Chair: Philip Lessels
01840 230397

Vice Chair: Margaret Mabson
01840 212 549

Treasurer: Peter Broad
01726 882 798

Secretary: Sue Letch
01840 213106

Recorder: Susan Theobald
01840 211 790

Camelford and District

Old Cornwall Society

Programme for 2015

Anyone is welcome to come to these meetings which are held on the second Monday of the month at the Camelford Hall, The Clease, Camelford at 7.30 pm or, during the summer, at other locations of interest.

Many thanks to The Society Secretary, Sue Letch, who provided the reports below.

Programme 2015

January 12thMary Phillip's incredible Tractor DriveMary Phillips
February 9thMy Days at the Regal Cinema DelaboleDavid Flower
March 9thThe Past in PentewanRobert Evans
April 13thSweeping ChangesRyan Metters, chimney sweep
May 11thto be arranged*
June 8thThe Bude Canal above Hele Bridge* Chris Jewell
July 13thThe Camelford Town Trail* Joanna Raymond-Barker
September 14thThe History of Sport in Cornwall Dr Jo Mattingly
October 12thThe Duchy of CornwallChris Gregory, Land Steward for the Duchy of Cornwall
November 9thBygone Camelford Phillip Lessels
December 14thAnnual Dinner - venue to be announced

*Summer visits

Reports 2015


Mary Phillip's incredible Tractor Drive

Mary Phillips

Our first meeting of 2015 saw us welcoming two new members. Our chairman, Phillip, introduced our speaker for the evening, Mary Phillips. Mary told us about her incredible tractor drive from John O’Groats to Lands End. As a keen fundraiser she decided to raise sponsorship in aid of the Devon & Cornwall Air Ambulances. Her partner, Peter, would check and maintain the tractor – an orange Field Marshall series 3A. He would also tow their caravan and so provide support and accommodation along the way. Their friends, Colin & Sandra, would follow behind in their motorhome. The Field Marshall was transported to John O’Groats by lorry. Mary and Peter travelled up with the Landrover and caravan, accompanied by Colin and Sandra in the motorhome.

On 2nd August Mary’s journey began. Peter would drive a long way in front, then pull into a layby to wait for Mary to catch up. Colin and Sandra would follow behind. This continued for 17 days, until Mary reached Lands End on 19th August having covered 970 miles at a speed of 9 miles per hour and raising £15,000.

For those of you who don’t know Mary, I must point out that she was born in 1940 and has a pacemaker. The Field Marshall doesn’t have a cab and therefore there is no shelter from the rain – or the oil which splatters all over her. There are no modern day comforts such as a radio to help pass the time. I believe Mary sang a lot on route. However, she does have the support of Peter, who in turn has the knowledge and ability to maintain the tractor. Both have a marvellous spirit of adventure. In fact they did another trip from Lands End to John O’Groats. Mary has raised in excess of £55,000! An incredible achievement.

We thank her so much for sharing some of her experiences with us. It was a most enjoyable evening.


My Days at the Regal Cinema Delabole

David Flower

Almost 40 members and friends attended February’s meeting. Phillip Lessels welcomed everyone and introduced our speaker – Mr David Flower.

During the war years there used to be mobile cinemas in our local areas – St Teath, Camelford and Tintagel at the WI Hall. David remembers that they always seemed to have George Formby films on. In 1946/47, when he was 11 years old, he used to show silent films at Tintagel for the children and charged sixpence admission. Unfortunately this stopped after a visit from someone from the council! Perhaps this is where his love of the cinema came from. In 1951 a vacancy arose for a rewind boy at The Tower cinema in Launceston. David was the successful applicant and started work at this 600 seat cinema. The manager was female (Mrs Lovett) which was unusual at that time. David worked there for 15 months and stayed in a caravan down at Newport. On Sundays as it was his day off he caught a lift back to Tintagel in the newspaper van.

At the age of sixteen David secured the post of chief projectionist at The Regal cinema, Delabole and worked there for six, very happy, years. This cinema was built by Cosy Wills and opened on 30th December 1930. It was the first in the area and had 236 seats. It was also called The Picturedrome but then reverted back to The Regal. Cinema was “big” back then and it was difficult to get in at the weekends. Coaches and mini buses would bring loads of people to and from the cinema. There was half time – can anyone remember El Dorado ice cream? Smoking was also allowed and from the projectionists box you could hardly see the screen for smoke! Eventually as more and more people had television the cinemas saw a decline. David resigned in 1958 and The Regal closed in the 1960s. It stood empty for 4 years until a fire broke out on Sunday 2nd November 1969. Arson was suspected but not proven.

