GHOSTS IN CAMBORNE PARISH
by David Thomas
The late F. J. Stephens of Reskadinnick, in an unpublished paper entitled "Contributions to the early History of the Parish of Camborne" now in the Library of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, to whom acknowledgement is made for the following extract, records some of the local Ghost stories thus:
"Camborne Parish was always famous for its ghosts, there being several 'notable' places in the district. One was at Bell Gate (just outside Praze-An-Beeble) near Vellan Saundry, where the ghosts were so numerous that they were seen by Richard Vivian to be coming in and out of the ancient cottage which stood there once. Knapp's Corner was at the turning down to Bareppa, near the railway bridge at the top of Pendarves Road, and was haunted by a peculiarly vindictive spirit, which used to leap on people's backs. And there were several formerly in the vicinity of Rosewarne and towards Kennel Lane. Has anyone heard of the Menedarva ghost? I remember being told by an old man years ago that his grandfather used to speak of an 'armed knight' who was sometimes to be seen riding slowly up and down the valley between Reskadinnick and Menedarva. Perhaps Sir Nicholas Mertherderwa, the Crusader. And most people have heard something about the Camborne Death Coach, which drives furiously at night, over Beacon Hill, and disappears into the churchyard."
Stephens connection of the 'armed knight' or 'iron man,' as he is sometimes known by local people, with Sir Nicholas Mertherderwa is perhaps a little difficult to comprehend, but is it perhaps just coincidence that not very far away, at Godrevy, a skeleton in armour was said to have been dug up or to have come to light in the collapse of an unspecified building at some stage in time?
Stephens also neglected to mention that Reskadinnick House itself was supposed to be haunted. Apparently on one occasion a figure was espied in one of the windows of this house dressed in the clothes of olden days, and it has been said that this was one of the members of the Vivian family who once lived there. He also did not record the existence of the story of the ghostly carriage and pair which manifest themselves at Polstrong House every ten years at midnight on Christmas Eve, driving up to the front entrance and depositing a spectral couple on the doorstep who then vanish, a scene encountered by an unwitting visitor to the house in 1912.
The most intriguing legend, however comes from Treslothan, always in my opinion a place with a peculiar atmosphere to itself. Not far from the Church is a field called variously in nineteenth century documents, THE HOUND or HOUND CLOSE. This traditionally is Camborne's equivalent to the Dartmoor saga of the Hound of the Baskervilles, for here a black spectral dog is said to walk abroad — hence the name. Has anyone alive ever been chased by it?
As Stephens himself declared in the above extract the Rosewarne area seems to have had a singularly ghostly past. The story of the Ghost at Lower Rosewarne and the saga of Ezekiel Gross has already been dealt with in these pages but one or two other stories are worth recording. An oral tradition I have heard relates the area close to Lower Rosewarne as being the site of a hanging in past days. An attendant ghost traditionally has been said to haunt the road, and children in the Edwardian period were either afraid of, or discouraged from going in that area unaccompanied. It was unwise to go "down Murdock's" as people used to say.
Furthermore close by, and possibly just a little towards Tehidy along the road where the trees arch themselves right over the road is the spot which is identified with the haunting by a ghostly cart or carriage, or alternatively the sound of wheels on the roadway. There is no logical explanation of this but as this was once the Camborne to Tehidy road, coaches or conveyances must have once passed along it. One could say, but this is pure fancy, that the ghostly wheels might belong to Squire Basset's carriage en route to Tehidy Park!
The Church itself has not escaped supernatural visitation. About 40 years ago two Camborne ladies, both of whom are still alive, were witnesses to an extra-ordinary midnight scene. Returning from a late train from Plymouth they arrived in Camborne at the witching hour. They had to pass the Church on the way home and it was here that events took place which have ever since remained in their memories. From the opposite side of Church Street one lady, looking across the road saw two figures, dressed completely in white, appear by the Tower, walk noiselessly through the Churchyard Gate, around the corner into Rectory Road and subsequently vanish near Rectory Cottage. Hastening her companion on they arrived home in Wellington Road. Being asked by their relatives why they were looking so pale a curious fact emerged. One lady had seen the two figures mentioned above but the other, who had not seen them at all, had seen a procession of figures all in black, with three-cornered hats, coming up from College Street. This lady remarked that these hats were like Quaker's hats. Neither person had seen what the other saw, but both had seen something. I have also heard people say that years ago no policeman on night duty in Camborne would walk on the Church side of Church Street after dark — The reader may draw his own conclusions!
Ghostly manifestations have also been said to occur in a room above what is now the Mace Stores by the Church, this is a story which by oral evidence can be dated to about 1910-11.
A house in North Parade where the stairs were altered in about 1950, was the setting where footsteps have been heard but nothing seen, on the old part of the stairs, ceasing at the new section; facts related by workmen in the house itself. From Trelowarren Street, at a certain house, there is the story of a curious creature which appears from out of the woodwork to the annoyance of the inhabitants, but this took place a good many years ago now. Upon leaving this house the two persons concerned were asked whether they had seen anything. It certainly had a haunting reputation.
People have at various times passed on to me little tales of a similar nature about other locations in Camborne and I would welcome any others if only to set them down on paper. I would particularly like any further information on IRON MAN — the Menedarva Ghost and our HOUND from Treslothan.
My apologies in advance to Camborne's countryside walkers, and inhabitants, whom I hope I have not frightened too much!
The original article appeared in Camborne Festival Magazine, November 1980, pp17-19.