The Old Parish of Gwennap
name Carharrack is believed to have been derived from two Cornish words; Caer =
a camp or enclosure and Harrack = rocks, an appropriate name when Carn Marth
with its rock piles overlooks the whole area.
The village stands on the south-eastern slope and in the past many believed a considerable part of this hill was once covered with trees, In his history of Gwennap Parish, written in 1945, CC James stated that:
along with Lanner and St Day has a relatively short history.
In 1700 ‘Carharrack Gate’ consisted of about twelve cottages on a
narrow strip of land on the manor of the same name, squashed between the larger
villages of St. Day, Tolcarne and Cusgarne. In a map of 1819 it had hardly
changed, with the Meeting House, the Octagon Chapel circa 1769, being the only
named building. The roads did, however, exist at this time, as it was an
The Gwennap mines were remote from both the north and south coasts, and as a result incurred high charges for the transport of timber, coal and ore. John Williams of Scorrier constructed a horse-drawn tramway from his mines at Poldice through Scorrier to a newly constructed harbour on the north coast at Portreath. Lord de Dunstanville laid the keel of the first tram on 25th October 1809, to a salute of cannon fired from the Portreath Battery way down the valley in the little port on the north cliffs.
Not to be outdone, John Taylor from his mines near Carharrack and St. Day also built a railway but to new wharves at Devoran on the Fal River. This line was called the Redruth and Chasewater Railway and opened in 1824. It extended eventually to Wheal Buller and Redruth via Carharrack and Lanner, although a line on to Chacewater was never built. From the port of Portreath the raw tin ore would go to the smelters of Wales and to onward exportation. Tin smelting requires a higher heat than copper and in Wales coal was cheap. Coal was shipped back to Cornwall to work the mighty steam pumping engines that raised the gallons of water from bottom of the wet mines. Into the wharves at Devoran would come the timber and other goods needed to keep the mines,as well as coals and iron for the major foundry at nearby Perranarworthal. Traffic on the Redruth and Chasewater line survived until well into the 20th century.
was this area once described as the ‘richest
square mile to be found anywhere on the earth’
In one year alone,
1836, the Consolidated Mines used 11,817 tons coal, 113,916 lbs candles and
64,000 lbs gunpowder. Gwennap had
a population numbering some 8,500
and over a quarter of these worked
in this one mine. With mining development came sudden expansion. In Carharrack
alone the population between 1841 & 1881 rose to about 1,700 souls. By this
time the great Consolidated Mines employed over 3,000. For every man underground
it was said there were three times that on surface, working in allied and
supporting trades. Accommodation was in short supply and the majority of the
village housing stock was built at this time. Miners and other craftsmen came to
this area from all over Cornwall in the hope of a share of the wealth. Huge
fortunes were being made by shareholders, promoters and mineral lords like the
Williams family of Scorrier or William Lemon, whose agent gained the nickname
‘guinea a minute’ Daniel
the tram-road of 1809 and the railway of 1824 came a coal yard at each end of
the village. The developing mines relied on traders to service its needs. The
carpenter shops, sawyers and foundries were closely followed by ponies, horses,
carts and carriers. Then came the blacksmiths and feed dealers to service the
animals. With all these people to feed
and clothe the grocery and hardware shops traders soon exploited the opening in
the market. Previously the scattered population had relied on itinerant traders
for supplies of anything but very local products. With the later failure of the
mines this was all to slowly and quietly crumble away. It survived in a state of
limbo for many years only because absent miners continued to send money home to
support their family members too old or too weak or disabled to follow them.
Many were to return themselves, crippled by the “Miners Disease” caused
mainly by the introduction of the rock drill and the dry dust it set up
underground. It was aptly named the “Widow Maker” Through many bedroom
windows left open in the night time, passers-by could hear the dreadful sound of
a still young man struggling to get some air into his lungs
the rise in population health problems soon arose. There were outbreaks of
cholera and tuberculosis was rife. There was no burial ground, save for that of
the parish church at Gwennap. Under church law baptism conferred the right to be
buried in the consecrated ground of the churchyard. The Cornish knew their
rights. The problem came with the children of
non-conformist parents, who had never been baptised into the established church.
