Mawla, Nancekuke and More About Porthtowan and Towan Cross by Caroline Palmer

Mawla, Nancekuke and More About Porthtowan and Towan Cross by Caroline Palmer is packed with black and white photographs, old newspaper accounts and documents. The book covers topics ranging from farming to family life, from mining to Methodism and much more.

Caroline spent a lot of time listening to first hand accounts by members of local families. The stories of local people, ‘some funny, some surprising, some tragic,’ proved particularly helpful in documenting the history of these areas.

The four areas under scrutiny ‘are completely different, though connected by proximity and often ties of blood and friendship, as well as occupation.’

‘Mawla,’ says Caroline, ‘feels so different from the coastal area, serene and self-contained, tucked away.’ Letters, some nearly
a hundred and fifty years old,
provided by the
Simmons family of Mawla, yielded useful background information. Courtship and family relationhips, births and deaths and chapel life were some of the topics recorded. The Simmons are a farming family and they once had a butchers shop in Redruth. Ken Simmons remembers his grandfather, George Simmons, butchering the animals on the farm. He was also an expert at building stone hedges. South West Water carried out an archaeological investigation in 1996 on Stencoose Farm, a Simmons family holding. It revealed remains of a large prehistoric structure, Bronze and Iron Age pottery and signs of an ancient field system.

Nancekuke hit the headlines in 2000 when it was reported that former workers at the Ministry of Defence establishment there had died as a result of exposure to nerve gas. An airfield for RAF Portreath had been constructed at Nancekuke during the Second World
War. It played a key role in the war
effort and many well-known people passed through, including General (later Field Marshall) Montgomery, General de Gaulle and Anthony Eden. In the 1950s it became an outstation of the Chemical Defence Establishment (Porton Down) and for a while the nerve agent Sarin was produced there. Many local people were employed there at this time and Caroline tells of their experiences, including the memories of a former chemist. In 2000, Candy Atherton, the then MP for Falmouth and Camborne, raised the health issues of former workers at Nancekuke in Parliament. These days, RAF Portreath operates an air defence radar station at Nancekuke.

Writing this book has clearly been a labour of love for Caroline, whose aim was to ‘create a feel of how the past has given birth to the present.’ She has certainly succeeded in doing that.


Email Caroline for a copy of the book at


Caroline Palmer

Caroline Palmer moves between novels, short plays, films and stories, often local, and the history of Porthtowan, where she lives. 

Cornwall Secret and Hidden

Cornwall Secret and Hidden by Cornwall Writers is an eclectic collection of short stories written by authors in Cornwall.