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On the road: Archive shots in new book

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: June 13, 2013

By Chris Sawle

  • The road to heaven: a Church Army caravan at Sithney in about 1910. courtesy Amberley Publishing

  • Doctor Overdale, of Penryn, proudly behind the wheel of his 1904 De Dion-Bouton. Top Gear fans note: that engine packs four and a half horsepower. courtesy Amberley Publishing

  • A two horsepower De Dion Quadracycle, as owned by Fred Rich of Tolgus, Redruth. courtesy Amberley Publishing

  • The Unemployed Tin Miners' Choir on an outing in an early Twenties' Karrier – note the lack of headlamps. courtesy Amberley Publishing

  • On a bicycle made for two: Dr and Mrs Speigh, of Porthleven, on their 1920 Triumph and sidecar. courtesy Amberley Publishing

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THESE are better times to be a reader of all things Cornish than in many a recent decade, with a veritable torrent of titles hitting the shelves about this beloved duchy of ours.

Once upon a time we had Truro's Bradford Barton and Newton Abbot's David & Charles to tend to weighty studies of life in Cornwall.

Now we have Alison Hodge, in Penzance; and the Twelveheads Press and the Trevithick Society in the middle of the county.

Weighing in from farther afield, Gloucestershire's Amberley Press is a strong contender, with two new titles approaching the county from different angles.

Redruth's Ernie Warmington takes a look at the county through the prism of its two and four-wheeled history in Cornish Road Transport Through Time.

A bane to our modern society perhaps, but Ernie's book looks back at a time when the car, the motorbike and the lorry were unusual and even noteworthy sights on our roads.

So, in the earlier years of photography, we see sights like Redruth's Mr Curry and his delightfully painted, horse-drawn "hot chip potatoes" van, and a similarly ornate Church Army caravan, captured for posterity at Sithney.

Mr Warmington's work takes in some of Cornwall's pioneer car-owners, and indeed, builders: early owners were often medical men – among them Charles Abbot, of Roche, Dr Downing, of St Newlyn East and Dr Gregor, of Penryn – all three posed for the camera with their cars.

One unsuccessful local manufacturer was the Bickford-Smith company of Tuckingmill, Camborne: better known for its safety fuses, the company made an ill-advised diversification into vehicle manufacture with its 12hp "Pyrodyne" steam wagon, of which three were produced and two views are published herein.

As the century wears on, there are pictures of road trials, the lorries of local haulage firms, steam laundries and the like.

Neither are long-vanished local bus companies and dashing early motorcycles absent from this overview.

Featuring many rare archive shots, Cornish Road Transport Through Time is a fascinating overview of the county through its transport, and is sure to delight the social historian and the antique petrolhead alike.

Cornish Road Transport Through Time is available now for £14.99 from all good bookshops or alternativelyw from www.amberley-books.com

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