Vicars could, and did, refuse these infants burial. Sextons sometimes took
bribes from parents to bury the little bodies at night within the churchyard
walls. As with drowned seamen, murderers and suicides any vacant ground was used
to bury the remains of those refused “Christian burial”. With the rise in
non-conformity came a rise in indiscriminate burials. As the numbers of such
burials increased so did health problems, especially in the more urban areas.
Corporations were obliged to establish public burying grounds, either run by
themselves or under licence by private companies. Under the various Acts of
Parliament that came in around 1832 there was now a central Infirmary and
Workhouse in Redruth, drawing in candidates for burial from all the surrounding
parishes in the “Union” and nowhere to lay them to rest after death. Workers
wishing to gain assistance no longer had to rely on their local parish to
provide it and so could now move about freely within their ‘Union’ area. A
municipal cemetery was eventually built on the St Day Road to the east of
was partly the reason for the introduction of the Registration Act, passed in
1837 to ensure there was a proper record of all births, marriages and deaths. It
failed to do this initially as registration was not compulsorily. By this Act
the Church of England lost much of it’s power to threaten those daring to
disagree with its teachings. Previously the only group to be given the right to
baptise, marry and inter their followers had been the ‘ the Society of
Friends’ otherwise known as the Quakers.
chapels began to spring up all over the place when the movement split into many
different schisms. The Bible Christian, and Primitive Methodist were two of the
most popular but they were allowed to do little other than baptise. Some larger
Wesleyan Chapels were licensed for marriage but few had burial grounds. Those
wishing to marry had mostly to travel to the registry Office in Redruth. On
Fore St in 1883
the Bible Christians erected a large
'Memorial Chapel' to Billy BRAY.
This was to take the place of a
smaller original chapel built
by the famous evangelist on the eastern outskirts of the village of Carharrack
and named by him
''Deliverance''. This later
also demolished in 1987.
" Museum to Cornish Methodism" is situated in the listed Wesleyan
Chapel, built on a plot of land between Wheal Damsel Road and Chapel Terrace in
1812. This replaced the older Octagon Chapel at Gwennap were Wesley
had often preached between 1743 -1762. The building is in a fine setting with
the Sunday schoolroom built in 1906 on the same site. The old village pump is
also preserved here, re-erected by the Old Cornwall Society in 1990. The museum
is open in summer, by appointment only: for info. Tel. 01209 820381.
unique building was the Mechanics' Literary Institute erected in 1841 by public
subscription on Chapel Street. It
was hexagonal in shape and contained a library where, during the winter months,
readings and lectures were given for the princely entrance fee of one penny. It
was demolished like the chapel in the 1980’s to make way for bungalows
1891 the population fell to fewer than 700 and although mining went on in
pockets for many years, with Mount Wellington finally closing in the late
1970's; and Wheal Jane in the late eighties. The memories, names and spoil heaps
Nature and early ‘conservationists’ together worked wonders. The now
established ground cover and tree growth has disguised the scars on the
landscape and even the barren and poisonous earth has recovered somewhat. In the
early 1980’s George and I along with many other volunteers spent many weekends
planting anything that the experts advised us might take hold and survive. The
residues of arsenic and heavy metals, ever present in some areas, often
triumphed but wildlife was given a chance to make a go of it. The dangerous
shafts have been capped and it’s now safe to wonder over this once heavy
industrialised landscape; a tribute to those that had no choice but to scratch a
living and make fortunes for others, often at the expense of their own lives.
The names of the mines are still evident; Wheal Damsel, Tin Tang, West Jewel and
Cathedral. These men had poetry in their blood!
Lanner Woodland Terrace
name Lanner originates from Lannergh
meaning 'a clearing' it has also been known in the
In the early 19th
century; it had consisted merely of
six or seven cottages but the place was feared by
both women and youths and few attempted to walk through it. In those days
strangers to a place were often hassled as they passed though, either by verbal
threats and name calling which sometimes led to actual physical abuse.
