We only discovered the Heritage Open Day was happening in Liskeard for two days by chance on the internet. We missed the first day. After parking the car on our walk into town we came to the first of the buildings we visited – a private house called Tregantle. What an eye opener this was. We had passed it many times, without a thought really, other than that it was quite a nice frontage. Stepping inside the owner had taken the trouble to do a tremendous amount of research about its history and its design by the famous Liskeard architect Henry Rice. Henry Rice started out as a land surveyor and architect who went on to transform Liskeard. He had a strong social conscience and made frequent sanitary inspections of the densely populated and poverty-stricken courts where the poor lived. His findings were recorded in his ‘Nuisance’ notebooks, which make fascinating, if sometimes gruesome, reading. As a result the corporation made him Inspector of Nuisances. He also brought piped water and sewers to the town.
Born in Kenwyn parish, Rice was a farmer’s son and staunch Methodist who lived the whole of his adult life in Liskeard. Over 100 of his buildings, mostly in the Classical style, survive, including a large number of terraces built along the roads into the town.
This is the front room as is. The owner had bought the house with all the ‘improvements’ you would expect from the early 70’s – artex ceilings, ripped out fireplaces, everywhere painted magnolia etc etc. Over a period of time, and particularly when she had retired from teaching, she gradually transformed the house reinstalling original Victorian fireplaces and reinstating appropriate colour schemes and trying to preserve every detail from the original designs. A true labour of love. I didn’t like to take photos as we were really guests in her house…..but this is one of the two staircases….and this picture shows industrial use right outside the rear of the property. And this is still in use as a glass making premises……The Glassworks address is actually Pavlova Mill. The mill dates back to the 19th century where it was used as a tannery making gloves. There is very little history on Pavlova Mill but it is said to have been named after the Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history! The tannery is said to have made gloves exclusively for the dancer, whether or not this is true, the mill has taken her name. Interesting!Next stop was the Weslyan Methodist Church which we had often admired from outside. The original chapel burnt down and was financed and rebuilt largely as now within a two year period. They didn’t mess about did they the Victorians? Inside a volunteer showed us around and pointed out the original and rough wooden stool used by John Wesley when he preached in Cornwall. The building was designed for 300 worshippers….and the plaster ceiling is impressive. Henry Rice designed an extension a little later.And the church became a very prominent organisation within Liskeard. Upstairs to one side this enormous hall was used for teaching. Indeed in the Second World War teaching still took place in the church’s cellars! Average congregation these days is about 30.On our way past Stuart House a late medieval house where King Charles stayed in the Civil War. F. showed me the garden which I hadn’t’t seen before, but which is very inviting for tea and cake.The Mayor’s Parlour and Civic Chamber were supposed to be open, but weren’t…….So off we went to St Martin’s Church unvisited before. It includes some Norman fragments, but is mostly 15th century. The South Chapel dates from 1428, the south chancel aisle from 1430, and additions to the north side from 1477. The tower was repaired in 1675, but was largely rebuilt between 1898 and 1902 at a cost of £6,400 (equivalent to £682,500 in 2018) by John Sampson of Liskeard. And the main point in coming today was to climb the tower.First we both had a go at bell ringing – unsuccessfully. It is much harder to get the knack than I thought.Then whilst F. had a coffee I climbed the tower. First we went to the bell ringers’ domain where they entertained us to a number of peals. Very interesting.Then, having been issued with ear plugs, we went up to the bell chamber, whilst the performance continued. Hands over ears were necessary as well as plugs!Partially deaf now, we ascended more steps to the top where we had the great privilege of seeing Liskeard and its surrounds from a viewpoint normally out of bounds……the day was fine and picture taking conditions good….It was good to see the uniform nature of the roofs nearly all with Delabole slates. This common pattern of roofing does add immeasurably to the character of any historic town. Time for one more photo out of one of the niche windows on the way down….Walking around the outside of the church we saw it from angles unfamiliar to us…..………and descended into town past some very nice rows of cottages. A very instructive two or three hours which made us much more appreciative of the buildings and community of Liskeard.