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Luxulyan Memorial Institute PL30 5EB
Contributed by Hazel Harradence.
Late in October 1913 a meeting was held with the intention of establishing a Working Men’s Institute and Reading Room for the village. Rev CF Jones, chairman, was delighted with the good attendance. Mr Rundle (I believe this was John Rundle’s father) suggested that two rooms would be needed and someone else thought the empty carpenter’s shop would be suitable. It was said that a gentleman had promised to erect a room, but as there was no definite information the Chairman agreed to make enquiries and report back to the next meeting. A committee was then formed that consisted of Rev CF Jones, J Higman, SW Nicholls, W Catton, C Creba and W Tregonning.
During the week following the report of this meeting, a letter was sent to the Cornish Guardian expressing the writer’s joy that such an undertaking was to take place & warned that there would be ‘critics’ ‘killjoys’ and ‘pessimists’ who would like to see the project come a cropper. I do not believe these were the reasons that nothing happened immediately, but in small villages nothing happens overnight & within a year the country was at war. The war memorial in the church only tells how many of the village’s young men did not return, but many others spent those war years away from home and a reading room was no doubt the last thing on their minds.
Tragically, as we know, young Tommy Robartes of Lanhydrock died after receiving wounds rescuing a comrade from one of those fields of battle. He had been well known and liked in the village, often coming to visit, accompanying the land agent dealing with tenants. The village picked up its interrupted thoughts on the Institute and Reading Room idea; whether the idea of a Memorial to Tommy, or just asking the Lanhydrock estate for a piece of land came first, is not clear, but it was agreed that a piece of land from the estate for a Memorial Institute was acceptable to all.
Fund raising began and the stone was gathered free of charge from Golden Point Quarry, also known as Tregarden Quarry. It was fetched to the site by farmer’s cart and villagers were asked to “lend a pound” to pay expenses. The builders were John Gerry and Henry Allen of Bugle. Having already given £50 towards the building fund, Dr Nathaniel Coulson offered to donate another £100 towards the costs on condition that Captain Robartes name was inscribed on the building. He also offered books towards the library.
Nathaniel T Coulson was the gentleman who had promised help back in 1913. He was born in Penzance in April 1853, abandoned by his drunken father at the age of 10 years and bound over to the farmer at Penquite Farm, Lostwithiel. He then spent some years in the British Navy and first arrived in San Francisco in 1875. For a while he worked for a stock-broking firm and wrote for several daily newspapers. In 1884 at the age of 30, he became a student at the dental department of the University of California, where he graduated after two years, receiving his degree as a Doctor of Dental Surgery. He was a member of several fraternal organisations, and generous with donations to many worthy causes. Among others in England, he helped finance the establishment of Coulson Park, Lostwithiel, in 1907. He travelled back here on several occasions, also visiting India after his retirement, but whether he kept in touch with his family is unknown.
The foundation stone of the Institute was laid in 1923; by September 1924 the building was fully paid for and erected although money was needed for contents and furnishings. The opening took place the same month, headed by Viscount Clifden who ceremoniously unlocked the door. After Mr CT Trevail, the Parish Council Chairman, had thanked the Viscount, there were prayers and a blessing. This was followed by a lunch in the schoolroom and speeches. A public tea was followed by a dance, also in the schoolroom, the music contributed by Wyman’s String Band.
A party was held on New Year’s Day, as requested by Dr Coulson. He chose this day as being the birthday of the Viscount Clifden and the anniversary of him leaving his farm service at Lostwithiel. After the children’s tea, there was a public tea and in the evening a concert in the schoolroom. Some of those providing the entertainment are well known local names – Mr CB Joliffe, Mr JA Beswarwick, Miss Betty Northcott and the Luxulyan Male Quartet consisting of Messrs CB Joliffe, W Tregonning, M Sturtridge and E Parker. Afterwards there was a huge bonfire.
Originally there were 4 rooms in the building, gradually altered until in the 1950s the library was ‘done away with’, walls removed and only the two rooms remained. The books were taken outside and burnt, according to one of my sources, and a second snooker table added to that installed at an earlier date. A toilet was added a little later and the building has continued to house the Luxulyan Snooker Club ever since.
Finding themselves short of members and funds, a new use was sought for part of the building and that culminated in the Institute premises being handed over to Luxulyan Parish Council, who set up a charitable trust to run it. Since then,grant funding has been obtained from Sita Cornwall Trust and the China Clay Local Action Group with additional help from the Parish Council,our local Cornwall Councillors and fundraising by local people. This has enabled the building to be renovated and helped create a meeting room for local groups to use.
The renovations included replacing the roof tiling, the outside rendering, replacing the heating system, updating the electrics to provide emergency lighting and fire alarms. A foot of insulation was put in the roof space, kitchen facilities installed and accessible toilet facilities provided.
In 2013 with the help of the Parish Council, the Institute installed 8KWs of solar panels on the rear roof which makes it more self sufficient. The Institute continues to improve the facilities so they can be used by a larger section of the local community. A ramp is in place to help access for people with mobility problems. The Institute also boasts free WiFi.
Sources: the late John Rundle & others, West Briton, Cornish Guardian, various websites.
The new facilities are available for hire at a very modest cost.
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