Above: Reading Room opening c1911, by Lady Onslow with a silver key, and St. Breward Silver Band

St. Breward is often described as ‘Five hamlets in search of a village’. This month we are going to look at our furthermost hamlet to the south of the main village.

The origin of the name derives from the Cornish ‘pen’ meaning ‘end of’ or ‘hill’, and ‘pont’ meaning ‘bridge’. As to which bridge, opinion is divided. Wenford Bridge, Keybridge and Poleys Bridge, have all been suggested. All have a hill leading to the hamlet. Penpont is shown on John Speed’s Map of Cornwall (c1611). At that time, it had the same prominence as ‘St. Bruard (St. Breward). Another early mention of Penpont is in the Lanhydrock Atlas c1696, by Joel Gascoyne, nationally famous cartographer, at the request of one of the Robartes family, to show their landholdings in Cornwall. The Lanhydrock Atlas records the following tenements for Penpont; Ronald Cox, John Giles, William Langston, Henry Rickard and William Pauly, plus pasture, arable land, meadow and furze, 104 acres in total.

The only road that existed by the early c18 was that from Hamatethy, via Churchtown and onto Penpont. It is interesting to note that the main route to Bodmin ran east of Hengar, down to ‘Wineford’ and on through Penpont and Keybridge. This road had number of milestones on it, two of which lay within the parish of St. Breward.

  • An inscribed stone opposite Wenford Priory 5 feet high showing ‘Bodmin Rode’.
  • A white painted stone showing ‘Bodmin 5’ in Penpont, located on hill leading to Keybridge, which is part of the ‘Judges Way’, which runs from Camelford to Bodmin.
  • There also used to be a wayside cross on the road between De Lank Farm and Penpont. 

The hamlet currently consists of ten dwellings, seven of which date from before the Tithe map. Most, if not all the earlier dwellings were associated with the farm as their names show ‘The Old Farmhouse’, ‘Penpont Farm’ and ‘The Barn’. There was a Mission Chapel, which was later converted into a Workshop. 

  Penpont was affected by the building of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway in 1831. The land was surveyed under instruction of Sir William Molesworth, to take sea-sand from the Camel Estuary to Wenford Bridge. This could then be distributed to fertilise unproductive farmland in the Camel valley. In his words ‘to make two blades of good grass, where one blade of poor grass grew before’. 

According to the 1841 census there were ten families listed in Penpont, two of the properties recorded no longer exist. One was situated on the opposite corner to Penpont House. In 1841, this was occupied by William Hambley and his family, demolished at a later unknown date. However, the foundations are still in existence. The second property was occupied by James Kindom in 1841, but its exact location is unknown.

Between the two World Wars, there were ‘Hops’ (dances) held at the Penpont Reading Rooms, which was a metal structure, with a recognisable red metal roof. This was later converted into a residential property and occupied by a few families. The last family to occupy it was ‘Jack’ Marshall and family, after they moved out it was later demolished in 2014/15 and the modern bungalow Tredavas was erected.

St. Breward History Group

Milners and Egan’s at Penpont House, c1927, taken by Alec Masters, the local milkman

Barn at Penpont, converted in 1971 by John McCleod, previously owned by Ernest John [Jack] Marshall

Barn at Penpont, converted in 1971 by John McCleod, previously owned by Ernest John [Jack] Marshall

Thomas Richard Marshall and Charlie Stone outside Baker's View, 1950s/60s, former Reading Room

Thomas Richard Marshall and Charlie Stone outside Baker’s View, 1950s/60s, former Reading Room

If anyone has any information on Penpont or any of the hamlets and photographs, please do contact Brian Hill on (01208) 851565 or email brianvalerie@btintnernet.com.