St Agnes from the air - Trevaunance Cove and Trevellas Porth
St Agnes from the air - Trevaunance Cove and Trevellas Porth




History of St Agnes


St Agnes in History

St Agnes has an old harbour wall, whose building has an interesting history. Since 1632, there have been numerous attempts to build a harbour here but despite all the best plans and large sums of money, each wall is washed away during winter storms shortly after the work is completed. The ruins of the harbour wall lie to the south of the beach.

The unusual cottages known as Stippy Stappy are named in Cornish dialect, probably with reference to the steep step type nature of their construction. They are much photographed.

St Agnes is named after its Patron Saint, who has an unusual association with the infamous giant Bolster.

John Norden in his Topographical and Historical Description of Cornwall, 1650, described St Agnes:

"St Anns or St Agnis. A parishe situate upon the north sea coaste, wherin is a greate hill called St Anns Ball, one of the higheste hills in Cornwall : A verie Riche hill in Tynn-workes."

Nearly two hundred years later, Lysons Cornwall, volume III of the Magna Brittania, 1814, provides further insight into the history of St Agnes. It is interesting to note the rivalry between towns regarding markets and fairs.

St. Agnes, in the hundred and deanery of Pyder, is a small market-town, situated nine miles north-weft-by-weft from Truro, near the Bristol channel. It was anciently called Breanick or Bryanick.

The market, for which there does not appear to be any charter on record, has been held from time immemorial for all sorts of wares and provisions, except corn.

In 1706 Mr. Tonkin procured the Queen's patent for a weekly market and two fairs, but, after the writ of ad quod damnum had been duly executed, and the Queen's sign manual obtained, in consequence of a petition from the inhabitants of Truro, the grant was revoked.

A small market is nevertheless kept up : the market-day is Thursday. The town and parish, comprising a great mining district, thickly strewed with cottages, contained 4,161 inhabitants in 1801, and 5,024 in 1811, according to the returns made to parliament in those years.

A pilchard-fishery was established at St. Agnes about the year 1802.

At this time, St Agnes was not a parish in its own right but part of Perranzabuloe.

1331
The name, St Agnes, appears in Bishop Grandison's register, with the church of St Agnes being described as sadly neglected.

1484
The second church of St Agnes is constructed on the site of the earlier one.

1632
First attempt at constructing a harbour at Trevaunance Cove made by John Tonkin.

1678
Thomas Tonkin, the famous historian was born at St Agnes.

1684
Second attempt to construct a harbour at Trevaunance Cove, made by Hugh Tonkin, grandson of the originator.


A COMPLETE PAROCHIAL HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF CORNWALL - J. POLSUE

HALS — S. AGNES is situate in the hundred of Pyder. At the time of the Conqueror's tax there was no such parish or district as St. Agnes; but the same passed in rates under the jurisdiction of the Earl of Cornwall's manor, now Duchy, of Tywarnhaile ; together with Perransand : which now parish of S. Agnes was taxed to the four shillings in the pound land-tax, 9th William and Mary, 1696, £137 5. 0.

The present church of S. Agnes was of old only a small free chapel dedicated to her, without endow ment, till the same was augmented and rebuilt, of three roofs, as it now stands, hy charitable collections, and the proper charge and cost of the inhabitants thereof, in 1484 ; consecrated and dedicated to the honour of Almighty God, in the name of St. Agnes, as a daughter church to Perransand, by Dr. Peter Courtenay, then Bishop of Exon.

The parish feast is holden on the Sunday following St. Agnes' day. In this parish stands Came Bury-anacht, or Bury-anack, synonymous words, only varied by the dialect ; i.e., the still, quiet, spar-stone grave, or burying-place, where, suitable to the name, or the natural, remote, lofty circumstances thereof, stand three spar-stone tumuli, consisting of a vast number of those stones, great and small, piled up together, in memory of some one notable human creature before the 6th century interred there.

This is that well-known place called S. Agnes' Ball, that is to say, S. Agnes' pestis, or plague, so named from the hard, deep, and dangerous labour of the tinners there, out of which mountain hath been digged up, for at least 150 years' space, about ten thousand pounds worth of tin per annum ; which keep daily employed about the same 1 ,000 persons, who for the most part spend their time in hard and dangerous labours as aforesaid, in order to get a poor livelihood for themselves and families, in the pursuit of which, here and in other places, many of those poor men yearly by sad accidents lose their lives.

