Cornwall & The South: Pt 13 – St Austell

Moving on from the old County Town of Launceston, we arrived in St Austell, home of the famous Eden Project which lies just outside the town. Parking up in the centre, we set out to explore…

St Austell:

Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England

Date: 04/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Holy Trinity Church, Fore Street, Market House, The Eden Project, War Memorial, Janet Shearer Mural etc

Austell 1

The main street through St Austell is pedestrianised, allowing you to wander between the many shops without the hustle and bustle of the traffic around you. Overlooking the street, which is called Fore Street, is the striking tower of Holy Trinity Church, a local landmark which dominates the towns skyline.

It’s a pleasant area to kick off our exploration, with the colourful bunting flapping in the wind, and the various multi-coloured shop fronts and buildings giving it a warm feel.

The Church lies at the East end of Fore Street, which you can see at the back of the 1st picture in the gallery above. The building has medieval origins, with the oldest sections consisting of those at the back of the Church, which have been dated to around 1390. The rest of the building was rebuilt in the 15th century, which includes the great tower itself, completed in 1487.

Like many historic Churches, it was given a Victorian restoration, in 1872 by George Edmund Street (1824 – 1881, English Architect from Essex) which helped preserve it for future generations.

Many of the oldest buildings in the town are located around the Church, including the old “Market House”, directly opposite, and shown over to the right.

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The Market House is a stunning Granite/Ashlar construction from 1844, designed by Christopher Eales (1809 – 1903). The building replaced the former Market Hall, built sometime prior to 1791, in the centre of what had been the town’s Market Place. The Town had been granted a Market Charter by Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) in the late 17th Century, although it wouldn’t be expanded to include Fridays for another few decades.

The old building had become outdated, and the Market was quickly outgrowing its former home, so a new Market House was designed and built.

Only the ground floor of the building was used for the weekly Market, whilst the top floor became the Town Hall, which it remained until around 1918 when it was converted into a Cinema. The rest of the building remains in use, with different businesses and shops being located inside it, although it is now known as the “St Austell Market House Community Interest Company (CIC)”.

To the left of the Market House stands the “Queen’s Head Hotel”, a tall Victorian building from the 19th century which is one of a number of Listed Buildings in the town centre.

Austell 4

Looking back across the road, the St Austell War Memorial can be seen outside the Church, bordering on the edge of the Churchyard. Old photographs of the area from 1922 show that the Memorial had already been erected by this date, in memory of the fallen of World War I, and presumably later World War II.

Austell 5

Our last stop in the town happened quite by accident, as we came across a famous 3D Mural by an artist named Janet Shearer, also from Cornwall. It is painted on the side of a building just off the West end of Fore Street, and features a Cafe at the bottom (out of shot), and a woman leaning on her balcony at the top. When I first saw it I genuinely thought it was a real person. The 3D effect is very good, and it’s only when you get up close that you finally realise it’s only a painting. Very impressive!

St Austell is an interesting little town, and although we only had a quick stop at the end of the day on the way back to the Caravan, we found a number of historic buildings, and got to enjoy some of the towns main sites.

The town is well served by the local railway network, which lies on the Cornish Main Line which runs West to Penzance, and East into Plymouth in Devon, and from there on towards London. The town is also located next to the A390 which also heads for Devon, and the A391 which links up to the main A30 further North towards Bodmin.

Alas it was time to move on once more, and the following morning we arrived in St Ives…

2015: A Year in Pictures

Throughout 2015 we had many amazing adventures, all over the United Kingdom, and even beyond. It’s that time of year where we can look back at our year, and highlight some of our favourite places from each month. This is our 2015, a year in pictures…


Kicking off our year, on the 3rd January, we took a trip into the Kielder Forest National Park in Northumberland, and stopped for a breather by the stunning “Kielder Water” lake, a vast expanse of water surrounded on all sides by woodlands. It straddles the border with Scotland, and there are various historic sights to visit along its shores, including Kielder Castle.

Later that day, we made it down into Cumbria, to the small village of Croglin, famous as a haven for Vampires thanks to a local tale about the area. To make things a little more atmospheric, all the pictures I took I made into Black & White…

To finish off January, we made it home to our native Lancashire, to the village of Aughton, which has a fine Parish Church in a picturesque setting amongst rolling green fields, it’s majestic spire rising into the blue sky.


February was very much a Lancashire affair, as we relaxed with some Sausage & Chips on the pier at Lytham St Annes, just round the coast from the famous seaside town of Blackpool. From there you can gaze out across the River Ribble, the Irish Sea and towards Southport on the far side of the river.

A week later we returned to the area, heading further North of Lytham to Garstang, a historic Market Town with an old cobbled Market Square, overlooked by a Market Cross and a quaint Clock Tower in the centre of town. There is so much to see in your local area, it really is worth seeing what is on your doorstep.


March was a big month for us, particularly for new places. We started in North Wales, where we visited the fantastic Castle in Conwy, a town which is also home to three magnificent bridges, and the smallest house in Britain. The town still has a complete town wall around the outside, which visitors can walk along and take in the views of the river estuary.

Along the coast from Conwy we arrived at Caernarfon, home to another famous Castle, again set in a small walled town. The central square is full of fine buildings, and a statue of the only Welsh Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. From there we drove through Snowdonia National Park, towards Llanberis where you can board the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which runs up Wales’s highest mountain, Snowden.

The end of March however saw us undertake one of most incredible trips, as we arrived in London for a five day stay. On our first day, we undertook a quick excursion to the city of St Albans, home to the famous St Albans Abbey, a grand Cathedral in the historic city. Another special trip took us North East into Essex, to Chelmsford, England’s newest city, and historic Colchester. Aside from that, we also explored Westminster and Central London, from Big Ben to Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge to Baker Street, and Downing Street to the historic Guildhall in the old City of London. Our London trip overlapped into April…


Continuing around London, we worked our way out from the centre, towards Canary Wharf, Twickenham, Richmond, Kingston-upon-Thames, Greenwich, and Croydon. Richmond has a stunning Georgian Waterfront, as shown above along the River Thames, whilst Greenwich is the current home of the Cutty Sark, the famous Clipper Ship, as well as the Royal Naval College.

