Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society


President: Ethel Broad
01726 882 798

Chair: Philip Lessels
01840 230397

Vice Chair: Margaret Mabson
01840 212 549

Treasurer: Peter Broad
01726 882 798

Secretary: Sue Letch

Recorder: Susan Theobald
01840 211 790

Programme for 2013

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.

Programme 2013

January 14thMemories of Camelford
- Extracts from Mr Leese's Diary
Cameron Valentine
February 11thCornwall at War
- Memories of the lead-up to D-Day
March 11th Wade-BridgeAndrew Langdon
April 8thThe Bude Canal and Environment
Chris Jewell and Mike Moore
May 13thCornwall at War Museum, DavidstowSteve
June 10thVisit to the DCLI Museum at BodminMajor Hugo White
July 6th (Saturday)Trip to Godolphin House
Transport by minibus
September 9thAGM, followed by Dew Vardh (Two Bards)
A mixture of Poems and Song
Bert Biscoe and Pol Hodge
October 14thOld Photographs of CornwallIvor Corkell
November 11thSt Columb HurlingColin Roscorla
December 9thAnnual Dinner
Bowood Park Golf Club
Bookings to Margaret Mabson:
01840 212 549

Reports 2013

St Columb Hurling

Colin Roscorla

Chair Philip Lessels welcomed nearly 40 members and friends, despite the awful weather. Our speaker for the evening was Mr Colin Roscorla who gave us a very interesting and enjoyable talk on St Columb Hurling, which is considered by many to be Cornwall's national game.

The game of hurling is played in St Columb twice a year - on Shrove Tuesday and the second Saturday following. The pitch is the world's largest for any ball game. It covers about twenty square miles - being the entire parish of St Columb Major! It is played between the TOWNSMEN and COUNTRYMEN of the parish. There is no referee and very few rules. The aim of the game is to place the ball in the goal or take it across the parish boundary. The Country goal is a shallow stone trough and the Town goal is the base of an old Celtic cross.

At 4.30pm the words "Town and Country do your best. But in this parish I must rest" are shouted, the ball is thrown up and the game begins. It is usually followed by a large scrum. Play will hopefully stay in the town for up to one hour, until someone makes a "break" for the goal or boundary. Eventually a winner is established and the ball is declared either a "town ball" or a "country ball". In the evening every pub in the town is visited, where the ball is immersed in gallon jugs filled with beer. This is known as silver beer and is shared by all.

Mr Roscorla makes the balls using traditional methods. It is very skilled and time consuming work. The centre of the ball is made from Apple wood. It is covered by silver which has been hammered into two hemispheres and nailed or screwed on. A band of silver completes the ball. It weighs just over one pound and is approximately the size of a cricket ball.

We thanked Mr Roscorla for his time and for his knowledge on this subject. It is good to know that not all traditions are lost in today's society and we hope that Hurling will long continue. Who knows, perhaps there will be a few faces from Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society in the crowds at St Columb next Shrove Tuesday!

Our Cornish Heritage in Photographs

Ivor Corkell

Our chairman, Philip Lessels began the October meeting by welcoming 37 members and friends. Our speaker for the evening was Mr Ivor Corkell and his presentation was Our Cornish Heritage in Photographs.

He explained that in 1999 all Britain's 368,000 listed buildings were to be recorded, with photographs where possible, so there would be a record for all time. He was one of the volunteers to help and had numerous buildings to find and photograph in Cornwall. Surprisingly Camelford has 62 Grade 2 listed buildings. It is worth noting though that not all listed buildings are cottages or churches. Others include bridges, milestones, fish ponds, lavatories and pig sties!

Armed with his camera, tripod and various equipment including a shovel, he set forth. We were sometimes quite amused at the lengths Ivor went to in order to take an acceptable photograph. He told of some of the people he met and showed us some of the beautiful places he went to. The record was completed in 2005 and is kept at English Heritage National Monument in Swindon. Ivor was an excellent speaker who is clearly passionate about Cornwall and has a vast knowledge of our county and its heritage.

Margaret Mabson expressed our thanks to Ivor for such a splendid evening. We concluded with refreshments and a raffle.

Colin Roscorla will be the speaker at our next meeting on 11 November at Camelford Hall, The Clease at 7.30 pm. He will give a talk on St Columb Hurling and all members of the public are welcome to come along (non-members £2).

Dew Vardh - Two Bards

Bert Biscoe and Pol Hodges

The first autumn meeting got off to a very lively, rousing and often amusing start with entertainment from Dew Vardh - The Two Bards, Bert Biscoe and Pol Hodge. Using original material in verse and song, they presented a unique slant on Cornwall and Cornish issues, some of which included a cynical look at topical issues, others reflected the tales and yarns of yesteryear.