The throwing of ‘tubbans’ [clods of earth] was the least to expect.
growth of output from Tresavean
Mine resulted in the population increase being fast and furious and soon
terraces of houses were being built all along the valley bottom and up the
sloping hillsides to house the incoming workers. The greatest growth was during
the period 1818 to 1836. At the start the workforce at the mine was some 100
people but in less than twenty years it was 1,300 and Lanner had become the
heart of the “Copper Kingdom” Surrounding it were the mines of Bell & Lanarth, Comford, Cathedral, Penstruthal, Pennance, St Aubyn, Trethellan, and
closer to Carharrack were those of Treviskey, Ting Tang, Tolcarne, Wheal Jewel and
Wheal Cupid. Very
soon there was a Wesleyan Methodist, a Bible Christian and a Primitive Methodist
chapel to cater to the spiritual needs of all the populace. The Wesleyan
Methodist Chapel was built in 1828. The old Primitive Methodist Chapel was later
rebuilt in 1903 and the Bible Christian Chapel was erected in 1866 and renovated
in 1907. The three Sunday School
Anniversaries took place successively on the first three Sundays in May. After
the evening service the banners and pupils paraded to Comford accompanied by
hundreds of people. Two further chapels were erected at South Downs.
However, material needs were not always met, despite the great wealth dug from the ground beneath their feet. The wages were poor and living conditions appalling, despite the vast profits being made by the Mine Adventurers and the Lords of the Tin. From 1830 onwards families, unable to keep body and soul together, were leaving the district in vast numbers to search for work elsewhere.
They often first went to somewhere
in the UK but eventually were lured on, to the goldfields of both
North and South America, South
Zealand and Australia. Agricultural
workers were also persuaded to leave their meagre existence for Australia Canada
and New Zealand with the tempting
prospect of owning acres of land, whereas at home they were obliged to work the
land of others. All this was hastened by the later collapse of the copper price
in 1860’s. In
1844 the Parish of Lanner had been created out of part of Gwennap and then
Carharrack fell within its boundary.
came about due to the sudden increase in population but it was not long before
the population fell drastically. Although mining continued in the area until
Tresavean itself closed
in 1929 it was a shadow of its
former self and many homes and businesses were left empty in the great
depression that followed. There
is a lane, still known as 'Rough Street 'that is thought to date from Roman times.
This leads up past the Chapel and Church and on to the footpath to Penhalvean in
Stithians parish, where the head of a wheel cross was found in the garden of a
row of cottages some thirty years ago.
a track way it may have first been used for the conveyance of tin to St.
Michael's Mount and afterwards as an alternative road for the Pilgrims on their
journey from the St. Day Shrine to St Michaels Mount.
steam flowing through the village originates from an adit in Penstruthal Mine
and eventually reaches Bissoe. Its
straight course points to its being an artificial water course which is probably
not more than 200 years old. The
name of the manor Pensignans means “ the head of the dry valley” and would
seem to imply that there was no stream in earlier times.
years ago a cave was discovered in the village. It had probably been a hiding
place for smuggled goods. Nothing was found inside and the sides were not lined
with stones, as are many ancient fogous, vugs or vows [Cornish vooga
= a cavern]
St Day was just another village in the early 1800’s. St Day United Mine and the Consolidated Mine companies were formed out of the many smaller mines in the district. Other mine workings were, Crofthandy, Park an Chy, Wheal Pink, Wheal Clinton, Wheal Gorland, Wheal Quick, Wheal Jewel, Wheal Maid, Wheal Bush, Killifreth and the great Poldice and on right up to the boundary of Gwennap and Kenwyn parishes and Wheal Busy at Chasewater.