Croydon is historic in its own right, with many old buildings, and an incredible Town Hall with a Clock Tower to rival Big Ben!


Although May was slightly quieter as we were incredibly busy at work, we made it out into the heart of Lancashire, in the village of Ribchester. It’s well known for the well preserved Roman Bath Remains, and the beautiful views across the Ribble Valley along the riverside.

Just a few miles away from Ribchester, we also visited Whalley, which has it’s own set of ruins, this time those of what would have been an enormous Abbey, set into the rolling Lancastrian Hills. On our way home we ended up on the top of one of Lancashire’s tallest hills, Pendle Hill, with some fine views out towards the town of Clitheroe, which has a large Castle Keep, notably with a large hole in the side inflicted during the English Civil War.


In a slight change to our usual destinations, we took a break in Europe during June, with a five day stay in the large Polish city of Krakow, famous for it’s incredible architecture, long history and association with some of the worst events of World War II. From the top of Krakow Cathedral, you can gaze out across the old Cloth Hall in the middle of Europe’s largest medieval square, offering panoramic views of the entire city.

We also took a few tours into the neighbouring areas of Poland, including a day tour around Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and it’s sister camp, Auschwitz Birkenau. Millions of Jews were gassed by the Nazi’s in gas chambers here at the camps, a harrowing reminder from history of what the human race is capable of. Our other tour was to the Polish Winter capital, known as Zakopane, in the Tatras Mountains, and we even convinced our tour guides to take us over the border into Slovakia the same day!


You may have noticed I have skipped July, but unfortunately we didn’t get out to any new places that month, as we both started new jobs, and were kept very busy. This didn’t deter us however, as our usual big Summer Holiday to England’s South began in earnest in August, and we saw some incredible places to add to our map!

We started in Cornwall, and spent a week exploring every town and major landmark we could find, from the old County Towns of Bodmin/Launceston, to Fowey, St Austell and England’s most Southerly Place, the Lighthouse at Lizard Point. We also took a day trip out from Penzance, on a boat to the Isles of Scilly, and the capital at Hugh Town on the island of St Mary. Standing on a hill overlooking the town we got a stunning view of the area, and it was perhaps one of our most memorable adventures. On the boat journey back we also spotted Bishop Rock Lighthouse, alone in the middle of the Atlantic off the British Coast, warning wayward sailors of the rocks.

The rest of the holiday took place in and around Hampshire, Southampton and the New Forest National Park, with a visit to Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, the famous Brighton Pavilion in the city of Brighton, and round to Kent to Canterbury Cathedral, and Rochester Cathedral/Castle as viewed from Strood on the far side of the River. We also made it over to the Isle of Wight as well!



Finding we had a few days off to ourselves at the start of September, we took a two day holiday to South West Wales, setting off in the early hours from Lancashire. By the time we reached the Welsh Coast, the sun was just rising over Cardigan Bay, affording us a beautiful first view for our holiday.

By mid morning we had reached our primary destination, one of the smallest cities in the UK, St David’s in Pembrokeshire. It is famous for its magnificent Cathedral, which dates back centuries and is the centrepoint for the city. The rest of the day was spent in and around Pembrokeshire, at Haverfordwest, Pembroke Castle, and Pembroke Dock.

The next day we made for home, via the cities of Swansea and Newport, which actually gave us a full set of all six Welsh Cities! Swansea has a ruined Castle in the city centre, a revamped marina and various historic buildings around its shores. Newport too has a Castle, which sits on the riverbank along with the large Market Hall. Our final stop was Monmouth, a small town near the border with England, which has an unrivalled collection of listed buildings along its streets!


October saw us try a few larger scale trips, as we journeyed across Lancashire, through Yorkshire and up into County Durham to the major town of Darlington, famous as the home of the railways, and the large Clock Tower which adorns the side of Darlington Market Hall, in the centre of town. It’s a beautiful place, and somewhere we have been meaning to visit for many months.

Our next trip was around Staffordshire, and aside from the smaller towns of Cannock etc we visited the county town of Stafford, which has a fine Shire Hall in the centre of the main town square. Further up the high street you can also visit the “High House” a centuries old timber framed town house which is now a stunning museum all about Stafford and the local area.

Our third major trip of October was two days in South Yorkshire, and we got a hotel in Doncaster directly opposite Doncaster Minster Church, which, I am sure you will agree, looks absolutely incredible in the evening, all lit up. The picture above of the Minster was taken from our hotel window, and is perhaps the best view we have ever been treated to from a hotel. The next day we visited Rotherham (which also has an incredible Minster as shown in the 5th picture) and nearby Barnsley, which along with a trip to Sheffield a couple of years ago gives us a complete set of all four major places in South Yorkshire!


Throughout November we visited many local places in Lancashire, such as Leigh and Ashton-in-Makerfield, but also made it out into Shropshire, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, home to the first cast iron, single span bridge of it’s kind built out of Iron.

The rest of the month was made up of trips to the Midlands, specifically to the large town of Dudley, which has a magnificent Castle atop a Hill near Dudley Zoo, overlooking the rest of town. Dudley is also home to the “West Country Living Museum”, which features a perfectly recreated Red Brick village, complete with Tow Path, Forges and old timey shops all together to show us what life was like over a century ago. It is certainly worth a visit and we highly recommend it. That same day we also made it to the other Midlands towns of Walsall, West Bromwich and Wednesbury.

The last trip was to Swinton, which has a 1930’s Civic Centre at the heart of the town, with a large Tower complete with a small clock on the exterior, as shown in the 5th picture. In the foreground is the local War Memorial, which contrasts perfectly against the Civic Centre.


We finished off the year in style, with a further three trips, starting with a road trip out to Northwich in Cheshire. The town has many tudoresque buildings from the early 20th century, including the Library and local Hotels. There are various nearby attractions which we also visited, including the Anderton Boat Lift (one of only 2 in the UK, the other being the Falkirk Wheel), and the Lion Salt Works Museum in Marston, which was a really interesting look at how Salt played a major part in the economy of Cheshire.

