Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society

Programme for 2010


President: Peter Ascott
01840 770 338

Chair: Rod Keat
01208 851792

Vice Chair: Margaret Mabson
01840 212 549

Treasurer: Peter Broad
01726 882 798

Secretary: Denis Lusby
01208 850 260

Programme Secretary: Ethel Broad O1726 882 798

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

Summer meetings - meet in Church Car Park at 7 pm unless otherwise arranged.

Prgramme 2010

January 11 CANCELLEDThe History of a Cornish Village: Delabole
illustrated talk
Catherine Lorigan
February 8The North Cornwall Railway
illustrated talk
Rod Keat
March 8Journeys through Cornwall
Mac Waters
Bard of Cornish Gorsedd
April 12The Passmore Edwards Legacy
illustrated talk
Dean Edwards
May 10Visit to Boscastle
June 1425th Anniversary Dinner
July 12Visit to Stannon and De Lank, St BrewardMeet at Poley Bridge by Camel Trail
September 13Old Photographs of Cornwall
Margaret Thompson
October 11Lanhydrock House
illustrated talk
Paul Holden
National Trust
November 8Humour is a funny thing
Farmer John Bennallick
December 13Dinner

Reports 2010

October - Lanhydrock House

Paul Holden, House and Collections Manager at Lanhydrock, gave a fascinating presentation about the house and estate at a recent meeting. With 54 rooms open to the public and 200,000 visitors a year, Lanhydrock ranks highly on the National Trust's list of most-visited properties.

In common with many large properties, over the centuries Lanhydrock has experienced a roller-coaster ride of fortune and financial disaster, disrepair and refurbishment. Changes in layout and style reflected fashion of the day, none more so that the exterior of the building which was, at one time, painted red to echo the fashion for brick buildings, and later changed to a yellow lime-wash, reflecting the popularity of stucco. Sadly, once painted yellow, the lady of the house changed her mind and ordered the painter to remove the colour, only to have it replaced shortly after!

Lanhydrock's Long Gallery houses many rare books and documents, including the Lanhydrock Atlas, a survey of the Lanhydrock estates at the end of the 17th century, showing 40,000 acres widely distributed across Cornwall on 258 manuscript maps. The Long Gallery survived the fire of 1881 which destroyed other parts of the house. These were restored as the present Victorian house, boasting text-book country-house design and planning, particularly apparent in the kitchens and servant's quarters.

September - Old Photographs of Cornwall

At the September meeting, Margaret Thompson presented a collection of old photographs of Cornwall. Members enjoyed nostalgic scenes of thatched cottages, early 1900's fashions, maypole dancers, horse-drawn transport, and almost empty beaches at coastal towns which had yet to develop as resorts. The pleasure of travelling on the empty roads may not in fact have been quite so enjoyable once the unmade surfaces were taken into consideration.

At the Society's AGM which followed, Peter Ascott stood down after a sterling 25 years as Chair and was warmly thanked for his commitment and enthusiasm. Ethel Broad, retiring President, reported that Camelford Old Cornwall Society continued to thrive and offer a variety of talks and visits. Officers elected were President, Peter Ascott; Chair, Rod Keat; Vice Chair, Margaret Mabson; Secretary, Denis Lusby; Treasurer, Peter Broad.

July - Visit to Wenford Dries

Built on a massive scale in the early C20, the 500 metre long Wenford Dries were the venue for the July meeting of Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society. Currently the listed buildings are the subject of a development plan to convert them to residential use.

Led by local resident Denis Lusby, special access had been granted to give members a unique opportunity to explore the buildings which processed china clay slurry that had been carried in a 4.5 mile pipeline from Stannon clay pit to the settling tanks behind the dries. After settling, wet clay was sent to the floor below, where a ducted underfloor heating system, similar to a Roman hypocaust, dried it. Finally, chunks of 'dry' clay were manually shovelled to a lower storage area (linhay) before transport to various destinations by train. Astonishingly, about 80,000 tonnes of clay were produced annually.

