There’s a local saying in the village of Four Lanes just outside Camborne that they are ‘one step nearer to heaven’. It’s not surprising when you see the view, 750 feet above sea level with glorious vistas of surrounding countryside and distant views to the coast. It’s also an area long associated with starlings who have used migration routes across the villages and chattered noisily from telephone wires. Tradition has it that those people born in Four Lanes are known as starlings and it was our great pleasure to catch up with some of this bird life as we embarked on our new project ‘A Flock of Stories’ which aims to collect stories and memories of church and chapel life in Four Lanes and Pencoys.
The village is quite unique in that they still have a thriving Church of England and a Methodist Chapel. However numbers are dwindling and the indomitable Revd Peter Fellowes has tried to ensure the survival of both these institutions by recognising the ministry of two Churches in the one village and combining the congregations and under what is called flapjack. He is very active within the community and has been vital in drawing towards us participants who want to share their stories to our project.
So the Storylines team met the Starlings, recording their memories to kick start the project……
Jenny and Caroline shared stories of the old Methodist Chapel at Forest where the boiler had to be lit before each service on a Sunday and harvest festival saw the chapel packed to the rafters and decorated with apples, sheaves of corn and hydrangeas tied to the gate posts.
Another mother and daughter duo, Norma and Alison, were regular members at St Andrews Church Pencoys and told us about the church bazaars and all the frantic making that went into the event. They also talked about Sundays and what was allowed and not allowed on that day, for instance you could knit but not sew!
In a cosy cottage on the main street of Four Lanes, Jennie and Barrie talked emotionally about being lifelong members of the village Methodist chapel and how it shaped their lives and still provides guidance and a foundation for their everyday actions. We heard about Barrie’s time at Sunday School and the first time he wore long trousers and Jennie showed us chapel mementoes she keeps in a cupboard in her front room.
Away from the village in a nursing home in Camborne, we caught up with 94 year old Doreen who told us how she had been attached to St Andrews church all her life and had some amazing memories about scrabbling around on the floor for nuts in the church hall at Christmas and proudly waiting for prize giving when she would receive her treasured book.
Our final memory gathering took place in St Andrews church itself and Karen, Christine, Jean and Jillian shared their stories of being active members of the congregation over the years.
We heard about long gone celebrations like the Gala which lasted 3 days and brought together all the churches and chapels and the long awaited Tea Treats in the summer to St Ives with its buns and bottles of pop and singing coming home in the coach.
After days of listening to often very emotional memories from everyone we interviewed, whether church or chapel, the overriding sense was of loss. The loss of unified communities where everyone was there to support one another and pulled together to create celebrations and events and where faith was the underlying connection. The introduction of Sunday trading and the myriad of choice in everyone’s lives today has fragmented many communities and dwindling congregations are trying desperately to bring cohesion to them. It is our hope that ‘A Flock of Stories’ will reignite interest in the local community, illustrating what happened over the past years and what could conceivably happen again.