Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society

Programme 2009

January 12Charlotte Diamond
illustrated talk
Peter Ascott
February 9Travelling through the County
Mac Waters - Cornish Bard
March 9Written in Words of Stone
illustrated talk
Ann Hicks
- Cornish Family History Society
April 13Old Newquay
illustrated talk
Peter Hicks
May 11Visit to Ladock
June 8Retracing Charlotte Diamond
Peter Ascott
July 13Change of plan
Wadebridge visit
Meet in Co-op car park 7.30 pm
September 14The Search for the Lady Agnes
illustrated talk
Roger Radcliff, St Agnes
October 12Pharmacy of YesterdayKingsley Rickard
November 9Old St Breward in Pictures
illustrated talk
A well known local speaker
December 14Chistmas Dinner
Riverside Restaurant, Camelford

Evening Visits 2009

Ladock ChurchCharlotte Diamond Memorial
Cold evening at Roughtor car park. Listening to Charles Causley's poem about Charlotte Diamond murder.
Culverhay (Pigeon House) off Trevanian Road, WadebridgeLower Treneague Gardens near Burlawn, Wadebridge
Dinner at Riverside
Dinner at Riverside restaurant Camelford. December 2009. Click to expand

Reports 2009

Grace Keat

January - Charlotte Diamond

Murder was the theme of the Society's January meeting. Peter Ascott gave an extremely well researched and illustrated talk to a full audience on the murder of Charlotte Diamond on Bodmin Moor. This intriguing story has been the subject of no less than three books and still remains something of a mystery. Charlotte Diamond worked at Lower Penhale farm near Davidstow and set out for a walk across Bodmin Moor towards Roughtor with farm labourer Matthew Weeks on Sunday April 14, 1844. Weeks returned alone and Charlotte was missing for several days. After a long search Charlotte's body, throat cut, was found at Roughtor Ford, close to the present day Roughtor car park and marked by a memorial. Weeks was soon the prime suspect and disappeared, eventually being traced to Plymouth. The subsequent trial at Bodmin Assise Court was brief in the extreme and Weeks was subsequently hung for the murder. Despite this, there seems to have been no clear evidence of Weeks' guilt and this has left a rich vein of conjecture on the story which continues to this day.

March - Written in Words of Stone

Researching the family tree can be an absorbing and fascinating task which may well include perusing gravestones and burial registers. Ann Hicks of Cornwall Family History Society, which holds 62,000 photos of headstones and other memorials in Cornwall, shared an illustrated tour of many Cornish churchyards with members of Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society at a recent meeting.

Records of interments can sometimes present researchers with conundrums as dates and ages of the deceased may be at variance with those on gravestones and different spellings of a surname may appear on a single headstone. Present day regular use and awareness of dates was not necessarily so in more leisurely times past - examples were shown of headstones bearing the dates 31 February and 31 April.

Burial records sometimes turn up unexpected gems, one such example recording the place of death as 'in the public toilets', and another as 'outside the cinema'. A bizarre record from Porthleven documents an unfortunate lady's 'amputated arm' being buried in the children's section of the graveyard, followed sadly, a short time after, by the rest of the same lady being interred in the adult's area.

The Burial in Woollen Acts of 1668 - 80 required the dead to be buried in woollen shrouds. This was an attempt to protect the English woollen industry and non-compliance resulted in a fine of £5. Some burial entries that survive from this period record 'buried in woollen'.

Following her presentation, Ann Hicks assisted some members to access Cornwall Family History Society's database to elicit information about their ancestors.

June - In Charlotte's Footsteps

A sombre slab of dark moorland granite in Davidstow churchyard marks the final resting place of Charlotte Diamond who, in 1844, aged just 19 years, was found murdered near the foot of Roughtor, close to the present day car park, the spot marked by a granite memorial raised by public subscription. Charlotte lived and worked at various locations on the moor, including Lower Penhale, from which she set off on her last, fateful journey in the company of farm labourer Matthew Weekes.

Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society recently visited these and other locations associated with Charlotte's short and tragic life, taking a route devised by Peter Ascott, which brought a heightened awareness of this notorious murder, for which, after a brief trial, Weekes was found guilty and hanged. Members' solemn mood on the decidedly cool, windy moor was lifted by the welcome arrival of hot drinks at Roughtor Farm.

July - A Culverhouse and Lower Treneague Gardens at Wadebridge

Pigeons were such a valuable resource for our ancestors that specially constructed culver (pigeon) houses were built for them to live and breed in. In the 17th century, there were 26,000 culver houses in England and Wales. Members of Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society were fascinated to see the medieval Trevannion Culverhay in Wadebridge on a recent visit. One of six culver houses in Cornwall, it is of slate construction, though others in the county are brick or granite.

