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Redgate, and a River Captured!

The little hamlet of Redgate nestles on a shoulder of land between the River Fowey valley, right above Golitha Falls on the north side of us, and the East Looe river valleys to the south of us. Part of the East Looe river has its source just down the lane. In geological history the courses of the two rivers were much different for in Redgate, whilst nestling and sheltering between hills to the east and west of us, we are also on the top of hills coming from the south and north of us! For the technically minded, we are now right on the watershed between the two separate river systems, and right on the shoulder of land now referred to as a "wind gap" or "col", which is the result of an excellent example of "river capture".

The parts of the (now) River Fowey to the north of Golitha Falls, were once the headwaters of the East Looe River, now effectively cut off, and now arising to the south of Redgate. When the sea levels fell during earlier times of glaciation, and melt-waters cut deeper into the rock strata, some rivers also cut their headwaters back, and effectively cut off and "captured" the headwaters of another river. The River Fowey did this while forming the gorge that is now Golitha Falls, and then capturing the East Looe River at the "elbow" or right angle turn in the river at Draynes Bridge. This then left the now quite out of place and over-deep valley at the head of the East Looe river; and with the River Fowey cutting deeper at Golitha, Redgate (as the place was named at a much, much, later time) was left over 40 feet or more above both rivers, yet still lying in the remains of the far, far older valley that was once the ancient east Looe River.

Redgate hamlet nestling on its shoulder of land.
Redgate can just be seen between the valley sides in the centre of the photo

The more recent history of Redgate hamlet is slowly getting lost in the mists of time, but the hamlet can at least be dated by its appearances on early maps. Maps dated early in the 1800s show that there were certainly buildings in Redgate at that time, and work would have been provided either on the land, or during the later 1800s, at local copper mines such as the Wheal Victoria Mine down at Golitha Falls). There was a working Smithy at Redgate until the 1960s and work may have also included supporting the local mines, though many had their own smithies. There was another known smithy for instance down at Draynes, opposite Golitha Falls and on the site of the current public loos, that could easily have been in support of the mine. Other smithy work would of course been based around the widespread ownership of horses, and on agricultural machinery, then tractors, ploughs, combines and the like. This was much like the way all the old coach makers in the towns moved on from making and repairing horse-drawn coaches, onto repairing and fixing cars.

The present hamlet of Redgate is, and it seems always has been, made up from the two separate farms and settlements, which have given Redgate its name - these being Higher Redgate Farm just up the Minions road, and the closer Lower Redgate Farm nearer to the cross-roads, which is now a house. Both Higher Redgate Farm and Lower Redgate Farm appear on the "New and Accurate Map of Cornwall" (Thomas Martyn, 1748), which is displayed at Lanhydrock House.

Origin of the name "Redgate"

The name of "Redgate" is not an obviously Cornish name, but there have certainly been two very old and established farms here, at Higher Redgate and Lower Redgate, that have been here for several hundreds of years, and which feature on maps made in the 1700s (for instance the 1748 map at Lanhydrock House).

"Red" in Cornish can be taken as meaning "ford", as in Redruth (the ford on the Red river - although "ruth" is also Cornish for "red" just to confuse), but the name in this instance is probably more in keeping with an Anglo Saxon origin, or perhaps a corruption of an original Cornish name. There are however several other "reds" about this part of Cornwall, such as Redpost, Redhill, and Redmoor.

More romantically (or blood curdlingly interesting!) perhaps, is the old local story that once told of Redgate being the site of a fierce and bloody battle that was fought here long ages ago, and that the blood flowed so much and so deep, that it covered the bottom bar of the gate, turning it red! Perhaps that was when King Doniert (or King Durngarth, one of the last Kings of Cornwall), drowned while fighting at Golitha Falls in AD 875 (King Doniert's Stone is just up the road of course), having fought a battle here!!!

Redgate Cross

According to "Stone Crosses in East Cornwall" by Andrew Langdon, Redgate Cross was re-discovered in 1930 after it was being used as a gate post at the entrance to a field at North Trekeive Farm on the road to Siblyback Farm just north of the bridge over the River fowey at Trekeive Steps. The cross was consequently relocated to the crossroads in Redgate, although now somewhat hidden by modern signposts and road-signs.

Redgate Cross
The Redgate Cross, relocated back to the Redgate cross-roads from its previous use as a farm gate post!
(there is in fact the shape of a long cross carved in the face of the stone, though difficult to make out here)

Originally, it would have had smaller horizontal limbs, now missing, which were perhaps broken off at some earlier time to make gate opening easier! There is a carved long cross shape in the front face which is still visible.

