A history of the farm, the house and Stithians area

The earliest known reference to Carncrees is in the 1660 Lay Subsidy Rolls1, and here the spelling is that of Carne Crese. It is also given a mention in the Land Assessment Tax of 1790. However there are many differing forms of spelling used down through the years, i.e. Carncrease, Carn Crease, Carncress and even Carncrew.

Carncrees Farm, situated at the western side of Stithians Parish, is a small holding of 15.5 acres today, and, translating from the Celtic, means, roughly, ‘Middle Rock’. It was held in 1660 by Jane Martayn (Martin), who was in all probability a kinswoman of the Martins of Penhalveor, and possibly of John Martin, who was a member of Lt. Col. Bonithon’s Company, Sir Nicholas Slanning’s Regiment, of the Royal Cornish Army of 1643.2

In the 1841 Census there were two farmers entered for Carncrees. Thomas Odgers, aged 53, a yeoman; and William Beard, aged 65 and also classed as a yeoman. However, this is probably best explained by the fact that, according to the Tithe Map of 1840, there was a dwelling and Vineyard at the southern extremity of the farm. The field marked No.1107 on the Ordnance Survey map, and now beneath the approach road to the Stithians Dam’s pumping station, and, since the advent of the Corey family, known as ‘Bottom Field’, was called ‘Vineyard’ in 1840. This field was No.729 on the Tithe Map. Attached to No.729 was No.728, described as ‘Homestead and garden’.

At some time during the latter part of the 19th century, Nos. 728 and 729 became one, the Homestead and garden disappeared and the whole unit became 0.S. No.1107. There is every indication that there was once a mill here, one of the many 40 or so mills that the Kennall River once supported. ‘Vineyard’ bordered the lane bearing the name of ‘Mill Lane’.

Some 70 or 80 years ago Benjamin Corey, on rebuilding the boundary hedge in that part of the field where the old homestead once stood, found a dugout channel in the upper part of this extremely wide hedge, obviously built to carry a diverted millstream. An old millstone was also within the crumbling remains together with various other appurtenances to milling and farming - bits of old shovel, wheels, etc.

It is very interesting to note the drastic changes of field names of all except one at some unknown period during the mid 19th century. The chart at the end of this article clearly illustrates these changes in names and numbers. It is particularly interesting to find the Celtic name for the present-day field O.S. No.1063, known as Quarry Field, that is the field immediately to the rear of the farmhouse through which runs a public footpath, and which borders on the waste area of Carn Rocks. ‘Park in Hell’, literally translated, means ‘field bordering on the waste or croft land’; ‘Park’ meaning ‘field’ and ‘Hell’ or ‘ell’, (either may be used), meaning ‘cold’, unproductive’, or virtually ‘wasteland’, so this name is very descriptive and self explanatory.

Interesting too is the fact that Nos. 980 and 911 on the 0.5. map, (now one complete unit and having been so for 70 or more years), was, in 1840 and 1880, two separate enclosures, as was the present day’s Top Field - 0.S. Nos. 1114 and 1057. These last two enclosures were made into one by Benjamin Corey. In 1841 these two enclosures were called ‘Coldwind’ and ‘Middle Coldwind’ respectively. The only field retaining its name of 1840, No.1061, is the Meadow. Most holdings have one such field so named; usually it denotes the lushest and most sheltered field nearest, in all probability, to the homestead.

In 1841 Thomas Odgers was the owner and occupier of both farm and farmhouse, then a thatched house, and situated at the north western corner of the present-day garden. This can be clearly seen on the 1840 Tithe Map.1 At that time the farm carried a total of four dwellings as compared to the two today. There were two houses at the entrance to the access lane as well as the main farmhouse, and the smaller farmhouse at the southern extremity of the farm. Possibly this farmhouse and the vineyard were let off as a separate entity; perhaps the tenant, if tenant he was, milked a dairy under the owner, as was common practice at that period of time.Quarrymen at Carncrees in the early 20th Century

According to the last Will and Testament of Peter Dunstan who died 6th July 1834, and who was farming Carncrees at that time, he left a daughter, Ann, who was the wife of Thomas Odgers. Thomas Odgers was at that time farming Carnsiddia and Carn Meor, both adjoining farms to Carncrees. These two farms were leased to Thomas Odgers, but by marrying the daughter of Peter Dunstan it would appear that he also became the owner of Carncrees.

