Monday, 15 March 2010

A Cold Afternoon in a Cornish Town

Last weekend, on the cold first Saturday of March, we set off in the early morning from Hampshire and drove through the beautiful winter landscapes of Dorset and Devon. Three hours later, we arrived at the Cornish market town of Launceston, for a family visit. That afternoon, we walked into the town and explored. Above is the view from the road bridge into town. It shows the A30, a main route into Cornwall and our way into the South West.

Launceston is an old and interesting market town which lies in the countryside almost equidistant between the south and north coasts of Cornwall. It is one mile from the Devon- Cornwall border and is known as The Gateway to Cornwall. In early times, Launceston was regarded as the Capital of Cornwall.The map shows a nuclear settlement built on a hill and overlooking the valley of the River Kensey, which flows into the upper River Tamar to the east. Roads enter the town from all directions, which make it an ideal centre for a market to grow up and flourish. Around the town are many rural villages and hamlets where farming, mostly of beef cattle and sheep, takes place. Dairying would be more suited to the lusher land in the lowland river valleys. Villagers would have brought their produce to market here for centuries, and a Butter Market still trades on Saturday mornings in the town.

The Official Town Website summarises the history of the town:

"Dating back to Celtic times, the whole of Launceston is steeped in history and is dominated by its Castle, built by Brian de Bretagne, the first Norman Earl of Cornwall, in the 11th century. Once the site of the Royal Mint and the only walled town in Cornwall, the Launceston of today has much to offer and reward both business and leisure interests."

The following photographs show the landscapes and the street scenes of our brisk walk around the town. It was bitterly cold and it seemed that most of the townspeople were at home keeping warm. I was fascinated by the beautiful 16th century Church of Saint Mary Magdelane and by the Norman Castle, but they deserve a blog post of their own.

We walked across the bridge, into the eastern outskirts of the town . Houses on the hillside had gardens leading down into fields. From their windows would be magnificent views across the farmland of the Tamar Valley towards the high plateau of distant Dartmoor.

The Boundary Stone on the edge of Launceston town.

Towards the north east.

Eastwards, and the pale, high ridges of Dartmoor shone in afternoon sunshine.

A terrace of elegant houses on the edge of town.

The Cornwall Smallholders Supply shop. I would have loved time to look inside.

The road from the south.

The old town Gateway

The footway through the entrance archway, restored in Victorian times.

Down every lane and alleyway there were glimpses of the green fields that border the town.

The fine clock on Barclay`s Bank in the Town Square.

In the Town Square.

An elegant Georgian shop front. Now a Charity Shop, this was once a bootmaker`s shop and the boot sign still hangs above the store.

A cast iron pillar on another shop frontage.

Georgian, Victorian and more modern buildings line the narrow shopping streets.

The old carved doorway of The White Hart Inn.

The Bell Inn, not far from the church, has an old washing mangle outside its door.

A road out of town, showing the Castle walls on the right.

Across the Town Square.

The Town Hall, according to the Official Town Website, has " a fine clock and quarterjacks to chime hours and quarters".

Large and elegant Georgian and Victorian buildings near the north gate of the Castle.

Opposite the Farm Shop, I noticed a narrow alleyway leading up into a cobbled walk between the sides of tall buildings.

The alleyway led to the foot of the Castle walls, so I turned back towards the street.

Up arrow streets and back to the town gate once more.

Inside this Hardware shop, where I bought batteries for my camera, was the most amazing array of household goods, gardening equipment, tools and necessities of life. The shop seemed like the hardware shops of my 1960s childhood. It has been owned by the same family for generations and is said to have been an inspiration for the television series "Open All Hours", which starred the late Ronnie Barker.

A Victorian postbox, set into the side wall of a roadside cottage.

As we walked out of the town, it was interesting to see how the houses reflected the gradual growth and expansion of residential streets. Victorian houses gave way to Edwardian homes. 1930`s villas gave way to 1950s bungalows, and then onwards to the roundabout, where a large modern Tesco store dominated the entrance to new estates of homes built on farm fields.


rachel said...

What a delightful tour of a charming little place - thank you! I can't wait for my move to the South West.....

Kath said...

I did enjoy this. When my Aunt and Uncle lived at Boyton, my Aunt sold home-made cakes and pies at the W.I market in the town.Looking at your photos, I think the market was held in the Town Hall.

ChrisJ said...

Wonderful pictures and quite a tour. That old Gateway looks like the one in Conway.