ST. AUSTELL AREA PARISH
Vicars/Priests Manorial Recds Burials in the Church Cemeteries Calendar Changes
A GUIDE TO THE PARISHES
by Julia Symons Mosman
Treverbyn Charlestown St. Austell Legends Mining
Par and St. Blazey
Please see our Photograph section for more extensive views of what we've described herein
St. Austell, located in the south-central section of Cornwall, is today Cornwall's largest town, with approximately 28,000 residents. The parish is part of the Hundred of Powder, and is bordered on the east by Par, St. Blazey, and Luxulyan parishes, on the north by Roche, and on the west by St. Stephen in Brannel, St. Mewan, and St. Ewe parishes. Mevagissey is just to its south. It is about 14 miles east of Truro. (see map).
Originally, the parish was quite large, covering 11,450 acres - described in 2007 as being an "immense" parish. In 1845, St. Blazey parish was created from areas of St. Austell. In 1847, the parish of Charlestown was created from the eastern section, and Treverbyn from the northern in 1850, leaving St. Austell a parish of 1,339 acres. Par was then created out of parts of St. Blazey and Tywardreath. Since then, there have been further divisions and re-organizations. St. Austell was governed by the Restormel Borough Council from 1974 to April 1, 2009. After that date, St Austell has been in the new parliamentary constituency of St Austell and Newquay which was created by the Boundary Commission for England (increasing the number of seats in Cornwall from five to six).
The main local authority is Cornwall Council, the unitary authority created as part of the 2009 structural changes to local government in England. The six former Districts and the former Cornwall County Council were abolished and replaced by Cornwall Council on 1 April 2009.
Also on 1 April 2009, four new parishes were created for the St Austell area. They are:
St Austell Town Council covering Bethel, Gover, Mount Charles, Poltair and Holmbush; represented by 20 councillors.
Carlyon Parish Council covering Carlyon Bay and Tregrehan; represented by 9 councillors.
St Austell Bay Parish Council covering Charlestown, Duporth, Porthpean and Trenarren; represented by 7 councillors.
Pentewan Valley Parish Council covering Tregorrick, Trewhiddle, London Apprentice and Pentewan; represented by 9 councillors
These various reorganizations should not greatly affect family historians, but might help define searches when the object is hard to pin down - such as where a particular burial might have taken place.
The parish extends from the broad "spine" of granite running down the center of Cornwall with its moors and mines,drops to the urban center of St. Austell, which nestles in the semi-circle of granite deposits which defines "the Northern Quarter" from the Southern, then gently descends down to the sea. At one time it was a land of green valleys and spreading elm and elder trees. Since then, it has become a landscape noted for its lunar-like white cones rising wherever china clay was found.
St. Austell, with china clay "mountains" behind, circa 1966
Treverbyn (Tre-verbin= the herb, rape, or root), in the north of the parish, was the voke lands of a considerable manor long before the Norman Conquest (as it appears from the Domesday book). Walter Treverbyn was Sheriff of Cornwall in 1223. The property descended through generations of family until Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exon and Earl of Devon, son of a Treverbyn heiress, forfeited his lands to the crown for treason against Henry VIII. A part of Treverbyn manor was retained by the Trevannion family, which also had a Treverbyn daughter marry into their line, and the manors became known as "Treverbyn Courtney" and "Treverbyn Trevanion". Much of the lands of Treverbyn Courtney were later sold to local families such as the Rashleighs, Sawles, and Carlyons under the Land-Tax Redemption Act, while the Trevanion's held their land into the 1800's.* The duchy, of course, retained their interests in other lands, as well. (see the Cornwall Manorial Rents and Surveys: Treverbyn Courtenay)
There appeared to be ruins of the original Treverbyn manor house into the late 1600's, but by 1815 nothing was visible, and only the oldest inhabitants could remember seeing the remains of a crumbled wall. The location of the church, which was open to the public "long before St. Austell's Holy Trinity was built", and it's burying ground, have also been lost.
