The essence of any village is its people. As each generation leaves its mark on the development of a village we inevitably lose touch with the significance of what they leave behind. Piecing together some of the evidence that connects the interesting nooks and crannies of the village of St. Agnes with the people who shaped it, is what this trail guide is about. At each stop, listen for the voices from the past and imagine the scene - these voices are shown in green italics.
First, head for the red telephone box at the entrance to Trelawny Road. Take a look at the telephone number, you'll see that it ends with the digit A. The first telephone exchange was established in St. Agnes in 1928 with just 23 subscribers. Call St. Agnes: 1 and you would be connected to St. Agnes Post Office. This became the public phone which then moved to a phone box which over the years was placed in several locations in the main street. Despite a succession of modern prefixes, it remains the first telephone number in St. Agnes. With a camp bed for the night operator, the exchange was available 24 hours a day, each caller being greeted with "Number please." Then, it was possible to be connected just by asking for a person by name. Today, St. Agnes is digitally enabled and has broadband.
Anciently known as Bryanek (Bre means hill in Cornish), St. Agnes owes its development principally to tin mining which mushroomed after the 16th century. By any standard, the life of the tin miner or bal maiden was hard and opportunities for personal improvement were few. Turn left at the road junction; you are now in Vicarage Road. Virtually opposite Goldies Café stands St. Agnes Miners' and Mechanics' Institute B. Given to the public in 1893 by John Passmore Edwards "in perpetuity, for literary and scientific benefit", the building was essentially, a men's institute. Sadly, there is no longer a library for 'personal improvement' at the Institute, but the building remains a tangible reminder of the past industry of this once important mining district. An impressive portrait photograph of John Passmore Edwards hangs in the hallway C.
Listen to him: "You can claim me, whatever else I might be, as a parishioner of St. Agnes and I look upon my birthplace and early associations with a deep and undying interest." In more recent times, paused in a game of snooker, former miner, Percy Truran, is engaged in a light hearted argument with Richie Pearce over the facts of some incident from sixty years before. Richie was adamant, but as Percy resumed his shot he retorted "Well, I hope yer donkey (pronounced as in monkey) die". A miner's donkey was an important animal and many were kept in the small fields around the village. This almost extinct insult was an insult indeed!
St. Agnes Meadery D stands five doors on from the Institute. It was built in 1881 as the Oddfellow's Hall - a friendly society set up to protect and care for its members - it had a special significance for many working families in St. Agnes at a time when there was no welfare state, trade union or National Health Service. The hall became the Regal Cinema in 1933. In 1975, The Salzburg Connection (1972), an action adventure starring Barry Newman, was the last film shown, by which time Bingo was also regularly on offer. Sold and revamped as "The Little Puppet Theatre" in 1978, it became the Meadery in 1984. Is that Clark Gable's voice we can hear in an echo of Gone with the Wind? "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn". Walk on.