Memories of my childhood and youth at St Teath.Gwynneth Mander (née Hoskin)
I was delighted to discover the St Teath web site on the internet and to read about, and see, photographs of old family friends, familar places in the village, and village news. It brought back many happy memories of my childhood and youth in a delightful village.
I was born in 1931 at my parent's small farm, 'New Parks', next to St Teath School. I was the second daughter of Blanche Hoskin (nee Philp) born 1900, and Thomas Oliver Hoskin, known as Oliver, who was born in 1889. I was the younger sister of Mollie (Marina Mary - later Mollie Dennis). Both of my parents were born at St Teath and were pupils together at St Teath School.
For centuries, my parent's families, the Philps and Hoskins, lived in the village, or surrounding area of North Cornwall. My Grandfather, James Venning Philp, and Great Grandfather, Richard Philp, farmed at 'Treroosel Step Farm', St Teath. James subsequently farmed at Port Isaac at 'Hendra' and 'Dinnabroad' farms; and later at St Teath at 'Treroosel Farm', 'Treburgit Farm', and finally at Rosewater Farm'. I believe that he may be the man in the website photograph No 20 titled 'Man - North Road', supplied by Brenda Burnard.
My other Grandfather, Thomas Benjamin Hoskin, farmed at 'Bakers Park', St Teath.
Times were quite hard during my childhood. The main occupations in the area at that time were farming, and quarrying at Delabole. Men walked or cycled to and from the quarry.
Father supplemented his farming income by 'carrying coal' to St Teath. The coal was brought by small coal vessels to Trebarwith Strand, where it was unloaded. He went down to the Port with his horse and cart, loaded the coal and brought it back to St Teath where he sold it to villagers. This journey involved climbing the very steep and narrow hill, 'Black Hill', out of Trebarwith and up to Westdowns. It was so steep that he had to borrow a second cart horse to help to tow the cart back up the hill. Eventually the coal was brought by train to Delabole Station. When I was about 4 years old my sister and I would accompany Father to Delabole to collect bags of coal on his flat topped wagon, which was pulled by our cart horse.
On weekdays, no matter where he was in the village, Father always knew when it was noon, and time to come home for lunch. The train from Delabole always gave a long blast of its whistle as it approached the railway bridge at the top of Trewennan Hill. We used to check our clocks by it.
I started at St Teath Primary School just after my fourth birthday. About 100 children attended, divided into four classes, Infants, Middle School, Scolarship class, and Seniors. I received an excellent education under the leadership of the then Headmaster, Mr Liddicote. When I left the school the lessons tought included: Reading, Poetry, Handwriting, Composition, Comprehension, Reproduction, English Grammar, Mental Atitmetic, Mechanical Arithmetic, Problems in Arithmetic, History, Geography, Science, Nature Study,Drawing, and Sewing.
Life in the village was very simple and happy. The Church and Chapel were the main source of relaxation. My mother was the Chapel organist for over 60 years. On her retirement it was said that she was the longest serving in Cornwall. She helped run the Youth Club, organised concerts and played free of charge at every wedding, or funeral conducted in the Chapel. To my parents there was no better place in the world than St Teath.
When I was 8 years old the Second World War was declared between Great Britain and Germany. Living on the farm, unlike many families, we were very lucky and suffered very little. We were short of sugar and fresh fruit like bananas and oranges, but never food for our main diet. Farmers generally killed a pig twice a year. We also reared and killed chickens and had plenty of milk, cream, home made butter and eggs. Father had a large vegetable garden and grew vegetables and soft fruits of all types. From other people's orchards, plums, pears and apples were always available on exchange for vegetables or eggs.
There was no street lighting in the village so you did not go out at night without a torch. I was well into my child-hood before we had electricity in the house; lighting previously was by oil lamp. Cooking was done on a black range stoked by coal, heating was by fires burning mostly wood. Kettles were usually boiled on a primus stove. When we went up to bed we took a candle in a candlestick. We had running cold water but all hot water was heated in kettles. There wasn't an indoor toilet but an 'earth closet' in the garden. In the bedroom there was a chamber pot under the bed, and a 'slop bucket' for a major emergency. Bath time was in a tin bath in front of the kitchen range. It was not until 1948 that a bath and toilet was installed.
As soon as I was considered big enough to work I had to get up each morning, light the stove, feed the chickens, pick up the eggs and wash and box them ready for collection. On Saturdays I had to wash out the kitchen and back kitchen, and beat the mats over the washing line outside. I then had to clean my Grandmothers house.