For centuries Treverbyn was the territory of tinners, copper miners, and "hard-scrabble" farming. Then china clay was discovered circa 1769 - and the region became one of white mountains and deep pits throughout it's length and breadth. Carn Rosemary, one of the principal villages by 1841, was renamed "Bugle", and still continues as a centre for the population today, with a sizeable population of Portugese living nearby, but many of the villages and hamlets of yore have been subsumed by the ever-expanding mines.
In 1847, while troops were descending upon St. Austell to deal with potentially rioting miners, Elias Martyn of Carthew stopped the vans, and demanded the soldiers divert from their mission to protect his shop, as he thought the gathering miners were marching against him. (West Briton accounts of the riot.)
In the 1970s, archaelogical excavations were done on a "round hill" near Trethurgy, which was directly in the way of a china clay mine expansion. It was found to be the remains of a pre-Roman-era village, and the way the people lived changed academic thought regarding Roman influence; evidently, the village was well-organized, and people lived in relative comfort well before the advent of the Romans. There's a very nice explanation regarding these excavations on the Cornwall Council website - see the St. Austell Resources page for links.
ST. BLAZEY and PAR
St. Blazey lies between the parishes of Tywardreath, Par, St. Austell, and Treverbyn, adjacent to St. Austell Bay. Equally ancient as St. Austell, by the 1500's, it was known as St. Blaise, or St. Blasye ( or in Cornish, Lanndreth alias Landrayth/Landrait). In Cardinal Wolsey's "Beneficiorum," previous to 1530, it was designated a "daughter" Church of Tywardreath priory, in representation and consolidation with St. Austell.
The parish was administered by the powerful Tywardreath Priory until the Reformation.
In 1644, Royalist troops severed the Earl of Essex' access to supplies landed at Par, and Essex found himself encircled. He escaped, as did some of his troops, but the Royalists captured powder, cannon, and arms. The retreating rebels paused to blow up Lostwithiel church; it is unclear if something similar happened at St. Blazey, but as there are no church registers extant previous to that time it is likely something similar occurred. Records of parish expenditures previous to 1765 do not exist.
It has been noticed by historians that during this time the Rev. John May, vicar of St. Austell, St. Blazey, and St. Neot, was deprived of these benefices for conscience sake. Mr. May was succeeded by one Bond, but the plague happened to come into the parish some time after. Bond fled to Mawgan in Meneage, another sequestered living in the County. Mr. May, undaunted by fear, resumed the care of the parishes through the whole of the sickness - and not one member of his family fell ill. As soon as the sickness ended, Mr. May was again turned out.
The "old Church" was probably built in the early 1400's (circa 1440), replacing an even earlier church, and was heavily remodeled in 1839 by Sir Gilbert Scott. In 1849, new church gates were added, and in 1897 the church was again restored by Edmund Sedding, when the galleries, old pews and wall plaster were removed. In 1899, two new windows were added in the porch. The tower contains three bells, which were erected, one in 1699, another in 1740, and a third in 1771. The church contains memorials to the Scobell, Carlyon, and Vincent families, as well as the Carthew and Kelliowe families.
In 1801, there were 87 inhabited houses in the parish, with a population of 467; by 1851, the population had grown to 3,570 persons- which coincided with the growth of Fowey Consols and other copper mines. Villages include Bodelva, Kilhalland, St. Blazey and St. Blazey Gate, and Crinnis mine. Roselyon* and Tregrehan, historical home of the Carlyons, are part of the parish as well. (Further information regarding Tregrehan is under St. Austell.)
Lately, a new additon to the parish has been The Eden Project, a collection of biospheres (geodetic domes), which reused an expired clay-mining pit as a building site. Under the domes, one finds a collection of rare and exotic plants, as well as interactive exhibits.
For a more complete history of the parish, given in a speech by the Rev. J. Bartlett in 1856, click here.
