Yesterday, we visited Morwellham Quay near Tavistock on the moor, it was once a thriving community, where the George and Charlotte mine was one of the largest copper mines in the country, infact Queen Victoria once visited it on her way to Endsleigh.
All the buildings are orginal, I loved this little victorian terrace with its cottagey garden, inside it was decorated with furniture of the period, wheelback chairs, grandfather clocks, and china knick knacks.
Upstairs there were two bedrooms, one with a wrought iron bed and a beautiful crochet bedspread, the other much bigger room was plainly furnished, but had more decorative china too…I loved the hip bath, infront of the fire.
Best of all were these two pictures, one a delightful religious text, and the other a lovely angel picture with damsel in. Having enjoyed looking round we made our way down the windy narrow wooden stairs, out into a little passageway, behind the house.
There were a couple of little outbuildings, one with a rather inelegant wooden toilet, and the other a store shed. At the end of the path was a handful of hens drinking from a little trough, and nearby this lovely old rooster keeping his eye on things.
There was a old Miners cottage at the end of the path, it was very humble, I really jumped when I saw this figure laying on his bed, it was so unexpected!
The rooms were very bare, with just the absolute basics to live, it would have been a very hard life, with children also working in the mines, boys being sent at the age of eight to work underground for eight hour shifts, and girls of the same age working on the surface, breaking up material brought from underground, for twelve hour shifts, six days a week.
After this humbling experience, we walked down to the river in the sunshine, its the river Tamar, and is the border between Devon and Cornwall. It ran in a sluggish way between the banks of reeds and purple loosestrife, the willows dipping their leafy heads into the brown coloured water….Moored up in dock was a beautiful Ketch, one of the boats that would sail down the river with the copper ore, and along side the wagons that transported it.
We were very lucky with the weather, as we`d had a fierce rainstorm on the way over the moor, and it was very peaceful in the valley, the hills covered in woods, and just the sound of a buzzard mewling in the blue sky…very different from how it would have been in its heyday. I was impressed with this huge water wheel, that would have been used to drive the machinery to crush the rocks, and I also loved all the old wagons, used for various purposes about their daily lives.
The village was absolutely enchanting, with slate hung houses, and bunting fluttering in the breeze. There was an inn called The Ship, a little pottery, a tea-room where the staff were dressed in period costume, and served delicious coffee cake.
Best of all was the little general store, it was full of lovely things, sweeties in jars, hams strung from the ceiling, and everything else you could possibly want, and laid out so beautifully.
We stopped for coffee and cake, and watched as a shower travelled up the river in a silvery mist, then when we came out the sun shone, and twinkled on the raindrops in the grass…we walked over to the little corrugated roofed school house, peeping inside we found it was very sparse, with only hard benches for the children to sit on, by all accounts I dont think that they would have spent many hours learning, as along with their parents they would have needed to earn a living.
By this time it was nearly one o`clock, and we had booked to go down the mine, so we hurried up the hillside to where the little train, and caged carriages were..luckily we were the last there, so we could sit right at the back of the carriage, and look out as we travelled up the hill, beside the river. The mine was something of a shock as it was pitch black, so intense, and would have only been lit by candles, the working conditions were horrendous and many men died very young with lung problems. The men and boys would have had to climb down 700ft to the shaft that they would work in, which would have taken an hour and a half, then start an eight hour shift, they must have been physically exhausted everyday, when they climbed back out..it was very interesting, and made you aware of how life was very hard in everyway when you werent rich or priveledged in those days.