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Luxulyan Valley

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Information Board.
Tram Incline.
Leat Bridge over tram incline.
Acess tunnel under tram incline.
Railway Bridge connecting with Par Harbour.
Railway Bridge.

In 1813, Joseph Thomas Treffry inherited the estates of the Treffry family on the death of his mother's brother (he changed his name to Treffry in 1838). He began to develop the assets, particularly the mineral wealth, and saw that the Luxulyan Valley was a convenient route between the south coast and the high ground in central Cornwall. He built a new artificial harbour, completed in 1829, at Par, a canal up the valley to Ponts Mill and an inclined plane railway to the Fowey Consols mine on Penpillick Hill. To bring water power to the mine he built a leat from Luxulyan along the west side of the valley. He also acquired the moribund port of Newquay and land and mines in the area of Goss Moor, and planned to link them by a railway system.

Work began in 1835 on a tramway up the valley, but Treffry and his steward William Pease realised that it was not going to meet their ambitions, so it was abandoned and only a few fragments of the route are visible today.

Instead, they built a much larger-scale tramway, with the inclined plane from the canal basin, past the Carmears Rocks, to the level of the top of the valley, then a level run through Luxulyan and on to its terminus at the Bugle Inn near Mollinis. This required a high-level crossing of the river, for which they built the great viaduct, 650 feet long and 100 feet high, the most advanced engineering project in the western peninsula. It was built of stone from the Carbeans and Colcerrow quarries, and the lines from the quarries to the viaduct were the first parts of the tramway to be operational.

The tramway was completed in 1844.

The Treffry Viaduct carried both rails and a water channel to bring more water for the Fowey Consols, and this is where the quality of the design and construction becomes apparent. The level of a waterway must be precisely correct, or the water will not flow.

On its way down, the water was used to power the Carmears incline, by means of a water wheel, 34(?) feet in diameter. This enabled the tramway to work loads up the incline. Old photo of waterwheel here.

The last improvement Joseph Treffry made was a continuation of the railway alongside the canal to Par Harbour, but this was not completed until after his untimely death in 1850.

Two more granite quarries were at work within the Valley, Rock Mill and Orchard. In 1870 the South Cornwall Granite company opened a railway linking these to Ponts Mill. This is what we now call the Valley Floor Tramway - the Treffry era railways, all horse-worked, were later called tramways to distinguish them from later locomotive-powered lines. The quarries were worked until about 1928; the last stone came from Carbeans in 1933 and the last of Treffry's rails were removed in 1940.

In 1872 a group of London businessmen began a massive rebuild of Treffry's tramways to enable them to exploit the ironstone deposits near Newquay. They constructed a new route through the Valley, which left the old one below Ponts Mill, ascended the west side of the Valley, crossed the Par River twice on the Ponts Mill and Rock Mill Viaducts, passed under the Treffry Viaduct, approached Luxulyan through a tunnel and rejoined the old route at Luxulyan railway station. The new consortium was called the Cornwall Minerals Railway. However, the iron ore traffic did not appear so, in desperation, the company tried running passenger services - equally unsuccessfully.

When the Carmears incline was bypassed in the 1870s, the West of England China Clay Co built a china stone mill to utilise the waterwheel's water supply, and installed a new 40 ft waterwheel to drive it. It ran until 1908, and was partially scrapped in WW2.[1] However, significant parts have survived, including the wheel shaft and hubs, and some gears and shafts from the grinding mills. Vegetation has been cleared, and one of the grinding mill buildings has been made accessible with stairs and railings. There are two ruined buildings close to the wheel pit, and there are numerous granite sleepers, chairs, and some rails along the former tramway.

