History of St Keverne Parish Council
Drainage and Sewage
Extracts from St Keverne Parish Council 1894 to 1994
a booklet compiled by Michael Wearne (then Chairman)
Our ancestors were conspicuously unbothered by sewage and pollution as the records of life in, for example, 18th Century London confirm. Bearing this in mind should help us not to be astonished that the first mention of any concern over sewage is in February 1943 and a month later at a public meeting. Even then councillors and public seem wary of incurring any expense, for after lengthy discussion about the possibility of a drainage scheme it was resolved to wait and see if such schemes would be chargeable to a general or special rate. Only if it was a general rate would they hold a further public meeting to decide whether to proceed or not.
The minute of March 1946 throws light on conditions at the time; if we omit the refuse cart, things were much as they had been since the dawn of history. The minute reported that the KRDC refuse cart driver had refused to collect lavatory buckets at Coverack. As they were forbidden to empty the contents over the cliffs and had no gardens to bury them in, what were they to do? It sounds desperate as it was meant to but it probably wasn't (Coverack residents would have seen to that) and the clerk was merely deputed to ask Kerrier Rural District Council to deal with the matter.
In December 1965 it was reported that at Rosenithon there was a most obnoxious smell from an open drain to which, it was thought, household sewage was connected. Kerrier's response, supported by the Parish Council, was to send a letter to every householder telling them to put their own household systems in order. Any alternative would, it was felt, be far too expensive.
Although the minutes state that there had been many requests and enquiries about sewage, it was not until February 1949 that there is any sign of interest from higher authority. Then a letter from the Rural District Council gave a comprehensive outline of a sewage disposal scheme for St. Keverne and Porthoustock.
In September 1958 the RDC submitted a plan and engineer's report for the Council to examine; they expressed their gratification that at last something looked as if it might be done. Unfortunately at this crucial point one book of minutes ends and that for the following two years is missing. The next mention is in September 1961 when it is obvious that the scheme was complete since, while expressing concern about the fencing around the sewage works (children might fall in) general satisfaction was great - so great that the Council took the unusual step of writing to Kerrier RDC to express appreciation for the way the Resident Engineer had acted over the previous fifteen months.
Flooding at Porthallow.
This has been a problem for many years. For example in January 1962 Cllr. Combellack described what "... the high tides did when backed by a strong N.E. wind and a heavy running stream. The whole cove flooded and (there was) water in several houses." It was felt that Kerrier RDC were responsible and had not done their duty. From then on the matter has appeared in the minutes at least twice a year and has been the subject of countless letters from the Parish Council to the District and County Councils. As residents will know, it has not yet been solved.
A parallel problem in Porthallow has been that of sewage which was graphically described by Cllr. Peters in September 1972 in terms which it is unnecessary to repeat here. Again the solution has not yet been found although there is a fair prospect that it soon will be as it is now subject to European Union regulations on clean bathing water. However, the Council have made strenuous efforts over the years and have always been disappointed; they have learned not to trust promises, even those which appear to offer certain fulfilment.
Flooding at Porthoustock
This again has been around for a long time. In December 1953 the Council was writing to Kerrier RDC and asking for immediate action to remedy the unsanitary state of the beach. The RDC replied that they were asking the Quarry Company to remedy the matter. An epidemic was foreseen in March 1962, but the RDC were not unduly perturbed as they wrote in May 1963 that they could not see any sewage scheme being constructed in Porthoustock for some time, certainly not within the next five years. The fact that the St. Keverne scheme had only recently been completed was put forward as an additional reason for delay.
Concern seemed to shift to the constant problem of flooding and the responsiblity of the Company, now the Amalgamated Roadstone Corporation, for allowing the stream to silt up. At a whist drive in the Village Hall in November 1968 a trestle table and a plank had to be laid to allow people to enter the Hall, at the western end of which a large crack was noticed. That was, of course, not the start of it. In 1972 County Cllr. Hendy, visiting the Council, said that discussion had been going on for the last 43 years; the matter had appeared in the minutes at least annually and, like Porthallow, had been the subject of endless correspondence. However, the clearing and widening of the area at the road bridge had somewhat improved matters.
The first mention of a sewage problem is in October 1965 when Cllr. Jones made an inspection accompanied by the Kerrier RDC Engineer. They found the condition of the sewage outfalls as "shocking and disgusting" and described what sounds like a plague of rats. The customary demand for immediate action was made, the response in this case being more than usually satisfactory for by October 1968 KRDC had reached the first stage of a comprehensive scheme; by November 1970 the plans were complete and costed at £146,000. By 1973 the job was finished, making it one of the speediest operations recorded in this short history. Could the fact that Local Government was to be re-organised in 1974 have had a fortunate effect on Coverack?
The first mention of any public convenience in the Parish occurs in March 1924 when it was suggested that a"convenience" should be erected in St. Keverne. In June of the following year the suggestion was renewed with Coverack added. The matter was referred to the Rural District Council.
In November 1951 the RDC agreed to provide a ladies and gents at Porthallow by adding a new structure for ladies to that already in existence for gents.
In September 1946 it was reported that the RDC were well on the way in their negotiations for a suitable site for a urinal in Coverack. Nothing further appears until July 1950 when the Council decided to ask the RDC's permission to erect a sign on the car park saying, "Public Conveniences ... yards". Evidently by then the toilets above the harbour had been built.
In February 1955 the Council thought that, in view of the sewerage scheme to be put into effect in St. Keverne in the next five years or so, they should tell the RDC of suitable sites for a public convenience. In April a letter from the RDC promised to make provision for a convenience in the year 1956/57. In April 1956 the RDC wrote that they intended to erect the convenience in the next financial year, but hinted at possible delay because of a six month embargo on capital expenditure.
The Council agitated for public toilets at Porthoustock for 15 years. In June 1983 they pointed out that on the Bank Holiday Sunday there had been 154 cars on the beach and that the fishermen had had to put notices on the back of their huts requesting people not to use them for toilet purposes. They were finally opened in August 1985.
These fragmentary and disconnected jottings are all that appears in the minutes on the subject. Since the provision of public toilets was a RDC responsibility, the Parish Council's job was to agitate; when agitation was successful, the matter was at an end.