Redgate Chapel

There was once a small Methodist chapel at Redgate. The preacher Billy Bray is recorded as having preached here at some time after 1824 (the time he was put on the Local Preachers' Plan). The chapel at Redgate is also recorded in Methodist records as being the first chapel in St Cleer parish, and there is a date stone in evidence that was ceremoniously moved to the newer chapel site at Hockings House in 1939, though the Hockings House chapel itself took over from the Redgate chapel much earlier in 1846. This was the original date stone of the first chapel at Redgate, which is dated 1812 (see the photo below), which according to "Exploring the River Fowey" by John Neale, had originally been on a property owned by a certain Mrs Warren, who was living in the US at the time.

Redgate Chapel date stone
The date stone from the original chapel that was sited at Redgate and commemorative plaque
The inscription reads:
"This granite quoin is the date stone of the first Methodist Chapel in this parish. Erected at Redgate in 1812.
Unveiled by the Rt. Hon. Isaac Foot 20th March 1939."

The exact location of the chapel in Redgate is still being sought, given the limited information so far available. There appears no direct evidence of the old Redgate chapel on the old Tithe Maps, which in this case were surveyed in 1843 and certified in 1846, which is the year the Methodists moved the chapel from Redgate to Hockings House. This may mean the chapel had ceased to exist around this time, or was then being used for other purposes. The building down at Trelaske, which is thought also to be an old chapel (see photo further down), should not be confused with the Redgate chapel which was sited up the lane in Redgate. Numerous buildings were used as chapels at this time, and many were built on small plots of land donated by local farmers and landowners.

John Rowe ~ Historian and Writer

Redgate has its own claim to fame in being the birthplace, and home in his early years, of the well-known Cornish Historian and Writer William John Rowe, who died in 2004.

The following excerpt is from The Independant newspaper, dated 11th June 2004 (see link above),

"William John Rowe was born 31 October 1915 and brought up on an agricultural smallholding on the edge of Bodmin Moor [Redgate, Cornwall]. Educated initially at Trekieve Steps and Liskeard County School, he won a scholarship in 1935 to read Modern History at Brasenose College, Oxford.

In 1953 the book Cornwall in the Age of the Industrial Revolution established John Rowe as a key member of a small group of distinguished scholars - the others being A.L. Rowse and Mary Coate - whose work in the middle decades of the 20th century led to a series of impressive publications covering Cornwall from the end of the medieval period to the Victorian era. As Rowse pointed out in a foreword, the work of these three scholars covered the "significant moments" when Cornwall had "impinged on English history".

Rowe had always taken a keen interest in the cultural life of Cornwall and in 1950 this was recognised by his installation as a bard of the Cornish Gorseth. Retirement enabled him to play an even greater role in Cornish affairs, as President of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, president of the Cornwall branch of the Historical Association, trustee of the Cornwall Heritage Trust and council member of the Royal Institution of Cornwall."

The full article about John Rowe can be found on the Independent Obituaries website.

The Lanes around Redgate

Below the hamlet of Redgate on the northern side, literally just down the lane that then runs on up the Fowey valley towards Bolventor and Jamaica Inn, and crossing over Draynes Bridge, you will find the beautiful Golitha Falls.

Opposite the Bolventor and Golitha Falls turn at the Redgate cross-roads, the lane leads down to a turning to Treworrick with fine views over farmland and down the upper reaches of the East Looe river valley, before the lane passes through Treworrick Farm and on to the village of St.Cleer with further views back towards Redgate. In St Cleer there are two pubs, an excellent Farm Shop, and a fine church.

The lane from Redgate towards Treworrick, St.Cleer and Lampretten
Looking down the lane from Redgate towards the Treworrick turn, St.Cleer and Lampretten.

Spring flowers and wild orchid
Spring flowers in the lane-side hedges, and wild orchid

If you go straight on past the Treworrick turn, you will find yourself at the bottom of the valley, past Lampretten by the East Looe stream, and all points south down towards High Wood.

Cross-roads at Trelaske and possible chapel
"The Cross-roads" down the lane at Trelaske, looking back towards Redgate, and a possible old chapel that is
now an old barn (but this chapel is NOT the old Redgate Chapel that was sited up at Redgate itself!)

Green Lane on the way from Redgate to St.Cleer
A very pleasant old green lane, along one of the pretty walking routes to St.Cleer,
that runs up to the right from The Crossroads in the previous photograph

Farming around Redgate

Redgate is set in a very rural location on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor. It is therefore surrounded by farmland which is very important to the local community. Most farming is livestock based, both sheep and cattle, but some arable farming is also carried out. Cattle are farmed for both dairy and beef. The arable fields have been used for grain crops and also potatoes and on occasion turnips.

Havest time in Redgate
Combine harvesting the crop in the fields above Redgate

Treworrick and Redgate
A view back towards Redgate (in the gap between the hills in the distance),
over the little hamlet of Treworrick showing one of the many farm fields given over to sheep grazing

Cows around Redgate
The cows are also always happy around Redgate!

Redgate in the Snow!

Redgate Hamlet in the snow
Looking over Lower Redgate and Higher Redgate towards Bulland Downs
during the unexpected snowfall of 25th November 2005

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