The natural circumstances of this Ball is a subject as worthy the consideration of the most sage virtuosos, or natural philosophers ; for, though it be a stupendous and amazing high mountain, abutting upon the Irish sea, or S. George's channel, rising pyramidally from the same at least 90 fathom above the sea and contiguous lands, yet on the top thereof, under those spar-stone graves, or burying-places, is discovered by the tinners, five foot deep, good arable land or earth ; under that, for six foot deep, is found a fine sort of white and yellow clay, of which tobacco-pipes have been made ; beneath this clay is a laying of sea-sand and nice totty stones. Two or three hundred fathoms from the sea, and about 80 fathoms above it, under this sand is to be seen for about five foot deep, nothing but such totty stones as are usually washed on the sea-shore, and in many of them grains of tin. Under those stones the soil or matter of the earth, for five or six feet deep, is nothing to be seen but carne-tyer, i.e., spar-stone land or earth, under which spar-stone earth appears the firm rock, through which tin-lodes are wrought or pursued by the tinners fifty, sixty, and seventy fathoms deep. This Ball, or lands containing this diversified matter or soil, contains about eighty acres in circumference ; which amuseth most men how the earth, clay, sand, totty-stones, or spar-stone land, should yet be so high above the solid rocks to the top of this mountain, unless Noah's flood was universal, and reached to this island, as the labouring tinners believe and tell us. More sure I am, from ocular demonstration, that a quantity of the white sort of sand in this Ball, or hill, washed in a stream or river of clear water, will instantly turn the same water into a milk-white colour, and not to be discerned from milk, as long as you continue to pour the said sand into the river ; but this is to be understood only of such dean white sand as is made use of and prepared for writing sand-boxes.

The manor of Mithian, i.e., of whey, a notable grange for cows and milk (otherwise, if the name be compounded of my-thyan, Saxon, my servant or villain by inheritance), was formerly the lands of Winslade of Tregarrick, in Pelynt, an hereditary esquire of the white spur; who forfeited the same with much other lands, by attainder of Treason, temp. Edward VI.; so that that King or Queen Mary gave those lands to Sir Reginald Mohun, of Hall, knight, or his father, who settled them upon his younger son, by which conveyance it lineally descended to my very kind friend William Mohun of Tencreek (in Creed), Esqr. now in possession thereof. In this manor is an ancient free chapel, now .converted to a dwelling-house, wherein God was duly worshipped in former ages by the tenants thereof.

Tren-ellis, i.e., the son-in-law by the wife's town; otherwise if the word be compounded of Tre-vell-es, it signifies the well or spring of water town ; is the dwelling of Michael Crocker, gent., that married Gwynn, and giveth for his arms, Argent, a chevron engrailed gules between three crows proper, originally descended from the Crockers of Ireland. Crocker, after the English Saxon, is a croekmaker or seller.

Tre-vaw-nanes, i.e., the town of the boys' valley, alias Tre-vawn-nanes, i.e., the town of the fanning or vawning valley ; where continually great numbers of boys, or human youths, are employed about washing, cleansing, or vawning tin in the rivulets thereof, is the dwelling of Thomas Tonkin, Esq., that married Kempe, his grandfathei Guye ; and giveth for his arma, by virtue of a late record taken forth of the College of arms temp. William III. in a field sable, an eagle displayed Or. The name Tonkin, alias Tankiu, synonymous words, signifies a person or thing in the tank or tonk, viz., an artificial cistern, pool, pond, or fountain of water.

TONKIN — This being the first parish in the hundred of Pydar, I take the opportunity of stating my opinion, that the name clearly imports the fourth, — Penwith, Kerrier, Powder, and Pider, all of which meet in one point, where the four parishes of Bedruth, Gwennap, Kenwyn, and St. Agnes, actually touch ; and the spot is called Kyvere Aukou, the place of death, on account of the frequent burial there of felones de se, or persons who have destroyed themselves.

Trevaunance I believe to mean the town in a valley of springs. This barton has belonged to my family upwards of five hundred years, so that we have used the name de Trevaunance, by customary inheritance of the manor of Tywarnhaile. But in 1559, Henry Earl of Rutland, then lord of the manor, sold the fee of his right in Trevaunence to Richard Carne the younger, of Camborne, Gent., who re-conveyed it the same year to John Jeffry ; and he conveyed it, in 1593, to Thomas Tonkin.

