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Intriguing inscription from 120 years ago still a puzzle

By West Briton  |  Posted: December 01, 2012

  • A close up of the inscribed tile that was found behind the fireplace.

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MYSTERY surrounds the reason why two workmen hid an inscribed piece of wood behind a fireplace.

The relic bore the names of James Smith and Frederic Augustus Richards and was found when the fireplace at the home of Anne Lenten at Bowling Green was removed.

The inscribed piece of pitch pine has been presented to King Edward Mine Museum for safekeeping.

Kingsley Rickard, from the Trevithick Society, said: "Two brothers, Richard and William Charles Stephens, formed R Stephens & Son in 1878, the company later to be better known as Climax Rockdrill & Engineering Co Ltd, and which produced the first rock drill designed and made in Cornwall.

"The brothers occupied two houses at Roskear – Havelock and Endsleigh – the latter now in the ownership of Cornwall Council.

"Richard lived at Havelock and had installed in it six Carrera marble fireplaces and behind one of them was hidden a piece of pitch pine on which two artisans, James Smith and Frederic Augustus Richards, had inscribed their names and the date, July 15, 1890.

"One fireplace was later removed to Anne Lenten's cottage at Bowling Green but has recently had to be removed.

"Anne Lenten, along with Mike Stephens, the great great grandson of Richard Stephens, were eager that the inscribed piece of timber stayed locally and presented it to King Edward Mine Museum. The two workmen have caused much interest with their actions."

Any West Briton readers who can help further the story of the Climax company are asked to contact Mr Rickard on 01209 716811 or k.rickard@talktalk.net

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  • John_Allman  |  December 01 2012, 4:40PM

    @ First Impressions In the days before radio, television, the gramophone and the internet, people had to create their own entertainment. One of the mysteries that historians cannot explain, is why there are almost no references in the surviving written records of times past, to what was obviously once a very popular pastime, judging by the ubiquitous "fossil record" (so-to-speak). I refer to the pastime of collecting together considerable amounts of pottery, crockery and china, often blue and white, smashing it into the tiniest smithereens, and then burying the tiny fragments all over the flower beds of one's back garden. This bizarre pastime, for which I have never heard a name suggested, seems to have died out, at the latest, by the mid-twentieth century, when I was born, with the exception of certain rather pointless fairground attractions. However, an idiom survives to this day that perhaps derives from this former pastime: "Did you enjoy the party you went to at Gill's on Saturday?" "Oh yes, we all had a smashing time." Alas, the internet, as a medium for delivering entertainment, has bestowed a new meaning to the phrase "patent climax boring machine".

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  • Svenn  |  December 01 2012, 12:33PM

    When you are dead and gone....will you be remembered? By whom, and how? Live life with that in mind. RJ Swanson Naperville, IL USA

  • mwill  |  December 01 2012, 11:29AM

    Here's a link to some more information about the Climax Rock Drill and Engineering Works: http://tinyurl.com/bm2vf93

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  • First Impressions  |  December 01 2012, 10:43AM

    How fascinating and an interesting piece of history. We live in a cottage just outside Truro which dates from around 1840 - 1850. We quite often find small pieces of blue and white china in our garden. These are small pieces of history just like this find behind the fireplace.

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  • First Impressions  |  December 01 2012, 10:42AM

    How fascinating and an interesting piece of history. We live in an old cottage near Truro and have discovered many pieces of broken pottery (blue and white) in our garden. The cottage we believe dates from around 1840 - 1850.