Until 1829 St Day was in Gwennap parish and had no parish church. Anciently it had been on the pilgrim route from Canterbury to St Michael’s Mount and a chapelry and hospice had existed before 1269 to cater for the travellers. In 1281 a survey found that,
“ annexed to the Chapel of the Holy Trinity were four acres of Glebe”
that as well as the chapel
building there was a bell tower and a refectory
and hostel to accommodate the many pilgrims
about 1565 Elizabeth I sold off the
Much of the stone went towards
building an additional north aisle on Gwennap Church but the bell tower was left
standing. It remained a landmark for many years. Norden writing in 1584 said
was sometime a chappell, now decayde, called Trynitye, to which men and women
came in times paste from afar in pilgrimage. The resorte was so greate, as it
made the people of the countrye to bring all kinde of provision to that
history was recalled by Hals writting in 1750.
Not far from this place is that unparalleled and inexhaustible tin-work called
Poldys which for above 40 years apace hath employed yearly from 800 to a 1000
men and boys labouring for and searching after tin in that place, where they
have produced and raised up for that time yearly at least £20,000 worth of that
commodity to the great enrichings of the Lords of the Soil, the bound owners,
and the adventurers in those Lands”
stood until 1798 when it was finally demolished. A
new parish church was built in 1829
and in the April of 1835, a district was assigned and the parish became
separate from Gwennap.
whole building was built to impress. Its towers and pinnacles dominate the
surrounding landscape. They are constructed of Cornish granite and remain little
changed from the day they were cut, Extensive renovation of the interior was
carried out in 1891.Various interior fittings were replaced over time and a
heating system installed in 1911. There were stained glass windows dedicated to
Sir Wm Williams Bart and Lady
Williams. With the decline of the mining industry and the resultant de-population
of the area questions arose as to the necessity of maintaining such a large
church. Later refurbishment works in 1931 removed the mezzanine gallery which
had helped to support the slender brick columns supporting the high roof. This
weakened the whole structure and a report confirmed the structure was unsafe and
in 1956 the church was closed. A
small section of the roof was damaged by vandals in 1985 and the remainder of
the roof was removed for
sake. The pulpit, and possibly the lectern were removed to St Euny Church in
Redruth and the font left in pieces. The whole
place was closed to public access.
has begun on the interior walls and the crumbling plaster will all have to be
removed but there is some really good granite underneath. The eight pillars that
supported the balconies are to be replaced with exact copies but of a different
material. Each will weigh about five tons and may have to be made on site. The
stairs in the tower will also be rebuilt giving access to some amazing views.
The restoration and re-hanging of the interior memorials has begun, including
repairs to the font found in pieces and replacing the marble statue.
a salvaged small organ was
Kiernan, the archaeologist on site with the Trevithick Trust,
has “a thing” about getting a bell to replace the one that was stolen, but
that will have to be from different funds!
there were two workmen killed during the 1931 restoration work.
They were WILLIAM JOHN HARFOOT & ERNEST JOHN BUNKER, both from, and probably buried in, Hayle.
no longer used as a place of worship the building
is a venue for local events and exhibitions. The Trevithick Trust leases
it from the Diocese of Truro.
the building with the most interesting tale attached to it
is the Town Clock
Redruth Clock St Day Clock
had to raise the height of their clock tower when the old one was obscured by
the building of the new Trounson's
Shop. It was decided to do away with the ornate bell-cote.
It was removed and replaced on top of the St Day clock tower, where it sits to
this very day overlooking the ancient
Market Square. Today St Day is a fairly quiet town with none of the hurry and
bussle of former days. It is also a parish unto itself and celebrates its Feast
Day in time honoured fashion on the
tenth Sunday after Easter. The Carharrack
and St Day silver band lead a procession through the town, followed by an old
fashioned tea treat. In the evening, weather permitting, the St Day dance, led
by the band playing its special music, tours the town finishing up in the Market
Square. This is one of the few small towns that still uphold their parish feast
in the age old way. Many locals make sure they
get home for “St Day Feast”
When we still had our dog and me two good knees, we walked the ‘Great Flat Load’ many times. In spring the sunny sight and almond scent of the gorses in bloom is truly wonderful.
* For the information on the restoration of St Day church our thanks go to Mike Kiernan.