The meeting also included the Society's AGM. Following the resignation of Chair Rod Keat and Secretary Grace Keat, due to a planned move out of county, Philip Lessels was elected as Chair and Sue Letch as Secretary.

The next meeting of the Society is on Monday 14 October at 7.30pm in Camelford Hall, The Clease, when nostalgia will feature strongly as Ivor Corkell presents Our Cornish Heritage in old photographs. Non-members are welcome to attend at a cost of £2.

Visit to Godolphin House

In a new venture, we hired a minibus for our July summer visit to Godolphin, a Tudor/Stuart house near Helston. The house was very fashionable in the 17th century and dates from 1475 with an even older garden. Its distinguishing feature is a very imposing granite colonaded frontage which has set the scene for a number of TV/film productions, including the Poldark series.

House frontage

The house was built and owned for many years by the Godolphin family, who sheltered the future Charles II and rose to become prominent in the court of Queen Anne. It was also a seat of the Duke of Leeds (hence nearby Leedstown). The 550 acre estate was acquired by the National Trust in 2000 and the house was sold to the trust by the Schofield family in 2007; since then the interior has been extensively renovated providing a comfortable holiday let for summer visitors. The interior is not grand, but includes many character features evocative of a bygone era.

The dining room. Note linenfold panels around the fireplace

The sheltered, enclosed gardens provide an attractive location for refreshments which we enjoyed on a very warm and sunny day. Many thanks to Sue Theobald for driving the bus on hire from St Teath Community Bus Association.

Cornwall's Regimental Museum, Bodmin

About 20 members were warmly welcomed by Paul Rundle at the Museum in Bodmin. Perhaps better known as the home of the DCLI, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, the museum houses an impressive collection of military artifacts and historical documents, all extremely well presented.

A soldier in the DCLI trench, Winter 1916

First raised in 1702 as Fox's Marines, the regiment was heavily involved in many conflicts including the Siege of Lucknow in India and the Peninsular Wars in Spain against French forces, winning several battle honours.

The DCLI was not formed until 1881 by a merger of the 32nd (Cornwall Light Infantry) Regiment of Foot and the 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot. Participation in subsequent conflicts included the Boer Wars and of course the First and Second World Wars. In 1944 Hill 112 in Normandy was called "Cornwall Hill" after Cornish soldiers of 5th Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry suffered 320 casualties.

At the Regimental Museum

From 1959 onwards the regiment was part of mergers with other regiments, eventually to form The Light Infantry in 1969.

Cornwall at War Museum, Davidstow

The airfield, built at Davidstow during WW2, is the highest in Britain at over 900 feet, and didn't we know it on an unseasonably cold but bright evening. Fortunately, museum curator Steve Perry gave a us a very warm welcome in the museum cinema. He described how the airfield was built in 1941-42 and introduced the museum and its exhibits with a video.

Visits to museum buildings, most restored from the originals, revealed an astonishing collection of WW2 artefacts and weapons, from all three of the armed forces. Steve, whose knowledge of the era is formidable, kept up an entertaining commentary throughout, and eventually led us to the warm and cosy NAAFI building for refreshments. Few of us realised that the airfield was never bombed because all buildings and runways were painted to merge with the moor. Finally, we saw a mock-up of what a formal evening in the officers' mess would have been like in the company of about 40 suitably dressed mannequins.

On the left: Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society Members. On the right: just a few of the very smartly dressed models representing a formal gathering in the Officers' Mess.

It was impossible to see all that the museum offered, let alone numerous outside exhibits, in the time available. We left with an impression that Steve, his wife Sheila and many volunteers have carried out and amazing amount of work that is a credit to the memory of the forces that served at Davidstow. The museum website is here

Bude Canal and Environment

Chris Jewell

Chris Jewell from the Bude Canal and Harbour Society gave a presentation about the Bude Canal, assisted by Mike Moore. The canal was originally conceived around the end of the 18th Century as a link from the Bristol Channel and north coast of Cornwall to the navigable reaches of the Tamar and the English Channel that would save shipping the often perilous route around Lands End. Both the landscape and financing eventually proved problematical and a truncated version was consequently developed that served inland communities with the lime-rich sand from the beach at Bude and other commodities, and brought goods out of the interior for export. Work started in 1819 and 35.5 miles were operational by 1823.

The canal incorporates three locks, including a very large one at the seaward end, and six inclined planes. The inclined planes, now grassy slopes, linked two levels of canal by an ingenious system of small wooden craft known as tub boats that were drawn up the planes by machinery, some driven by huge underground waterwheels at the top of the planes. The largest of these, at Marhamchurch, had an overshot waterwheel 50 feet in diameter.

