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News Archive > All > Heritage nurtured upon the high seas

Heritage nurtured upon the high seas

24th November 2004

IN THE second part of our historical look at Newquay, local historian Roger Jenkin takes us on a journey of shipbuilding and wrecking, gunpowder pranks and schooling, beginning with the subject of ships.

Altogether there were nine vessels built in Newquay during the 1860s, including the Bristol Channel Pilot Boat, which was a cutter, and eight schooners. The Bristol Channel and two of the schooners were built at the Quay or Harbour Yard. The pilot boat was built in 1860 for W Dickens of Pill by Richard Tredwin of Bothan.

Martin Clemens built the two schooners, Kitty in 1865 and Forest Deer in 1867. A supper was held in celebration of the Kitty launch at the Ship Inn, which is where the Victoria Bars are today. John stayed at the Gannel and built three schooners, Driving Mist in 1863, Edith in 1865 and SMC in 1866.

A further three schooners were built by a third generation of the Clemens family - Thomas and John – T & J Clemens. These were Ocean Belle in 1867, Fairy Queen in 1868 and Rippling Wave 1869.

In 1960 the town’s first lifeboat arrived and its purpose built home, which today is a shop in Fore Street.

The first lifeboat, called the Joshua, had only one outing in 1864 because she had dry rot. But she was replaced immediately and the new boat kept the same name. There were two coxswains – William Corkhill, 1864-1868 and William Pappin, 1868-1874. Probably around the close of that decade a French Brig was ashore at Crigga, between Tolcarne Point and Lusty Glaze. She was the Banquerreau until Captain Thomas Clemens bought her and renamed her Bertha.

In 1863 Newquay had a real windfall – its biggest ever record pilchard catching year. Pilchards stretched from Trevelgue Head to Newquay head as thick as they could swim. One seine alone, the Speculation, caught 450 tons, making £20,000 in one week. In the same year the harbour dues were rated by overseers at £300 per year gross.

We now move away from shipbuilding and lifeboats and on to other local events.

In 1860 Mrs Jane Salmon, Newquay’s postmistress, resigned after nearly 23 years in the role. She was succeeded by Johnny Reynolds, who took on the job in addition to his watch and clock ironmongery business. He operated from his own premises opposite the Commercial Hotel, now the Central. In the same year a boys’ school dubbed Alma Place Academy was opened in the disused malthouse.

In 1866 the United Methodist Free Church was built where Marcus Hill is now. After a period of more secular uses it is now a funeral parlour, although the date tablet still remains.

Then in 1867 the first cottage and horticultural society was formed with William Edwards Michell, better known locally as Colonel Michell, as its president.

And in 1868 the local board was created with the town’s foremost citizen Colonel Michell as its first chairman.

In 1869 12-year-old Thomas Jenkin (Roger Jenkin’s grandfather) got together with some other boys for an exciting prank. It was either early or late on in the year when he and his friends decided to liven things up a little by firing off the cannons that stood in front of the first battery.

Thomas Jenkin was chosen to buy the gunpowder, which he did off Johnny Reynolds.

The boys carried out their plan and, having been silent for so many years, the cannons suddenly came to life and the bay echoed to the sound of the shots. The local policeman was summoned from St Columb Minor, no doubt put out at the village’s noisier offspring.

But the noise died out as soon as it had arisen and there was not a boy to be found when the policeman arrived. So, he had no choice but to return to St Columb Minor empty handed.

Our historical look at Newquay returns now to shipbuilding and lifeboats. During the 1870s Newquay reached its zenith in shipbuilding, altogether having 14 vessels (11 schooners and three smacks). At the Gannel Thomas and John Clemens built 10 schooners; TEJ in 1871, Fairy Belle in 1872 and the 250-ton Mary Peters, the largest vessel ever built in Newquay.

These were followed by William Martyn in 1875, Fairy Maid and Louise in 1877 and Lottie, Guiding Star and Leila in 1878.

At Island Cove Joseph Osborne built a smack vixen, which was lengthened into a ketch at the Gannel in 1870 and Conquest Schooner in 1871.

In Porth Joseph Osborne built two smacks respectively; Agnes Louisa in 1875 and Porth in 1877. Charles Boxer was mate of the Porth and was also one of only two men known to swim from Pier Head to Porth Island. There were actually two vessels named Porth, the first one was built in 1818 and sold in Newquay in 1835.