During the war, 'Evacuees' were sent to the village from London, which was being severely bombed. These children came by train with their gas masks in boxes strung around their necks and they generally had a small bag of personal belongings. Many were suffering from the shock of the war and having to leave their parents and homes. In some cases their fathers were away serving in the armed services in the war. They were billeted with families who had a spare bedroom, often with a husband and wife who had no children.
We had a London girl who was my age live with us for 3 years. A real Cockney, she had never seen cows, sheep, pigs, chickens etc. She adored to drink warm milk when it was brought into the parlour after milking. We all tried to make the evacuees welcome and happy.
Being a farmer, my father was in a 'reserved occupation' and was not eligible for duty in the armed services. In 1940, like many other village men, he joined the 'Home Guard', and they took on the duty of defending the countryside should Germany invade England. At first they had no uniform and used to train using farm impliments such as hoes or rakes, instead of weapons. Gradually they were given uniforms and rifles and were trained to do duty at various important points in the village, including defending the road bridge over the railway at the top of Trewennan Hill.
One night in late 1940, when the Germans were raiding Plymouth, a bomber making its escape, jettisoned its' bombs at the top of Treroosel Hill. It frightened a lot of villagers but never the less most turned out the next morning to view the bomb craters and search for pieces os shrapnel for souvenirs.
During the war the Americans built the aerodrome up on the moor at Davidstow. I remember the local folk telling them that although the area was large flat semi moorland, the location was not suitable because for long parts of the day. in various seasons, it became shrouded in fog. However, they went ahead and built it.
Occasionally the American airmen would come to the village to sing and entertain us. Several were Negroes and had wonderful voices. All of them were invited to tea in local homes.
After Italy was taken by the Allies, we had a prison camp for Italian prisoners built at the top of Trewennan Hill. They were nice chaps and were allowed out to work on the farms at harvest time. Whilst they were shut up in the camp they made all sorts of nice things and one once brought me a bracelet made of farthing coins. A farthing was worth one quarter of an old penny. At that time the coin had a robin on the opposite side to the Kings head, so when the bracelet was polished it looked lovely. They also cut out the robins and attached them to a straight tie pin for the men.
In 1942, aged 11 years, I passed my scholarship and joined my sister cycling the eight miles to, and from, St James Smith Grammar School at Camelford. Mother had saved up and bought us bicycles and had proper riding mackintoshes and had apron leggings made for us. We also had cycle capes so really never got too badly wet. We left home at 8am and in the winter got back in the dark. As it was war time, and everywhere was blacked out, the cycles were fitted with front and rear lights with shields on them, so that they could not be seen from German aircraft. Unfortunately you could hardly see where you were going.
I vividly remember the severe winter of 1946/7 which devastated Cornwall. Heavy snow falls closed all roads into the village for several days, completely cutting us off. The steep sided road up Trewennan Hill vanished as it was filled to the top with deep snow drifts. Farmers struggled around their fields attempting to find and rescue their sheep. Many were buried under deep snow drifts and sadly a large number perished.
In summer a great advantage of living in St Teath was the opportunity to go to the seaside. A visit to Trebarwith Strand was lovely. We were also fortunate to be able to go to Port Gaverne and Polzeath. Whilst all of these locations involved a lengthy and strenuous cycle ride up and down steep hills, it was always worth the effort. A visit to the cinema at Delabole was also a great treat, even though it did mean a long walk back home, fortunately down hill most of the way.
There was very little employment available in and around the village, particularly for the young. Many young people had to leave the area to obtain work.
In the summer of 1947, on reaching 16 years of age, together with another local girl, I went to work as a Nursery Nurse at Freedom Fields Hospital, Plymouth, prior to commencing my State Registered Nurse training there in December 1948. Travel between St Teath and Plymouth in those days was not easy. Very few people owned cars and the bus only ran on one day per week. In any event, despite being provided with free accommodation and food in the hospital, the princely salary of £2.50 per month curtailed visits home and many other pleasures.
Prior to my marriage at St Teath Methodist Chapel in 1955, I worked at the East Cornwall Hospital, Bodmin, as the Night Sister.
On marriage I moved to Lancashire where my husband and I have lived ever since and where I continued my nursing profession until my retirement.
Via the St Teath web site the great increase in the cost of property in the village can be noted. I have seen one cottage which was sold in the 1960's by my parents for less than £2000, being advertised for sale for over £250,000!
My husband and I retain a great love of Cornwall and with our family enjoyed many years of wonderful holidays in North Cornwall, in and around St Teath. The Village website, and its associated sites, are a credit. They give great pleasure and certainly bring back fond memories to me , and I am sure to many others. In addition. the aerial view of the village on the internet via 'Google Earth', is fantastic.
It is good to see the construction of affordable housing taking place which hopefully will allow local young persons to remain in the village. Good luck St Teath.