A brief History of Portreath Improvements Committee
By Rose Lewis
1924 was the year of the constitution of the Portreath Improvements Committee although it was in May 1919 that a public meeting appointed a committee to provide a village war memorial.
Approximately £50 was raised by public subscription and a concert, and using these funds a memorial table bearing the names of those who had lost their lives in the first world war was erected at the village institute. Six seats were also installed in the area then known as the 'Sandbank'.
In 1923 the treasurer of the Memorial Committee, the late, Mr. J C Penberthy, realised that the 'Sandbank' was in danger of being lost to the public. The owners, Tehidy Estates were prepared to sell the site for £50, and the president of the Memorial Committee, Mr. A E Dunn advanced this sum to secure the land for the village. Mr. Dunn, Mr. Penberthy and Mr. S George were cited as trustees.
June 1924 saw another public meeting to consider ways of repaying Mr. Dunn and managing the new property. There was by no means unanimous agreement that the village should own 'Sandbank' but eventually the proposal was carried by 42 votes to 31. A further vote carried by 39 votes to 36 approved the use of £40.16s.1d held in the name of an earlier Bank Holiday Committee, towards purchase.
The question of management was not resolved until a later meeting when the Portreath Improvements Committee gained its title. Two years later it was decided to wind up the War Memorial Committee and the Improvements Committee accepted responsibility for future maintenance of the memorial tablet and seats.
In 1930 £10 was paid to Illogan Parish Council towards reopening the old mule track from Portreath to Porthtowan. Known as 'New Walk' this provides a fine panoramic view of the village. Seats were installed by the Committee and later the local council.
During 1931 the Committee took over the assets and liabilities of the Portreath Lighting Committee which had existed since 1908. About the same time another independent committee had been trying to raise funds for the children's playing field. The Improvements Committee accepted these responsibilities and the playing field in Sunnyvale Road was purchased and money raised for swings and a seesaw. The official opening was in 1934.
Early 1939 saw the start of alterations to the natural bathing pool near the harbour wall, which would widen and deepen the pool. The out-break of war and lack of finance halted operations until 1971 when the project was completed.
Mr. J C Penberthy, as sole surviving trustee of the Portreath Institute advised the Committee in 1944 that the building was no longer being used for its intended purpose. The following year a new trust deed was signed and since then the Committee has maintained the building and effected a number of structural improvements.
During the years immediately following the 1939-45 war the composition of the Committee altered significantly with many younger residents becoming members, and their energies were directed mainly towards realising the full potential of the sea front property which had now become the car park.
The 1950's saw the start of the sea front development. To combat sea erosion a concrete toe wall was established some 15 - 20 feet into the sand along the original boundary. To this was added a sloping random granite facing, above which is the promenade. The committee was not assisted by outside grants for this work.
With an eye to the future the committee entered into negotiations with the Tehidy Minerals Co., to purchase the land adjacent to the car park on the south side of the river. This transaction was completed in 1971.
In 1981, the committee accepted as a gift from the Beynon Shipping Co., the village landmark known locally as the 'Lighthouse' or 'Pepperpot' This building has existed since about 1800 and was used as a coast guard lookout. The committee carried out a major renovation.
Throughout its history there have been members who have rendered exceptional length and quality of service, notably the late John Charles Penberthy and Mr. J H Stapleton. The latter retired from the committee in 1983 after 37 years continuous service. He was for many of those years, Chairman, both of the Improvements Committee, and the Portreath Association LTD (the company which is responsible for the commercial management of the car park). He was able to oversee the entire re-development of the sea front for a period of more than twenty years.
Having been bequeathed land on Primrose Terrace by the late Mrs. E Morphet, the committee developed this into a Memorial Garden during the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. This turned what had been an overgrown derelict site into an attractive area with seats and a wide variety of flowering shrubs and plants.