Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society


President: Ethel Broad
01726 882 798

Chair: Rod Keat
01208 851792

Vice Chair: Margaret Mabson
01840 212 549

Treasurer: Peter Broad
01726 882 798

Secretary: Grace Keat
01208 851792

Programme Secretary:
Ethel Broad 01726 882 798

Recorder: Susan Theobald
01840 211 790

Programme for 2012

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 - directions to follow.

May 14, Poundstock 7.30 pm

June 11, Padstow 7.30 pm

July 9, Jacobstow 7.30 pm

Contact Rod Keat 01208 851792 or 07511 384616 if you have problems finding us.

Download more information about summer visits here (pdf)

Annual Dinner at Bowood Park - December 10
The Dinner will be a carvery - download the menu here (pdf). More info from Margaret 01840 212 549

Programme 2012

No meeting on Easter Monday, April 9th.

January 9The Pentewan Railway
illustrated talk
Robert Evans
February 13The Fishermen of Port Isaac
illustrated talk
Geoff Provis
March 12A North Cornwall Parish - Jacobstow
illustrated talk
Carole Vivian
May 14A visit to Poundstock Gildhouse and Church
Park in Church Car Park
June 11Visit to Padstow - the HarbourMeet at the harbour, opposite the Chough Bakery at 7.30 pm
July 9Visit to Jabobstow
Follow up to Carole Vivian's talk
Park at the entrance to the school by the prominent red phone box
September 1The Cornish Gorsedd in Camelforddetails to follow
September 10AGM, followed by
A Family Business - Rodda's Creamery
Philip Rodda
October 8Old Cornish Photographs featuring People and PlacesFrank Grigg
November 12The Office of Town CrierRob Tremain
December 10Annual Dinner
Bowood Park Golf Club
Bookings to
Margaret Mabson: 01840 212 549

Reports 2012

Annual Dinner at Bowood Park

10 December 2012

Over 30 people attended the annual dinner which was followed by contributions from Rod Keat (chair) who summarised society activities and illustrated meetings held during the year with a series of photos. These included Old Cornwall at the Cornish Gorsedd in September. He paid tribute to Peter Ascott, long standing past chair and president, who died recently. Long-service certificates were presented to Peter Broad, Ethel Broad and Margaret Mabson. John Theobald led the singing of carols at the conclusion.

Carols at the conclusion of the dinner - click photo for larger version

Peter Ascott 1923 - 2012

Many Old Cornwall Society members will fondly recall Peter Ascott who died on 27 November, 2012 at Bodmin Hospital. Peter was a founder member of the Camelford and District OCS in 1986 and was well known for his wide knowledge of all things Cornish and (sometimes wicked) wit. His enthusiasm led naturally to chairmanship and leadership of the society for many years. On retirement from work in 1985 he had more time to focus on Cornish history and gave no less than eight talks on extensively researched subjects ranging from The Legend of King Arthur to Cornish Railways at Camelford and other OCS meetings. In 2011 he was interviewed on a BBC history programme at Dover Castle, where he had worked as an electrician during WW2.

Born in Forest Hill, SE London, Peter first came to Cornwall in 1942 to work as an electrician at the newly established Davidstow airfield. He was engeged with electrical work at various RAF airfields Upottery (Devon), St Eval, Portreath and finally back to Davidstow. Peter was called up as a 'Bevin boy' in 1945 and worked underground at Ollerton Colliery, Derbyshire. Cornwall clearly meant something special to him because he later returned and was married to Tintagel girl Nancie Fry in 1951. He worked for Unigate/Dairy Crest in Davidstow and Lostwithiel, and eventually retired in Tintagel.

The Office of Town Crier

Rob Tremain

A rousing cry of 'Oyez, Oyez, Season's Greetings from Launceston Old Cornwall Society, God save the Queen' accompanied by a ringing hand bell opened Rob Tremain's talk on 'The Office of Town Crier' at Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society's recent meeting. Chair Rod Keat welcomed Rob, a Cornish Bard, current Mayor of Launceston and long-standing Town Crier. Rob was resplendent in his uniform, based on robes typical of the 17th century and incorporating the colours of the town's crest.