The above-named Richard Carne gave for his arms (as appears by his seal) a pelican in her nest, with wings displayed, feeding her young ones, which coat is still to be seen rn Trevaunence seals, and in the roof of S. Agnes church. He was descended from the Carnes of Glamorganshire, in Wales, who derive their pedigree from Ithal, King of Gwent, whose direct ancestor was Belimaur, the father of Cassibelan ; which Carne settled in Cornwall, as we have it by tradition, upon his ancestor's marriage with the heiress of Tresilian of Tresilian, in the parish of Newlyn.

To the west of Breanick, riseth by gentle ascent, the great hill, commonly called S. Agnes beacon and Carne Breanick, from the three great heaps of stones upon it, and its neighbourhood to Breanick, tho' it be parcell of the waste lands of the manor of Trevaunance. As for the name which Mr. Hals gives it of Carne-Burianick, or Byrganick, that is a made one of his own, purposely to support bis wild notions and etymologies. That these three stony burrows were erected to the memory of some notable persons there interred, there is no doubt ; for to the west of that which serves now for a beacon, is still the remainder of a small square fortification, as likewise to the south of it making the point of the hill, is a great rock called Garder Wartha, or the higher, and under it another called Garder Wolla, or the lower Garder ; and at the bottom of the hill is a large entrenchment, or foss, which runs from Porth-Chapell-Coom to Breanick or the Church town Coom, and incloses the whole manor of Trevaunance, being more than one thousand acres of land. This trench is in most places very entire, in some places only about six foot high, in most about twelve, and in some at least twenty ; and the ditch itself about twenty feet broad, of which part is an highway, and part taken up by my father's tenants, for orchards and gardens. It is near two miles in length, and was doubtless the work of the Romans ; for, about the year 1684, as a servant of my father's was ploughing a large field to the north of the hill, called the New Downs, parcell of a tenement called the inner Goonbrey, or Goonvrey, i.e., the Hill Downs, he turned up with the plough a very fair gold coin of the emperor Valentinian the first, having on the one side D. N. VALENTINIANUS P. F. Auo. On the reverse, RESTITTJTOR REIPUBLICJE. ANT. A.

This parish is of large extent, but for the most part barren, with abundance of wortzel and downs ; but withal very populous, and not without some parcels of very good land, particularly from Trevaunence to Perwennack, Tewan, Trevisick, Mewla, Meuthion ; and neither are the barren grounds the least considerable as producing large quantities of excellent tin, according to the Cornish saying, Stean San Agnes an guella stean in Kernow. S. Agnes tin is the best tin in Cornwall. As likewise in some places very good copper, with some quarries that produce excellent stone for building ; and some slate for roofing, but not of the best quality. The land lies very heathy and dry, but too much exposed to the raging north-west wind for trees to thrive on it. From the top of the first hill a part of Devonshire may be seen ; also the North and South Seas, with thirty four parishes. The Bowden or Boen Marks, called in sea charts the Cow and Calf, lies about two miles from the shore.


The parish of S. Agnes is bounded on the north by the Bristol channel and Perranzabuloe, on the east by Kenwyn and Kea, on the south by Gwennap and Redruth, and on the west by Illogan. It is in the hundred and deanery of Pyder, and up to 1846 was united to Perranzabuloe, forming the most extensive benefice in the county. It is now a separate vicarage, and the present incumbent, the Eev. Alexander Allen Tawdry, was licensed the first vicar, May 1, 1846. The parish contains by admeasurement 8,294i. OE. 18r., of which there are subject to tithes 6,657 acres, namely, 3,872 acres arable, 100 acres meadow and pasture, 2,685 acres of common and waste lands. The tithe rent charge amounts to £515 ; out of which the vicar has £265, and the appropriators, the Dean and Chapter of Exeter, £250. The church, a light and handsome edifice, was re-built in 1847-8, at a cost of £1,700. It consists of a nave, chancel, and north and south aisles of unequal length ; the arcades are of four-centred arches, supported by light and elegant pillars of St. Stephens stone. The windows are chiefly perpendicular, the floor tiled, the roofs open cradle pattern, and bench end pews, all of varnished deal. The font is old, and of good design in Catacluse stone. At the west end stands the old tower surmounted with a new spire. It contains six musical bells, re-cast by the Mairs, bell founders, who had cast them exactly a century previously. There is a north and a south door. An ornamented window at the east end of the south aisle has inscribed on it : — John James Halls B.A., P.R.C.S., died A.D. 1860, beloved and mourned.

