Madeline Rosewarne

(1901-1993) – Child visitor to dynamite works

Madeline Rosewarne remembered growing up in the war. She was driven in a pony and trap from Truro to the Droskyn explosives works at Perranporth where she saw how munitions were tested by throwing them over a cliff to check they would explode on the rocks below.

Credit: Trevithick Society, Camborne and Perranzabuloe Museum photo

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When Madeline Rosewarne, a long-time resident of Perranporth who ran the Cliffside Hotel, was a young girl living at Falmouth Road in Truro, she would frequently visit her Polkinhorn cousins who lived at Prince’s House in the town. That fine building still stands but its gardens were developed as HTP Motors, now the Pannier Market. Their fathers were both directors of Hosken, Trevithick, Polkinhorn & Co Ltd., a prominent milling company in Cornwall.

The gardener and odd job man at Prince’s House (see photo) would often take the children for rides in the pony and trap and, on occasions, they would go to Perranporth.  On arrival at the sea front the children dismounted and helped the pony pull the trap up Droskyn Hill.  They would travel out to the top of St George’s Hill at Cligga Head where there was an explosives factory.  The gardener always referred to it as the ‘dammamite works’.  It had opened in 1893 as the British & Colonial Explosives Company and had subsequently been bought by the Nobel Explosives Company, but had closed in 1909 due to lack of demand from the mining industry.  The requirements of the war led it to be reopened to supply bombs and grenades for the war effort.

In those days the children were able to ride up close to the factory and were fascinated by the manner in which the munitions were tested.  They were thrown over the cliff to discover whether they would explode upon hitting the rocks below.  Madeline said that she remembered how the man throwing the grenades apparently didn’t check whether there was anyone down below.  It was clear that the residents of Perranporth were well aware of this dangerous activity and kept a safe distance. 

Madeline never married and lived in a bungalow at Perranporth.  Later on she moved to a flat in St Piran’s Parade.  She died aged 92 in 1993.

You can find out more about the explosives works here: This story is taken from an interview conducted by Philip Hosken, chairman of the Trevithick Society, with Madeline Rosewarne at Perran Bay Residential Home in Perranporth.

Key words: children, home front

Credit: Trevithick Society, Camborne and photo from Perranzabuloe Museum