[* Roselyon is situated on the western side of Par Lake. The mansion is aged and gloomy, but the grounds around it are full of verdure, and richly clothed with timber. The views over Par Lake, the adjoining villages, and the open sea, are very fine. Trenavissic is now a farm-house. from "An Historial Survey of the County of Cornwall", vol. 1]]
The parish of Par was created from part of St. Blazey and Tywardreath parishes in 1849, when Charlestown and Treverbyn were separated from St. Austell. However, the village of Par is located across the river - and is in Tywardreath parish. Previously, the area denoted as the "Parish of Par" was called Par Sands. At one time, the land which constitutes much of Par did not exist; it was created by the silt, soil, and mining tailings washed down the Par river over the centuries. In the early 1700's the bridge at St. Blazey actually led to a quay, where sea-going ships arrived, and a bustling commerce existed.
Problems developed in using Charlestown harbour for the newer, ever-larger ships which started to carry china clay in the 1800's. Therefore, Par Harbour was built by John Thomas Austen (later Treffry) of Place, Fowey, in the early 1820's, when Par Sands was still considered to be part of St.Austell. By the mid-1840's, there was not only a southern and northern breakwater, but smelters and every function needed for granite and ore handling. It became the primary point for shipping ore and clay, and continues its role (albeit in a diminished capacity) today. Please see entries under "Parish Life" regarding the port, including the news article written in 2010.
The Church of Par, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, is in Biscovey.
CHARLESTOWN to PENTEWAN
At the opposite end of the parish, another manor that was included in the Domeday book was the Earl of Cradock's Tewington, with it's center at Towan (Cornish=heaps of sand, or hillocks) . The coastal village of Pentewan, part of the manor, slowly replaced Towan over the centuries as its role as a place for shipping of ore, etc. became more important. There has been a quarry in the area which produces unusually strong stone used for many famous buildings throughout Cornwall. Near Pentewan a manor named Polruddon once stood; John Polruddon built the house near a cliff, with a stirring view of the sea. However, lights from the house apparently attracted pirates or privateers, for one night John Polrudden disappeared, leaving the house to slowly disintegrate. (Some say it was the French who took him, others slavers, but there is no proof for any theory.) Stones from Polrudden were used to build Penwarne, once home to Mr. Otwell Hill, then owned by the Scobells. Windows and mullions from Polrudden were said to have been used in the building of the nearby Pentewan church and terrace.
All Saints church and terrace in Pentewan were built by Sir Christopher Hawkins in 1821. The south wall of the church is possibly Norman. Always subject to sedimentation, after Charles Rashleigh built Charlestown Pentewan's trade diminished. However, the owner of the tiny railroad which ran between Pentewan and St. Austell, carrying coal one way and china clay the other, would donate the use of her engine and thoroughly cleaned cars for local Methodist Sunday Schools to have their annual picnics. People would jam into the open cars, and be off on an adventure to the expansive beach and alluring towans. (see article by A.L. Rowse, with photos).Then, during WWI, the tiny railroad was stopped. The tracks were pulled up, and the harbour lost to silt. The one-time port became a "sleeping treasure". It is now a sailing centre, and a lovely little seaport that is largely unchanged.
Between Pentewan and Charlestown is the small village of Porthpean, one of the favourite destinations for Wesleyan Sunday School picnics in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The tiny church, St. Levan, built by the Sawle family, is still open for services, and acts as a community centre. The wide, smooth beach is used by holiday makers to this day.
What of Charlestown? In 1790, it was named Porthmear (or West Polmear), and comprised 9 people. In 1769 Charles Rashleigh - a lawyer and partner with Edward Fox, the Quaker, in Polgooth mine - envisioned building a facility to ship the increasing output of the area mines by digging a port - by hand - from the rock where the tiny fishing enclave once existed. In time, his project became a model Georgian "new town" named Charlestown. It handled much of the ore and clay being sent all over the world. In 1847, it became the hub of the new administrative parish of Charlestown. The parish church, St. Paul's, was built in the 1850's, but the tower wasn't finished until 1971, when a fibre glass spire was lowered by helicoper onto the waiting structure.