The tablets are thus inscribed : — To the memory of G. A. C. St. Aubyn, who died April 7th, 1770 ; aged 70 years. Sacred to the memory of John Luke, of this parish, many years Captain of the Gongo Soco and Bananal Gold mines in Brazil who died at Rio de Janeiro 22nd of March, 1850 ; aged 43 years. This monument is erected by his relations, as a tribute of respect to a dutiful son, an affectionate brother, a kind master, a faithful and zealous servant, a sincere friend, and a devout and humble christian. M. S. Jacob! Hingeston hac orti parochia, aynceri ac fortis animi Juvenis ! Qui exinde ab exercitu .Transatlantiacos provinciales subacturo Desciscentes dum natale solum causa convalescentiie paulisper redibat Tandem hoste ultimo oppressus non procul a littore salutifero sed nunquam reviscndo in oceauis arvis rite sepeliebatur, A.D. M.DCC.LXXX, /Ml ;it XXXIV. Cujus virtutes ac merita testari hoc (quod potuit) amico, B: M:P:C: condiscipulus Truronensis amicus, G'l'm's Tr'm'n'r. (William Tremenhere.) Vivit post funera virtus.

The town of S. Agnes, anciently called Breanick or Bryaniek, comprises S. Agnes proper, where there is the church, vicarage, market-house, and the hotel ; Petervill, where there are several neat residences, and one of Lady Huntingdon's chapels, and Vicarage (a large suburb so called), where the "Wesleyans have recently erected a large, well-built, and handsome chapel. In 1706, Mr. Tonkin procured the Queen's patent for a weekly market and two fairs, but in consequence of a petition from the inhabitants of Truro, the grant was revoked. Nevertheless there is a market ; the market day being Thursday. A pilchard fishery was established here about 1802. The manor of Mithian, or Mythian, belonged formerly to the family of Winslade, of Tregarrick in Pelynt. John "Winslade was executed for being concerned with Humphry Arundel and others in the Cornish commotions in 1549 and his estates were forfeited to the crown. Edward VI. granted this manor to Sir Reginald Mohun. William Mohun, Esq., the last male heir of this family, bequeathed it to his wife Sibella, (who afterwards married John Derbyshire Birkhead, Esq.), and his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Prowse. Sir Christopher Hawkins, bart., bought it in 1777; one moiety of Mr. Birkhead and the other of Matthew Grylls, brother and heir of llobert Grylls, who had purchased it in 1758 of the devisees of Mrs. Prowse. It is now the property of the Messrs. Richard and Horton Davy, who inherit it from their father, the late Stephen Davy, Esq.

The ecclesiastical district of Mithian, a large portion of which, with the church, are in this parish, was gazetted July 24, 1846. The church was built by voluntary contri butions in 1861, and comprises a chancel, nave, and north and south transepts. At the west end is a tower surmounted by a spire. The tower is already damaged either by lightning or through the badness of the material of which it is built. A neat parsonage adjoins the churchyard. The Eev. Alfred Lord, through whose praiseworthy exertions the church was built, was admitted the first perpetual curate in 1847. The living is valued at £130, and the presentation in the Crown and Bishop alternately.

The manor, or reputed manor of Trevaunance, is now in severalties. It is said to have been acquired by the Tonkin family in marriage with the heiress of Carne, a younger branch of the family of Carne, of Glamorganshire. In the year 1559, Henry, Earl of Eutland, then lord of the manor of Tywarnhaile Tyes, sold the fee of the Trevaunance estate to Richard Carne, who the same year conveyed it to John Jeffery. In 1593, it was sold by Jeffery to Thomas Tonkin, alias Trevaunance, whose family had long been possessed of it as leaseholders. This estate was the property and seat of Thomas Tonkin, Esq., who made large collections for a parochial history of the county. He died in 1742. His two sons, who did not long survive him, successively inherited his estates, which, after their deaths, were for a short time in the possession of Thomas Heyes, Esq., who married the daughter and heir of his son James, but left no issue ; the only child of his daughter, who married Foss, having died unmarried, they descended to the representatives of the three daughters of Thomas Tonkin, who died in 1672; which daughters had married into the families of Jago, Cornish, and Ley. Mr. John Jago and Mr. Hugh Ley, the immediate descendants of two of the daughters, then became possessed of two-thirds of the manor of Trevaunance, and of such portion of the manor of Lambourn as extends into this parish, and was part of the Tonkin estate. The other third was subdivided. Trevaunance house was taken down a few years after the death of Mr. Tonkin, and a neat cottage occupies the site.

