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Trethevy shown within Cornwall
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It is midway between the villages of Tintagel and Boscastle in the civil parish of Tintagel. Trethevy has a number of historic buildings and is an early Christian site. The hamlet is divided by the B3263 road which continues through Trevalga to Boscastle: the main settlement is south-east of the road and to the north-west is the Rocky Valley.
There are two other Trethevy's in Cornwall. Trethevy in the parish of St Cleer (Trethewy, 1284) and Trethevy in South Petherwin parish (Trethewy, 1332). There are a further two places spelled Trethevey: Trethevey in St Mabyn parish (Tiwardeui, 1201) and Trethevey in Luxulyan (Trethewy, 1302). Additionally there are four places spelled Trethewey: Trethewey in Germoe (Trethewy, 1327), Trethewey in St Ervan (Trethewy, 1286), Trethewey in St Levan (Trethewy, 1320) and Trethewey in St Martin (Trethewy, 1371). All of these come from the Cornish Tredhewy meaning Dewi's Farm, apart from the one in St Mabyn which comes from Ty war Duwy meaning house on the river Dewey.
Roman occupation of Trethevy is suggested by an inscribed granite pillar, once used as a gatepost and now situated on the roadside by St. Piran's, a reputed former monastery and now a private residence. (It was found in nearby Genver Lane in 1919.) The inscription on the stone reads C DOMI N GALLO ET VOLUS – ‘For the Emperor Caesars our lords Gallus and Volusian.’ Trebonianus Gallus and Antoninianus Volusianus reigned from 251-253 AD. The pillar lends weight to the importance of the nearby trading post of Tintagel Island where merchants from as far away as the Mediterranean came to trade with the Cornish for their tin.
St Piran's is believed by former rector and historian, A C Canner to be the site of an early monastic settlement dating from the sixth century AD: in its present form it dates from the mid-16th century with medieval origins. The "monastery" tradition is likely to be an elaboration of William Goard based on R. S. Hawker's reference to "the reliques of a cell". George MacDonald in his Seaboard Parish (vol. 2, chapter 8) relates that Goard had given him a colourful account of the monks. Goard was resident at St Piran's and appointed himself the "Guide to St Nectan's Kieve Cascade".
Trethevy, Tregenver, Vowerland, Trewethett and Millcombe (i.e. Rocky Valley) were lands in this part of the parish and part of them was sold in 1538 by William Shytford to John Arscott for £100. For some 300 years the farmhouse of Trethevy was home to the family of Wade some of whom were mayors of the borough of Bossiney. Most of the farmhouse was demolished and replaced by a modern house which later became a hotel. William Wade and Stephen Wade were among those holding land in Trethevy and the other lands in 1808. Sir John Maclean stated that Trethevy was at some time between the 16th and 19th centuries held by the family of Trefusis but without the date or other details; after 1822 it was bought by Sir John Yarde-Buller, and at a later date his grandson Lord Churston owned it. A fourth part of the estate at Trethevy belonged to George Smith (died 1652), of Lantewy and Lunna in St Neot, who was succeeded by his daughters Mary and Katherine. A settlement of the property on Mary's husband John Anstis and his heirs was made in 1668.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a series of villas were built along the east side of the lane leading to St Nectan's Glen. The first of these was named after St Brychan and most of the subsequent villas were named after Brychan's children: St Endellion (Saint Endelienta), St Morwenna, St Mabyn and St Adwen. Another house named after a child of Brychan, St Yse (St Issey) was built on Genver Lane. More homes were built on the wast side of the lane in the early twentieth century and in the mid twentieth century, residential development began on land to the east of the B3263. This area is known locally as 'the Bungalows'. To the west of the B3263, farmland was re-appropriated to create the Trewethett Farm Caravan Site.
In the heart of Trethevy, surrounded by farm buildings and converted barns is Saint Piran’s Chapel, dating from at least the mid fifteenth century and a holy well also dedicated to Saint Piran. The well is built over with a mid twentieth century slate beehive and is topped with an iron cross. It is believed by some that the hermitage of Saint Nectan was beside a waterfall, Saint Nectan’s Kieve, in Saint Nectan’s Glen. Nectan is supposed to have lived above the falls having sailed from Wales on a millstone and was buried nearby.
The waterfall is a popular tourist destination and is viewed by some as a sacred site; at its base are many ribbons, photos, inscriptions, prayers and other offerings.
Other buildings of historical interest
Further upstream from Saint Nectan's Glen are the remains of a longhouse, Tregenver, possibly as old as the fourteenth century. The house was inhabited by farm labourers until the late nineteenth century. It is probable that Tregenver (or Genver) can be identified with the manor of Tregrebri as recorded in the Domesday Survey.
Trethevy Manor was built in the twelfth century and was the home of the Wade family who were Trethevy’s principal residents until the twentieth century. The Wades were prosperous farmers and many of them served as mayors of the Borough of Bossiney of whom the best known is William Wade (fl. 1756-1786); contemporary with Mayor Wade was the Rev. Arthur Wade (vicar of Tintagel 1770-1810). The manor is a private house.
At one time, Trethevy boasted four water mills. Trewethet mill, upstream of Saint Nectan’s Kieve, is ruined, Halgabron Mill in the valley below the waterfall is a private residence, Trevillet Mill is also a residence and was made famous by a painting by Thomas Creswick in 1851. Further downstream and the last mill before the ocean is the ruined Trethevy Mill. All appear to have been corn mills but before it closed, Trethevy Mill made ‘yarn, blankets and worsted for hose’.
Literary and artistic associations
Charles Dickens and William Thackeray visited Saint Nectan's Glen in 1842 along with Daniel Maclise who made his preliminary sketches for Nymph at the Waterfall here. Clive Arden, author, lived in Trethevy in the 1930s. John T. Williams, author of Pooh and the Psychologists, the painter Nicholas St John Rosse and the comics artist John Burns live in Trethevy.
- Place-names in the Standard Written Form (SWF) : List of place-names agreed by the MAGA Signage Panel. Cornish Language Partnership.
- Craig Weatherhill (2009) A Concise Dictionary of Cornish Place-Names. Westport, Co. Mayo: Evertype ISBN 978-1-904808-22-0; p. 76
- Collingwood, R. G. (1965) The Roman Inscriptions of Britain. I: Inscriptions on stone; no 2230. (Collingwood described it in 1923)
- Madge, Sidney J. (1950) The "Chapel", Kieve and Gorge of "Saint Nectan", Trevillet Millcombe, Tintagel. Bodmin: printed by Liddell and Son; pp.59-60
- Canner, A. C. (1982) The Parish of Tintagel: some historical notes. Camelford: A. C. Canner; pp. 37, 116
- Thorn, C., et al., eds. (1979) Cornwall. Chichester: Phillimore; section 5,8,10
- Canner, A. C. (1982) The Parish of Tintagel: some historical notes. Camelford: A. C. Canner; p. 74