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Preaching pit, silver and a fig tree

News Archive > Sport > Preaching pit, silver and a fig tree

By Rebecca Green on 14/07/2004

The parish of St Newlyn East was once described as being agriculturally based and inland, suggesting that it was a rural backwater village untouched by the hurly burly of the outside world. However, a closer look at its history laden with grand manor houses, a wealth of silver and several esteemed families shows this was not the case.

Situated on high ground 290 feet above sea level, it is made up of the hamlets Fiddlers Green, Kestle Mill, Rejerrah and Trevilson an the village of Mitchell, formerly a market town, lies partly in this parish and partly in St Enodor.

St Newlyn East is bounded on the north by St Columb Minor and Colan, on the east by St Enoder, on the south by Ladock, St Erme and St Allen and on the west by Perranzabuloe, Cubert and Crantock.

Some five miles from Newquay and within the hundred of Pyder, the parish takes its name from an ancient Celtic saint, St. Newlyna or Newlina. Tradition has it that she was a British princess from Ireland who walked to the place where the church now stands when she landed at Holywell Bay. Here, striking her staff in the ground she said: "Let a church be built," and from her staff sprung the famous fig tree which can be seen today growing out of the south wall of the church.

Nobody knows how old the fig tree is but legend has it there is a curse on anyone who harms it that they will die within a year.

Tradition differs as to what happened to St Newlina. One says she was beheaded near here y her own father because she refused to enter a marriage he had arranged for her. However, another identifies her with St Noyala of Brittany who was also beheaded, but this time at the hands of a local chieftain who was attracted by her beauty but who she refused to marry. It is believed that the word East was only added in to the name to avoid confusing the village with Newlyn, Penzance.

At the centre of the parish then, lies the church. It is believed that the earliest stone church on the site was erected towards the end of the 12th century. The lower parts of the transept walls are of Norman work and are three feet thick, more in places. More than half of the five-foot high east wall is obviously Roman work and other parts of the church date back variously to the 14th and 15ht centuries. The early church was restored in 1883.

Near the font of the church lies the head of a 15th century lantern cross which was dug up in the churchyard. On its left hand side can be seen a female figure holding a head in her arms - probably St Newlina. The church was dedicated to St Newelina on "the Friday after St. Matthew" in September 1259. It consists of a chancel, nave, south aisle, south transept or Tresillian aisle, and north transept or Cargol manor aisle. The arcade has five four-centred arches, and three lesser-pointed arches. The church contains the family vault of the Arundells of Trerice. The tower is of three stages, is buttressed on the square, and finished with battlements and pinnacles; it contains five bells. The church was re-roofed in 1846, and a major renewal took place in 1883.

An unusual feature of the church is the height of its circular graveyard above the adjacent road. This, together with the location of the church next to the 90m contour gives the impression that it was earlier used as a fortified camp or village.

Since 1852 a preaching pit has provided a focus for worship and community life in St Newlyn East. It was originally a stone quarry, which by the 1840’s had fallen into disuse. It is thought that in the 1800’s the pit was used for wrestling and cockfighting. However, one stormy Sunday in 1848 lay preacher John Andrew led his congregation out of the chapel and to the shelter of the old quarry. An ideal place for worship it then became a memorial to the 39 miners who died in the mining disaster of 1846. The pit was also used for tea treats in the summer months and in July 1919 boys who had fought in the war were welcomed home at the pit. The pit is still used today for special occasions.

In the 19th century St Newlyn East was a thriving mining community, with five mines producing lead, iron and copper. At this time there were three pubs in the parish but these disappeared for four years with the introduction of the Wesley church. All footpaths led to the mines and this can still be noticed today.

Situated on the Chacewater to Newquay railway was an area of wasteland known as Shepherds. The land was part of the manor of Cargoll, which in the doomsday record stretched almost from Truro to the north coast. Cargoll was originally part of the lands of St Petrock and was later held by the bishop of Exeter. At the reformation the manor was divided and one part, Trelunderro or Trelundra, came into the possession of the esteemed Borlese family - under the reign of James II, Humhrey Borlese was sheriff of Cornwall. When he died, the property passed to Sir William Scawen who then sold it to Francis Basset. In 1798 Sir Christopher Hawkins bought it, already the owner of much of the manor of Cargoll.