An attempt was made by the Tonkin family in 1632 to form a harbour at Trevaunance- Porth; and again in 1684, but after a considerable outlay it was abandoned. A third attempt was made by Mr. Hugh Tonkin, in 1699, assisted by Winstanly, the engineer. This was attended with some little success; but in 1705 it was completely destroyed by a storm. Tonkin, the historian, son of the preceding, again commenced the work in 1710, at an expense of £6,000. He formed the foundation with large masses of rock, laid in the blue lias of Aberddaw. Those works having become decayed, a pier of granite was built about the year 1794, at an expense of £10,000, by a company of gentlemen, and a trade is carried on with Ireland, Wales, &c., in lime, coal and slate. Chyton, temp. Henry VI., belonged to the Beauchamps ; who, in the reign of Elizabeth, removed to Trenethick. In 1633 Walter Beauchamp sold both estates to Peter Jenkyn, of higher St. Columb,"of whose representatives

Chyton was purchased, near the close of that century, by Hugh Tonkin. It is now a divided property. Trenethick was sold by the Jenkyn family in 1699, to John Tonkin, of Mullion, who possessed in I73C. It was afterwards for many years in the family of John, of whom it was purchased by Mr. Collan Harvey, of S. Day, whose sona, Collan and Richard Harrcy, Esqs., are the present proprietors.

Penwennick, an estate in the manor of Tywarnhaile, was divided, temp. Henry VIII, between Thomas Kemyell, who possessed a moiety, and Sir John diamond and Urinas Nicholl, who had a fourth each. The representatives of Kemyell sold their moiety in 1568, to William Whittu ; from Whitta it passed to the Lanyons, who resided here several years, and sold the estate in 1622, to Edward Noy, of Carnanton, who sold it in 1627, to John Tonkin, of Trevaunance. Sir John diamond's share passed through several female heirs to Francis Basset, of Tehidy ; who sold it to Thomas Tonkin, in 1705. Those three parts of Penwennick were, till of late years, in the Tonkin family. The remaining fourth part which had belonged to the Nieholl's family, was in 1736 the property of John Nance, whose ancestors had acquired it by purchase ; the whole then became the property of John James, Esq., who resided at Rosemnnday, a pleasant seat adjoining Vicarage. It was sold by James to Sandys, from whom it passed to Mr. Williams, the present proprietor. Rosemunday is now the property of Mr. Came, of Falmouth.

Treuellis, or Trevellas, a tenement in the manor of Tywarnhaile, was for several descents the seat of the family of Crocker ; it belonged afterwards to Mr. Joseph Donnithorne. It is now the property of J. G. Chilcott, Esq., of Truro.

At Chapel-comb was an ancient chapel called Forth chapel, the ruins of which were taken down about 1780. Near this place is S. Agnes's well, about which miraculous stories have been told. There were also remains of an ancient chapel at Malow.

Nicholas Kent, of Mingoose, by will dated 1688, gave for the term of 499 years, a dwelling house divided into four tenements, and a garden, for poor widows of this parish, and charged his lands of Mingoose and Tereardrene with the repairs of the house ; but it was not endowed. One of the Rev. St. John Eliot's schools is at S. Agnes; it was- endowed with £5 per annum. S. Agnes beacon, formed out of an ancient cairn or tumulus, was kept ready for use some years ago, and was attended by two soldiers. The panoramic view from the top of it is very fine, ineluding an extensive sea-prospect. According to the trigonometrical survey, the beacon is 621 feet above the level of the sea.

Thomas Tonkin, Esq., of Trevaunance, sometime M.P. for Helston, began in 1702 to write a parochial history of the county, and in 1737 he had made sufficient progress in his collections to put forth his proposals, in which he announces the plan of his publication as follows :—

Proposals for publishing three volumes of the history and antiquities of Cornwall in imperial quarto : — The first to be a complete work of itself, and a full natural history thereof and its antiquities. Also the second volume will give a particular account of the four western hundreds, after the method of Sir Win. Dugdale's Warwickshire. Maps of each ; arms round the map ; draughts of the seats ; prospect of Mounts Bay ; Falmouth harbour ; Truro with its river ; Wadebridge and river. The third volume of the five remaining hundreds in the same manner, with prospects from Mount Edgcumbe, of Plymouth, Stonehonse, and the docks ; a second of Lannceston, Newport, Ac.; a third of Fowey harbour. Subscribers to send their names, and arms, and informations, to the author at Polgorran, near Tregony, at or before I/adyday 1737. The price in hand to subscribers, one guinea, and 5s. on the delivery of the first volume, 16s. on the delivery of the second, and one guinea on the delivery of the third. Subscribers for six to receive seven copies.