Denis Lusby explains the Wenford Dries Buildings, just yards from The Camel Trail

The choice of site was heavily influenced by the presence of an existing railway line to Wenfordbridge, an extension of the Bodmin to Wadebridge railway up the scenic Camel Valley. It was originally constructed to carry granite from the nearby De Lank quarries and a small section of the railway line, familiar to many, is still in place across the main A389 at Dunmere. The dry was built adjacent to the railway line and a large private siding was made to connect to the network. Trains brought in coal for the furnaces in the dries, and also for the Stannon works. Six heavy horses were stabled at Wenford to convey the coal to Stannon. After WW1, the china clay company bought the first lorry to be used in St Breward, a Ford T, driven by Mr George Nottle.

After the closure of the Wenfordbridge terminus in 1971, the line ended just beyond the clay dries. The line closed completely in 1983, and clay was transported by lorry from the site.

Following the site visit, members adjourned to St Breward Memorial Hall where they saw archive footage of the Wadebridge to Wenford Railway, including railway trucks being loaded at the dries. There was also an opportunity to view plans for the redevelopment of the site whilst sampling excellent St Breward hospitality.

June - 25th Birthday Celebration

President Ethel Broad cut the 25th birthday cake

The weather favoured our 25th birthday event on the 14th of June, for the sun shone on an intimate evening gathering of about 50 people held in a garden at St Teath. The Society, one of many in Cornwall, was founded in Camelford in 1985 by a group of local history enthusiasts meeting in a room above the Methodist Chapel in Fore Street.

The society's president, Ethel Broad, welcomed guests, who were treated to a very adequate supply of Cornish fare, including pasties, saffron buns, and Cornish cheeses. Peter Ascott, longstanding chairman, neatly summarised his experience of the society in poetical form. We were pleased to welcome the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies' president, Terry Knight and Andrew Langdon, vice president, both of which addressed the guests.

The TrePolPen bellringers are to be congratulated for providing very appropriate musical entertainment, including a rendering of Trelawny, probably not heard by many in bells before.

May - Visit to Boscastle

Our outing on a sunny but cool evening was a visit to Boscastle to hear a wide ranging talk about the history of the village from Peter Ascott in the surroundings of Forrabury Church. The history of the village was much more intimately connected with the sea than it is now - it was the main route by which materials such as coal or lime were brought, somewhat hazardously, to the village, and sailors described the entrance to the narrow harbour as being like that of Norwegian fiord. The unusual rock formation at the entrance was also said to resemble a profile of Queen Victoria. Large sailing boats were 'warped' or towed in and out of the harbour by heavy gigs. The harbour with its controversial new bridge is the outlet for the rivers Valency and Jordan which caused such damage in 2004 and also contains a shortly to be replaced sewage outlet pipe. Amazingly, waste water from Boscastle, Bosinney and Tintagel enters the sea untreated and is shortly to be pumped to a treatment works at Trevalga. A less well known fact is that whey from Davidstow cheese factory used to find an outlet there and that it is thought that it assisted the growth of lobsters in the area.

The very exposed Forrabury Church of St Symphorian achieved country-wide fame during the TV series 'An Island Parish' and has Norman origins, although the rebuilding of massive stone roof arches in the 19th century tend to suggest something later. The tower has only one bell and the absence of a peal formed the subject of a poem by Rev R S Hawker. There is a wooden rood screen in front of the altar surmounted by two carved angels donated by Dawn French. The slating of the porch would raise a few eyebrows locally for it is achieved using very large flagstones.

Forrabury Church
Rood screen at Forrabury Church

Peter also briefly described the three pubs in the village, connections with Thomas Hardy and St Juliot, the historic old road with the now disappeared Bottreaux Castle and the Men's Institute (now a small museum). We also heard about the mediaeval small field formation locally called 'stitches' near the clifftops.

April - The Passmore Edwards Legacy

Few, if any, of those attending the talk on 'The Passmore Edwards Legacy' had realised the scale of this Cornishman's philanthropy. In his widely-researched and well illustrated presentation, Dean Evans explored Passmore Edwards' life from his humble beginnings in Blackwater (where he was born in 1823) to City journalist, newspaper editor, publisher and MP for Salisbury.