The second trip was a return to North Wales, and Castles at Flint, Denbigh (pictured), and Ruthin. Denbigh town centre is also quite quaint, as you can see from the building which now houses the Library. There are other Victorian buildings around the town, as well as a large Column with a statue of Dr Evan Pierce on top, a local Doctor famous in the town.

The last stop was Droylsden, a small town on the East side of Manchester, where we were spending Christmas with family. There are various things to see in the town, from old Mills to the Moravian Settlement which features old cobbled streets, and brick houses from the late 18th century, shown in the final picture.

So that was our year, and I hope you enjoyed yours as much as we enjoyed ours. I am not 100% up to date with posts so some of the places featured in this post aren’t on the blog yet, but should be during 2016, so keep an eye out for new posts! We have lots of trips coming up in 2016, including three days on the Isle of Man, which should be an adventure. Until then, have a great New Year, and see you in 2016!

Cornwall & The South: Pt 12 – Launceston

Making it across Bodmin Moor, from the town of Bodmin past the famous Jamaica Inn, we arrived in Launceston, another historic stop on our Cornish tour…


Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England

Date: 04/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Launceston Castle, Main Square, Barclays Bank Building, White Hart Hotel, Launceston Town Hall, War Memorial, Town Walls, South Gate, St Mary’s Parish Church, Hayman’s Pianoforte Warehouse, Launceston Steam Railway etc

Laun 1

We parked up around the edge of the central square in the town centre, shown above. At it’s heart is the Launceston War Memorial, crafted out of fine Ashlar in 1921, just a few short years after the end of World War I. Whilst it was originally seen to represent the fallen of that war in particular, later conflicts such as World War II have seen it become a focal point for remembrance across many battles.

It’s design is almost unique, in that it has been deliberately made to look like an old Market or Butter Cross, medieval monuments that celebrated the granting of a Market Charter to many towns and cities across the UK.

There are numerous other standout structures around the edge of the Square, including the Barclay’s Bank Building directly behind the Memorial, completed around 1870. The Bank as a chain was founded in London, in 1960 under the name Goldsmith. In 1736 James Barclay joined the business, and when it expanded to include other Banks and become a global financial giant, it was named after him.

Laun 2

Just to the right of where I took the original picture, stands the “White Hart Hotel”, an 18th century Public House. It’s origins most likely lie in the strategic position of Launceston itself, as it is the first major town you will reach in Cornwall, and back in the day it lay on the main route into the county from Devon (although this has now been rerouted through Plymouth/Saltash to the South). This would have made the town an ideal place for travellers to stop and take shelter for the night, and indeed it did originally have it’s own stables. These have long gone, and the site is now home to the “White Hart Arcade” shopping precinct.

A large plaque on the side of the Inn (shown on the right) tells of an important moment in history, which began in November 1805. On Monday 4th of that month, Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere (1770 – 1834, Captain of HMS Pickle) landed at Falmouth, in the South West of Cornwall, with important news of the British Victory in the Battle of Trafalgar. He was to convey this news to London, and travelled along what is now the A30 through Cornwall, over Bodmin Moor and through Launceston, where he changed horses before continuing to Devon. I imagine it was here at the White Hart that he did so, cementing it’s place in history.

The White Hart Hotel is also hiding one other secret, albeit in plain sight. The arch around the main entrance is actually from the 12th Century, and is thought to have been moved here from a Chapel at Launceston Castle, although other sources suggest it was brought from St Thomas’s Priory.

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Our next stop was the truly incredible edifice that is Launceston Castle, however as we clambered the steps into the Castle Grounds, we were afforded a grand view of Launceston Town Hall, directly opposite us on the far side of the street. The structure is split into two distinct parts, starting with the Guildhall of 1881 which includes the Clock Tower and the smaller Hall to its immediate left. On the right of the Tower is the grand Hall of the newer Town Hall, completed in 1887.

The history of the building on this site began in 1835, when the previous Guildhall in the town centre, which functioned as the County Courts, was demolished. The Courts had moved to Bodmin that same year, which also made it the year Launceston effectively ceased to be the County Town of Cornwall. A new Hall was then built in 1850 near St Mary’s Church, but caused conflict with the Vicar who tried to incorporate it into the Church. This lead to a new building, that you see now, being built here opposite the Castle in 1881. The designers were Mr Otho B. Peter from Launceston, and Mr. G. Hine from the city of Plymouth in Devon, who also designed the Town Hall, with both buildings merging absolutely seamlessly. The Town Hall was part of the original plans, for use as a Public Meeting Hall, but construction was delayed until 1886, and the complex was finally ready in 1887.

The joint Halls are used by Launceston Town Council, who hold their meetings in the smaller Guildhall, in a finely decorated Council Chamber, which is also available for Weddings, whilst the Town Hall is appropriate for receptions etc.

One of the main entrances into the Castle Grounds is the “South Gatehouse”, facing out onto the Town & Guild Halls. The Gate originally dates back to Norman Times, with the addition in the 13th Century of circular Drum Towers to either side of the Gate itself.

A wall continues off around the perimeter of the grounds to the right of the Tower, heading East towards the site where the Castle’s Watch Tower once stood, although sadly it was destroyed in 1830. The Wall to the left, which would have run West has also been lost, although the Gate is no less impressive.

The view through the Gate beautifully frames the original Guildhall as it would have looked in 1881 before the newer Hall was added, just out of shot.

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The magnificent structure of Launceston Castle stands out all over town, sat high on top of a mound in the middle of the Castle Grounds, originally encircled by the thick stone Walls and a mighty set of steps which opposing armies must conquer to gain entry.

The Castle we see today dates back to the 13th century, when the 1st Earl of Cornwall, Richard (1209 – 1272, Son of King John, Brother of King Henry III) rebuilt part of the earlier wooden Norman Castle in Stone. His main contribution was the Round Tower atop the mound, which sat within the earlier 12th Century Walls. Whilst Richard was the 1st of a new generation of Cornish Earls, the title is much older, and it’s holders resided here for centuries both before and after Richard inherited the title.

