occasionally one side would break into the tunnels of the opposition and fighting in confined spaces followed.

The work was hard and required an intake of 4000 calories per day but was more about quantity than quality. The conditions were both dangerous and unpleasant and air had to be pumped to the tunnels. As the war progressed tunnelling became more about being on the offensive with huge explosions being detonated. Later on in the war the Company was involved in building machine gun posts, dugouts, magazines, dressing stations and the construction of anti tank traps. Following the Armistice on November 11th the Company were engaged in rebuilding infrastructure such as bridges and canals.

The 251st contributed significantly to protecting the coalfields and 178 of the original 220 survived their challenging experiences.

Ken grandfather, a tunneller, but not in the 251st, on return to Cornwall, decided not to go back into the mines but went to New York where he worked on the tramways for 9.5 years. On return to Cornwall he set up a successful transport business.

Don Garman, Secretary, thanked Ken for sharing his remarkable research with members.

The next meeting will be on November the 18th at 19.00 in the WI Hall Constantine. The short AGM will be followed by John Sheppard who will be giving a talk entitled ‚ The History of Port Navas. Visitors are welcome. Pasties will be available but please contact 01326 250604 to book.

 

 

 

Compassd by the Inviolate Sea

A stunning seascape by David James entitled ‚ Breakers and painted in 1895 confronted members on entering the exhibition ‚ Compassd by the Inviolate Sea at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance. The painting provided a great introduction to the exhibition curated by author and historian David Tovey.

Following a welcome by the Director, Louise Connell, the group were guided around the exhibition by Zoe Birkett, the Education officer. Members learned that the title of the exhibition was taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson ‚ To the Queen. Although the context of the poem is Great Britain here it has been transposed to Cornwall. The works of art on display focus on seascapes and coastal scenes. Artists included begin with Turner and end with Alfred Wallis, the retired St Ives Fisherman. Several of the works are by foreign artists lured by the magic of Cornwall. The works on display demonstrate a wide range of skills from the romantic to the decorative.

Turner epitomises the romantic school. He was commissioned to produce art work for engravings and produced sketches from his visit in 1811, which he worked up over a period of time. The Napoleonic Wars meant that the grand tour of Europe was no longer an option but published dramatic images of Cornwall and other home locations provided a lure to alternative destinations.

The 1846 visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was recorded by artists and also helped to promote Cornwall whilst he development of the rail network was soon to make Cornwall more accessible to both artists and visitors.

Work from artists using the realist style, mainly from the 1860s follows those of the romantic school. Already members could see that particular locations were very popular with artists, no matter what their style, Kynance Cove, St Michael Mount, the Crowns at Botallack and Lands End appearing frequently. The work of John Brett included so much detail that botanists could identify the different lichens he painted on the granite! The development of photography at this time had an influence on artists who sought to achieve similar detail. Hook often depicted working people in his coastal scenes showing them to be well fed and dressed!

Relevant works from the Newlyn School are featured, largely painted using the realist style and showing nature as it really is. Works by artists Stanhope Forbes and his wife are included.

The Swede Albert Julius Olsson set up an art school in St Ives which brought artists from America, Germany and Australia, for example, to learn to paint seacapes. Several works from foreign artists are on display .

The exhibition ends with works showing the increased use of colour and pattern as well as the more naive style of Alfred Wallis.

Don Garman, Secretary, thanked Zoe for a most informative guided tour of the impressive exhibition, which had been very much enjoyed by the group.

Jan Pentreath will be giving a talk on the ‚ Ancient Village of Mousehole in Constantine WI Hall at 19.15 on Friday September 16th. Visitors are welcome. Contact 01326 250604.

“Compass’d by the Inviolate Sea”

A stunning seascape by David James entitled “Breakers” and painted in 1895 confronted members on entering the exhibition “Compass’d by the Inviolate Sea” at Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance. The painting provided a great introduction to the exhibition curated by author and historian David Tovey.

Following a welcome by the Director, Louise Connell, the group were guided around the exhibition by Zoe Birkett, the Education officer. Members learned that the title of the exhibition was taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “To the Queen”. Although the context of the poem is Great Britain here it has been transposed to Cornwall. The works of art on display focus on seascapes and coastal scenes. Artists included begin with Turner and end with Alfred Wallis, the retired St Ives Fisherman. Several of the works are by foreign artists lured by the magic of Cornwall. The works on display demonstrate a wide range of skills from the romantic to the decorative.

Turner epitomises the romantic school. He was commissioned to produce art work for engravings and produced sketches from his visit in 1811, which he worked up over a period of time. The Napoleonic Wars meant that the grand tour of Europe was no longer an option but published dramatic images of Cornwall and other home locations provided a lure to alternative destinations.