In 1866, Doidge’s Directory has a William Dunstan as farmer at Carncrees. This was probably the tiny holding at the southern end. Kelly’s Directory lists a John Bath in 1856 and here the spelling is Carncrew. However, little is known during this period in relation to the property, but in 1860 it passed to Henry Bath, son of John Bath.

During the latter part of the 19th century, the property was farmed by two Bath brothers, John and Henry. They were reputed to have returned to Cornwall from Australia, bringing with them such a ‘haul’ of gold as to necessitate a special police guard being mounted over them during their journey and on landing at Southampton.

On returning to Cornwall and Carncrees, they proceeded to rebuild the old thatched farmhouse with some of their newly acquired wealth. This was completed in 1862, and was in process at the same time as the Penmennor Methodist Chapel. The cost of the new farmhouse was 500.0.0., which was quite a sum for that time.

The house was rather large in proportion to the acreage and far too ostentatious; the rooms being too high as to render it rather a difficult house to heat during the winter. John Bath was rather an eccentric character and frequently gave silver florins away by the handful to the children of the village, enjoying their scrabbling for the coins that he scattered on the ground. Henry Bath married a daughter of Michael Henry Holman of Restronguet, who farmed at Menordue at the time.

In 1902 Benjamin Corey, his wife, son and daughter came to the farm, having bought it from the Baths. These two families were related by marriage. The Corey family had come to the parish from Breage. Benjamin Corey was a farmer’s son, had been a mine captain in Rhandfontein, South Africa, and had purchased the farm for the sum of 1,300, again, quite a large amount for that time. He found the land much neglected and overgrown. Sadly, he was not to be a farmer for very long. He died from Miner’s Phthisis at the age of 41, having been in occupation for only two years.

His son, Benjamin John, now aged 12 years, was faced with having to leave school, step prematurely into his father’s shoes, and become a man overnight. His headmaster, Mr. Kelynack, reluctantly allowed the lad to sit a ‘labour’ examination at which he was successful and leave school to take upon his young shoulders the burdens of being a farmer and all that it entailed. Had he not done so, his mother would have had to sell the farm and livestock.

During her husband’s two years on the farm he had made the two cottages at the farm entrance into one dwelling. In 1866 one of these cottages was occupied by a miner by the name of Peter Phillips, according to Doidge. In 1966, when the cottage was being renovated yet again, a second doorway was revealed as was another one inside the house which opened into what must have been an upstairs room, long since demolished, at the rear of the house. The six-roomed cottage was then up-graded and enlarged to become an eight-roomed house.

The farm had always been a dairy holding. In the early days the cream was separated from the milk and made into butter. In the summer months this was a difficult procedure. The farmer’s wife had to be up at first light, 4 to 4.30 a.m., to make the butter before the heat of the day. This would have been made in a butter-tub, something like a huge, straight-sided wooden pan with two handles, one on either side. Later, a butter churn was used. This was an easier method, being a wooden churn set into a frame which could be rotated by means of a handle. In these hotter, summer days the butter may even have had to be lowered into a well out of the reach of the hot rays of the sun. Quarrymen c.1910

When a batch of butter was completed it was taken to the market at Redruth on Fridays and sold there. Every farmer possessed his ‘market’ basket, a huge, strongly made basket specially made to hold an enormous amount of farm produce. Later the butter was collected from the farm, making life such easier. The separated milk was fed to the pigs. Butter was produced and sold in this way up until 1935/6. Thereafter, the milk was sent to the factory at St. Erth, the Primrose Dairy (it became St. Ivel and has only recently closed down). Soon after this the Milk Marketing Board was set up.

Life during the late 19th century and early 20th century was no ‘picnic’ for the farmer or his wife. Each day was allocated for particular chores, there was little or no free time for anyone. There was the Monday washday with all its accompanying hard labour. Everything had to be done by hand. The white clothes had to be boiled in the copper, (fuelled by wood or coal), then rinsed in clear water which was fetched from the well in buckets, put into a ‘blue’ bath, wrung, and hung out to dry. Then came the starching and ironing. The irons were either the flat variety heated on the top of the Cornish Range, or the iron-box variety, whereby the iron itself was put into the red-hot ashes of the Range, allowed to become red-hot, then removed and inserted into the iron-box. Ironing of the clothes then proceeded in the normal way.

The Cornish Range needed to be cleaned at least once a week with blacklead, the brasses polished like mirrors, in addition to all the other brass-wear in the farm kitchen. Should the oven need to be removed to clear the soot from the inside of the stove, then the whole kitchen must be cleaned and scrubbed from floor to ceiling. This was indeed a full day’s work, and hard work too.