Known also as the bellman, town criers have had an important role to play since medieval times when they were the chief means of sharing information with the largely illiterate townsfolk by proclamations, such as news of market days and fairs, local bylaws, taxes, deaths and so on. The bellman also patrolled the town, called the times during the night and would also raise the alarm if needed. People of considerable local standing were usually chosen as crier as they had to be able to write and read the official proclamations. The proclamation would often be read at the door of a local inn, after which it would be nailed to the doorpost, hence the expression 'posting a notice' and the naming of newspapers as 'The Post'.

These days, town criers, who are appointed by the mayor, continue to inform the townsfolk of events, be they local or national and also promote their local area. Rob brought a selection of town crier documents and memorabilia which reflected the breadth of his role and which were viewed with interest by members.

The December meeting of Camelford and District OCS will be a Christmas Dinner. The next meeting in the Camelford Hall will be at 7.30pm on 14 January 2013, when Cameron Valentine will give a talk on Mr Lease's Diary (Camelford Grammar School head) to which all members of the public are warmly invited.

Old Cornish Photographs

Frank Grigg

Chair Rod Keat welcomed several new members amongst the 34 attending, and reported that the Society had donated £150 to Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust, the money having been raised by the sale of refreshments at the recent Gorsedd in Camelford. Rod went on to introduce Frank Grigg who gave a presentation of Old Cornish Photographs.

Bodmin Jail surrounded by countryside; a runaway steam roller come to grief in Grampound; a land girl learning to milk on a manmade contraption; an evacuee looking aghast at a calf sitting in the front seat of a car - these were some of the delightful images Frank Grigg showed. He began his talk with an informal 'Where's this?' quiz, and went on to cover themes such as 'Accidents and Disasters', and 'Story Lines'. A retired police officer, Frank had applied some detective work to some of the photos. He had been intrigued by a photo of Tregony Silent Band in full uniform on the back of a lorry, presumably for a carnival or the like, and went on to find out that their rendition of Colonel Bogey came from a gramophone and that the conductor used a stick of rhubarb as a baton.

Painstaking trawling of records had uncovered information behind some of the other images, and this added greatly to Frank's talk.

AGM and talk 'A Family Business'

Philip Rodda

The September meeting began with Rod Keat, Chair, welcoming some new members, followed by the AGM. The Society had a successful year with an increased membership and attendance at meetings. It had contributed to the Cornish Gorsedd by supporting the production of the book 'Bards of the North Cornwall Area' and by catering at the Gorsedd, the latter raising £150 which members agreed to donate to the Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust. The committee for 2012/13 was elected unopposed.

The Chair then welcomed Philip Rodda of A.E. Rodda and Son Ltd to the September meeting of Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society. Rodda's is very much a family business and can trace its beginnings to 1890 when the current generation's great-great-grandmother began making clotted cream in her farmhouse kitchen in Scorrier. At that time, the Roddas were farmers, but as demand grew for their cream, they gradually expanded its production using milk from other nearby farms in addition to their own, until eventually the business focused on cream making and, more recently, other products such as farmhouse butter and crème fraiche. Their creamery in Scorrier is sited on the original farmstead.

In the early days, the market for cream began locally, cream being a perishable product and transport, packaging and refrigeration not yet greatly developed. The arrival of the railways in Cornwall brought large numbers of visitors and demand for cream increased correspondingly. Improved refrigeration and transport enabled the family to venture into markets further afield, one of the first forays being to Fortnum and Mason. Now the company sends cream all over the world, including to Hong Kong and Japan.

Philip kindly supplied samples of Rodda's butter, milk and crème frâiche, raising members' awareness of the wider range of products made by the company.

Margaret Mabson, Vice-chair, thanked Philip for giving members an insight into to such a well-known and well-loved product that had been the result of one family's endeavours.

The next meeting of the Society will be on Monday 8 October when Frank Grigg will be showing old Cornish photographs. All members of the public are warmly invited to come along to Camelford Hall (The Clease) at 7.30pm for a glimpse of old Cornwall.

Visit to Jacobstow

For most members, the recent visit of CADOCS to Jacobstow was the first time they had ventured into this rural Parish which is situated east of the A39, seven miles south of Bude. After a warm welcome and refreshments in the Village Hall, farmer John Ward recalled incidents and the way of life in the Parish about half a century ago.

John Ward speaking in the village hall.

The original village school was located in the lower part of the village, where streams ran through. When the associated ford was deep, horses were sometimes used to get the children across to their lessons. One current resident of the village recalled, as a child, regularly driving animals to the market at Wainhouse Corner, a distance of 4 - 5 miles from her home, and being rewarded by her father with a Wagon Wheel chocolate biscuit at the successful end of her journey - a great treat for something no child of today would be asked to undertake.