In 1739, Tonkin had completed the M.S. of the first part, which was to treat of the county generally ; his dedication was t& Sir William Carew, bart., and Sir John St. Aubyn, bart., M.P.'s for the 'county at that time. After this date very little was done to the parochial part of his history. He died at Polgorran, in the parish of Gorran, in 1742, involved in pecuniary difficulties ; and no part of his history was printed.

No arms are given for the Tonkin family in the Herald's visitation of 1620, but the pedigree only ; and the reason assigned is this : Mr. Tonkin of Trevaunance, was upwards - of 80 years of age in 1620, blind, and a bed-lier, so that he was unable to appear at the visitation.

All the monuments of the Tonkin family which were in the old church are not preserved ; one only remains, attached to the north wall of the new church ; the inscription is nearly obliterated. It bears the arms of Hugh Tonkin impaling those of Vincent. Outside of the same wall, and embedded in it, are the arms of the son of this member of the family, impaling Kempe. The following inscriptions are preserved: —

Beatam placide expectans resurrectionem, hunc juxta tumulum requiescit in D'n'o, Thomas Tonkin de Trevaunance, arm. Vir moribus antiqnis insigni, in Deum pietate, in regem intemarata, fide pro quo et incarcerationem in arce de Pendinas et nefarias a rebellibus subivit deoimationes, non sine continue) vitas Discrimine, Uxorem duxit Eleonoram, filiarn Eeg : Bawden de Guddern, et Eliz. Trewolla uxor ejus, fascundam illi matrem filiorum 4 : Johannls, mort. A.D. 1663, ast. 20. Thomas, mort. A.D. 1654, set. 6. Hugonia Tonkin, fil. et hasr. et Jaoobi, mort. A.D. 1658, ast. 3. Filiarumq. qninque, Eliz : nnptas Hngoni Ley de Treworgan Vean, Julianas, Johannis lago, de Ennis. Dianas, Roberto Wilton de Dunveth ; unitatis mort. in infant, et Janas post mort. patr. Willmo. Cornish de Trevorric, Ipse cum regem suum vidisset reducem, et admeritos jam properaret honores, febri purpurea correptus obiit 5 die Julii, Anno Dom. 1672 ; astat. snip, 52. Non sine maximo suorum ludu, nee minore apud omnes sui desiderio. Eleanora, vidua Thomas Tonkin, obiit 27 die Julii, setatis suas 74, Annoq. Dom. 1687. M. S. E. Franciscan filia Walteri Vincent de Trelevan, uxores Hugonis Tonkin de Trevaunance, armig. foeminas nobilissimus moribus, serenitate perpetua amore in conjugam, et libros intenso insigniq. pietate, placentissimas quas cum conrixisset marito ann. 17. mens 7. [peperissetq. filios quatuor (Thomam, Walteram Hugonam, et Johannem), filiasq. duas Jauam et Franciscam, ei superstites variolis correpta, omnibus desiderata obiit die 12 Feb. anno astat suas 30. Salutis Humanas M,DC,XC. Hugo Tonkin, arm. hoc conjugi optime de se meritas monumentum, brevemq. titulum masrens posuit. Hugo Tonkin de Trevaunauce, arm. obiit 1 die Junii, astatis suas 60, annoq. dom. 1711.

Mr. Tonkin states in his M.S. that he had deeds in his possession which shewed that S. Agnes was reckoned a distinct parish, and had a parochial chapel in 1396. The license to build a new chapel was dated Oct. 1, 1482.

In 1719 he says he had growing in his garden at Trevaunance a rose, the flower of which was divided in the middle with a line, one half white — the other red, which he calls a true York and Lancaster rose.

