Federation of Old Cornwall Societies

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Probus Old Cornwall Society







Founded: 1946


Colours: Blue & White





Members of the Probus Historic Cornwall Society were delighted to welcome Peter Herring from the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU) to talk about its work, with particular emphasis on Probus.


So, how do you ‘do’ archaeology?  Well first, you have to find your site!  Most of the sites dealt with by the CAU are a reaction to finds made during development, eg the Probus by pass and the Park and Ride site.  Others are as a result of projects to look for sites using aerial photography.  The presence of hill forts can be indicated by increased crop growth on the deeper soil of ditches, as at Carvossa, Probus.  During drought, the shapes of long-vanished buildings and barrows, such as those around Probus, show clearly from the air.  Peter also showed us an example of the use of LIDAR.  Fast laser pulses, combined with other data, generate precise 3D information.  He first showed us the ordinary aerial photograph, then the LIDAR image.


Sites are also identified by comparing old maps with new.  Members were shown examples of areas within Probus Parish where settlements had existed but no longer remain.


When you have found your site, you can get your boots on the ground and complete your surface and subsurface surveys, now know to all as a result of TV’s ‘Timeteam’ as ‘geophys’ (geophysical).


Archaeology leads to knowledge not only of buildings in the past but also people and their way of life.  Peter showed us parts of the wonderfully detailed 1748 map of Cornwall by Tomas Martyn.   Hamlets, farmsteads and manor houses are indicated by stylised drawings, churches have either steeples or towers and roads are shown as being either enclosed or open at the sides.  Probus was very unusual as it had a large number of farmsteads and manor houses, and very few hamlets within its Parish, indicating a prosperous area.  Modern aerial views of Probus show that it still lies in a more rural setting than most inhabited areas of Cornwall enjoy.


The Martyn map also shows the street patterns of the towns and villages.  Most places in Cornwall with similar central areas and facilities to Probus were towns, so, is Probus a town or a village?  Probus has an area called The Square; it used to have a regular market and held an annual Hurling contest.  These point to it being, or having been, a town!  What do you think?




Chairman: Jon Sommers, email [email protected]


Vice Chair: Barrie Anthony


Secretary: Vince van Kempen-Wilson, email [email protected]


Treasurer: Mike Cluett


Recorder: Laura van Kempen-Wilson


Librarian: Roger Gluyas


Speaker Secretary: Alan Blake




Members of the Probus Historic Cornwall Society were most grateful to Greg Stanton, a village resident, for standing in at short notice as Speaker to our meeting on 11th November.   Our advertised talk was to have been about Daphne du Maurier but the speaker for that subject was unwell and unable to attend.  However, as our meeting took place on Armistice Day, Greg thought that a talk on Remembrance would be fitting; indeed it was.


Greg started his talk by telling how he and his wife, Joy, had discovered The Rumps whilst sailing to Padstow one year.  The Rumps are the rocks which look like a dragon, with the water breaking over its head.  They decided that they would like to view it from the land so walked from Polzeath to Port Quin, via Pentire Point, where they noticed a bench and poppies.  This was the spot where Laurence Binyon wrote his poem ‘To the Fallen’, the fourth verse of which is read every Remembrance Sunday.  Binyon wrote the poem after the Battle of Mons on 23rd August 1914.


Mons was one of the places where Greg’s grandfather had seen action as a cavalry lancer during WW1.  Grandfather lived with Greg and his family and the 2 were very close.  They visited Mons together in the early 50’s, where Grandfather’s cavalry unit had charged a German position and had been scythed down by crossfire from 2 or 3 machine guns.  His horse was killed but Grandfather, injured, survived.  This was the last time cavalry charged.  After he recovered, Grandfather returned to active service and joined the Machine Gun Corps.  He was eventually captured and became a Prisoner of War, returning home 6 months after the war had ended. He found a job at the Co-op, looking after the delivery horses.


On Remembrance Sunday Grandfather would take his suit out of the mothballed wardrobe and go to the Cenotaph and meet his friends.  One of Grandfather’s friends was sent to the Western Front when WW1 started.  He had a tattoo of the head and neck of a dragon, the remainder of the beast being unfinished due to his swift departure.

On 9th December Probus Historic Cornwall Society members enjoyed their Christmas Social.  The mulled wine and mince pies had to be earned, with Cornish Quizzes provided by Alan Blake and Judith Williams first giving us a mental work-out.