The Earls eventually moved to Lostwithiel, although Launceston would soon become the County Town of Cornwall until 1835, when of course it moved to Bodmin.

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Within the Castle grounds you can also see the ruins of the Castles Great Hall, also built by Richard.

Whilst Launceston held the title of County Town, the Great Hall was used as the “Assize Hall” where the most serious crimes/cases for Court were heard. It was finally demolished around the 1600’s, although its location is clearly marked within the grounds.

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Moving back into the town centre, we came across the “South Gate” into the city, located on Southgate Street. Launceston’s final medieval gate, it is a historic insight into the layout of the town around the 13th century. A large wall encircled the entire town, with three heavily fortified gates allowing the only access into what was then the only walled town in the whole of Cornwall.

Of course the town gradually expanded over the years, and the vast majority of the walls sadly no longer exist. The Walls were deliberately designed to include the Castle as part of the defences. The main Town Walls pushed towards the centre of town near the West Gate, and met those of the Castle, creating one of the most heavily fortified towns in the South of England.

The South Gate survived many years of town expansion, and was later used as a Prison until 1884. Three years later, a small arch was added to the gate on the pavement to allow pedestrians to pass through, alongside the main arch which the road passes through. Later uses for the Gate included as the home of Launceston Museum until around 1950, before becoming the Gallery it remains today.

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There are a number of other fine buildings which line the close knit streets of Launceston town centre, dating from various different periods. One building in particular that stood out to us was “Number 22 Church Street”, the beautiful red brick structure just past the Pet Shop on the left hand side. Completed as a Warehouse in 1870, it bears the inscription “Hayman’s Pianoforte Warehouse”, presumably after Henry Hayman (Born 1921 in Devon) who moved to Launceston and opened a new Warehouse, which would stock items such as Fruit, Vegetables and Jewellery, almost like a department store.

Following Church Street North away from the South Gate, past the Warehouse, we arrived at a road junction with Market Street and High Street, marked by the mammoth Church of St Mary.

The Church was originally built by Sir Henry Trecarrel in the 1520’s, using local Cornish Granite to create a smooth exterior. The Church Tower is however much older, a remnant of the previous Church to stand on the site.

Architecturally speaking though the building is incredible to look at, with every exterior granite block finely carved, with intricate detail. Many of the blocks actually originated from the village of Lezant a few miles away. Sir Henry had built a large hall here, and the exterior stone work planned to adorn the building was instead used on his new Parish Church, presumably his own idea.

Launceston is a lovely little historic Cornish Town, important in Cornish History as not only the seat of the Cornish Earls, but also as the County Town, which it held for several hundred years. It’s proximity to Devon has led to its nickname as the “Gateway to Cornwall”, and it certainly makes a great impression of what’s to come around the rest of the county. Many historic buildings survive in the centre, from the Castle to the South Gate, to St Mary’s Church, as well as the “Launceston Steam Railway” just outside the town, which runs along the path of the original local railway lines, which closed in the 1960’s.

Local main roads can take you to all the major nearby towns/cities, including the A30 West past Bodmin towards Penzance, East to Devon and the A388 South to Plymouth/Devon. It was time to move on, and our next stop was a return to the town of Fowey, which we also visited in 2014, so you can read about it in my previous post here. Fowey aside, we next arrived in St Austell…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 11 – Bolventor (for Jamaica Inn)

Away from the town of Bodmin, we crossed the similarly named Bodmin Moor, where, nestled in between the rolling green hills is an iconic Cornish landmark…


Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Village, England

Date: 04/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: Jamaica Inn Restaurant

Attractions: Jamaica Inn, Jamaica Inn Museum, War Memorial etc

Bol 1

We had arrived at the famous “Jamaica Inn”, a beautiful historic Coaching Inn originally built in 1750. It was known as a smugglers haven, as during the 18th century it was supposedly frequented by Cornish Pirates/Smugglers who would hide out here on the Moor. At the time, the building stood alone, the accompanying village of Bolventor only grew up much later, with the local Parish only dating back to 1846 (although it is now part of Altarnun Parish).

The Jamaica Inn was extended in 1778, when a few extra buildings were added on, such as a Coaching House, and Stables for travellers horses. The Inn lies on a key route through central Cornwall, what is known today as the A30, which runs all the way from Honiton in Devon, via the terminus of the M5 at Exeter, in to Cornwall at Launceston, over the Moor and down to Penzance.

The Jamaica Inn was relatively unknown (outside of Cornwall at least) until 1936, when a novel called “Jamaica Inn” was published by an author called Daphne du Maurier (1907 – 1989, London Author). It would go on to become a famous classic, which she actually wrote whilst staying at the Inn, after getting lost out on the Moor. The tales she was told here inspired her novel, which tells of a young woman named Mary Yellan who visits her Aunt on the Moor, and ends up getting embroiled in the dangerous life of Smugglers…

The Inn still celebrates the famous novel, which can be bought in the giftshop. As well as the Bar/Restaurant, which has some fantastic food, you can visit the Jamaica Inn Museum, and find out all about the history of the area, and what inspired Daphne to write her novel. You can find out more on their official website here.

Out in the Courtyard of the Inn, you can see the famous sign, as well as the local Stocks, which visitors can pose with. Gemma shall be sentenced at a later date!

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Just across the road is the Bolventor War Memorial, in honour of all those from the Parish of Bolventor who perished during the Great War, and other conflicts. It stands in the shape of a Celtic Cross, and Cornwall is of course one of the ancient Cornish kingdoms.

Bol 5

After enjoying a Cornish Cream Tea at the Jamaica Inn, and sampling some of it’s history, we looked out across Bodmin Moor, with the A30 just below us in the clearing. Whilst the main route through central Cornwall now bypasses the Inn ever so slightly, it is still an important stop.

The Village around it has grown from it’s origins in a Church, and a School to accompany the Inn to multiple houses and the Memorial. The Inn is in a beautiful location, and another famous landmark to add to our list.

