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Boscawen Park, Truro - from waste-tip to wonderful


Boscawen Park - at the edge of Truro, near Malpas - is named for the family of the Viscounts of Falmouth; Tregothnan, to the east of Truro, has been in their family since the 14th century.


The origins of the park itself, however, are far-removed from aristocratic enclaves: the park sits on re-claimed land, build-up from river deposits dredged from the navigable channels, in combination with building waste from Truro, sourced over many decades. Councillor Buck of Truro Council can be credited with the suggestion to transport waste from the city downriver to create a municipal park, in the early 1890s. (1)


The first stage of putting this plan - which some considered to be 'virtually impossible' - in to action, was to purchase the foreshore of the Truro River along where the park was to be developed: between Waterloo Quay and Sunny Corner. At that time, it was the property of Walter Kruse, a fruit grower born to a German father and English mother in London, and who was living at Park Cottage - just up the hill from the present-day park. Walter was willing to sell the foreshore to the City Council, allowing works to begin, probably in early 1893.


By 1894, the works were well underway, and by 1898, pathways and planting of varied flora had already taken place. Flowerbeds must have been well-established at this time, as a small article in The Cornishman in August 1898 records an observation of a visitor acquiring a bunch of flowers from the bedding, and hiding them under her coat!(2)


An ornamental, granite drinking fountain - presumably fed by water sourced from the hills to the east of the park - was presented to the city by Kathleen, Viscountess of Falmouth, in 1907. Kathleen had married in to the Boscowen family in 1886, when she wed Evelyn Edward Boscowen, the heir of the 6th Viscount of Falmouth.


Kathleen (nee Douglas-Pennant) was the eldest child of the 2nd Baron of Penhyrn (in north Wales); he was the owner of large slate quarries in the area, and a controversial figure as a result of his strong opposition to trade union actions between 1897-1902 (3). Kathleen was born in 1861 in London, and married Evelyn Boscawen at St Paul’s church in Knightsbridge, London in 1886. Three years later, Evelyn’s father, the 6th Viscount of Falmouth, passed away, and Evelyn became the 7th Viscount of Falmouth, inheriting the Tregothnan estate. The couple would have split their time between Cornwall and London, where they had a home at Stanhope Place.



Kathleen and Evelyn had five children - four boys and then a girl. Their eldest child, Evelyn Hugh John Boscawen, was born in London in 1887; he served in the First World War, with the Coldstream Guards, and later became a very well-respected engineer, and member of the Institutes of electrical, mechanical and civil Engineering. His involvement was sought on numerous Government committees connected with scientific and engineering research, including at Imperial College, London (4). Evelyn Hugh became the 8th Viscount of Falmouth upon the death of his father in 1918, having married in London in 1915. His eldest son, Evelyn Frederick, was killed at Dunkirk in 1940, and the title of Viscount passed to his second son, George Hugh.

George Edward was born in London in 1889, and served with the Royal Artillery. He was captured as a prisoner of war on 27th May 1918, and he died from wounds, presumably received on or before this date, less than two weeks later, while in the town of Liesse, France. He is buried at the La Ville-Aux-Bois cemetery, and commemorated on the Memorial in St Micheal Penkivel, near to Tregothnan. (5)


Vere Douglas – born in London in 1890 – was a 2nd Lieutenant with the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards in World War One, and was killed in action in Ypres, Belgium in October 1914. Vere is commemorated at St Micheal Penkivel, and also at the Menin Gate Memorial (5).

Their youngest son, Mildmay Thomas, born in London in 1892, survived a distinguished service in the Rifle Brigade throughout World War One, and moved to Tanganyika (modern-day Tanzania) after the War. He built up the largest sisal-growing enterprise in east Africa, developed a deep knowledge of botany, and travelled widely through southern and eastern Africa, the Middle East and further afield. He lived near Tanga – near the modern border of Tanzania with Kenya – and sent back many birds for the collection at the Natural History Museum. Archaeological artefacts he collected during his travels are now part of the Boscawen Collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (6). He must have returned to London later in life, as he passed away in Marylebone, London, in 1958.


Kathleen Pamela Mary Corona was the only daughter and youngest child of Kathleen and her husband. She was born in 1902, in London, and became an actress using the stage name of Pamela Carme. Her most well-known plays were Holiday Lovers (1932), Lazybones (1935) and Young and Innocent (1937)(7). She married the theatrical manager Henry Sherek in 1937, and thereafter retired from acting to be her husband’s business partner. (8). She lived in London, passing away there in 1995, aged 93.

 

A shelter was donated to Boscawen Park by Alderman Theophilus Dorrington (a Truro watchmaker, 1834 – 1911) in February 1908 (9); the presentation ceremony seems to have been truncated by poor weather; sufficiently poor that the assembled citizens were permitted to keep on their hats when the Mayor gave his speech!


Theophilus had previously donated a fountain and lodge to Victoria Park, Truro - in 1900 and 1902, respectively - and funds to build a small parish room a St Paul’s Church (in 1905). There is some information about him online (10); he sounds an intriguing character for a subsequent post! I think the shelter at Boscawen Park was removed when the new play equipment was installed in the early 2000s, having endured for almost a century.


The flower beds in the park - the arrangement of which can be seen on the oldest maps - are always beautifully maintained today and – given the size of some of the fir trees adjacent to the pathway at the edge of the field – it seems likely that some of these may be a part of the original planting scheme. More recent additions include the wonderful play park equipment, high-quality tennis courts and – under construction – improved changing facilities for the tennis club. With the continued increasing density of population in the Truro area, it can be argued that Boscowen Park today is a more valued amenity today than ever before.


References:

(1) Royal Cornwall Gazette - 4th October 1894. "Pleasure Park for Truro"

(2) Cornishman - 11th August 1898 - "A Visitor to Truro Park"

(9) West Britain and Cornwall Advertiser - 6th February 1908. "Opening of the New Shelter"


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