Our first talk of 2020 leaves “love and peace to all men” behind, with Speaker Chris Batters on ‘The Neville Norway Murder’!

Nevell Norway Report Nevell Norway Report p1




Members of the Probus Historic Cornwall Society were glad to see the safe arrival of

their Speaker, Trevor Smitherham, on 9th March, when he came to tell us about the

history of Hayle. The weather was, again, terrible but a good number saw Trevor's large

selection of slides showing Hayle and its notable features through the ages. Pubs,

bridges, the masonic lodge, foundries, electric and gas works, grand and not so grand

houses, quays, mills, factories, dynamite works, enginnering and smelting works, boats

and, of course, The Towans all featured and snippets of history and gossip accompanied

each one.

The history of Hayle is heavily influenced by 2 rival companies, Harveys and the Cornish

Copper Company (CCC) but industrial Hayle started in the early 18th century as a

landing place for Welsh coal which was taken to Angarrak tin smelter by mule. As the

mining industry grew the first modern quay was built.

In 1758 CCC moved from Camborne and set up a smelter at Ventonleague.

John Harvey, a blacksmith from Carnhell Green set up a foundry and engineering works

in 1779. John's son, Henry, grew the business and the company worked with Richard

Trevithick. CCC also opened an iron foundry and fierce rivalry commenced.

Both companies suffered with the decline of the mining industry and CCC was bought by

Harveys. In 1903 Harveys foundry and engineering works closed. The company

continued as a builders' merchants for many years.

Beam engines from both companies powered mines in Mexico and South Africa as well

as locally. The largest beam engine in the world was built by Harveys for the

Netherlands. CCC designed and built the chain links of the Clifton Suspension Bridge,

commissioned by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Nowadays, most visitors to Hayle go to enjoy the 3 miles of beach but there is so much

more to discover.




Storm Ciara was still stamping its feet on Monday, 11th February when Philip Hosken drove from

Redruth to tell the Probus Historic Cornwall Society about HTP, a Cornish company of which his

ancestors were part.

Philip explained to the membership that although mining, heavy engineering and clay were the more

widely known industries on which Cornwall's past was based, he felt that agriculture had been less

highlighted by historians looking back at the 18 and 1900's. He referred to a vast number of farms

supplying industries other than food eg tucking mills, named after a process in the woollen industry

known as tucking or fulling in which cloth is cleaned and thickened. Pairs of massive wooden blocks

pounded Fuller's earth (a clay like material) into the wool to produce a heavy, felted cloth. This was

especially useful for the working clothes for those in other industries, an interesting example being the

miners' hats, which were made of felt.

Philip outlined the family histories of the Hosken, Trevithick, Rosewarne and Polkinhorn families and the

interesting family and business connections between them which resulted in the once widely known

conglomerate company name of HTP.

The various branches of the company were located in several major centres in Cornwall, most notably

Hayle and Truro, and expanded as far as Tavistock and Plymouth, where a major mill was constructed,

strategically located near to the dock area at Millbay. It bought ships, a bakery and a biscuit factory. The

company moved with the times from sales representatives travelling around the county taking orders from

customers by pony and trap to, with the advent of the motor car, Austin Sevens. Their engineering

companies became involved in the sales and maintenance of vehicles, both domestic and commercial.

The founding families owned many impressive residences as well as their business buildings. Good

examples of these still notable buildings are to be found in Truro. The best examples of these are Poltisco

Wharf (now apartments) and Princes House, which is now home to Miller Commercial. The rear garden

of Princes House became the site on which HTP constructed its garage, later its Austin dealership. Its

main vehicle workshop was located here and extended back to Lemon Quay before it was filled in. The

facade of the building, with a somewhat Art Deco facade, faces Lemon Quay, at the junction of Lemon

Quay and Green Street. It now houses the Pannier Market.

Philip went on to explain how the business expanded at an incredibly fast rate, backed by numerous share

issues and increasing borrowing from the banks, all of which was supported by the good will and popular

image portrayed by the company and the high esteem in which it was held by customers and banks. This

esteem by its customers was, however, not supported by them when it came to settling their accounts (if

sent!) and eventually the debtors ledger became the largest volume in the company's offices. Various

buildings were sold off to attempt to remedy the situation including the massive mill at Millbay which

was purchased by Spillers.

The talk was an interesting insight to the families and the characters who ran the business and a glimpse

of a long gone era, when banks lent on faith rather than fact.

 We regret that our April meeting has been cancelled, there will be no summer walks.

We HOPE to recommence in September.