Our next stop was the former County Town of Launceston, at the Easternmost end of Bodmin Moor, far away from Bodmin at the Westernmost end…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 10 – Bodmin

We soon arrived in the town of Bodmin, a historic town near the border with Devon…


Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England

Date: 04/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Memorial Clock Tower, Shire Hall, Public Rooms, Turret Clock, Honey Street Listed Buildings, St Petroc’s Church, Mount Folly Square, Former Guildhall, Fore Street Listed Buildings, Market House, St Petroc’s Church, Cornish Rebellion 1497 Monument, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch Birthplace Marker, The Keep, War Memorial, Bodmin & Wenford Railway, Bodmin Jail, Cornwall’s Regimental Museum etc

Bodmin 2

Our exploration began in the towns main square, known as “Mount Folly Square” outside the stunning Shire Hall building, designed by an architect from nearby Launceston called Henry Burt, and completed in 1838. The Hall is the former home of the Cornwall County Courts, which moved to Truro in 1988, whilst today it contains Bodmin Town Council, as well as the local Tourist Information Office. It is perhaps the standout building in Bodmin, although its neighbour, the intricately designed “Public Rooms” shown to it’s immediate right is another strong contender…

Bodmin 3

Bodmins Public Rooms were completed in 1891, a fine Victorian addition to the town masterminded by Octavius Ralling (1858 – 1929, Architect who worked for Ralling & Tonar from Exeter in Devon). It was paid for by local shop owners/traders, presumably becoming something akin to a local exchange, where traders could meet and show off their goods to the public, probably in the Great Hall at the buildings centre.

Sadly due to local budget cuts the Council closed the majority of the building a few years ago, aside from the impressive Bodmin Town Museum housed on the ground floor, a must for anyone interested in the history of the town. It has some amazing photographs from days gone by, and lots of information about the town, the local area and how it grew over the last few centuries.

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Looking back towards the Guildhall, the building to it’s left is another historical gem in Bodmins crown, in the form of the “Shire House”, constructed as the local Judges Lodgings around 1840. The architect was a Joseph Pascoe, who hailed from the town itself.

You may have noticed many of Bodmins grandest buildings all date from a similar period, the mid to late 19th century. It was around 1835 that Bodmin became the County Town of Cornwall, taking over from its predecessor, Launceston. The Shire Hall was constructed, becoming Cornwall County Hall where local government was concentrated. Of course the County Courts were also located here, hence the reason for the Judge’s Lodgings across the street.

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Just across the road from Mount Folly Square is the town’s Clock Tower, dating back to 1845, which is also known as the “Turret Clock”. It backs onto a large town house, completed a few years after the Tower, which is also known as “Turret House”.

When it was built, the Clock was in a prominent position and effectively welcomed visitors into the town centre, as it stood at the intersection of all major routes into Bodmin. New road layouts have however diminished its presence as various routes can bypass the centre all together.

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The Clock is at the North end of the Square, and behind it is a short pedestrianised street called “Honey Street”, which heads off in a Northeasterly direction. It’s certainly an attractive street, and contains a plethora of Listed Buildings, which are mainly concentrated on the left hand side.

An example of this is:

1 Honey Street: Currently inhabited by a shop called “Jai The Jeweller”, Number 1 was built as a Town House in the 18th century, long before many of Bodmin’s major landmarks were constructed.

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Further round the corner, continuing along Honey Street, we came across “The Weavers Public House”, again built as a Town House, as much of the street probably was, during the 18th century. It was later converted into a Public House, or the local Inn, and appears to have expanded to take over the building to its left. Officially the Inn is Number 11 on the street.

The building to the right of Weavers is of course Number 13, another Town House, although much more modern, and listed as Mid 19th Century. This end of the street appears to be a lot newer, as the 19th Century date is continued at Number 15, again to the right, which originated as a Warehouse, before being converted into a Shop.

Honey Street is a lovely collection of various historical buildings, and shows how the area has evolved over time.

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At the end of the Street, where it meets “Turf Street”, a major route through the town that runs past the Shire Hall, separating it from the Shire House, stands a rather incongruous looking stone column. An attached plaque explains its significance:

“On or near this spot stood the house in which Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, renowned in all the world as “Q”, freeman of the Borough of Bodmin was born on the 21st November 1863.”

It also goes on to give another date, that of 21st November 1963, which is presumably when the post was moved to it’s present location, marking 100 years since Arthur’s birth. A second Plaque states that it used to stand in the grounds of Bodmin Priory.

Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863 – 1944) was a well known writer who, as the plaque explained, wrote using the pen name of “Q”. Some of his best known works include his “Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900) which featured various poems from English history, as well as numerous Fictional works.

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On the far side of “Turf Street” sits Bodmin Parish Church, dedicated to St Petroc (Died c 564, a revered Saint born in Wales who is thought to have founded a Monastery near Padstow). Our previous destination of the day, Wadebridge, also featured a Church dedicated to Petroc, a popular figure around the County.

The Church is notable in Cornwall, as upon it’s completion in 1472 it was the largest Church in the entire county, a title it would hold until the incredible Truro Cathedral was finished in 1910. Whilst the main building dates from this period, parts of the tower are supposedly of Norman Origin, presumably part of an earlier Church on the site.

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Moving back to the Clock Tower, we began to head West along “Fore Street”, Bodmin’s main Shopping & High Street. There are various Listed Buildings up and down the Street, however we focused on two in particular, starting with the “Market House”, shown above.

This stunning structure was designed by William Harris, and completed in 1839. There are numerous fine details to spot, the most obvious being the Bulls Heads above the four pillars around the main entrance. The building is still in use, as the “Bodmin Market House Arcade”, a collection of shops all under one roof.

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The second is “Number 22 Fore Street” which was originally constructed as the towns Guildhall, in the 17th Century. Above the main entrance you can see the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, which features the English Lion (left) and the Scottish Unicorn (right). Whilst the buildings structure is 17th century, the front was remodelled in the 19th. The Guildhall remained in use by the Town Council for local government purposes until 1983, when they presumably moved into the Shire Hall.

