For most of us we take for granted the main road that winds its way out of the village towards Daws House, but before 1878 the road followed a different route down the ‘Old Hill’ past the quarry and West Petherwin woods and coming out by Petherwin Water, which was both very rough and steep. It was John Rawling of Oldwit farm that took up the challenge of what was then called the South Petherwin Hills improvement scheme which he first mooted at a meeting of the Launceston Guardians on the 19th of April 1879.
As the South Petherwin representitive on the Launceston Board of Guardians, John Rawling helped the unemployed miner’s of Stoke Climsland by arranging to put them to useful work, this resulted in road improvements for that district. With the work completed at Stoke Climsland, John Rawling made arrangements for ten miners to come to Landlake. Mr. Edward Coode and John gave the land and many in the district gave to the fund. John also obtained a grant from the County Miner’s Distress Fund to enable the committee to finish the improvement.
Once this improvement was finished it was decided to continue in improving South Petherwin’s roads. With this in mind a large committee was formed, and on the motion of John Ching (Trebursye Manor), seconded by John Dingley, John Rawling was appointed Hon. Secretary. Money was easy to get at that time, and John Rawling collected nearly £900. The committee had a difficulty, however, in getting what John considered the best scheme in using Vicarage Lane, which jointly belonged to John and the Rev. H. T. May (the lane from Westleigh which terminated at the Vicarage). John Rawling was willing to give up his part, but Rev. May wished to keep the Lane private. The committee asked the surveyor, Mr. Shearme to draw up another plan but this plan was found to be to costly so the work was postponed. John, however, was convinced of the Vicarage Lane plan, and after some persuasion he managed to obtain Rev. May’s consent. The committee was at once re-convened, and with Mr. Shearme’s plans resurrected, the work was let.
This occupied much of John’s time for four years, with the construction starting in 1888. The scheme, necessitated cutting into sheer rock in places to a depth of 15 to 20 feet and proved quite laborious, but progress was made and in 1889 the road had been driven right through to Petherwin Water. The total cost was £1,462 of which the Launceston Board of Health gave £150, and the Launceston Highway Board £425.
Another part of the ‘South Petherwin Hills Scheme’ was to run the road west from Pennygillam to skirt above Bangors Slate Quarry and then infilling the valley with the quarries waste to effect a level crossing coming out by Tregaller. However, this part of the scheme required land that belonged to the strong willed conservative squire of Trebursye, Mr. Charles Gurney, and he pointedly refused permission which in turn caused some strong correspondence in the ‘Cornish and Devon Post.’
Stone breaking by hand was the work for old men – “I’ll whack ‘em, I’ll crack ‘em; Ess, I would now”. Working by the roadside, about 1 yard was broken in a day at 2/- per yard. A usual sight was to see an old man, probably too old to do a full day’s work, breaking up big stones by sledge and hammer into uniform pieces. These stones were supplied from the local quarries. By the road, he worked day after day and week after week until he had broken yards of stone. A surveyor would visit him and after measuring the heap would pay him accordingly. He had often a friendly word for those who passed by and gave him the ‘time of day’.
Above left is Tom ‘Mott’ Bennett a well known stone cracker from the village. Tom was one of the men that worked on the South Petherwin Hill’s scheme in 1888.