Jacobstow Church, built during the latter half of the 15th century, rests peacefully in a dip at the bottom of the village. Members heard how, in the 1970s, an ancient altar stone had been discovered being used as paving in the churchyard. It had been taken from the church in the 16th century when the Church of England was becoming increasingly Protestant and an act required that all altar stones should be removed. With some difficulty, local people manoeuvred the heavy stone back into the church where it is now the altar stone in the south aisle chapel. Peter Ascott contributed further information about the church, including its association with the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

Jacobstow Church
Tablet commemorating Charlotte Batchelor
(see March Talk)

The next meeting of the Camelford OCS is on 10 September at 7.30pm in Camelford Hall for the AGM, followed by Philip Rodda of Rodda's Creamery, who will give a talk entitled 'A Family Business', to which all members of the public are most welcome.

Visit to Padstow

While all of our members had been to Padstow before, it took the insights of the very knowledgeable Rev. Barry Kinsmen to point out many historical features which are so easily overlooked, perhaps because of the crowds that throng the town. He started by outlining the origins of the community with the arrival of St Petroc from Ireland in the sixth century near Trebetherick across the Camel estuary and the establishment of a monastery in the present town (of which nothing seems to remain). Viking raiders arrived in 981, when residents sought the somewhat safer location of Bodmin.

With Rev Barry Kinsmen (wearing cap)

Walking around the inner harbour, Barry pointed out the elegant Court House opposite the harbour car park, believed to have been visited by Sir Walter Raleigh, the Old Custom House pub nearby and the Shipwrights Pub marking the history of wooden shipbuilding. Rapid change occurred with the arrival of the railway in 1899 with faster transport of fish and the development of tourism marked by the prominent Metropole Hotel. The construction of a lock gate to the innser harbour in 1990 stopped flooding in the town and produced a much more attractive setting which is now a magnet to visitors.

The 15C Abbey House by the harbourside, now unoccupied, contrasts with modern shops and restaurants alongside - up to about 1980 it was the home of the eccentric Mrs Simpson who was know to harrangue visitors, direct traffic and even to throw water over passers by. Barry's other anecdotes and asides, especially regarding the provision of the town's sewage disposal in early years, added an extra dimension to our knowledge.

The Court House
Abbey House

Walking around the streets behind the harbour, we saw the results of restoration of ancient roof tiles, the contrasts in building styles by the post office, what was the Cinedrome Cinema (sold on the basis that it was never restored to original use) and the alms houses of 1875. It was an especially enjoyable and informative evening, not least because of the unexpectedly sunny conditions.

The Society's next summer visit will be to Jacobstow on July 9th. at 7.30 pm when visitors are welcome. Park in the area by the telephone box before reaching the church.

Visit to Poundstock Gildhouse and Church

Poundstock Gildhouse, now a Grade 1 listed building and the best preserved example of a late medieval church house in Cornwall, was the venue for the first of our summer visits. The Gildhouse has been sympathetically restored in recent years, and has been in continuous use since it was built between the 15th and 16th centuries. Church houses were built as an extension of the church, providing a meeting place for the local community.

Poundstock Gildhouse has a sheltered location

Tim Dingle, manager of the contract for the restoration, gave a fascinating talk about the history of the Gildhall and its many uses. OCS members sat in the light, airy, oak-beamed upper floor that had originally been used as a feasting hall where church celebrations had been held. Church ales had been brewed and sold to raise money for the church or for good causes in the parish. These revelries were suppressed during the Puritan era and the Gildhouse later became a poorhouse and schoolroom. A recent major refurbishment has resulted in a magnificent feasting hall upstairs with excellent catering facilities and a further meeting room on the ground floor. There is also a tiny preserved stable where the school mistress used to stable her pony.

The upper floor of the Gildhouse

Members were impressed by the efforts of the Gildhouse committee to ensure the building continues to be well used for social and educational events.

Following refreshments, members visited Poundstock Church, noting in particular the three large wall paintings, now much faded, but which gave a formidable message to illiterate parishioners of former times since they depict the Tree of Deadly Sins, the Warning to Sabbath Breakers, and the Weighing of Souls.

The next meeting of the Camelford and District OCS is on 11 June. Members, and any other interested members of the public, should meet at the harbour, opposite the Chough Bakery at 7.30 pm for a guided walk and talk about the harbour by Rev. Barry Kinsmen.

