“On This Day” is taking a holiday during July but will be back with exciting new content on August 1st. Meanwhile here's a ramble through the project so far which may give you an opportunity to catch up on stories you may have missed.
On January 1st we kicked off the project with The Wolf Lights Up, celebrating the anniversary of the first illumination of the current Wolf Rock lighthouse in 1870. Midway between The Isles of Scilly and Lizard Point the building of the Wolf was a tremendous achievement and was duly noted by one of our key sources in this project, John Tregerthen Short of St Ives, who kept a diary of local events and nautical and fishing occurrences for over 50 years. A quick search of the site reveals ten items sourced from Tregerthen Short's diaries ranging from a local parliamentary election on June 10th 1828 through his own capture by the French on March 28th 1804 to local municipal affairs and public health issues, including the construction of St Ives gas works (19 May 1835), the flu epidemic of 1837 and the construction of the new market house in 1832.
Tregerthen Short also noted the launch of the St Ives schooner Eldred on March 28th 1829. Eldred worked as part of the Welsh fleet for many years, bringing Welsh coal to Cornwall and taking copper ore to Wales as a backfreight. The copper trade enjoyed something of a renaissance in the years following Waterloo and the success of Levant Mine (12th April 1821) is a beacon in the annals of mining in Penwith where records extend back into the 15th century when John Treskawe and his friends registered the While an Woth tinworks in Truthwall on March 20th 1498.
It's no surprise that most of the mining stories come from St Just but St Just isn't all about mining. William Borlase was born in St Just, Pendeen to be absolutely accurate, on February 2nd 1696 and lived much of his life in Ludgvan. His antiquarian and historical research and writing left a significant mark both nationally and locally in Cornwall. Humphry Davy is a name probably known to more people today, largely on account of the Davy Lamp, but while he may have been the brightest star in the Penzance firmament in the early 19th century we should not forget the influence of Davies Giddy, his mentor, and other influential members of local society such as Joseph Carne and Samuel Pidwell.
Local history however is often about people so local that no-one has ever hear of them them, people like William Limbrey of Kerrow and Honor Roberts of Chykembro whose lives can be traced via parish records and the inventories and wills which followed their deaths. Also, boys like Willie Tonkin, William Maddern Eddy and Harold Morris who served in World War One. Willie Tonkin survived the war only to be killed at Levant in August 1920.
In more recent years Penwith, particularly Newlyn and St Ives, has become a focus for the arts. Walter Langley was described as the first to make Newlyn famous following his move from the Midlands and the presence of artists in Newlyn led to the establishment of the Crysede textiles business there in the 1920s. Artists need models and and Annie Eliza Warren was one such, she later married Jack Webb, who, like many Cornish miners, left Penwith for South Africa. South Africa was just one destination for the people of the diaspora: Richard Warren and his brother James left for Mexico in 1826; in 1849 82 emigrants left St Ives for Quebec on the schooner Ono; and in 1902 Edwin Varker of St Hilary met a violent death in Silver City, Idaho.
Although people were leaving west Cornwall before 1800 the population of Penwith continued to grow until 1871 when the census recorded a peak of almost 57,000 before the area underwent a prolonged depression as mining declined. All these people needed entertainment and law and order as well as public health provision and public buildings. Penzance has one of the oldest libraries in the country, soon to celebrate its bi-centenary, while in the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall Penzance hosted the second oldest geological society in the world. The coming of the railways brought visitors to the area, though bathing machines were provided in Penzance well before the Mr Brunel appeared on the scene.
The most entertaining story was probably the tale of the bull who broke out of the market at the top of Causewayhead on 12 May 1941 and paid an unexpected visit to the patients in the West Cornwall Hospital with a lady friend he'd picked up along the way. Humour seems to accompany agricultural topics – daffodil smuggling!
That's just a snapshot of the diverse coverage of the Penwith Local History Group On This Day Project 2017. To find out more explore the project using the search and browsing facilities provided. We're always on the lookout for more material, either new topics or new information on topics already covered. Use the Contact Us form send us your ideas.
Many people and organisations have contributed to the PLHG On This Day project but special mention should be made of the Morrab Library and the Morrab Library Photographic Archive, The St Ives Archive, The Newlyn Archive, St Hilary Heritage Centre, The Hayle Archive, Cornish Studies Library and the Cornwall Record Office.