Rashleigh also built a 6-mile long leat to carry water from Cam Bridges in Luxulyan Valley to Charlestown. The water was then kept in 2 reservoirs, where the water was used to keep ships in the dock afloat at low tide and to periodically flush sand and debris from the harbour. (In fact, Valerie Brokenshire records that the Charlestown leat also provided water for the animals and washing clothes at Tregrehan Mills when their stream failed.) It remains in working order today, and the ruts cut through the rocks still show where the wagons once passed.
The china-clay industry developed unique horse-drawn wagons to transport clay from the mines to the port; they were capable of carrying huge loads of up to 4,500 lbs. They'd rumble up and down the streets, shaking the building foundations, day and night. At a later date a system was devised to send china clay slurry to the port via underground conduits. The town today is still a working port, while also being a tourist site and the location for several movie "shoots".
While Charles Rasleigh was building Charlestown, he was also building a manor house, on a commanding rise called Duporth. It also was a model Georgian building, with lovely terraces, gardens, and a timbered park. Along with that, naturally, came the curved Duporth beach, restricted to the use of Duporth inhabitants only. In later life, Charles was involved in a long court case, the result of which was that his lawyer owned Duporth. It remained intact until 1988, when the house was demolished, and stones from it went to repair several National Trust houses, one of which was Antony House, Torpoint. The land became a holiday caravan site. His "town house" became the premier hotel in St. Austell.
The town of St. Austell is in the center of all this. While not recorded in the Domesday book, A. L. Rowse, in his book "St. Austell: Church, Town, and Parish", cites records which show a church was dedicated October 9, 1262, by Bishop Bronescombe, and other records show a church there in 1169, dedicated to Saint Austolus.
Though small, it acted as a market town for the surrounding area, and the population stayed stable for centuries. (A market charter had been granted by Oliver Cromwell to a gentleman named May, whose seat was near the town.) In 1804, the Church of England estimated a population of just over 1,400 souls. However, as the importance of the natural resources became paramount, the size of the population grew. Eventually, it became a market and union town, and was the polling place for the eastern division of the county. It was the head of the county court district, as well as being a transportation hub - and for a few short years in the 1840's acted as a coinage town. By then, the parish population was over 10,000, and the town itself consisted of 4,100 souls.
Holy Trinity church was originally built in the 13th-14th centuries.The baptisimal font dates from the late 1200's, when Bishop Bronescombe dedicated the site. The early church building remains today in the chancel; the round pier and low pointed arches of the south arcade are 13th century. In 1291 Philip Cornwallis, Archdeacon of Winchester, (who had been born in St. Austell), gave the church of St. Clether for the endowment of a still-standing chantry chapel - St. Michael's chapel, which stands in the south-eastern corner. The church was extended in 1498-99, and the places where two sections are joined are evident. It was again heavily remodeled in Victorian times, but still retains a wonderfully ornamented tower which is carved from Pentewan stone. The tower was probably in place before the 1498 'remodeling'; precisely when it was built is in dispute. It has been called "the finest tower in Cornwall" (Rowse), with "rich pinnacles, and grotesques on the walls looking as though they would leap down". It is divided into 3 sections, to represent the Trinity, and is "a Bible in stone". A pew-end still exists from the 1498 restoration, showing a worshipper gazing up at a fox as it preaches from the pulpit!
Palms once grew in the churchyard, but have been since removed, as have all but a few of the graves in the churchyard, due to road-widening projects and church remodeling. The register dates from 1564. According to the 1874's Kelly's Directory, the priest was provided a residence and 2 acres of glebe (browsing land), a gift of the crown, along with a vicarage valued at £500 per year - at a time when many families were living on 7s. per week!