Note the Granite Columns around the original entrance to the Guildhall, one of the few original features to survive in the new frontage.

Elsewhere on Fore Street we came across another building of interest, which bears a plaque on it which states:

“Near this spot lived and worked John Arnold. Born in Bodmin in 1736. Horologist, perfector of the ships chronometer and benefactor of those who journey on the seas.”

John Arnold (1736 – 1799) was a local Watchmaker, who is famous for his work with the Marine Chronometer. Amongst his other creations was the world’s smallest watch, presented as a gift to His Majesty King George III (1738 – 1820), set into a small ring.

Further up the street is another Memorial, this time to Thomas Flamank (Died 1497) & Michael Joseph (Died 1497) who lead the Cornish Rebellion in 1497 which culminated on a march to the British Capital, London. The rebellion began when the people of Cornwall were forced to pay a tax introduced by King Henry VII (1457 – 1509) to fund his campaign to invade Scotland. The distance from Bodmin to Gretna, on the Scottish Border is 420 miles, so understandably the Cornish were adamant the campaign was not their fight, and refused to pay. Other counties in the South joined their March, and the Rebels took park in the Battle of Deptford Bridge against the King’s Army on June 17th, 1497 in an area now part of East London. Unfortunately they lost the fight, and the leaders were captured and executed.

Leaving the town centre, we pulled up outside one of Bodmin’s most striking landmarks, the ruins of Bodmin Jail. The Jail (or Gaol) was designed by Sir John Call (1731 – 1801, English Engineer from Devon, later MP) and opened in 1779. The design was unique in the UK, as it was the 1st to separate prisoners out into individual rooms, rather than keeping them in groups in large cells, and Male/Female prisoners were split into different sections.

The complex was expanded almost continuously after it first opened, until the 1850’s, when a new Jail was incorporated into the existing complex, with space for over 200 prisoners. As there was now spare capacity, part of this was soon converted into the Royal Naval Prison, which remained in use until 1922. The rest of the Jail was sold off by the end of the 1920’s, and the buildings fell into ruin, as shown in the 1st picture. However, if you make your way round to the main entrance, some of the original buildings here have been restored, and form a small Museum about the buildings history. You can find out more on their official website here.

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Before we left Bodmin to continue our adventures, we had two more stops to make, with the first being Cornwall’s Regimental Museum, located inside the old “Victoria Barracks”, also known as “The Keep”, shown above. The Barracks opened in 1859, and have been the home of various regiments throughout the last 150 years, including:

1877: The 46th (South Devonshire) Regiment of Foot arrived in 1877.

1881: The 46th Regiment was later incorporated into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, which was then based here at Bodmin Barracks.

1959: The Duke of Cornwall’s Regiment was then in turn merged with the Somerset Light Infantry to form the Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry in 1959, again being based at the Barracks. Prior to this, during the 1940’s the building was also used as a training centre for World War II. Although the Regiment was disbanded in 1968, the Barracks are still in use as a Museum, original founded back in 1925.

Various war exhibitions are on show, with one of the most famous being the Bible owned by George Washington (1732 – 1799, 1st President of the USA), taken during the American War of Independence (1775 – 1783).

Outside the Barracks stands the Bodmin War Memorial, crafted by Leonard Stanford Merrifield (1880 – 1943, Sculptor) in 1922, to commemorate the fallen soldiers from the then Cornwall Light Infantry Regiment during World War I.

Just across the road from the Barracks is the “Bodmin & Wenford Railway”, which is a surviving Heritage Railway which follows the original route of GWR’s branch line from Bodmin Road Station to Bodmin General Station, opened in 1887.

Both stations still exist, with Bodmin General (1887) now being the main station on the route, shown above. Bodmin Road (1859) was built long before the branch line was opened, and lies on the original GWR through Cornwall. It has since been renamed Bodmin Parkway, and allows an interchange between the heritage route, and the mainline.

A third station also exists, called Boscarne Junction (1997) as in 1888 an extra line from Bodmin General was built to connect it up to the existing “Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway” which would eventually run to Padstow. At this time there was no station here just a junction, the station was built to extend the heritage line in the 1990’s. and is now the Northern Terminus of the line, whilst Parkway is the Southern. Bodmin General is an interim station, but as it was designed as a terminus, trains must reverse out of the station a short distance to continue round to Boscarne Junction.

Various locomotives operate on the line, but when we visited we spotted GWR 5619, part of the GWR 5600 Class, built between 1924 – 1928. They are known as 0-6-2T engines, which refers to their wheel configuration, with 0 small wheels at the front, 6 large ones in the centre and 2 small wheels at the back. Nine of the engines currently survive, at various heritage lines around the UK including obviously here at Bodmin.

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On the way out of town, we spotted one final local landmark, a second Clock Tower, built as a War Memorial by St Lawrence’s Hospital in 1925. There are five names from WWI, and it was later updated with a further two after WWII.

Bodmin is both historically and visually stunning, with lots of history behind every brick. You can hardly move in the town centre without finding something interesting, from the Shire Hall to the various monuments to important people/events in Cornish history. Transport wise, Bodmin is ideally located, as the A30, the main route through central Cornwall from Devon runs straight past the town, along with the Cornish Main Line out at Bodmin Parkway, just outside the town. You can connect from there into the centre via the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, or local buses, which can also take you to the other nearby major towns such as Wadebridge, and the city of Plymouth in Devon where you can get onward connections via rail and bus.

It was time to head off, our next destination being the famous Jamaica Inn at Bolventor, on the top of Bodmin Moor…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 9 – Wadebridge

The next morning we set off again, this time to visit the town of Wadebridge, which we had spotted the previous day from a large overpass carrying the A39, intriguing us very much…


Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Town, England

Date: 04/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: River Camel, Old Bridge, Wadebridge Town Hall, Challenge Bridge, Molesworth Arms, Egloshayle Parish Church, Anneke Bridge, Polmarla River, The Swan Hotel, High Street, Eddystone Road etc

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If you look at the very back of the picture above, just above the magnificent Old Bridge which crosses the River Camel to link the two halves of the town, you can just see another, much larger bridge. This is the A39, also known as the Wadebridge Bypass, which we travelled along the previous day on the way back from Port Isaac. Even from that distance, as we passed the Old Bridge stood out and is what convinced us to return to the area to investigate, the following day.