We enjoyed a really interesting meeting and are most grateful to David for sharing his knowledge and his memories with us. For some it was a trip down memory lane and for others a fascinating glimpse into the past.


The Past in Pentewan

Robert Evans

Approximately twenty members and friends attended this month’s meeting, with a return visit from Mr Robert Evans. Mr Evans explained that the evening’s talk would be from notes made by his grandmother about her recollections of Pentewan when she was a girl. We also saw some fabulous old pictures to illustrate this.

Sophia Williams Bishop was born in 1897 in a cottage in “West End”, Pentewan. Her father was a fisherman and he walked to and from the boat which went out from Mevagissey. He was in the Royal Navy Reserve and he fought in the Boer War. After the First World War the fishing industry was slack and he got a job on a steamship.

At the school there were over 100 children. Many walked quite a long way. If they got wet they dried their things on the fireguards which were around the old stoves in the school. Anyone lucky enough to have pasties for lunch could use the stoves to warm them. Sometimes the children would have to wait for a train to cross at the level crossing and were late for school.

Mr Evans remembers that his Grandmother said she was afraid of the chimney sweep who occasionally walked around the village. Also, she said she was afraid of an Italian looking lady who had a barrel organ and a monkey who sat on top of it. She sang Ally, Bally, Boo.

There were five shops in Pentewan, a blacksmith and the village bakehouse. Most of the villagers used the bakehouse and it cost a penny per article. The baker used a sort of flat shovel on a long handle to push the bread etc in and out of the ovens. The villagers sourced their water from the village pump, fetching and carrying it in buckets. The doctor did his rounds on horseback and carried all his things in a bag. The children thought this was how the babies arrived!

How wonderful that Mr Evans’ Grandmother made these notes and passed on a little bit of history. For a little extra information about Pentewan, Mr Evans told us of the Sandworks. In 1908 it was decided to use the sand on the beach to make concrete blocks. The sand was coarse and gravelly as much of it had been washed down the White River from the clay pits. The trucks from the now disused railway were used to carry the sand form the beach to the grader. During the 1920 -30s much of the sand went by boat, to Plymouth and London. This was needed for roads.

We were all very grateful to Mr Evans for giving us such a fascinating talk. The old photographs were delightful. Perhaps more of us should ask our grandparents what they remember of their younger days.


Wadebridge Museum

Our first summer visit took us to Wadebridge museum. It is situated at the corner of Cross Street and Chapel Lane. The displays feature old photographs and artefacts with a connection to Wadebridge. Some of the exhibits were manufactured in the area. I found the photographs of the railway especially interesting. Due to space limitations only a small portion of Mr Tutthill’s archive are on display at any one time. There are over 5000 images of Wadebridge & District to choose from! We were made most welcome by members of the committee who were very knowledgeable. Refreshments were kindly provided.

The museum is well worth a visit and is open Monday – Saturday.

Our next visit will be a walk along the Bude canal with Mr Chris Jewell on Monday 8th June. Meet at 7pm at the parking area at Hele Bridge. Everyone is welcome.


Bude Canal

For our June visit we enjoyed a short walk along Bude canal accompanied by Mr Chris Jewell. The canal is 32.5 miles long, being a broad canal for the first two miles and then becoming a tub-boat canal above Hele Bridge. On the tub-boat section there were six inclined planes between the different levels instead of locks. The tub-boats had four cast iron wheels on them which ran in rails as the boats travelled over the inclined planes. Tub-boats were drawn by horses in sets of four or six boats strung together. The front boat had a pointed bow. Each could carry five tons.

There is a barge workshop alongside the canal at Hele Bridge which houses a wide range of exhibits from the local area. It is open to the public on Sunday afternoons 2 - 5pm from the end of July to the end of September and is well worth a visit, perhaps combined with a picnic and a stroll along the canal on a nice day?

The canal looking towards Bude
A restored lock
Barge workshop

We are very grateful to Mr Jewell for making it a very interesting evening. Most of us were unaware that the barge workshop even existed!

Our next visit will be on Monday 13th July for a guided walk around Camelford Town Trail. Meet outside the park at 7pm. Everyone is welcome.


Walk around Camelford

Despite the drizzle, the July meeting saw a good attendance for a guided walk around Camelford with Joanna Raymond-Barker. We met near the bandstand by the park entrance and heard that there was a small chapel (St Thomas’) built in this area circa 1300. The River Camel was crossed via a ford – hence the town’s name. Eventually a hump back bridge was built.