Passmore Edwards' own childhood and early life may well have contributed to his life-time of championing the working classes. Following a basic education at a local dame school (costing 2 old pence a week), Passmore Edwards left formal education at 12 years of age and soon became a social activist, taking up concerns which included the anti-corn law campaign, slavery and capital punishment. Aged 22, his employment as a publishers' clerk was his introduction to the area of work that was to become a major part of his life - journalism and publishing.

Despite the failure of some magazines which he edited and subsequent bankruptcy and imprisonment, he recovered his fortunes and in 1866 not only re-paid all his creditors in full, but also with interest. They in turn held a dinner for him!

With accruing wealth, over 14 years, Passmore Edwards became the benefactor of over 70 public buildings, which included 27 libraries, 17 hospitals, 7 orphanages, 6 institutes, schools of art, children.s holiday homes, galleries and museums. Cornwall was the recipient of many of these, including libraries in Bodmin, Camborne, Truro, Launceston, Liskeard and St Ives, a convalescent home in Perranporth, the original cottage hospital in Falmouth, and institutes in Blackwater and Mithian. Not only did Passmore Edwards donate building costs, he continued to support these projects with bequests for furnishings, books and ongoing developments.

In 1893, Passmore Edwards was the first recipient of the Freedom of the City of Truro, to be followed by similar accolades from Falmouth and Liskeard. Following his death in 1911, The Times wrote, 'He did more good in his life than almost any other of his contemporaries. Local events to acknowledge his legacy are being planned for 2011, the centenary of his death.

March - Journeys through Cornwall

The influence of mining and quarrying on the landscape of Cornwall became very apparent as Cornish Bard Mac Waters presented an intriguing collection of slides of old postcards at the March meeting of Camelford and District old Cornwall Society. Whilst the remains of engine houses are an obvious reminder of former local industries, there are so many more works and buildings that have long since disappeared beneath the undergrowth. Mac's postcards showed many of these operations in their heyday along with the people who worked them, including a large group of bal maidens, quarry workers, miners and fishermen.

The sepia tones and gently tinted images of Cornwall in the 19th and early 20th century showed scenes of little traffic, donkeys with panniers on Trebarwith Beach collecting sand, and cattle taking a leisurely drink in the river at Wadebridge. Boscastle bustled with coasters bringing in coal, lime, stones, pottery and liquor. Horse-drawn buses and donkeys and shays were the transport of the time, and all passengers - indeed it seemed anyone out of doors - wore a hat!

February - The North Cornwall Railway

Camelford Station 1959

Our fascination with steam trains and railways appears to remain unabated, as a recent meeting of Camelford Old Cornwall Society demonstrated. Extra seating had to be brought in at short notice to accommodate the unexpectedly high turn-out for an illustrated presentation about the North Cornwall Railway (NCR) by Rod Keat.

The development of the NCR was traced, and nostalgia was evoked by the inclusion of video extracts of steam trains chuffing their way through stations such as St Kew Highway and Camelford. Archive photos of the old stations on this line, plus recent shots of their current appearance, brought reminiscences from several of those attending. Some were reminded of the heyday of Otterham Station in the early 1940s, when vast quantities of cement and other building materials were off-loaded and driven to the nearby construction site of Davidstowe Aerodrome. Photos of the men who dug cuttings, erected bridges and built embankments, largely by hand, brought home the harsh realities that underpinned the development of the railway link that brought commercial and social opportunities to North Cornwall.

The demise of the NCR in the 1960s as part of the Beeching Plan left miles of track bed to be colonised by flora and fauna - and housing! However, the Camel Trail, running from Padstow to Bodmin, has developed into a much used and much loved route for cyclist and walkers. What a shame that this type of development was not extended to the NCR line between Wadebridge and Halwill Junction.

Programmes for previous years: 2009 2008

Federation of Old Cornwall Societies website