For those unable to earn their shillings, the Union Workhouse was built in 1839 for 300 persons on a two-acre site on Priory Road, just north of town.. It served the following parishes: St. Austell, St. Blazey, Charlestown, Creed, St. Dennis, St. Ewe, Fowey, Golant, Gorran, Grampound, Holmbush, Mevagissey, St. Mewan, St. Michael Caerhayes, Roche, St. Stephen in Brannel, and Treverbyn. Workhouses were abolished in the U.K. in 1930, and the Union Workhouse building burned down shortly thereafter. According to the Cornwall Record Office, the only records dealing with the Workhouse that remain do not contain information regarding individuals, but merely miscellaneous things such as the purchase of soap. Of course, births were reported to the Registrar, and many burials are recorded in the Holy Trinity registers.
After 1914, burial & other records may refer to Sedgemoor Priory, which was the name given to the infirmary attached to the workhouse. After 1948 it became a hospital providing care for geriatric patients. It closed circa 1969, and the building was later demolished.
(For more information regarding the Workhouse and attached institutions, please visit Workhouses (this will take you off-site). For an on-site photograph of the main building, click here.)
While many non-conformist chapels existed in the parish, (37 in 1839, according to the West Briton), and contributed much to the life of the people by way of their Sunday Schools, which taught people to read and write as well as understand the scriptures, to their "teas", where hundreds of people would gather, often at Pentewan and Porthpean, to share tea, saffron buns, cakes and a good time on the beach, as well as their two services each Sunday, spreading the word of God and teetotalism, only two chapels of St. Austell remain in operation today. One of these, St. John's Wesleyan Methodist, was remodeled in the 1880's, and still presents a gracious front to passerbys today. Many of the burial grounds have been utilized in urban reconstruction efforts, unfortunately.
In St. Austell, the White Hart Hotel was once the town house of Charles Rashleigh, the visionary builder of Charlestown. It's been in the centre of events ever since. Hand-painted wallpaper from the White Hart, once the pride of Charles Rashleigh, is now in the V & A Museum, London, while some fine original pre-Raphelite paintings remain. Another 1600's manor house (Tewington) became the General Wolfe Inn - which has had many incarnations, including as a steak house. Penrice, the home of the Sawle family after they moved from Towan in 1596, became an old-age home upon the death of the last lady of the manor in 1971; it is now part of Penrice Community College, the first college in Cornwall which specializes in languages. Cornwall College, St. Austell campus, moved in 2004 into the former English Clay headquarters, known locally as "the John Keay house.".
Other notable places include the St. Austell Brewery, which was started by Walter Hicks, a wine and spirit merchant, in 1869. Originally sited at the old "London Inn", now Tregonissey House, just north of the church, the steam brewery became so successful under Walter Hicks jnr. it moved in 1893 to a site in Tregonissey Lane (now Trevarthian Road), and is open to visitors Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4:30 pm. His ales have spread the name of St. Austell worldwide, although their 167 licensed houses are limited to Cornwall, Devon, and the Isles of Scilly. (And, perhaps, London, as they just applied in 2009 to purchase outlets there.) They have also expanded into wine, and are running inns all over Cornwall.
In 1940, there was a major fire downtown, which destroyed a block of commercial buildings and very old dwellings, and eventually led to a massive reconstruction project. Since then, several such efforts have created "new spaces" and changes in the town. There is currently, in 2008-9, another such project being conducted, making it difficult to navigate about the town centre.
In the middle of town, just in front of the General Wolfe Inn, was once embedded in the street the Meeting Stone (the Mengu stone) which marked the conjunction of the 3 original manors. At one time, it was the center of activity; witches were burnt there, all pronouncements of war and peace were proclaimed, and a cattle market for "unidentified" animals was held. Now, due to urban renewal, the stone has been moved to a place beside the parish church.
Reposing in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the oldest surviving church plate in the United Kingdom, which includes silver plate and an extremely rare silver scourge. This rich treasure horde was unearthed near Trewhiddle. It is thought to have been buried by a monk or abbot to keep it safe from marauding Norsemen about 875 AD. (And it is telling that no one retrieved the bundle!)