The development of railways at the end of the 19th century to serve north Cornwall gradually brought about the decline of the canal. Warehouses, mills, wharfingers' cottages, stores and other buildings alongside the canal fell into disuse although some have subsequently found a new life as residential properties. Determined to address the general decline, a group of local canal enthusiasts set about an ambitious canal regeneration plan, the first phase of which began in 2005. Restoration of the canal and associated structures has been undertaken and a magnificent resource has been created for walkers, anglers and small craft.

Sue Theobald thanked Chris and Mike for their presentation which gave members a much greater appreciation of the canal and its environs.

Refreshments were served and details distributed about the society's summer visits. Contact Rod on 01208 851792 for more information.


Andrew Langdon

Despite bitterly cold weather and freezing temperatures, about twenty five members braved the arctic conditions to hear Andrew Langdon give a fascinating presentation about Wade-Bridge. The bridge, which is the icon of the town that bears its name, is of medieval origins and united the chapels at St Breock and Egloshayle. Built with seventeen arches to take pedestrians and perhaps the occasional flock of sheep or herd of cattle, the bridge has been widened twice over the centuries to accommodate motor traffic. Andrew provided a series of illustrations and diagrams to show how this was achieved. The most recent, and major, widening in 1962, required the construction of a temporary Bailey Bridge for pedestrians whilst the old bridge was strengthened and a new, upstream section was built to provide a carriageway of 5.5m between pedestrian pavements of 1.8m.

Over the years, the bridge has provided a promenade and parade ground for the town, and has been a viewing point for shipping, regattas and, more recently, raft races. In particular, during the Victorian period and early part of the twentieth century, when there was a significant rise in the number of social, political, military and religious groups, many of which had uniforms and bands, there was no shortage of processions over the bridge.

Andrew is the author of a new book entitled Wade-Bridge, which is a very readable and yet meticulous account of the bridge over the centuries of its existence

Cornwall at War


Cornwall at War proved to be a popular topic at the February meeting of Camelford and District Old Cornwall Society as members and friends filled all available seats. The evening featured a film developed by Trebah WW2 archive and the Heritage Lottery Fund which focused on personal reminiscences by folk who experienced events in Cornwall during WW2. The natural harbours and sheltered anchorages of the Fal, Helford, Fowey and Tamar rivers resulted in considerable activity in those areas, both in the assembly of British and American troops prior to D Day and the all too frequent visits of German aircraft seeking suitable targets for bombs, especially during the early years of the war.

Locations of aircraft crashes and bombing 1939 - 1945.
Source data: D C Keast, RAF Davidstowe Moor and RAF Davidstow War Website

Chair Rod Keat provided a short account of events in the Camelford area, illustrating the numerous allied aircraft that crashed and the extent of the bombing in which mercifully few people were killed or injured. The existence of a little-known radio station at Delabole that was intended to make German aircraft miss their targets was described, although it didn't stop a house in the village being destroyed. Only one raiding aircraft came to grief in the area and that over the sea, because four aircrew came ashore at Pentargon, Boscastle. These events prompted discussion, with Wesley Mills describing his involvement as an electrician at Davidstow Airfield and other members also shared their wartime experiences.

Mr Leese's Diary

Cameron Valentine

When Mr Leese, one time head of Camelford Grammar School, was appointed by Cornwall Rural District Council during WW2 as Information Officer for Camelford, he kept a diary of the meetings he attended during 1942 / 43. The contents of this diary were shared with over thirty members of Camelford OCS at their January meeting by Cameron Valentine of Camelford Royal British Legion and demonstrated the wide-ranging activities of local groups and individuals to assist the war effort. Also included were summaries of enemy activity which showed that even small rural communities were not exempt from occasional bombs that resulted in casualties and sometimes death.

Underpinning all activity was a suspicion that invasion could still be imminent and, in an age when few people had telephones and sharing of information was not as rapid as these days, references were made to car drivers, announcers, and a messenger pool. In addition, clerical workers, billeting arrangements, and even a mounted corps (which never materialised as there were insufficient horses) were all subjects of discussion.

Amongst the records of air raid activities, unexploded bombs and casualties were some more mundane items - in August 1942 fruit was not reaching Delabole as transport was at fault, and in September of that year Mr Bunt, fishmonger of Port Isaac did not have sufficient petrol allocated to allow him to take his goods to the rural villages he served. The arrival of American troops gave rise to comments in December 1942. It was noted that they were remarkable for their courtesy and that they were very fond of dancing. However, there was a colour bar at their dances.

During this period, the construction began of the airfield at Davidstow, but Mr Leese later noted 'Rumour - Davidstow aerodrome is so befogged that it cannot operate for more than a small fraction of the year.'

Programmes for previous years: 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008

Federation of Old Cornwall Societies website