Elsewhere we have mentioned the founder of the Fairy Fleet and we now come to clarify the fleet itself. There were five vessels in total, two of which Fairy Flower and Fairy Maid were built at Padstow. Fairy Belle-Lewis, like the aforementioned Agnes Louisa and Porth 2 was lost in the blizzard of 1891.

The second Joshua lifeboat still served saving a further 38 lives then on April 14, 1874, 38 years to the very day after the sinking of the Titanic, 20 lives were saved off the Guhhenbord in Perran Bay. Each member of the lifeboat was given an extra10/- (50p) and John Boxer was recommended a silver medal.

In November a smack Friends struck Mawgan Porth and chief coastguard officer James Barry set fire to furze to guide the lifeboat to the spot. Then in 1877 six lives were saved off the Lizzie Male, four miles off Towan Head.

In 1873 a book called A Marine Residence was published. It is a humorous account of Newquay, which is called Boddlecombe. The Joshua was the Saveall and there were nine crew members.

In 1872 it was J E Ennors’s grandfather, John Ennor the second, who renewed the leases of the Active, Good Intent and Fly Cellars. Ironically the last catch of any notable size was that same year, the pilchards deciding Newquay was no longer for them.

1872 also saw the CMR Act passed and the construction of the Jetty in May. The CMR also had an engine shed with turntable, where the station is now, and a new platform built by John Ennor the second. The last vestiges of his work were demolished in 1990.

Moving away now from shipbuilding we come to the railway, notably Treffry’s Newquay Viaduct of 1849.

Know locally as The Spider, it was demolished in 1872 and replaced with a single track. The ironwork was done by West Foundry of St Blazey with supporting wood cross timbers. In 1874 the mineral line ran from Fowey to Newquay. Here James A Clarke was appointed agent and harbourmaster, replacing Richard Hicks former harbourmaster.

In late 1875 the Cornwall consolidated iron mines and others suffered. A party of 75 miners from St Columb Minor, Cubert and Perran with wives and families left in a steamboat for South Wales Colleries. Lines were adjusted for passenger service on Thursday, June 26, 1876 between the ports of Fowey, Par and Newquay.

By 1877 the loopline at Par had been opened. CMR trains ran there but not back until the Great Western Railway took over that year.

The oldest religious building in Newquay, the Ebeneezer Baptist Chapel, dates back to 1822. It was situated on Wesley, or as it is now, Chapel Hill and was rebuilt in 1875. In 1873 a north aisle and a spire were added to the old St Michael’s Church and in 1875 a separate Burial Board was formed. The old cemetery by the golf course in Atlantic Road was consecrated by the then Bishop of Exeter, Frederick Temple, who went on to become Bishop of London and finally Archbishop of Canterbury.

Turning to education we find that although the Elementary Education Act was passed in 1870 here in Newquay the church schools held sway for a while until the state schools came into their own.

In June 1870 there was a parochial school with a new schoolroom for day scholars and a certified teacher. Mr Jenkin suggests this was on or nearby the site that became the Newquay C P Junior Boys’ School, which opened on January 7, 1878 as the Newquay Board School for Boys’.

The school lasted for 108 years if you take that it extended from the one on 1870. Its 31 boys were looked after by teacher Henry Tolley, assisted by Leonard Pearce, a monitor and pupil of the school. Subjects taught were mainly scripture, reading, writing and arithmetic with a little geography and singing.

By May 1879 the numbers had risen to 100 and by August that year the boys were ‘employed’ by visitors for pilchard and herring fishing, potato tilling and other errands. They were also distracted by fairs, feasts, circuses Sunday School Treats and football matches and so, despite all this education, had not much headway in those embryo scholastic days.

And finally, we come to a national tragedy with a local link. Mr Jenkin’s great uncle William Langworthy Jenkin, 27, was master of the local schooner Emma.

One fateful Sunday on March 24, 1878, he saved five men who had been on the HMS Eurydice when it capsized in the icy sea off Dunnose Head in the Isle of Wight. Although he managed to save these five, sadly, three died on his ship.

However, Mr Jenkin was presented with a gold watch by the widow of the first lieutenant Tabor of Cheam, a famed schoolmastering family. The late Leonard Jenkin of old Jenkin’s Supply Stores also had a tablet erected in the old cemetery by Atlantic Road to commemorate the event.

24th November 2004

Dennis Burt 16th February 2013 04:49
My great grand father Thomas Moyses Burt was first mate to william Jenkin aboard the "Emma of Padstow
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