At Higher Blower House, formerly part of Menacuddle Wood, and about 1/2 mile north of town, is an ancient baptistry or well. Once a church stood nearby. For centuries sickly infants were dipped in its water to bring them to health. Menacuddle, in Cornish, means "the stone (or rock) wall" according to Rowse, but has been also interpreted by Cyril Bunn as "place of the Irish Monks" from the Irish "Menagh Codhal". Whatever the meaning of the name, the little stone building over the well was rated "one of the most beautiful in Cornwall" by A. Lane-Davies, and it's estimated to be over 500 years old. It's located next to the stream, surrounded by woods, making it a lovely escape from the busy street nearby.
Just off Carlyon Bay is Tregrehan, home to the Carlyons since 1565; it remains in the family today, but in a slightly altered form. The gardens, famous for their camellias and trees first planted in the 1600's, are open mid-March to mid-May, along with the green-house, which was built in 1846. The Lodge house, old stable, etc. are available for rental. (see Resources for a link to their webpage.) The historian A. L. Rowse's parents operated a small grocery on the main floor of their dwelling in Tregonissey, and were the proud purveyors of sundries to "the big house" for years. (His grandparents worked at Tregrehan estate all their lives, eventually residing in the Lodge.) Rowse himself, after success at Cambridge and in the publishing world, bought Trenarren House, the long-time seat of the Hext family, and lived there 40 years until his death in 1996. Its view extended to Appletree Point, where his father laboured in a mine all his life, and where he died of 'miner's lung' at a relatively young age.
Another manor house of note was Tregongeeves, which was owned and occupied by Loveday Hambley. In 1656, her nephew, Thomas Lower (a physician from London), visited George Fox whilst he was imprisoned at Pendennis castle, and came away firmly convinced of the truth in Fox's message. His conviction carried over to Loveday, who became a staunch supporter of Fox, and for whom she "suffered greatly." In 1676, Alexander Parker wrote to Fox "we came to Loveday Hambley's, where we had a good meeting. ... Poor old Loveday was even overcome, and gladdened in her heart to see her house, (which she had lately enlarged), so filled; she has a zeal for God, and loves the prosperity of Truth." In a second meeting, he recorded the house was over-filled with people, and many had to stand outside. (Ltr. No. CI)
One of the legends of the area was that a giant, named Tregeagle, while traveling over Gwallow downs, was overtaken by a storm that blew his hat off. He immediately ran after it. Having a large staff in his hand, which impeded his progress a bit, he threw it in the ground until he found the hat. At length the dark and stormy night defeated him; he gave up the pursuit and returned to secure his staff - but could not locate it, either. Both were irrecoverably lost. The hat lay on Whitehouse downs, and bore some resemblance to a mill-stone, but very thick, and not of great diameter. This singular stone remained in place until 1798, when a regiment of soldiers was camped near it. They fancied that, as the season was unusually wet, the stone was the cause, so they raised it on its edge and rolled it over the cliff into the sea. But the giant's walking staff still remains stuck in the ground, being an enormous pillar of granite about thirteen feet high.
And in truth, the Longstone was the only granite within a mile of the location it long occupied. (It now occupies space in the grounds of Penrice Community College.)
The Long Stone at Mount Charles (also named for Charles
Rashleigh) circa 1966
Natural resources in large part defined the people who lived in the parish. People in the "upper" half of the parish were generally miners, first of tin and copper, later of clay. People of the "lower", or southern half, were more invoved with the sea - fishermen, boat builders, rope makers, as well as small farmers. Many people had two or three sources of income; a farmer might also mine, a miner might have a shop in his lower floor, while a shopkeeper might also be a part-time free-trader. [free-trader=smuggler, in some eyes] All, of course, grew food and/or fished to survive.
Single Rose, Wheal Virgin, and Wheal Elizabeth were royal mines. In 1580, Queen Elizabeth brought German miners to the area to work deep veins in the copper mines; according to Canon Hammond, local family names of Bowman, Ham, Hart, Hore, Keast, Kessell, Lobb, Sleeman, Starke, and Waldron all stem from these settlers. During the Stuart period, many more mines were opened, including Wheal Fatwork, Virtue, Bold-venture, Wet and Weary, and Heartsease. George I brought further German miners into the parish as the mines deepened, since the Germans had experience with hard rock and deep mining. It was thought their expertise was needed, especially for Polgooth mine, which was given a new lease on life. In it's heyday, more than 1,200 miners worked at Polgooth, and it had 26 shafts working concurrently. (Polgooth mine was just over the parish boundary, in St. Mewan, while the hamlet of Polgooth was in St. Austell parish at one time; boundaries have been known to shift, however.)
