St Agnes, Cornwall

St Agnes, Wheal Coates mine

St Agnes is an interesting mining village, surrounded by the ruins of former mines. From the village, a steep valley winds down to Trevaunance Cove. There is a steep stepped terrace of miners cottages, Strippy Strappy, which descends a hill beside the spired church. There are a couple of pubs at the centre of the village, with some craft shops, old cob cottages and pretty gardens.

The Cornish artist John Opie was born in "Harmony Cot" in 1761, a thatched cottage to the east of St Agnes. The town was the model for St Ann in the Poldark books.

The particular high quality tin from St Agnes was formed by action between the granite and the complex rock around the area's cliffs. Tin ore from local mines was shipped from a small 18th century quay at Trevaunance Cove, and this was eventually swept away by a gale in 1934, as the four previous harbours had been. Mines in the area were Wheal Coates, Wheal Kitty, Wheal Friendly and Blue Hills. As the mines had to go even deeper to find ore, new technology had to be developed to pump fresh air to the miners and to remove water and ore from the lower levels. Horses, water powered pumps, gunpowder, and steam engines were progressively introduced. Even today you can see the way mining has shaped the landscape, from the ruins of the mines, the harbour where ore was shipped and coal arrived, to the magnificent houses of the mine owners.

St Agnes lifeboat The first lifeboat came into service 34 years ago after the RNLI decided that a fast Inshore Rescue Boat (IRB) was needed to deal with the incidents close to rocks or in shallow water between the St Ives and Newquay Lifeboat Stations. To 2005, in her 34 years, the lifeboat had been launched 390 times and saved 139 lives.

The Trevaunance Trail follows a historical trail round the cove. The Tonkin family tried to construct a harbour at Trevaunance Cove. After three attempts a harbour was built in 1710 but cost just about bankrupted the family. The un-maintained harbour was swept away by gales in 1730. Sixty years later, a copper mining boom renewed the need for a harbour. A new harbour was built in 1798. The harbour enabled the development of pilchard fishery and the import and export of coal and ore. The harbour stood for 118 years but again due to the lack of maintenance was completely removed in the storms of 1915/16.

High above the village is the St Agnes Beacon, owned by the National Trust, and from which on a clear day you get fantastic all round views. It gets its name from the old Cornish, Bryanick (pointed or prominent hill), and at 629 feet does dominate the landscape. There are bronze age barrows here. And at the time of the Armada the beacon formed part of a chain of beacons.

Trevellas airfield was a World War II fighter station, but is now just used by the local flying club.

Goonbell, with a "halt" on the Perranporth and Newquay rail motor car branch of the Great Western railway, is also a place in this parish To the south of St. Agnes around Goonbell and Mount Hawke, both originally miners' settlements, the patchwork of small fields surrounding point up their origins as miners' smallholdings.

St Agnes grew up with the mining district and has two separate centres - the first around its church, stretches inland towards the Beacon and Goonbell; the second, at the seaward end of Trevaunance Coombe, developed around the series of small harbours.

The four beaches in St Agnes are Chapel Porth, Trevellas Porth, Porthtowan and Trevaunance Cove. Chapel Porth is best at low tide when you can walk along the sands to Porthtowan. Chapel Porth has a Beach Café, a National Trust car park, and a seasonal Lifeguard. Trevaunance Cove also offers plenty of parking, shops and a restaurant overlooking the beach, which also has a Lifeguard patrol. Trevellas Porth. has limited parking, and the beach is mainly pebble - there is no Lifeguard. Porthtowan is a surfing beach, with plenty of parking close to the beach and a selection of shops.

St Agnes Museum is located in a former chapel and is managed by the Museum Trust. Displays include an exhibition of local minerals and mining, and a model of the old harbour at Trevaunance Cove. The Museum is run entirely by volunteers and is a registered charity established to promote the heritage of the town.

 

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