The 1846 visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was recorded by artists and also helped to promote Cornwall whilst he development of the rail network was soon to make Cornwall more accessible to both artists and visitors.

Work from artists using the realist style, mainly from the 1860s follows those of the romantic school. Already members could see that particular locations were very popular with artists, no matter what their style, Kynance Cove, St Michael’s Mount, the Crowns at Botallack and Lands End appearing frequently. The work of John Brett included so much detail that botanists could identify the different lichens he painted on the granite! The development of photography at this time had an influence on artists who sought to achieve similar detail.  Hook often depicted working people in his coastal scenes showing them to be well fed and dressed!

Relevant works from the Newlyn School are featured, largely painted using the realist style and showing nature as it really is. Works by artists Stanhope Forbes and his wife are included.

The Swede Albert Julius Olsson set up an art school in St Ives which brought artists from America, Germany and Australia, for example, to learn to paint seacapes. Several works from foreign artists are on display .

The exhibition ends with works showing the increased use of colour and pattern as well as the more naive style of Alfred Wallis.

Don Garman, Secretary, thanked Zoe for a most informative guided tour of the impressive exhibition, which had been very much enjoyed by the group.

Jan Pentreath will be giving a talk on the “Ancient Village of Mousehole” in Constantine WI Hall at 19.15 on Friday September 16th. Visitors are welcome. Contact 01326 250604.

The Ancient Village of Mousehole

Members learned much about the history of Mousehole from Professor Jan Pentreath who was born and bred in this Cornish fishing community. Rather than follow his family into the fish trade he became a noted marine biologist.

The development of this relatively sheltered harbour, which began much earlier than the more exposed and more recent developments of Penzance and Newlyn, is illustrated by the construction characteristics of the piers which help to identify the different stages. The rougher construction of Moor Stone is later replaced by dressed granite blocks. The first documentary evidence is a licence of 1389 which permitted construction of the west pier which was rebuilt in 1435 and further improved during the 18th century. By 1837 there was a pier from the Ship Inn which is no more, the stone probably being used to construct the east pier after the passing of the Harbour Acts of the 1870s.

Shoals of pilchards from warmer southern waters followed the plankton north and caught by seigning provided an impetus for developing the harbour from the 15th century onwards. By the 1500s Mousehole was exporting pilchards to Spain. In the 1600s drift nets were introduced and the technique began to frustrate the work of the seigners which resulted in disputes, some of which went to court. Payment of tithes was also a bone of contention and in 1830 a Tithe Collector was disarmed. The action of the Mousehole fisherman eventually contributed to the collapse of the tithe system.

Registration of fishing vessels was introduced in the 19th century but Mousehole owners often registered Class 1 vessels as Class 2.

Mackerel needed to be caught and sold quickly so fast lug sailed mackerel drivers became a common sight in the harbour once the railway came to Penzance, however the vessels now unloaded in Newlyn. Expansion of Newlyn and Penzance and larger east coast boats fishing in the same grounds began to have a negative impact on the community fishing economy. However, in 1887 there were 320 large boats and 87 small boats registered for fishing, which employed 572 men and boys. Some of the larger craft would sail to Ireland, the east coasts of Scotland and England to fish, Scarborough being a popular base. Engines appeared, but few were installed in Mousehole boats as they could not be afforded. The days of greater affluence were long gone and a staple source of food for many was limpets, as mackerel and pilchards were too expensive. The 1950s saw the end of Mousehole as an active fishing port although the Bretons used the harbour for a while.

Research into the Pentreath family indicates that piracy may have contributed to the economy as a privateer owned by a Pentreath is recorded as being from Mousehole, later the Customs records show that the Pentreaths were heavily involved in smuggling. Brandy and lace and other items must also have contributed to the Mousehole economy. Jan hypothesised that a distant relation, Dolly Pentreath, may not have been the last person to speak Cornish as the smugglers may well have continued to use it to communicate with the Bretons. The tourist trade, now key, goes back to the Medieval period when pilgrims to Saint Michaels Mount would embark on vessels sailing from Mousehole to Compostella. Jan suggested that this trade may well provide the origin of the name. Directions for the pilgrims would not have been to Porth Ennes, a name it held alongside Mousehole for many centuries, but to the ‚ Mausholl or gull cove ‚ the birds could probably have been heard and smelt!

Don Garman, Secretary, thanked Jan for providing an insight into the history of Mousehole and his own family.

The Constantine History Group will meet on Friday October 21st in the WI Hall at 19.15 when Ken Johns will give a talk on the ‚ Battle Beneath the Trenches ‚ the story of Cornish miners at the front in World War 1. Visitors are welcome. Contact 01326 250604