Until 1949 or thereabouts, corn was grown in the same ground for three successive seasons, then the ground was re-seeded, mainly pasture, green crops or root crops. Often a field produced half corn and half turnips, mangolds or greencrops. All the work was done with horse-drawn implements and hand tools until 1949 when the first mechanised tractor was brought in. This was a Ferguson, a very popular make at that time. Hitherto, there had almost always been only one horse to do all the work.

In 1938 a further 2 acres were purchased for 50, making the holding 24 acres. Four acres were lost in the creation of the new pumping station and staff bungalows at the Stithians Dam, and a further 8 acres were added at the same time. These were the residue of Carnvullock Farm after the flooding of the valley behind the Dam to create the Stithians Reservoir. This made the farm up to 28 acres in 1966. The County Council built an access road from Carncrees to the new land at Carnvullock.

Carnvullock Farm - later bulldozed and flattened in preparation for the flooding of the valley

Up until the end of World War Two, Carncrees had no electricity, mains water, bathroom, telephone or car. Obviously, these have all been acquired since. In the 60’s there were three times the number of milking cows and followers on the farm. The herd was mainly Shorthorn, with a sprinkling of Guernseys, Jerseys and South Devons. During latter years, Friesians and Red Danes were kept.

The old Milk Marketing Board had a scheme whereby a ‘National Milk Record Book’ kept an account of milk production by individual cows in each particular herd. Approximately 54% of Britain’s dairy farmers were ‘recording’ with the National Milk Records. To qualify, a dairy farmer had to have been recording his milk production long enough, and have the requisite number of milking cows. The recording year was from October to September, and it was in October 1978 that the herd at Carncrees qualified to enter the ‘National Milk Record’. The best one third of each breed in each county of individual herd averages, and the best one per cent of individual cows qualified. There were no individual cows from Stithians in the book for 1978/79, and only two herds, of which one was the Guernsey herd owned by Mr. Leonard Barter of Tregolls, and the other was the mixed dairy herd owned by Denis Corey of Carncrees. This herd was the best in the Parish of Stithians for that year. The milking herd was finally disposed of in 1990, by John Hignett who had purchased the farm in 1980.

Pigs had been fattened intermittently over the years, and the farm used to keep about 100 hens. Corn has not been grown for many years as being too difficult to harvest on such a small enterprise. An average of 8 acres of hay is harvested each year, and during a good weather season a second crop is harvested, bringing the total hay crop up to 12 acres or more. Kale was grown to help in producing milk, together with turnips and flatpoll cabbages.

In the early 1930’s and before the Second World War, casual labour was often employed on the farm. A labourer sometimes just appeared during the hay harvest or corn harvest requesting employment. He may have stayed on the farm several days until he was no longer needed, then he moved on again to another farm. He may not necessarily have been a local man, indeed may have come from Redruth and worked his way along the farms en route.

Before the age of machinery and even during the early 1900’s, when corn was grown in small quantities, it was harvested manually. It was cut with a scythe, then bound by hand using some of the straw to make the ‘binds’, then the bound sheaves were erected in threes or fours to make a shock. These shocks were then left until such time as they could be carried into the mow-hay or shed. If the weather was very unsettled then all the sheaves were made up into a much larger kind of formation called a ‘mow’. The ‘mows’ could safely be left in the field for a greater length of time and come to no harm if the elements did not permit the farmer to carry the crop into the mowhay to rick it.

When the corn was ricked it had to be thatched to keep out the winter rains until the threshing time came round, when the corn was threshed out and carried into the barn. The straw was then re-ricked and kept for use as bedding for the cattle, or perhaps even for fodder. Hay was cut out of the rick with a special hay knife into swathes and fed to the cattle during the winter with turnips, mangolds and crushed oats or corn. Turnips and mangolds were cut into manageable slices with a special cutter.

The Quarry at Carncrees is not without its own history. Some 90 years ago J. Richards and Son, granite merchants of Stithians, were renting and working the quarry, though much of the granite removed was found to be unsuitable and the quarry itself was almost always full of water. The cut quoins from this quarry, to be used in the building of the Police Station at Redruth, were transported by horse-drawn cart, the journey there and back again lasting at least half a day. For this the farmer was paid the truly magnificent sum of sixpence per load! Quarrymen eating their Cornish pasties! c1910

Household coal was also fetched by the same method from the Quay at Penryn whenever necessary. It was not unknown for the farmer to have to go to Redruth by horse and trap in the middle of the night to fetch a doctor in an emergency, and for the doctor to come to the farmhouse and return again to Redruth by a similar mode of transport!

