Joseph Thomas Treffry, Cornish engineer and mining adventurer

TreffreCornish Mining Engineer

Joseph Treffry the 19th century Cornish engineer, mining adventurer, and industrialist was born in Plymouth in 1782 as Joseph Thomas Austin. After the death of his mother’s brother William Esco Treffry of Fowey in 1808, Joseph inherited the family estate of Place, Fowey and changed his surname to Treffry by deed poll.

Trained in civil engineering, he built a new quay in Fowey to take larger vessels. He got involved with mining as a partner in Wheal Regent Copper Mine at Crinnis near Par. Two years later he became a partner in Fowey Consuls mine at Tywardreath and manager of Lanscroft mine. By 1822, the two mines had amalgamated and he took full control. Fowey Consuls became the most productive mine in Cornwall and employed 1,680 workers. He then looked at the best way of moving ore out of his mines.

Par Harbour

In 1828 he drew up plans for a new safe harbour at Par. The town of Fowey was becoming a bottleneck, the narrow streets made it difficult to transport his large quantities of material in and out of the town. A new harbour at Par would enable larger vessels to use the harbour and also service the mines without the need to transport ore through Fowey.

By 1829 Treffry built a twelve thousand foot breakwater on the notorious Spit Reef, the stone for construction being carried by ship from his own quarries near Pentewan. Records show that Treffry lost three ships wrecked while carrying stone to Par.

In 1833 the first shipments of left Par harbour. Treffry opened another large mine Par Consuls on the Mount behind Par and build a double incline tramway to link it to Par harbour.

Up to fifty vessels of two hundred tons could now be accommodated in Par harbour, larger vessels could anchor in the bay and have their cargoes transshipped by barge. Par harbour was built without professional architectural help, but is still a busy working port today. It was bought from Treffry Estates by English China Clay in 1964.

He also constructed of a canal from Ponts Mill and Fowey Consols mine. to his new harbour and this linked to a number of inclines leading to mines in the area. The minerals were bought down these cable inclines on wagons and loaded on to barges, with coal coming up the incline to fuel the pumping engines in the mines.

Treffry Viaduct, Cornwall

Having bought Newquay harbour as well, Treffry intended to build a horse drawn tramway from Ponts Mill to Newquay. Work began in 1837 on the Ponts Mill to Bugle section. This included the building a viaduct at Luxulyan, named even to this day as the Treffry viaduct.

Treffry viaduct.

Treffry Viaduct 1/2 a mile SE of Luxulyan, and about 4 miles north of St Austell. Built between 1839 and 1842 this viaduct is 89 feet high and 650 feet long. It served the dual purpose of carrying both the tramway and also a high level leat across the Luxulyan valley. The arches each have a span of 40ft. The water it carried turned 13 water wheels ranging between 16ft and 40ft performing tasks that would otherwise have been done by steam engines. On its way down, the water was used to power the Carmears incline, by means of a waterwheel, 34 feet in diameter. This enabled the railway to work loads up the incline, against gravity. It was built of stone from the Carbeans and Colcerrow quarries, and the lines from the quarries to the viaduct were the first parts of the railway to be operational. The railway was completed in 1844.

The railway extended over the years from the port of Par over the clay country and on to Newquay, along the way Treffry built yet another viaduct at Trenance in Newquay which can still be seen today.

Joseph Treffry died of pneumonia in 1850.

Treffry's Tramway can still be followed today. The viaduct at Luxulyan is now a listed building and it is possible to walk along the top and explore the network of canals.

Place -Thomas Treffry's home is still keeping watch over the port of Fowey, but it is not open to the public.

King of Mid-Cornwall - Thomas Joseph Treffry

Treffry Family Genealogy


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