Tregrehan Mills

I posted a little about Cornwall a while back, specifically the middle part of the Southern coast, around the world-famous china clay mining area. We recently visited again and stayed in the wee hamlet of Tregrehan Mills (pron. tre-grain) – a woody little valley in the same area as Luxulyan and the Eden Project, with a little village green, a collection of jostled-together houses and a brook running through it. As with so many post-industrial regions though, all is not as it seemed – the first big clue is the Mills in the title, and I thought I’d have another look.

The 1881 OS map shows the village name stretching up along the road, from Boscundle Farm (on the Holmbush Road between St Blazey and St Austell) and the Vounder works, just over the ridge from the vast Carvear China Clay works, or as we know them know, the Eden Project. It’s difficult to give a single location for works such as this on a map – they are sprawling sites, often partially disused. So, I thought I’d have a look at the land use by area.

This is an unavoidably highly innacurate – I’m plotting onto a Google Map by guesswork, and I’d enjoy doing this properly with some GIS locations. Also – it’s often difficult to tell from OS maps the exact use of a property: should I mark a group of buildings as houses or industrial buildings? These are some of the methodological issues that crop up with the use of old maps. I’m hoping to incorporate some full-on GIS analysis into my PhD so I’ll have to address this kind of thing; must go and find some training in that…

Anyway – below is a rough outline of land usage in the hamlet of Tregrehan Mills, Cornwall. Though basic, it’s still instructive – note how actually, although its name gives the idea of a hive of industry, this seems mostly historic. There’s a corn mill and a mill pond and race, but hardly any vast concerns. It’s a key point – industry, housing and land use is unavoidably geographic – these things are so different down here to up North.

The village is a little walk away from the major employers of the area, the tin and clay mines – I’ve included Carvear, Vounder and Wheal Eliza for comparison. It would be interesting to look at the census returns for occupation; my guess would be just as many employed in agriculture, or perhaps the couple of smaller industrial concerns, as in the large mines.

My final quick observation is on the big manor houses: Boscundle, Tregrehan and Trenowah. Tregrehan, the biggest, is surrounded by fields and parkland – today its gardens are a noted visitor attraction. The others are surrounded by industry. A quick Google isn’t too helpful; who were the occupants in the Big Houses? Landed aristocrats, or the nouveaux riches industrialists? Does that affect where they put their houses?

I’m definitely glad to be able to analyse land in this way, and I’m looking forward to analysing the heck out of the physical environment during my PhD. Wolverhampton, I’m going to make so many maps of you.

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