The glory of S. Agnes was Opie the painter. John Opie, E.A., was born at S. Agnes in May, 1761. His father was a foreman mine carpenter. The strongest indications of his genius first appeared at the mansion of Mr. Nankivell at Mithian, where his sister lived in service. Here he would frequently introduce himself on some pretence or other and was observed to take sly peeps upon a farming-picture, and then go hastily away. It was a crowded composition, but after three or four glances to refresh his memory, he made a correct sketch of the whole. He then drew an exact likeness of Mrs. Nankivell's cat. Dr. Walcot's attention was called to observe the boy's proceedings ; and had no sooner seen the cat than he cried out " Eureka ! " and at once foretold the destiny of the youth, with all the enthusiasm of a prophet, and from that time afforded him every assistance. Opie's father was glad to part with him. " He was good for nothing," he said, " would never be able to make a wheelbarrow, and was always gazing upon cats, and staring folks in the face." The young artist's outset was auspicious. At Falmouth, where it was Walcot's pride to exhibit him, he earned upwards of thirty guineas ; and the Dr. was one day surprised to see him rolling about on the floor where a quantity of money lay scattered. " See here," says Opie, "here be I, waiving in gold." In 1780, Dr. Walcot took him to London, where he immediately became acknowledged as the " Cornish wonder," nor did the tide of good fortune ebb before he had realised a moderate competency. The loss of popular favour, however, only served to bring out more strongly his manly independence and strong love of art. He stooped to no device to retain fashionable patronage, but calmly and unremittingly entered on that department of painting which, according to the notions of his time, was the only style of high art, namely, historical or scriptural subjects on a large scale. He was employed by Boydell in his magnificent scheme to elevate British art, by Bowyer for his English History, by Macklin for his Poets, and Biblical Gallery, and on other and similar undertakings. His more celebrated pictures are the " Murder of James I. of Scotland," "The death of Rizzio," " Jephtha's vow," " Presentation in the Temple," "Arthur and Hubert," and " Belisarius and Juliet in the garden." Opie was elected A.E.A, in 1786, and E.A. the following year. He wrote a " Life of Reynolds " for Dr. Walcot's edition of Pilkington's Dictionary of Painters, and a letter in the North Briton, recommending the formation of a National Gallery. When Fuselli, on being appointed keeper, resigned the professor ship of Painting, Opie was appointed to that office ; and the four lectures which he delivered — he died before completing the course — bear the stamp of practical experience and shrewd observation. He was twice married. He obtained a divorce from his first wife ; but his second, well known as a novelist, appreciated his high character, which she set forth, after his death, in a memoir attached to his lectures. He died rather suddenly in his house in S. Bernard street, Oxford street, April 9, 1807, and was buried in the Crypt of S. Paul's, near Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Branches of the Opie family still reside at S. Agnes ; and the artistic talent of the painter is inherited in a respectable degree by his grand-nephew Mr. Edward Opie.

The Opies of S. Agnes are said to be descended from a younger branch of the Opies of Pawton in S. Breock, the main branch of which became extinct in the middle of the 18th century. The parish is one of the great mining districts of the county, abounding in tin and copper, but more especially in the former. Large courses of granitic elvan, of which the church tower is built, are common in the northern part, containing short irregular veins and bunches of tin. Those courses are exposed in the eliffs and present a singular appearance, somewhat resembling a bank of earth perforated by rabbits' burrows, in consequence of the miners having taken the tin wherever it was exposed to view.

The Beacon merits particular attention. It was chosen as one of the principal western stations of the Ordnance Survey, and its position laid down with accuracy : — Latitude 50deg. 18min. 27 sec., Longitude 5deg. 11 min. 55 sec., in time 20 min. 47 sec. The lower part is formed of a schistose rock, composed of granular felspar intermixed with partieles of quartz and minute scales of mica. Ascending towards the summit, the quartz gradually increases in quality, till at last it becomes the prevailing ingredient of the rock, and preserves it against the natural causes of decay ; whilst lower down, where the felspar abounds, the rock is extensively disintegrated. On the side of the hill, about three or four hundred feet above the level of the sea, is a deep deposit of diluvium, consisting of alternate layers of clay and sand.

Of the 2685 acres of common and waste lands more than one-half has been enclosed, and is found to make grass land of a superior quality. The parish is scant of trees, and more of the common lands should be planted. The Messrs. Davey have plantations of Scotch and Pinaster firs in the Mithian district, and they thrive well.

Of the Roman raised way called "White street, in this parish, little other than the name remains.

 

 

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