Culver houses provided fresh meat, particularly welcome in winter, when squabs (young birds) were eaten; some older birds were reared for falconry. Feathers provided soft stuffing for pillows etc., and the bird droppings could be mixed with saltpetre to make gunpowder, or used as fertiliser.

Following this, members visited Lower Treneague, once the home of the Lightfoot brothers, infamous for the murder of Neville Norway in 1840. Such was the brothers' notoriety that three excursion trains were run from Wadebridge for 1100 people to see the public execution at Bodmin Gaol. Lower Treneague is situated in several acres of inspirational woodland gardens which delighted members who enjoyed a peaceful walk through the grounds.

September - The Search for the Lady Agnes

The Lady Agnes was a 79 foot, two-masted schooner that plied the ports of Britain and overseas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Built at the top of the beach at St Agnes in 1877, the Lady Agnes was typical of the craft that brought coal to Cornwall to feed the steam engines in the mines, and returned to South Wales loaded with copper ore for smelting. Trade extended throughout Europe and even to Newfoundland, these little vessels accepting any cargo that would enable them to 'earn their keep'.

The fascinating history of the Lady Agnes, her succession of owners and crew, and also her figurehead, was the subject of a recent talk to Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society by Peter Radcliff, Chair of St Agnes Museum Trust. Years of painstaking research, particularly in Britain and North America, had pieced together a highly detailed account of the vessel.

The Lady Agnes' history was not entirely one of plain sailing. In 1896 she was grounded in Conway Bay and four shipwrecked mariners were hauled ashore. That this was the first voyage under the command of one Captain Cox presumably did little to enhance his reputation. After a succession of Welsh owners, the Lady Agnes returned to Cornish proprietors and in the 1930's, was carrying china clay around Cornwall. She was eventually bought for scrap in 1948.

Photographic evidence showed the Lady Agnes' figurehead disappeared in the early 1930's. By remarkable detective endeavours, it was eventually traced to North America. Local subscription in St Agnes enabled it to be purchased and placed in the town's museum, a fitting final resting place for the figurehead, believed to represent St Agnes herself.

October - The Pharmacy of Yesterday

Kingsley Rickard gave a fascinating glimpse into the world of the dispensing pharmacy of yesteryear at a recent meeting of Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society. Members were intrigued by the range of bottles, pill-making equipment, cut throat razors, balances, hair styling aids and so on that were on display. Mr Rickard explained the function of the various shaped and coloured bottles that pharmacists used to store their supplies from which they would make up prescriptions. Poisons were stored in bottles with ridges or other marks that made them distinctive. There were no screw tops, so all bottles had to be secured by ground glass stoppers or corks.

With no handy boxes of ready-made tablets to lift off the shelves, pharmacists would make pills as required, producing the required quantity of equal size, containing equal doses. This could take several days to complete as periods of drying had to take place, so waits for prescriptions were rather more than the 20 minutes we expect now.

The demanding practical and other skills required in those days were learnt over a 4 year apprenticeship. Members felt that one of the most challenging tasks was to read the prescriptions issued by doctors. Using a combination of Latin abbreviations and symbols, the scripts appeared to defy interpretation by all but the fully initiated!

November - Old St Breward

A wide-ranging collection of old photographs of St Breward not only delighted members of Camelford Old Cornwall Society at a recent meeting, but also sparked off memories and reminiscences, particularly of some of the old village characters. Presenter Dennis Lusby brought to life the moorland parish for which there is evidence of occupation for at least five thousand years.

St Breward is irrevocably linked with granite, both the darker moor stone and, subsequently, the quarried stone, which proved to be easier to dress. Old photographs showed wooden wedges driven into the granite. These would then be thoroughly soaked with water, and by swelling, would split the stone. The Thames Embankment, Devonport and Chatham Docks, the Eddystone and Bishop Rock Lighthouses, and the plinth for Churchill's monument in London were all quarried in St Breward.

Stannon Clay Works provided another major source of employment in the parish. Clay slurry was directed to the dries at Wenford where, after settling and drying, it was sent by rail to Par or Fowey for export.

Village scenes included snapshots of unpaved streets, three thatched cottages in what is now the Old Inn car park, Nottle's dray delivering coal, and a horse tied at the shop door. Crowds watched carnivals and band processions, establishing events that are still part of village life.

Programmes for previous years