It is quite fascinating to think that Camelford was a very busy and bustling market town. The main street would have been quite narrow and made of earth. People travelled by horse, or walked, and goods were transported by carts. Friday was market day, with mostly animals being sold to begin with and then food and other goods. Try to imagine the library not being there and the parking area full of animals in pens, horses, people, dogs…. mud, noise, smells. It is believed that the market house (library) was built in the market place. The ground floor would have been used by traders and the upper floor was the town hall and magistrate’s court. The granite steps up to the court can still be seen today at the back of the building. If you were caught for a crime e.g. scrumping apples you may have been told “tis up over steps fer you!”

The area at the top of town called The Clease would have been a vast open space. Fairs were held here, which were very large and lasted 2 – 3 days. By the nineteenth century there were about 6 fairs a year. The old museum building had originally been used by a wagon maker. It has also been an egg packing station.

As we returned via Chapel Street we saw the site of one of the town’s four public wells. There were also at least two slaughter houses in this street. The old Wesleyan Chapel (rebuilt in 1820), school room and manse are still recognisable. We saw the Ope Ways, which are open alleyways, leading from Chapel Street and down to the river.

We concluded with refreshments. Joanna is a very knowledgeable and interesting guide. We are very grateful for her time and patience.

I am sure that if we talked to our parents and grandparents they could tell us so much more of their own memories. Not only would we learn a lot but we would be ensuring that some things are not forgotten and lost forever.

Our next meeting will be the AGM on Monday 14th September at The Clease Hall 7.30p.m. (There is no meeting in August). Everyone is welcome.


The Duchy of Cornwall

Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society enjoyed a visit by Mr Chris Gregory for the October meeting. Mr Gregory has been employed as Land Steward for The Duchy of Cornwall for the past 27 years. He has been fortunate to have worked on The Isles of Scilly and on Dartmoor, amongst other locations during that time. The Duchy of Cornwall was founded in 1337 by King Edward III for his eldest son, The Black Prince. Its purpose being to generate sufficient income for the present and future Dukes. This was very forward thinking.

The Duchy is made up of: 48% Rural
There are 7,732 hectares of land in Cornwall and 28,506 hectares in Devon – most of this being within Dartmoor National Park. 650 Tenants hold land ranging from 0.25 of an acre up to 1,850 acres. The farms are mixed stock and arable and dairy. Highgrove is The Duchy Home Farm and was acquired in 1985.

24% Commercial
400 Commercial properties are presently owned. Examples are The Oval Cricket Ground, Dartmoor Prison and a supermarket distribution centre in Milton Keynes!

22% Residential
The majority of residential properties are rural, although there are some in London.

6% Development Land
Examples of development sites are Bletchingdon, Poundbury near Dorchester and Tregunnel Hill, Newquay. The Newquay development sourced roofing slate from Trevillet and Granite from DeLank.

Other Assets of The Duchy are:
Mineral Rights Treasure


Bygone Camelford by Philip Lessels

Our November meeting was attended by many visitors – drawn by the subject. Philip explained that CHAT was formed after the museum closed, at the end of 2012. The aims of CHAT are:

1. To upkeep and restore artefacts.
2. To preserve and collect photographs and documents.
3. Archive.

Mr Paul Collier is the digital archivist and has spent many hours digitalising the photographs. Currently, these photographs range from 1867- 1980s.

In a 1930’s guidebook it stated that Camelford has developed as a holiday resort and has patent possibilities. The phrase “ gateway to the moor” has been adopted today.

We were shown a selection of local photographs which Philip thought would be of interest. I particularly liked the road traffic accident on Fenteroon Bridge in 1880. A steam roller had come a cropper on the bridge – it must have taken a long time to clear the road using a team of horses and many men!

Many of the buildings in the old photos around the town are still recognisable. The old museum used to be Rogers’ Garage and at one time an egg packing station.

Philip pointed out the importance of dating your photographs. Write down who was in them and record as much information as you can. In another 100 years or so, someone could be looking at a photo of you!

We were very grateful to Philip and Paul for such an interesting evening. There is obviously so much more we could see. Hopefully they will come back and show us more another time.

Our next meeting will be held at The Clease Hall, Camelford on Monday 8th February. Mr Terry Faull will be giving us a talk on “The Magic & Mystery of North Cornwall”. Everyone is welcome.

Further information from Sue Letch 01840 213106