Village history

Before the housing developments of the 20th century, the downs above the Carnon were home to just a sparse collection of small-holder's cottages, but in the 19th century a centre developed at the broad crossroads on which was conveniently situated: the Chapel, built in 1825; the Smithy; and the Kiddleywink store which also provided the Post Office and water delivery service.

 

If you stand under the ash tree at Kiddleywink, the different roads reflect the lives and occupations of working people living in Carnon Downs in the mid 1800s. Almost one in three workers were miners and the roads, across the way to Wheal Jane and Bissoe, led to the main mining areas. One in seven workers were servants and the roads running up the hill led to the country estates of Killaganoon and Tregye. Also one in seven were seamen, dock workers or railwaymen, taking the road down to Devoran for their work. Those in agriculture constituted the largest remaining group, one in six of all workers. 

 

The main road was once the old turnpike leading down Old Carnon Hill, over the Carnon Bridge and through Perranwell. Turnpike Trusts had been set up by acts of parliament since the 17th century and allowed the trustees to build and maintain roads and levy tolls. The Truro turnpike, constructed in 1754, was the first and largest in Cornwall. At Carnon Downs it was part of the “Packet” route, linking Falmouth with London throughout its service from 1688 to 1850. The Falmouth Packet service was commissioned by the Postmaster General to carry mail and embassy correspondence between Great Britain and its empire. Possibly the most famous journey was that of Lieutenant Lapenotiere of HMS Pickle who made the trip, via a series of mail coaches and horses, in 37 hours on November 4th 1805 to deliver the news from Trafalgar of Nelson's glorious victory and tragic death.

 

A new turnpike road was constructed in 1828, taking the current route over the new Devoran causeway and following the creek edge past the Norway Inn. The building of the new turnpike was overseen by William McAdam, under instruction from his father the famous roads engineer John Loudon McAdam. In 1798, when in his early forties, John had moved to Falmouth where he developed, under government appointment, his ideas for improving road construction. He revolutionised road building during his lifetime and later became the Surveyor General of Metropolitan Roads for the whole of Great Britain.

 

From 1781 to 1800 James Watt, the father of modern power engineering, lived nearby in Cusgarne and in the valley lie the remains of the original railway viaduct designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built in 1863. It is interesting to muse that, such was the importance of Cornwall in the days of the Industrial Revolution, three of our country's most famous engineers would have been about the byways of Carnon Downs in the course of their work.

The photo below shows the cross roads with Quenchwell Road, Forth Coth, Bissoe Road and Tregye Road back in 1896.  The white cottage on the right "Kiddlywinks" is still there now.  

With thanks to Philip Allen and Feock Parish Council for this information.  The Feock Trails walks can be downloaded from the Parish Council website and there are 3 that start in Carnon Downs, or a hard copy of the walk leaflets can be picked up from the Parish Council Office in Devoran. 

© 2019 by Carnon Downs Community Association            

Contact us: carnondownsvillage@gmail.com

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