Sunday, 21 April 2013

Trevithick Day at Camborne!

Camborne’s annual Trevithick Day is a grand parade of traction-engines and vintage vehicles, along with free entertainment, a bustling market, choral singing and displays of traditional dancing. The Day’s a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike, as the streets come alive with a vibrant celebration of the town’s industrial heritage. 

Richard Trevithick – the “father of steam” – was born in 1771 near Camborne’s Dolcoath Mine, where his father was a manager. A prolific and natural engineer, he pioneered the use of high-pressure steam engines and pumps in Cornwall’s mines, clearing unwanted water from the shafts’ lower reaches. Other projects included a self-powered road vehicle, a steam railway engine, even a tunnel under the Thames.  

Known locally as Cap’n Dick, Richard’s work changed the face of Cornish mining, and the ideas behind his steam engines profoundly influenced Britain’s industrial revolution. Yet he was never well-to-do and didn’t benefit financially from his schemes; nor has he always been widely recognised for his genius.

These days we remember Richard Trevithick particularly through his Puffing Devil engine. On Christmas Eve 1801 he toiled up Camborne Hill – the modern-day Fore Street – aboard his hissing, clattering creation, a crowd of rain-drenched friends encouraging him and riding on the coal-black machine. 

The Puffing Devil was the world's first passenger-carrying self-propelled vehicle, and Richard’s brief journey gave rise to the famous old Cornish song, ‘Going Up Camborne Hill’. Today, during the festivities a replica Devil can be seen in steam while the town has a fine statue of Richard, holding a model of his invention.

From the first Trevithick Day held in 1984 with just three traction engines on show, these days as it enjoys its 30th occasion the event’s reckoned to attract crowds of well over 40,000. Church bells ring out as the celebration begins with a traditional Bal Maidens and Miners dance; as well as the adults, around 250 local school-children wearing mining costume also take part. 

The dance leaves Basset Street at 10.15am accompanied by the brass of Camborne Town Band, together with a parade of miniature steam engines.  Mingling with their blasting whistles and puffing pistons, traditional fairground organs belt out strident melodies of long ago.  

All along the town’s Trelowarren Street, dozens of stalls and displays are assembled while in Commercial Square and on street corners local musicians, singers and choirs perform. Vintage and veteran vehicles drop by, exhibitions of local industrial heritage are on show and shops decorate their windows for the occasion.

This year, Trevithick Day's on Saturday 27 April; the fun begins during mid-morning. Enjoy!

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