Tredarrup Farm Holiday Cottages
A Brief History of Tredarrup
thousands of years of history surround the farm
By Tre, Pol and Pen shall ye know Cornishmen, as the famous saying goes, and you’ll find a lot of place names and family names in Cornwall begin with these three words.
In the Cornish language Tre simply means farm or homestead. Pol, found in Polzeath and Polperro, means a pond or lake. Whilst Pen, as in Pentire and Penzance, means headland.
Once you get your eye in, you’ll notice other common Cornish names. Many begin with Ros, meaning moor, Porth, meaning a bay, port or harbour, and Perran, which comes from the patron saint of Cornwall, St. Piran. If you speak Welsh you’ll notice a lot of similarities between the two languages, both being of Celtic origin.
Tredarrup translates as farmstead by the oaks. The current farmhouse and barns may date from the early 1600s onwards, but there’s been activity here for thousands of years…
Stand at the end of the farm drive and on the brow of the hill in the neighbouring field you’ll see Helsbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort dating back to between 1200 and 600 BCE. In the centre lie the remains of the medieval St. Syth’s Chapel, a two-celled building with a tower to the west.
This is also the site of Michaelstow Beacon. Beacons were located on high ground, in prominent positions, forming a defensive chain, stretching from the coast inland. Here, fires would have been lit to warn local people of the approach of hostile forces. Today they’re still lit on special occasions, the last time at Michaelstow being for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
Helsbury Castle was situated within a deer park called New Park. A hunting lodge was built here during the 14th Century for Edward the Black Prince, who was Duke of Cornwall, along with a windmill but sadly nothing remains of either today.
During World War II the Home Guard built an underground observation post in the side of the hill fort, with a telephone link to nearby Michaelstow Manor.
Today the castle makes a pleasant walk from the cottages. The views are stunning, with the granite peak of Roughtor on Bodmin Moor in one direction and Trevose Head and the Atlantic in the other. Although there’s no official footpath, there is permissive access – walk up the lane that runs parallel to the farm and you’ll find a stone stile over the wall and onto the castle.
A short walk across the fields from the end of the farm drive lies the pretty village of Michaelstow and the 13th Century parish church. It’s a beautiful building, well worth a mooch around, and has retained much of its historic fabric.
Outside, in the churchyard, you’ll find gravestones dating back hundreds of years, many bearing the family names that still live on in the parish today. Also in the churchyard are an ancient holy well and a wheel cross, dating from the 10th Century.
In the 14th Century, when Edward III was on the throne and the Hundred Years War was raging, the land would have been owned by the lord of the manor. Areas, or messuages, were allocated to peasants, or villeins, who were bound to the lord by the feudal system. Dues had to be paid annually by the villeins and they couldn’t leave the land without permission. They even had to pay a fine if their daughter dared to marry a peasant from another manor!
At Tredarrup, in the 1337 Assessor Roll, 3 villein messuages are recorded, being of 8, 8 1/2 and 17 acres each and nothing now remains of the dwellings from that period.
The current farmhouse dates from the early 1600s. A date stone on the ‘modern’ rear additions to the house is marked 1674. Another is carved ‘John Hocken’, the family of whom we’ve traced to Tredarrup up until the mid-19th Century. This houses what was once the dairy, with cool slate shelves and a sloping slate floor. Just outside the door to the dairy is the well, with the remains of a stone building surrounding it. This may have been a butterwell, where dairy products would have been kept cool inside on slate shelves.
In the garden of the farmhouse is a small stone building which we use as our woodshed. We can’t know what its original purpose was but it’s likely to have been an ash house or a bee shed. Inside is a keeping hole – a large square hole used for keeping things, or possibly to hold a bee skep. We do know in later years it was used as a privy!
The barns, now holiday cottages, were built sometime in the 18th or 19th Century and are of a very high standard, suggesting the farm was of some importance. In 1878 an advert was placed in the local paper for a tenant, for 109 acres of good arable and pasture land, with a capital homestead and farm buildings!
Mill Barn, the largest of the farm buildings, is what is known in Cornwall as a chall barn. This is a combination barn, with cattle stalls downstairs and a threshing floor upstairs.
Here the harvested crop of wheat would have been beaten out, and today you can see the remains of the opposing doors on the upper floor, with hoods, where the sheafs would have been winched up. Leaving these doors open would have allowed a through draught for winnowing the grain. After being threshed, this would be thrown into the air, allowing the wind to separate the grain from the lighter chaff.
On the outer walls of Mill Barn and the adjoining farmhouse you’ll see dove or pigeon holes set high up into the thick stone walls. The birds were allowed to fatten up on the spilled grain before they in turn were eaten by the farmer! Now the holes make a cosy home for sparrows and blue tits.
Downstairs, cattle would have lived in stalls in the main part of the barn. A separate room at one end of the barn, now the master bedroom, may well have been a chaff house where the dry husks from threshing would have been stored for animal feed. The deep sloping granite windowsill is where it would have been forked through.
Horse Engine House
At the front of Mill Barn is a square structure called a roundhouse! Otherwise known as a horse engine house or gin-gang, these are traditionally round or semi-circular but ours, unusually, is square.
As time moved on, horse engines became common to drive the threshing machinery. A horse would walk round and round, attached by a shaft to a central spindle which would in turn drive the machinery on the threshing floor. The hole for the drive shaft is now a small window on the stairs.
Not surprisingly, Stable Cottage was where the farm’s horses lived! There’s a beautiful granite floor still in the living room, complete with a drainage channel and grooves and holes where the stalls would have been. Our neighbours horses lived here right up until around 2002 – now you can see them grazing the fields from the windows. Outside you’ll see the original iron brackets from which the doors with their ‘hit and miss’ ventilation hung.
Shippon is a West Country word meaning cow house. The lower doors compared to the stables would have been more suited to cattle. They often had storage above for hay. Now however it’s an open vaulted ceiling in the cottage. Again, the original iron hinges for the doors are still attached outside but they’re now used to hang bird feeders.
This part of the barn had an open front and was used as a cart shed for protecting wagons, carts and general farm implements from the elements. Inside The Wagon, in both the living room and bedroom, you’ll find deep square holes in the the wall. These are called keeping holes and would probably have been used for storage. Now they make the perfect place for storing books and maps of the local area.