Like all farmers, there have been a number of near disasters to be faced. In February 1934, the neighbouring farmer had the misfortune to have a rick of straw set ablaze. This rick was perilously close to the farmhouse and buildings. The temperature on that fateful night was well below freezing and the only available water for the fire engine was at the quarry at Carncrees Farm, two fields distant from the scene of the blaze.

The Corey family well remembered the clanging of the fire engine as it clattered its way through the frozen farmyard at Carncrees to gain access to the quarry, and the firemen running the huge hoses across the fields to get to the blazing straw rick in time. By this time the paint was actually blistering off the fascia boards on the dwelling house. However, the quarry was emptied of thousands of gallons of water and the farmhouse and cattle shippons were saved. This was at the adjoining Carn Meor Farm, then occupied and farmed by Bennett Martin and his family.

The farmer is always at the mercy of the weather. A roof was once blown off in a gale, but the farm normally did not suffer from a lot of snow. During the big freeze-up of the late 1940’s, there were 13’ drifts of snow. The milk churns had to be carried out to the stand and were there for days before being collected.

The map illustrates the change wrought in the general geographical shape of the farm, brought about by the building of the Stithians Dam, and the subsequent flooding of the valley behind it which entailed the requisition of some 4 acres to build the pumping station and staff bungalows. It also shows the ‘off’ farm of 8 acres acquired from the residue of Carnvullock Farm in its place.

Farm Map     35Kb JPEG

Nos.1119 and 1120 on the 0.S. Map were purchased by Benjamin John Corey in 1938. This was a total of 2 acres of downland which he brought into good productive land by the labours of his own two hands, cleaving out large rocks, breaking them up and carting them away with horse and cart to be used in rebuilding hedges around the farm. Slowly and by degrees he cleared these two fields and created one field, which is known, not surprisingly, as the Downs! It is a memorial to him and his love of his land.

He died in 1974 and the farm was carried on by his son, Gilbert Denis Corey. The farm was sold in 1980 to John Hignett and his family. His wife and sons managed a small dairy herd of about 15 cows until Mrs. Hignett’s untimely death in 1990.

Carncrees Farm was purchased by David & Daya Stafford in April 1996 and is now farmed by a local man, Rusty Marles, who can be seen regularly tending his cattle. Sadly, farming as a business is no longer viable due to increasingly high costs of ownership of livestock and diminishing returns to the smallholder.

Chart showing name changes since the 1840 tithe schedule for Carncrees Farm, Stithians:

Present day (1980)



Tithe Number

1840 Tithe Schedule



House, garden and waste
Cottage garden



Part of field No. 821



Field behind



Middle Field



Homer Field
Bennetts Corner Field



Yonder Field
Lane Field



Mowhay Field



Henhouse Field



Higher Churchway
The Downs






Not part of Carncrees in 1840
Quarry Field



Park in Hell



Long Field



Back Meadow



Higher Carne Rocks
Top Field






Middle Coldwind
Toplane Field



Yonder Field
Hilly Field



Hill Field
Bottom Field






Dwelling here, ‘Homestead & Garden.’
House, garden & lane  


House, garden & lane


The present day ‘Top Field’, Nos. 1114 and 1057 on the 0.S. Map was, until approximately 1903, two enclosures, ‘Coldwind’ and Middle Coldwind’. These two fields were made into one unit by Benjamin Corey Snr. as well as the ‘Field behind the Cottage’, Nos. 911 and 980 on the 0.S. Map and known as ‘Middle Field’ and ‘Homer Field’ according to the Tithe Schedule of 1840.


This history of Carncrees Farm was compiled and written by Alison Corey Penaluna (Daughter of Benjamin John Corey) and published in 1980. It has been added to and updated to the present day by David Stafford. Photos of the Quarrymen are lifted from The Book of Stithians published in 1999 by Halsgrove. I am indebted to the authors (one of whom is Alison Penaluna) for putting together such an interesting book. There are many references to Carncrees Farm and a chapter on Stithians Reservoir.

  • 1 Public Record Office, Truro

    2 The Householders of the Parish of Stithians in 1664 by Edwin A. Martin in Old Cornwall Vol. VIII No. 1

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