Viveca and I were down in Cornwall for the Bank Holiday weekend and decided to have a trip to the woods. Kennal Vale Gunpowder Mill to be precise. I’d seen pictures on the web of this place and thought it looked promising for some photos. The walk itself isn’t very long and had we not had cameras with us I have no doubt we could have completed it in under an hour.
The location is lovely, a wooded valley in middle of nowhere, slightly off the beaten track within a small village. Kennall Vale Gunpowder Mill was initially founded in 1812 and produced high quality gunpowder for just over 100 years. Its situation was excellent, being in a deep valley away from any large habitation with a strong river feeding several wheels to enable milling. The river was diverted into a lead which fed around five wheels.
Many of the buildings still remain which is testament to the Cornish building. Despite safety being in mind when the mill was constructed there was a disaster when an explosion took place in 1838 leaving a part of one of the roofs over a mile away. Several other explosions also took place at Kennal Vale Mill over the years.
A terrible and dramatic accident happened in May 1838, when five mills blew up in succession. The explosions were so powerful that part of a roof was found a mile from the premises. One man was seriously injured and another killed, leaving a widow and up to 10 children. One of the newspaper reports describes the impact the explosion had on the surrounding area: ‘A most dreadful explosion occurred at the Kennall Gunpowder Mills, near Penryn, on Tuesday morning, the 10th instant. Five mills blew up in succession, and part of a roof was found a mile from the premises. The reports were most terrific and created the greatest alarm over an extensive tract of country. Nothing so severe ever happened at these mills before…’
Photographically the walk was fairly challenging. There are no shortage of interesting things to see, nice paths and decrepit buildings as well as a small river with some nice rocks. The challenge is making these look punchy and interesting as everything is green, very green indeed. This is why I opted for a mono set of images from the mill. I just wasn’t satisfied with the colour renditions.