Under Sir Christopher Hawkins the wasteland became the Old Shepherds Mine. Descried as a 'spirited individual' Sir Hawkins began the mine at his own expense but was well rewarded for his efforts and the mine proved economical. The lead extracted proved to be rich in silver, much above the general average and was worth tens of thousands of pounds. Mr John Giddy, born in 1760, helped Sir Hawkins with the smelting of the ores. Mr Giddy had a common school education and many thought he wasted it by spending most of his life in a smelting house. He was generally regarded as an honourable man with integrity, a great chemist and scientist.

However, St Newlyn East's mining history was marred by a disaster in 1846 at the East Wheal Rose mine. On July 9 1846 there was an unusually heavy thunderstorm, lasting an hour and a quarter. Waves gathered on the surrounding hills and a sudden rush of water down the mineshaft flooded the mine and drowned thirty-nine of the miners - mainly inhabitants of the church town and its immediate vicinity. A mentioned earlier, the preaching pit then became a memorial for those that had died. The mine was eventually closed in 1881 and desolate slagheaps now mark the site.

The Land within the parish was once held by eleven manors. Of these manor houses Cargoll, Degembris, Nancolleth, Treludderow and Trevarthian still exist as farmhouses. In 1924 a local newspaper said: "In the time of Queen Elizabeth Newlyn East must have been a fashionable spot. The Arundells built Trerice and not far away another of the family built Coswarth." The article talks of hunting within the grounds of the manors, and even suggests that at one time Sir Thomas Arundell and the King went hunting in the grounds of Treluddrow manor.

One of the manors referred to in the article has now become a main attraction in St Newlyn East. The imposing Trerice manor was once the home of a younger branch of the Arundells and is now owned by the National Trust. It is an Elizabethan manor house with fine interiors and delightful garden. It is supposed to have been built in 1570 and was once the Doomsday manor of Tregedei.

Set in a beautiful secluded spot, the house contains fine fireplaces, plaster ceilings, oak and walnut furniture, interesting clocks, needlework and Stuart portraits. The highlight of the interior is the magnificent great chamber with its splendid barrel ceiling and the garden has some unusual plants and an orchard with old varieties of fruit trees. In the hayloft behind the great barn is an exhibition on the history of the lawnmower. Visitors can now play ‘Kayles’ (Cornish skittles) on the parade ground.

The manors of Cargoll and Treluddrow were both occupied by the Borlase family although until 1500 Treluddrow belonged to the family of that name, before passing to the Borlaseses. In 1798 it was sold to Sir William Scawnen, then to the Bassets and finally to Sir Christopher Hawkins.

Treluddrow stood a siege in Cromwell's time and at one time there was a famous apple called the Treluddrow pippin grown there. The manor fell to ruin, however, and nothing remains of either it or the orchard and it is now a farmhouse.

Today the village is thriving and has a school, shops, a sub-post office and pubs. One of the pubs, the Pheasant Inn dates back to 1883 when it was called the Commercial. St Newlyn East’s population has grown considerably since 1801 when it was home from 735 residents in 1801 to 1,470 in 1998. It is home to the Lappa Valley Steam Railway, a popular tourist attraction that has been running since 1974. A 15-inch gauge steam train takes visitors on a two-mile journey through the countryside to the site of the East Wheal Rose mine where the engine house still stands.

St Newlyn East's railway branch line was under construction in 1903 and was not opened until 1905. In the meantime, a horse drawn bus that operated three days a week provided transport for occasional trips to Newquay. Also in 1903 the village's doctor bought the first car to be registered in Cornwall to visit his patients and every parishioner was expected to contribute one tenth, or tithe, of his income to the priest at Michaelmas.

Today visitors to the parish can also enjoy a round of golf at St Newlyn East golf course, which includes a challenging river valley hole. Visits to the course can be combined with the Lappa Valley Steam Railway.

During the 1900's St Newly East held an annual feast day on April 30. It was declared a parish holiday and for many years the parish inns stayed open all night. Villagers were kept entertained on the day with cock fighting, wrestling, bicycle and donkey races and bowling. During July in the1980's St Newlyn East also held a carnival, led through the streets by the carnival queen.

2 Comments

#1 04/01/2011 19:33David Trestrail commented...
does anyone know anything about newlyn downs during ww2 always been very interested to know about what it was used for and what american units were there can anyone help.
#2 02/04/2012 13:59Christopher Butler commented...
I am looking for some information on Downy Lane Newlyn East, my Grandmother Emma Jane Oxnam lived there but I cann find no present trace of the location, does anyone have any online photos of newlyn east circa 1911. Are any Carharts still living in the village?
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