THE BOATHOUSE - A Brief History (Part 1)

Most of you will remember the Boathouse as a flat-topped building off which the children of the village dived as an 'initiation ceremony' as a mark of growing up. The Boathouse was obviously designed to have something on top because the steel beams supporting the brick vaulted roof were unprotected from the weather, and over time, corrosion would have caused it to collapse. My intention was to replicate what had been there before. I consulted Wilf Dixon who was about 95 at the time and the oldest resident in the village. He lived in The Old Post Office and was born in Beach Cottage (now called Island House) and as a young boy, remembered the Boathouse as being without anything on top in the early 1900s. Jimmy Fisher had no early photographs; and I could not find any elsewhere, or in the Royal Cornwall Museum, or the County Records Office. There is an earlier photograph showing derelict, roofless walls prior to it being rebuilt with the arches and the vaulting added, which was probably after the construction of the railway between 1863 and 1869. The coming of die railway cut off the village quay at Beach Cottage necessitating the construction of the present quay next to the then existing slip. The railway station, Golant Halt, was built and opened in 1896 and closed under Dr. Beeching's 'axe' in 1965. The 1882 Ordnance Survey map shows the railway, the Boathouse and new Quay, together with a railway mile postmarked 'London 281 miles'. As a teenager Anita Fuge, then Anita Dyer, was one of the regular users of the station. Each morning the engine driver would give three toots as he came round the corner, and then wait for her as she ran down the garden from Seaview, swung round the tree at die bottom and raced along Station Approach to be taken to her first job in Fowey as a hairdresser. The Rashleigh Estate map (?) of 1804 shows neither the Boathouse nor Gumms Cottage, but both are shown on the Tithe map of 1844 when both were owned by Francis Mallett. Gumms Cottage was situated about a hundred yards south of the Boathouse at the bottom of Gumms Field at the end of Gumms lane, beyond the Cormorant Hotel. The cottage was demolished to make way for the railway, and was near the cave where, reputedly, lived the serpent slain by St. Sampson when he blessed the well at the site of the present church in the 6th century. In the 1860 Book of Reference Gumms Cottage is de­scribed as a 'dwelling house, shed, garden, orchard, waste and occupation road occupied by Nicholas Langmaid, fisherman'. The Boathouse is described as 'house, garden, shed, plantation, footpath and waste occupied by John Hatherleigh, labourer'. The Census of 1851 shows the Boathouse occupied by John Hatherly(!), his wife Anne and four children. The 1861 Census shows John Hatherleigh(l) and his wife, aged 83 and 59 respectively. The 1871 Census shows that John Atherleigh and his wife, aged 94 and 68 had moved to Tinneys in the village. The Church Records show that John Hatherley(!) died in 1873 aged 96 and Anne in 1883 aged 82. In 1822 there was a proposal, with plans, to construct 'Copper Quays' but this was not proceeded with - how fortunate for us! The County Records Office plans in 1853 show details of a 'Proposed Navigation from Fowey to Lostwithiel. This proposal was for a canal along the west side of the river from Golant to Lostwithiel and the Section Datum for the entry lock to the canal was 30 feet below the doorstep of Gumms Cottage. This ambitious proposal lost out to the rail­way. Anthony Harrison August 1010


With the slip or landing place existing previously and the Boathouse existing since the early 19th century, perhaps there had always been a 'pulling' ferry at this point, serving Hay Point or Henwood or the Monastery at St. Cadix. The History of Parochial Cornwall in 1868, referring to Golant in c!478, states "there is a ford here across the River Fowey at low water to St. Veep". Originally part of the Rashleigh Estate, the plans of the Lostwithiel to Fowey branch of the Cornwall Railway dated 1860 show that the ownership of the Boathouse had transferred to Thomas Graham of Penquite, probably from Francis Mallett (mentioned earlier). Col. Peard (Garibaldi's Englishman) then lived at Penquite until that mansion was purchased by Frank Parkyn - so it is probable that the Boathouse was owned by Col. Peard for a period. In the last years of the 19th century the Boathouse came into the ownership of Frank Parkyn before he moved to Penquite between 1897 and 1900. Frank Parkyn was a china clay magnate and founded the firm of Parkyn and Peters. He probably was responsible for the rebuilding of the Boathouse and the addition of the three arches and vaulting, using bricks from the St. Austell Brick Company which went out of business in the 1920s, the china clay being too valuable to use for bricks. He used the Boathouse to house his steam launch, and took his senior employees and colleagues on summer river trips. A man of his position and fortune would have employed a boatman who would have needed accommodation and storage for coal and equipment; was this what would have been on top of the Boathouse? Mr Parkyn owned the Boathouse until his death in 1940 aged 90, and it was he who erected the stone post between the Slip and the Quay because he objected to Charlie Blowey, the coal merchant, taking his horse and cart onto the Quay to offload coal. Returning to more recent times, in 1959 there was legal confusion as to ownership. Apparently the Quay and Boathouse had been built on Duchy land without permission, and in 1962 the Commissioners agreed to transfer the ownership of the foreshore to the then owners; this was completed in 1964. The Boathouse was owned by Roland Wheeler of Powderham and then a Dr. John Evans from whom I purchased it. I have been unable to find any evidence of any building on top of the stonework in order to replicate it. Restormel Borough Council Planning Department even suggested that I did something similar to Penquite Bath House, now the boathouse on the point opposite St Veep on die river to Lostwithiel, which is famous for the shenanigans involving the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Lily Langtry. I was not keen on the Planners' suggestion because that building is not what it was then and therefore not an appropriate model. Perhaps this was an advantage, because Judy and I were given inspiration by the TV programme 'Grand Designs 'and we believe the result is sympathetic with an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' and will survive for yet another two hundred years. At the rear of the Boat-house and inside it, James Fuge and Jason Snell have unearthed not only two old mud anchors (large stones with a hole through or a groove around) but also three cannon balls. These cannon balls have been assessed by experts and the largest is naval and dates from about 1750; the smaller ones are from the Civil War. There was much Civil War fighting around Golant, Castledore, Penquite and St. Veep in the late 1640's, so one can only speculate as to how these cannon balls arrived at the Boathouse. I believe the above history is substantially correct, but if anyone can add to it or point out any errors I would be very grateful. Contact Mike Harris (Tel 01726 833897) or Judy and me (Tel 01926 832114) Anthony Harrison October 2010
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