The original settlement here was simply called Wade, which is possibly a reference to the fact that before any crossings were established here, many hundreds of years ago residents were forced to wade across the river at low tide to reach the other side. Chapels on either side marked this, and locals could give thanks to God for a safe passage. This was eventually negated with a new river ferry crossing, however it was notoriously dangerous, which led the Reverend Thomas Lovibond to build the town’s signature Bridge in 1468. It is now known as the “Old Bridge” thanks to the arrival of the bypass, and other modern river crossings. At the time, this crossing was the last over the Camel before it reached the Atlantic near Padstow. This helped Wadebridge to grow as a major port, and to honour the bridge, the name was changed from Wade, to Wadebridge.

Since it was originally built, the bridge has been widened a few times to cope with the growing amounts of traffic, in 1853 and 1963. It is telling that the final widening occured in the mid 20th century, when personal transportation began to take off rapidly.

The port here was located just on the other side of the Bridge, and was connected to the rest of the country by a railway on the Western Quay, over to the right, by 1880. The railway itself has opened in 1834 as the “Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway” which eventually became part of the Great Western Railway towards London, where goods could be traded and sold.

Leaving the riverside, we headed into the town centre, which we joined outside the stunning Town Hall. Completed in 1888, the building was opened by Sir Paul Molesworth (1821 – 1889, 10th Baronet), and originally known as “Molesworth Hall”. The title originated from Hender Molesworth (1638 – 1689) who sat as the Governor of Jamaica during the 1680’s, and passed it on to his sons etc.

The building also appears to feature a rather intricate looking Weather Vane on the roof, in the shape of a large Steam Engine. Until 1967 when the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway (later extended on to Padstow) was closed, the Railways were an important feature for the town and it’s economy. Perhaps most crucial is the year of 1888, as not only was the Town Hall completed, but the local railway was joined to the GWR direct to London, so it’s fitting to immortalise such an important part of the towns history.

To either side of the Steam Engine are the flags of the United Kingdom (left) and the Cornish Flag (right). As Cornwall has a distinct national identity Cornish flags can be seen in almost every town and village around the county.

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The rest of the High Street is marked by colourful bunting, which hang from similarly colourful buildings, all varying shades of reds, blues etc. The Town Hall is of course the defining structure on the street, which leads directly round a small corner towards the Old Bridge, just behind where I took the picture.

There are a number of other standout buildings in the town, including “The Swan Hotel”, shown above. It was originally built during the late 19th century (presumably the 1880s/90s as more tourists could access the town on the GWR) as “The Commercial Hotel”. An extension (shown to the left of the main building) was completed a few decades later, and it was later renamed as The Swan Hotel.

Directly to the right of the Hotel is “Molesworth Street”, the main pedestrianised shopping street in the town. It also extends off either end, East over the Old Bridge to the far side of the Camel, and West past the shops into the heart of the town. The main road we were already on is called “The Platt”, which joins onto “Eddystone Road” where local masons crafted granite blocks to build the new Eddystone Lighthouse of 1882. This lead to the new road name to celebrate their work.

We began to follow Molesworth Street, and later on we discovered that much of the area contains a number of 19th century buildings. The street has a lovely charm of it’s own, with more multi-coloured bunting fluttering in the wind. All the buildings blend in well together, although some of them are even older than you might think, including the “Molesworth Arms”, a stunning Coaching Inn from the 16th century. Long before the A39 Bypass was built, the main route through Northern Cornwall would have passed through the town, and the Inn was just one of many along the route which would have allowed travellers to rest and change horses.

Presumably the Inn was named in connection with the Molesworth family I mentioned earlier, although seen as the original Baron Molesworth Hender was only born in 1638, and the Pub is 16th century it may have been renamed Molesworth at a later date. Other sources state it is 17th century, so whilst that would make more sense, I’ll let you decide which you would like to believe. It could also have been named after an earlier family member before the family became Barons.

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Leaving the shops behind us, we couldn’t resist taking a stroll across the famous Bridge itself, across the River Camel. The structure was built with a mammoth 17 arches, although today only the centre 12 are still visible as the rest at either end were bricked up and converted into cellars, although still obviously supporting the bridge above.

As noted earlier, the Bridge has been widened numerous times, with the last widening almost doubling the amount of space on the Bridge, to fit in two lanes of traffic.

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The view from the far side is stunning, across the mudflats that line the edges of the river, and what is almost an island that has built up in the centre of the river around the arches of the Bridge, with the river forking to either side of it.

In the distance, the Clock Tower of the Town Hall was visible, an instant landmark on the skyline. To the left of the Town Hall, sat on the riverbank itself is an inlet to the River, where the Polmarla River joins the Camel through what appear to be specially constructed Sluice Gates, perhaps to limit the effects of flooding.

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Looking South East along the River (with the Town Centre to the right) you get a better view of the island I was describing at the rivers centre. It’s a fantastic view, and we picked a great day weather wise, with the sun glinting off the water. To think that centuries ago the locals had to wade their way through this just to get to the far side is incredible, and they must have been quite thankful when the Bridge was originally built.

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Further upstream is another bridge, albeit a much more modern affair. Completed in 1991, it is named after Anneke Rice (Born 1958) a contemporary celebrity from South Wales who actually designed the Bridge, in response to concerns by residents that there wasn’t enough easy access to the Town Centre from that side of the River.

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As we drove out of the town, we spotted an ornate looking Church on the road heading South towards Bodmin, and stopped to take a look. Whilst we hadn’t come far from the town centre, it turns out this is the Parish Church of Egloshayle, a separate village which runs contiguously with Wadebridge. As it happens, the builder of the famous “Old Bridge”, Thomas Lovibond was at that time the Reverend of Egloshayle.

