For the deserving poor of Padstow

THE CONVOLUTED COAST of Cornwall is dotted with picturesque little ports. One of these is Padstow, which has become well-known because it contains restaurants and other food-related establishments connected with the TV celebrity chef Rick Stein. It is also famous for its centuries’ old annual Oss celebrations held on May Day.

While walking around the streets of the tiny town of Padstow, I came across a disused cinema, which bears a commemorative plaque. Opened in 1924 as the Cinedrome, this became the Capitol cinema. It closed in 1996. However, another relic of the past is still in use around the corner in Middle Street. I am referring to the Padstow Almshouses. This is a small two-winged complex of brick-built houses with some Victorian gothic features.

The main entrance to the complex is surmounted by a granite block carved with the following: “1875 Almshouses”. A plaque located on one of the two facades of the complex informs the viewer that these almshouses were financed by subscriptions raised by friends of John Tredwin to remember him. John Tredwin, who was born in 1818 in Padstow, died at St Columb in Cornwall in 1870. Tredwin, who was a timber merchant and shipbuilder, was involved in the construction of various public works in Padstow. He was also enrolled in the 1st Cornwall Artillery Volunteer Corps, and by 1861 he had become a Captain.  The 1851 Census revealed that by then he and his family were living in St Columb.

John Tredwin was mentioned in a book, “The Cornish Overseas. A history of Cornwall’s ‘Great Emigration’” by Philip Payton:

“The ‘John & Mary’, owned by the Padstow shipbuilder John Tredwin, was engaged in the classic export of immigrants and import of timber that made the Atlantic trade so lucrative in North Cornwall …”

Since the days of the likes of John Tredwin, Padstow has become a relatively insignificant port. Instead, it has become a popular destination for tourists. Although it is undoubtedly an attractive little place, it is outrivalled in charm by other Cornish ports such as Polperro, St Ives, Mousehole, Port St Isaacs, Fowey, and Falmouth. Padstow deserves a visit, but not a long one.

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