President: Mrs Hilary Thompson 01872 580573
Chairman: Mr Ralph German 01326 270558
Membership Secretary: Mrs Jean Rigley
Treasurer: Mrs Margaret George
Recorder: Neville Meek 01872 581817.
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The opening meeting for the New Year was a fascinating talk on Country House Fires in Cornwall given by Joanna Mattingley.
There were a significant number of grand houses in Cornwall housing art galleries and museums with paintings and artefacts of considerable worth and value. The fires had a great impact as they destroyed a considerable amount of history for future generations.
The talk spanned the years from 1646, a fire at Arwennack which is speculated could have been burnt down by the owners or the Parliamentarians, to 2000 a fire at Prideaux Place which was not too serious. Fires were frequently chimney fires and were often in the spring after there had been roaring fires all through the winters. Smoking was another cause of fire and at Ince Castle someone smoking in bed! Fires during the day were usually less disastrous as there were people to raise the alarm and help could be summoned more rapidly whereas at night the fire could have taken hold before anyone became aware. Most of the houses were in remote areas which meant if there was a possibility of getting help from an outside agency it would take a long time for them to arrive, often horse drawn. Few of the houses had sufficient water to deal with major fires,a lake on the estate was a great asset.
The property on the Roseland which was affected by fire was Tregorland, near St Just, which was struck by lightning on 20th April 1855.
Rebuilding the grand houses in their original state was not usually an option, either they were not insured or the insurance was insufficient to rebuild, however often there were some alterations/additions made to the remaining structures. The families were often of sufficient means that they had other properties where they could take up residence.