Officially dedicated to St Petroc (Died c 564), a Welsh Prince who travelled around England and famously founded a monastery in nearby Padstow, the building primarily dates back to the 15th century, with various surviving sections built by the Normans 300 years previously.

Pressing on, we made it to Bodmin, which briefly served as Cornwall’s County Town from 1835…

Cornwall & The South: Pt 8 – Port Isaac

Moving on from the picturesque village of Boscastle, we arrived in Port Isaac, the famous fictional home of Doc Martin…

Port Isaac:

Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Village, England

Date: 03/08/2015

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Harbour, Doc Martin’s House, Harbour Walls, The Golden Lion, Doc Martin’s House, Old Schoolhouse, Port Isaac Beach, Fern Cottage etc

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Finding a small car park high above the cliffs, gazing out to the Atlantic, we set out to explore the village. Following a small path along the cliff, we eventually came out here, high above the vast, stone walls (or piers) that protect the Harbour from rough seas and bad weather.

The original Wall dates back to Tudor times, around the 16th Century, an impressive feat of engineering considering the strength of the waves at various times of year. It allowed what was a small settlement to grow into an important fishing village, now that the boats could safely take shelter in the harbour. Aside from fishing, freight began to arrive in the bustling Harbour, with important commodities such as Coal, Limestone and Wood all passing through towards other areas of the UK.

The local defenses were improved by the 1930’s, with a new sea wall, and a second Wall built opposite it’s Tudor counterpart.

It wasn’t until the 18th/19th Centuries that many of the buildings that constitute the village centre were built, and as we made our way down towards the beach, we came across a number of notable additions.

Wandering down the steep path from the top of the cliff towards the village centre, the first building of note we came across was the “Old Schoolhouse”, a beautiful Victorian building completed in 1875. It was designed by noted architect Sylvanus Trevail (1851 – 1903, Cornish Architect) whose work we had already encountered earlier in the week, in the form of the stunning Headland Hotel in Newquay. The School closed in 1977, however it was later converted for use as a Hotel/Restaurant in the 1980’s, remaining so today. The main entrance to the School, and now Restaurant, is located behind the main building, underneath a small Clock Tower.

Doc Martin Filming Reference: Part of the building was redressed for the series to appear as the local School, a function it fulfilled perfectly given it’s history.

The school lies on Fore Street, and directly across it on the far side of the road is an Art Gallery, called “Secrets. Billings Row Gallery”. The building itself was completed in 1911, and a statement on their official website which reads “Welcome to the oldest gallery in the historic fishing village of Port Isaac”, suggests the Gallery itself may well have opened the same year.

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Moving on, the road opened out a little, and afforded us a stunning view across Port Isaac Beach, looking towards the village centre, nestled between rolling green hills. Much of the original character of the village has been retained, and the buildings all fit in perfectly together. At the back of the picture in the centre is a large stone building with a small, white painted circular window just below the roofline. We passed this later on, and the date on it is given as 1836, probably an old storage warehouse.

Doc Martin Filming Reference: In the TV series, Port Isaac itself doubles as a fictional village called Portwenn, although still portrayed as being in Cornwall. The series begins as Dr Martin Ellingham, played by Martin Clunes, moved to the village to become the new GP, after a condition called Haemophobia (the fear of blood) unfortunately ended his surgical career in London.

Also, if you look at the white buildings to the far right of the picture, the one on the lowest level, beneath the other two buildings was used as the setting for a Restaurant run by series regular Bert Large, played by Ian McNeice.

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Continuing down into the centre, we began to explore the closely knit streets, laid out centuries ago, long before the notion of motorised transport was even conceived.

There are some fantastic looking buildings here, including “The Golden Lion” public house, the first building shown on the right. This charming 18th century pub is the centre of a legend that it was used by smugglers to hide their goods just after it was built.

At the back of the picture is a local restaurant called “The Krab Pot”, housed in a lovely looking townhouse. Much of the rest of the village centre looks very similar to these two examples, although some stood out thanks to the addition of certain other features…

Doc Martin Filming Reference: The Golden Lion was prominently featured in the show, and was used as a fictional pub called “The Crab & Lobster”.

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The beach pretty much separates one half of the village from the other, so we inevitably walked past it on our way to what is probably now Port Isaac’s most famous building.

The tide was mostly in when we visited, so instead of being stranded the boats were bobbing up and down, eager to set out once more through the towering harbour walls, leaving the safety and security of the village to brave the vast Atlantic waters beyond.

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Moving on, we came across the “Buttermilk Shop”, a small shop nestled between larger stone houses. It is immediately striking thanks to the large figurehead (a replica I presume) which protrudes from the front of the building. The figure appears to be wearing the uniform of the Admiralty, although of course it may just be based on general designs rather than a specific person. It is nice little touches like this that make places such as Port Isaac unique, and it’s a good nod towards the villages heritage.

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Doc Martin Filming Reference: So here we were at last, the home of none other than Doc Martin himself. Situated on the same side of the bay as Bert’s Restaurant, it has some fantastic views out across the harbour, and the entire village. The building in question is called “Fern Cottage” in real life, however in the show it is both the Docs home, as well as his surgery.

We were just another of many tourists posing for photo’s outside, although that’s as far as you can go unfortunately as it is a private residence.

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We finished off our memorable trip to the village by enjoying the same view that Martin Clunes would wake up to every morning in Doc Martin, gazing out across the Beach, the Village and the Atlantic, and perhaps, it is one to add to our list of truly perfect scenes.

Port Isaac is a beautiful little place, on Cornwall’s northern coast. Nearby major towns include Padstow 16 miles to the South West (via the town of Wadebridge), and the historic villages of Tintagel/Boscastle just a few miles to the North. With no major roads (the nearest being the A39 a few miles East) and no train line, Port Isaac enjoys a quiet setting away from the hustle and bustle of the main county. There are of course local buses, and plenty of local roads to get you to the village, a popular destination for tourists throughout summer.

Our third day of Cornish exploration was at an end, however we set off bright and early the next morning, bound for the town of Wadebridge…