Well, the weather on the Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend was a bit better than it had been on the Saturday when I posted the last update, so I took myself (and Kampington) off to have a look at the Levant Mine.
There are old mine buildings littered everywhere in the mining areas of Cornwall, seemingly every field coming with a chimney and the ruin of an old engine house. Levant was well worth a visit though as it gave a good idea of what it must’ve been like working in the mines (the word “grim” springs to mind!).
The tunnels here stretch out a mine under the sea – gulp! well, I say tunnels, but the video I saw of a mine expert and cameraman going down into the mine did show an area where there weren’t actually tunnels any more as they’d dug out all the rock between the levels – so a “tunnel” had now become a wooden plank across a narrow but very very deep gaping chasm – double gulp! “mmm, typical Levant” said the expert”
There’s a restored beam engine that they fire up a few times a day…
Life got a bit easier for the miners in the mid 19th century when many of the mines, including Levant, installed “man engines”. This was a large timber post in the shaft with platforms attached to it. With the working of the steam engine, the post would rise and fall. Other platforms were fixed to the wall of the shaft. To go up the shaft, you would therefore hop onto one of the moving platforms as it started to rise, get off at the next fixed platform and wait while it went down again, then hop back on as it started to rise, slowly making your way to the top…. This was a great innovation, saving miners the sometimes hundreds of vertical feet climb down often rickety wooden ladders at the start of each day, and even worse, the climb back up at the end of the day (carrying all their gear of course). All went well until one fateful day in 1919 when something broke at the top and the “man engine” plunged down the mine shaft, killing 31 miners and injuring many more. Jeez, life really was grim in the past….
On Bank Holiday Monday I had a look at some tiny hamlets between Sennen Cove and St Ives that various relatives have given as their places of origin in life and then went into St Ives itself, which was very pretty despite the rain. I was disappointed to learn that “Puddingbag Lane” no longer exists….
After an overnight stop nearby at Hayle, I visited the library in Redruth again on Tuesday morning then started the drive home by trundling as far as Minehead.
The interior was pretty dull if I’m honest – very bog standard English stately home style, with no quirks to be found. There was a cute little conservatory. I’ve included a pic of the billiard room for Mark’s collection (yes, the layout was a bit Cluedo).
There WAS a really good bit to Dunster Castle though which the National Trust have not (yet) seen fit to sweep away. In the early 1960s, the family decided to modernise and instead of updating the old Victorian kitchens on the ground floor they decided instead to install a kitchen in the old butler’s pantry above (a quite sizeable room where the butler would receive food in the dumb waiter from the kitchen below and the final faffing would be done before it was served up in the dining room next door). So Dunster Castle has an original 1962 Hygena kitchen – and they even have on display a Hygena magazine advert of the period showing the very same range…
On Friday I visited Tyntesfield, which I’d visited before when it very first opened (after a big national faff and fundraising effort so the National Trust could buy it and “save it for the nation”etc etc). I thought it was really good the first time I went but I did suspect that the bits I really liked would soon be tidied up by some National Trust committee, and I wasn’t wrong.
The first time, there was still plenty of evidence of the occupation of the last member of the family to live in the house, the 2nd Baron Wraxall, an elderly bachelor who’d ended up inhabiting just 3 rooms of the house. The broom cupboard was like a throwback to my grandma’s house when I was a child. I could just see him pootling round with the Ewbank…. Kitchen shelves still displayed ancient tins of Heinz baked beans and Birds custard…. As a snapshot of the decline of many of these old families and the houses they inhabited, it was fantastic.
Needless to say, the tins of beans have all disappeared and the place has been fully “spruced up”, National Trust style… Oh well…
From there I drove up to Nottingham ready to spent Friday in the Nottinghamshire archives staring at microfiche…. On Saturday I had a look at a few villages in Nottinghamshire, again places that various relatives came from, and then ventured to the Workhouse at Southwell. It’s pretty much an empty building….
Sunday saw me visit Quarry Bank Mill on the way back to Chester and Little Roodee. I’d been there on a school trip when I was at primary school and didn’t rate it (I wasn’t much interested in the “look how hard children had it in the past” stuff). It was much better the second time around, as the various processes / jobs and the development of spinning machine technology over time are that much more relevant when you’ve got a pile of census records at home where people detailed quite specifically their precise role in the cotton mill…
And from there, sadly, it was a night at Little Roodee and then home yesterday…. Sadly it’s another three days before our next Kampington adventure….