The Old Roads of Camborne - Lloyd H Woodcock, 1977


by Lloyd H. Woodcock

Many of the roads and lanes in Camborne remained the same for hundreds of years prior to the mining development at the end of the eighteenth century. In 1815 Camborne was described as a village but by 1850 it was known as a busy, often rough, large mining town. With the establishment of the town came new streets, the widening of existing roads and the building of major thoroughfares—the Turnpike Road with its toll-house.

Before this development existing paths and lanes had been used for centuries, the constant effect of weather, cart wheels, travellers and animals gradually wearing away the surface to produce the "sunken" lanes so common in many country districts. These ancient roads are often further characterised by thick hedges showing an abundant growth of trees and shrubs. Newer hedges are not so densely overgrown, lack depth, and are generally of a neater, straighter, appearance. This difference can be illustrated by taking a walk from Pendarves Road to Killivose. Once you leave the main Helston Road by the old trough you walk along a straight stretch of road built during the early nineteenth century, probably during the 1830s. Nearer Killivose, however, the hedges change drastically in appearance and the road starts to twist and turn. Old maps show the road at Killivose which led to the Manor of Treslothan as well as to Camborne and Praze.

Some of the old roads were nothing more than muddy tracks leading to remote, ancient, settlements while others led to farmhouses, hamlets or to manor houses. There was, for example, a track leading from the Church, over the Glebe land—now College Street—past the Bray's family house at Treswithian and across the wild, unenclosed Treswithian Downs to Menadarva. The Manor at Mendarva had an ancient chapel in its grounds which served as a place of worship for the inhabitants of tenements around Camborne's North Coast. Travellers to this remote area could also, at certain times, obtain food and ale at this chapel, the profits from such sales going to Camborne Church. One resident of Menadarva about 500 years ago, left money in his will for stone crosses to be placed along this track from the bridge at Mendarva to Camborne Church. Some of these old paths follow more modern roads, some have become lost and others have simply become rights-of-way across cultivated fields, e.g., the path leading to North Cliffs.

The main coach road through the Parish turned off the old A.30 at Tuckingmill traffic lights, went through Gerry, along what is now Eastern Lane and the Weeth until it reached Treswithian. From this point it more or less followed the present road to Roseworthy, the boundary of the parish and then continued to the port of Hayle—a very busy place in those days. When the present road was built, however, a hamlet called Croon was completely destroyed near Treswithian. Only a few old estate maps and records bear evidence of its existence.

Coaches to Camborne Church Town left this highway at the bottom of the present Tehidy Road, travelled up that road and Fore Street until they reached the Church. The present Trelowarren Street did not exist, there being only a lane from Fore Street to what is now the site of Woolworth's. This lane was called Bakehouse Lane at certain times during the last century. Another lane led along the present Cross Street to Camborne Cross where there was, in fact, an ancient Cornish Cross. One of these old lanes can still be seen running parallel with the churchyard from the old Vestry Corner (Regal Hotel) to the rear entrance of what was formerly Lowenac House. Look closely at the ground floor of this old vestry and you will notice a blocked doorway and the date 1820. This led to the old jail or "clink," a very small room covered with straw where prisoners were kept until collected and taken to Launceston for trial.

The stretch of highway now called Eastern Lane is surely one of the most important roads in the economic history of the country. During the eighteenth century it was bordered by mines, such as Wheal Kitty and Wheal Chance, where early steam-engines (i.e., pumping engines) were installed. It was along this route that Trevithick first experimented with his locomotive which was constructed at Tyack's workshop in that road.

The road from Tuckingmill traffic lights to Roskear Church, Holmans and then along Centenary Street, past the library and Council Chambers and over the bridge at Pendarves Road, and then turning right to Barripper was a very old road often referred to as the "Pilgrim's Way." Along this route medieval pilgrims walked to St. Michael's Mount. They frequently stopped at Barripper ("good lodgings") seeking rest and refreshment at the inn.

Responsibility for the upkeep of most of these old roads up to the last century was divided between the Church, local Manors and the Parish. Camborne's Churchwardens' Accounts have numerous references to roads and lanes being repaired, cleared of rubbish and of bridges being maintained. During Elizabethan times there were "Wardens of the Highway" for a period who exercised this responsibility. The Manors of Tehidy, Crane and Gear, Treslothan and Menadarva held regular Memorial Courts at which people were fined for damaging roads. The Mining Companies (called "Mine Adventurers") were particularly guilty of this offence.

The names of our streets and roads reflect the families, places and environmental features which have shaped the history of our Parish. The landowners are remembered with such names as Pendarves Road, Basset Road, Enys Road, Vyvyan Street and Crane Road; manors are recalled with Tehidy Road, Treslothan, Crane Road and, of course, Trelowarren Street. Mines have given the names Dolcoath Road and Avenue, Stray Park Road, for example. Redbrooke Road is very interesting. The stream, which at one time provided water for Camborne Vean Mine and Stray Park Mine, is still there with its old banks but no longer "red." The stretch of road from Sara's Foundry to the junction with Stray Park Road was at one time known as Bellman's Row, after the name of the builder.

Until comparatively modern times the roads of Camborne were quiet, with very little traffic. Nothing, in my opinion, illustrates this more vividly than the late T. C. Quintrell's account of an annual fair held in the streets of Camborne during Victorian times. Can you imagine such an event today! Swings and roundabouts for children were situated in Wellington Road, booths and stalls lined the street outside of the church, cages with animals and strange "human spactacles" such as dwarfs and the "bearded lady" were located in Commercial Square. A donkey sale was held in Basset Road and a pony sale in Cross Street—both roads being used for prospective buyers to try out the animals. Stalls were erected in other places selling all manner of goods. How pleasant it is in this Jubilee year that many streets were closed for a short time for street parties where people could celebrate and move about with the freedom enjoyed by the people of Camborne for many centuries.

The original article appeared in Camborne Festival Magazine, November 1977, pp11-13.