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24 September 2014

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Lighting up the streets of Delabole
Wesley Mills
Wesley has lived in 'Tredannon' for nearly 50 years

Delabole was one of the first areas in Cornwall to have electricity.

Wesley Mills was an electrical meter reader in north Cornwall for many years.

Delabole website
Visit the village's own website produced in Delabole. Lots of pictures and interesting articles about life in this north Cornwall village.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

+ Delabole was one of the first villages in Cornwall to have electricity.

+ Wesley Mills worked for the Electricity Board as a meter reader and would travel several miles a day on foot to north Cornwall villages.

+ Wesley has lived in the same house, near the quarry, for nearly 50 years.

View a printable version of this page.

Wesley Mills, was born in Camelford in 1930.

In 1944 he applied for an apprenticeship with the old Cornwall Electric Power Company but because of the war there were no places available.

Wesley was told there was a vacancy for an electrician's mate at RAF Davidstow Moor.

He worked with his colleagues providing the electrical installation of lighting at the airfield.

"When the war ended and I went to work for the Cornwall Electric Power Company," says Wesley. "I worked in the district which included Delabole, Tintagel and Boscastle. Soon after I went away for two years to do my National Service."

Pengelly, Delabole
Looking down Pengelly towards the quarry works

Wesley returned to the area in 1950 and continued working for the Cornwall Electric Power Company. He soon got a job as a meter reader for the Electricity Board which later became SWEB.

"I travelled around the area but things were different for meter readers back then," smiles Wesley. "We would get dropped off and would have to reach the various villages by bike or on foot. Sometimes we would have to go cap in hand asking for transport for some of the hard to reach areas. It was very rare that we would get a van to use!"

Delabole was one of the earliest villages in Cornwall to have electricity.

"They had electricity switched on in the village back in 1914," states Wesley. "The supply of electricity was taken from the quarry which had a business called the Delabole Electric Lighting Company. They supplied the privileged few with a supply of electricity which tended to be for lighting. Even in those early days there was street lighting. As the years went on the National Grid came about which linked up all the small electrical companies. This was around 1936, so eletrical supply really did improve."

Nowadays many meter readers work from home.

"My colleague is faxed through the details of where he has to visit each day," says Wesley. "He finds it a lot easier to get a van nowadays!"

Old village pump
The old village pump is still in Pengelly. It has not been used for years

Wesley lives in Pengelly just metres away from the Delabole Slate Company. His home is one of the old Slate Quarry Houses which were built for the workers at a time when the quarry employed hundreds of local people.

"I moved in to this house in 1953 when I got married," remembers Wesley.

"My wife's mother and father lived in this house and we moved in with them. We lived here all those years, and I am still here to this day. The quarry houses were built around 1890. There are still about 20 left in the village. Most were like small cottages. Some, like this one, were built like town terraced houses. At its peak the quarry employed around 600 people. Now its about 40."

Wesley's house is called 'Tredannon' and is named after a small hamlet called Dannon Chapel where his father-in-law used to live.

"My father-in-law was a quarry man and he would walk several miles a day to reach his work," remembers Wesley. "It sounds a long way but this was quite common those working in the quarry."

Delabole Inn at Pengelly
Old photo shows The Delabole Inn on the left. The small child on the pavement is standing outside Wesley's house in Pengelly

Wesley says there were several pubs in the village. Two were opposite each other in Pengelly, right by Wesley's house.

"This building opposite my house which is being done up was originally a pub called 'The Delabole Inn'," says Wesley. "Then it changed to The Railway Inn. The other pub, which is no longer there, was called the New Inn, and when Waggoners came here to pick up the slate they would stay in the New Inn."

Delabole Inn was here many years ago
Delabole Inn is now long gone, the building which housed the pub is being renovated at the moment.

The old Wesley Chapel near the entrance to Delabole Slate was where Elijah Eade taught the village's youngsters at 'day school'. Those who could afford it would pay a penny a day for the schooling.

Wesley loves Delabole and the whole of north Cornwall. "It has its own identity, with the coastline and countryside," says Wesley. "There's a special feeling about the place which is very hard to explain."

Meet the village's webmaster
Find out about the famous Delabole Slate Quarry
Visit the Gaia Energy Centre in Delabole
Developing Delabole

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