Eventually deeply tunneled tin and copper mines abounded. It was said one could walk from Boscoppa Farm to Crinnis without ever coming to the surface. Bob Acton said he was surprised to find "the St. Austell area was once nearly as important for mines as it is now for china clay". One expert has stated that the modern-day equivalent value of the copper and tin mined from the parish would equal £ 9 billion! The Crinnis was the highest-producing mine of its time, and Carclaze the largest, being one mile in diameter, and 150 feet deep. The 3 "blowing houses" in St.Austell at that time signify a very large, thriving tin mining community indeed. Tin mining abated in the 1840's, and copper collapsed in 1866. Some engine houses still stand to mark the existence of these mines, eerie remnants of a long-ago, highly prosperous industry.
While these industries collapsed, that of china clay mining continued, offering employment at a time when such opportunities were shrinking.
In 1759 chemist William Cookworthy discovered the secret of utilizing the very high quality china clay, which is the residue of decomposing granite, and which occurred in large deposits in the parish. From small beginnings the industry grew rapidly. St. Austell became a world supplier for this valuable resource, as well as supplying the English porcelain manufacturers such as Wedgwood. (The quality of the clay is only equaled by that found in 4 other places in the world!) By the mid-1800's, the majority of the population was involved in china clay mining. Women and men, as well as children as young as 8, were fully engaged in the work. Most of the clay mines were located in "the Higher Quarter", or what became Treverbyn parish. When in 1866 there was a collapse of copper mining, clay continued to thrive, and people moved to the area for jobs - working for 12s. or less per week. Even though trade in china clay diminished in the 1900's, it is still in production today, and an excellent china clay museum presenting an authentic 19th century mine allows people of today to see what the most modern technology was like in 1860. The equivalent value for the clay mined over the years equals £13 billion!!!
Gleaming white pyramids which marked china clay mine sites had long been a trademark of the parish. Some have slowly been reclaimed by nature, while others have been created with the new "thumbprint" (flattened) outline, but some still exist - a reminder of what once was.
Gunheath china clay mine, in Treverbyn, 1966
Notable mines in the area included the Great Crinnis Mine, part of which is now covered by the grounds of the Carlyon Bay Hotel, the Wheal Eliza mines, Gunheath, Goonbarrow, Cuddra, the Tregrehan Mine (or Wheal Joney), Greensplat, and the famous Carclaze - which started out with tin and copper, and ended with china clay!
St. Austell Parish is almost a microcosm of Cornwall.
It has lovely views of the ocean, great old homes, historical monuments,
farming - and a long, productive history of mining. Its people were (and
are) solid, industrious individuals who were (and are) independent and self-reliant.
While it is not outstanding in any one area, it excels in all.
For population and occupation statistics, click here.
* The Duchy of Cornwall held Treverbyn Courtenay since the 16th century. Treverbyn Trevanion was held by the Trevanion family, whith parts sold in the early 1800's, until a bankruptcy in 1852, when what was left of it was purchased by Joseph Ivimey of Middlesex as trustee for himself and Thomas. In 1857 they purchased what remaind of Treverbyn Courtenay from the Duchy for the sum of £18,000. The manor continued in ownership of the Gill and Ivimey families. Exempted from the purchase was Treverbyn common, leased for 99 years by Charles Rashleigh 12 Nov 1806, 4 acres of wasteland leased to Jas. Williams by copyhold, 29 July 1806, the tenement of Grey held by Thomas Hext, and lands granted to Henry Lambe by conveyance, 20 April 1850. for further information, see A2A - the National Archives.
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