1844 Newspaper Report [2]

Par Harbour, Canal, Viaduct, and Railway.
(From the Mining Journal.)
These works, formed under the direction, and at the sole expense of J. T. Treffry, Esq., afford, with the mines connected with them, the most superior and complete specimen of engineering in the County, and are a valuable earnest of the far greater work now undertaken by that talented and enterprising gentleman. We copy the account from the Mining Journal of this week, which contains a notice of the several mines in the East Cornwall and West Devon districts.
Par Harbour. — This harbour, which, with all its works and appurtenances, was designed by, and has been constructed at the sole expense of Mr. J. T. Treffry, and with which the canal and railway communicate, is the point of shipment of the produce of the Fowey Consols, Par Consols, and other mines ; and it must necessarily be, on the completion of the railway (which may be calculated upon, so far as opening it to its present terminus, in two or three weeks), that also of the granite, ores, and agricultural produce of the district ; as well as forming an emporium on the coast for coals, mine materials, and mercantile goods generally. The breakwater is, with the pier, 1200 feet in length ; the thickness varying from 63 feet, which is that of the pier, to 100 feet at the seawall ; the height of the breakwater or sea-wall may be taken at 30 to 40 feet, such being the respective heights ; the form of the pier is an angle of an inverted arch, springing from the base at an angle of 45 degrees, approaching more to the perpendicular at the top ; the angle of the breakwater part, which is a pavement, is a rise of about 1 in 3; the depth of water at spring tides is from 17 to 19 feet, and the area within the breakwater is 35 acres, the space covered by the breakwater and pier being 1¾ acres; the parapet wall is 15 feet thick. The works here were commenced in October, 1829, in Tywardreath Bay, which was quite open, and although still in the course of extension, may be said to be complete. There's about 20 acres to 25 acres of ground which has been recovered, in addition to the area of the water within the pier ; and a seawall extended for a considerable distance with large storehouses, weighing-machine, chandlery, smiths' and carpenters' shops, agent's house and offices, workmens' cottages, dock for repairs, sluice gates, &c, and the largest and most complete wharfs in all Cornwall for the sampling and shipment of copper ores — the vessels at the wharfs being so protected by the breakwater that they are just as safe as if within a dock.
Smelting Works at Par Harbour. — The lead smelting works, erected here by Mr.Treffry, are calculated for smelting twenty tons of ore weekly, but they may be said to be yet in their infancy, and as one of the numerous appendages to the harbour, being most desirably situate, and immediately contiguous to the canal, and also to the shipping wharf. The furnaces consist of two calciners, two smelting or reverberatory furnaces, two separating furnaces, for de-silverizing the ore, and one restoring furnace, where the litharge is treated, and the lead cast into merchantable pigs.
Canal. — The canal, which extends from the foot of the inclined plane to Par Harbour, is nearly 3 miles in length, its width varying from 30ft. to 60ft. There are three locks, each 90 feet long, and with a fall in two of 5 feet each, making together a rise of 10 feet from high water mark to the foot of the inclined plane— the third being a tidal lock. The boats employed are calculated to carry 52 tons, which are drawn by one horse. There is a feeder of water, to scour the canal, or to fill it when occasion may require. The water used is from springs, the mine water being objectionable on account of its sediment or deposit. There is a communication, by means of two inclined planes, from the Fowey Consols Mine to the canal for the transport of ore, and also for the carriage of materials.
Inclined Plane. — The inclined plane forms the junction between the canal and line of road, its length being 2871 feet, with a rise of 325 feet, which, added to 10 feet in the canal, gives 335 feet above high-water mark as the top of the plane. A wheel pit has been erected capable of taking a 50 feet wheel, there being ample water-power ; at present, however, the wheel erected is only 30 feet, with 8 ft. 6 in. breast, which will be employed in drawing up the waggons from the canal and regulating the descent of the down traffic. In lifting the traffic, the present wheel will deliver, by a wire rope at the top of the plane, about one ton every minute. Viaduct. — This erection, which is built of massive blocks of granite, is in length 650 feet, in width at the base 26 ft. each pier, and 10½ feet deep, supporting ten arches. — the height of the middle arch to the parapet being 98 feet, and the span of the arches 40 feet, with an area between the parapets at the top 13 feet wide for the railway. An aqueduct occupying an area of 15,600 cubic feet of solid granite passes under the railway, carrying the water which is employed at the Fowey Consols Mine, for working the machinery there, after passing over the wheel at top of the Inclined Plane, from whence it is carried by launders and leats to the mine. The cost of the building is within 7000l., although many engineers have estimated it at more than three times that amount.
Railway. — The railway may be said to commence from the foot of inclined plane, and passes over the viaduct to its present terminus, which is 7¼ miles from the breakwater and pier in Par harbour. The width of railway is 4 ft 8½ in. within the rails, which are 56lbs. in weight each rail to the lineal yard. The chairs are fixed to cross granite sleepers. The rise is 1 in 200 feet for the entire length from the head of the inclined plane to its present terminus, being a distance of 3 miles 32 rood, and 2 poles —thus giving a summit above high water mark of 437½ feet at the present terminus. The proposed traction is by horses. The country through which the line passes is principally granite, two or three quarries being worked in the immediate locality ; the granite is of very superior quality, and in some instances the "tors" or block, capping some of the hills, contain from 1000 to 6000 tons in each block. The carriage on the line will include granite, china clay, with mining and agricultural produce, for export, while the return carriage will consist of coal, timber, lime, manure, mining materials, and merchandise. Some fine blocks of jasper have been obtained on the line.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] The Friends Of Luxulyan Valley: 'Luxulyan Valley – An Historical View', by Stephen Austin
  2. Royal Cornwall Gazette - Friday 31 May 1844