A North Cornwall Parish - Jacobstow

Carole Vivian

Chair Rod Keat welcomed members and friends to our March meeting which was well attended. He reminded us about the Proclamation of the Cornish Gorsedd in Camelford on 21 April and the main event on 1 September.

Our speaker was Carole Vivian from Pelynt, a Cornish Bard and well known Cornish historian. Carole's talk centred around the life and times of Charlotte Batchelor, wife of Frederick, the vicar of Jacobstow in the late 19th century. Charlotte's childhood was spent in a lively family that ranked horses and hunting alongside education for all the family. Once married and a vicar's wife, despite giving birth to 16 children in 20 years, she found time to engage in parish duties, including providing education opportunities for local children.

There is no OCS meeting in April as it would fall on Easter Monday. Our next meeting will be a visit to Poundstock Gildhouse and Church on 14 May. Anyone is most welcome to come along. Please meet at the Gildhouse at 7.30pm - directions from Rod on 01208 851792 or on www.stteath.co.uk

The Fishermen of Port Isaac

Geoff Provis

A talk entitled 'The Fishermen of Port Isaac' created plenty of local interest. Chair Rod Keat welcomed over 40 people to the February Old Cornwall Society meeting when Geoff Provis presented a lavishly illustrated talk on the fishing community, encompassing the people, boats, customs and fishing traditions of Port Isaac and nearby Port Gaverne.

Geoff, from a local fishing family, drew on his personal knowledge and experience and a wide selection of archive material. He recalled the strong spirit of the village when mutual help and support enabled the community to survive hard times resulting from poor catches of herring or disasters at sea. Prior to the breakwaters being built in the late1920s, stormy seas would crash up on to the Platt, so during bad weather boats were hauled up the streets to avoid damage on the beach, another opportunity for anyone available to lend a hand.

The local beaches were frequently a scene of considerable activity. Slate brought by pony and cart from Delabole would be loaded on to boats on the exposed beach at Port Gaverne. Photos showed women and men were both involved in this work. Herring catches were landed on the beach at Port Isaac, the fish being shaken from the nets on to canvas alongside the boats. Following auctions on the beach, jousters (sellers) loaded their carts with fish to sell in nearby villages. The wet fish landings greatly increased around 1895 when the catches could be transported by railway from Port Isaac Road Station about 4 miles away. These boom times soon came to an end when the railway reached Padstow, with its more accessible harbour, in 1899. Shell fishing is now the main activity at Port Isaac.

The fish cellars at the western side of Port Isaac harbour provided storage facilities and were one of several locations for fishermen, often wearing guernseys showing the name of their vessel, to 'yarn'. There were numerous local characters who added colour to the village. Many folk had little or no schooling but are fondly remembered and respected for their wisdom and often for their very personal approach to life.

The Pentewan Railway

Robert Evans

Robert Evans, Bard, Chair and President of Pentewan Old Cornwall Society was the speaker at the January meeting of Camelford and District OCS. Robert traced the history of the Pentewan Railway from its beginnings as a horse-drawn tramway through the Pentewan Valley in the 1820s to its closure in 1918. The four mile tramway was developed to facilitate the movement of clay from St Austell to the harbour at Pentewan, and up to a hundred horse-drawn carts made the journey every day. Upgraded to a narrow-gauge (2 ft 6 inch) railway in 1872, the increased tonnage that was transported filled the holds of fleets of sailing boats that had off-loaded cargoes of coal at Pentewan harbour.

Four different steam engines were used to pull trucks during the lifetime of the railway. At the harbour, clay was off-loaded down shoots into the holds of ships in the harbour and trains travelled on a precarious looking wooden elevated section to get to the loading shoots.

Human cargoes were also transported in the freshly cleaned clay trucks when they were used to transport hundreds of church and chapel-goers from St Austell to Pentewan for their annual 'tea treat'. Photos of twenty one extremely full trucks of young and old, complete with brass band, steaming down to Pentewan, and elaborately dressed folk sitting at tables for their tea evoked a certain nostalgia. Such was the novelty of rail travel that the number of people travelling home was very considerably higher than the outward journey as residents of Pentewan added to the already loaded trucks for a free ride back to St Austell.

Programmes for previous years: 2011 2010 2009 2008

Federation of Old Cornwall Societies website