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Power and Glory - Industrial growth

Several of Truro’s 19th century industries had grown from earlier times. A new coal fired process smelted ore into tin, first at Newham then Calenick, before competitors started in St George’s Road and on what is now Trafalgar Roundabout.

At one time the spinning jennies and dye works supplying the Truro Carpet Factory used power from the Mill Pool, which is still visible today behind the Cathedral, and gave work to people who were otherwise unemployable through disability. Large numbers of women also worked there and it was reported during the 1890s that the factory was producing a thousand yards of carpeting a week.

Some physical evidence of industrial activity can still be seen in the City. The Leat system, which still flows today, was designed to power waterwheels and was fed by the Rivers Kenwyn and Allen.

Water power was put to many uses from grinding corn to the fulling of cloth. Although attractive, these wheels were a source of danger as Stanley Coombs found to his cost:

“I was out playing around where I shouldn’t have been in a house with a big water wheel in it... what we used to do was go one side and ride up the wheel to a crossbeam, lean over the crossbeam and kick the wheel round with our feet and make it spin... I ended up with me legs between the wheel and the concrete floor... the wheel hit me right leg, it was the bone that stopped it... I had a big cut there and they didn’t know if they could save the leg or no.”

The images on the right depict Scawswater mill on the River Allen, which in its lifetime was used for grinding corn, fulling cloth and a sawmill and The steam laundry at Moresk.
Scawswater Mill
Steam Laundry

Gas works

Truro’s gas was originally made in a gas-works that stood for many years on Lemon Quay burning coal that arrived by river.

With the gas-works expanding to meet demand, the Truro Gas Company’s showroom offered all the latest labour saving devices. After the whole industry had been nationalised, a much bigger works at Newham burnt coal delivered by rail from 1956 to its closure in 1969, mainly because of falling demand.

“You’d take a bag down and you’d fill up your bag (with coke). Then you lift him up onto the seat and the handle bars and push him all the way from gasworks, all the way up here.”

The image to the right depics Truro Gas Works at Lemon Quay
Gas Works

Lakes Pottery

One of the most enduring industries in Truro was Lake’s Pottery in Chapel Hill. It is believed that a pottery existed on the site as long ago as 1250!

Mr Lake would shout to the ladies living nearby... “we’re firing today, get your washing in!”

Potters working at Lake’s were considered to be highly skilled. Bernard Leach, working in St Ives, reputedly sent his apprentices to learn from the master craftsmen working at Lake’s Pottery.

The images on the right depict Stacking of the Kiln, Barry Pascoe with Hamada Bernard Leach and Sons and The bottle kiln at Lake's Pottery - a part of the Truro skyline for many years.
Stacking the Kiln

Barry Pascos

The Bottle Kiln

Russell Matthews ‘Matt’

In 1966, soon after Mr Bill Lake’s death, the business was sold to the Dartington Trust. In 1985 the pottery finally closed.

The image to the right depicts Russel Matthews 'Matt' making snake handles.
Russel Matthews Making snake handles