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Zig Zag of Launceston


Looking down from the Zig Zag towards Launceston Railway
Looking down from the Zig Zag towards Launceston Railway Station.

With the construction of the Railway in 1865 it was decided to make a public footpath down by Clifton Villa’s on Horse Lane (modern day Dockacre Road) down to the Station following the then quarry operated by the builder William Burt. This was the modern day ‘Zig Zag.’ However, the footpath can actually trace it’s origins further back in time, in fact to the 14th century.

Peter’s History of Dunheved, page 108: 1386: We, John Colyn, Mayor of the borough of Dounheved, and the Commonalty of the same Borough, grant and demise to William Couling and Alice his wife, the pasture in our quarry, and above the quarry, of Bodyer, in our borough aforesaid [now {1885} known as Mr Burt’s quarry, under Horse Lane] We Will and Grant that the aforesaid William and Alice shall make a path in the garden above the quarry aforesaid, for the use and convenience of the Commonalty , So nevertheless that we may, at our pleasure, break the soil of the aforesaid garden for stones, to be drawn whensoever it shall please us, without leave or contradiction of the said William and Alice, or any person in their name: To have and to hold to the said William and Alice, and their heirs, for the term of forty years next following the date of these presents, services and demands. And if it happen that the said rent shall be in arrear for one month, then the usual power of distress is given. In Testimony, & c., the said parties interchangeably set their seals, these being the witnesses: Henry Fox, Peter Pyk, John Landyar, William Twyneo, and Warin Cresa. Given and c., on the Friday next after he feast of St Matthew the Apostle, 9 Richard II.

And from a portion of the Borough Council deeds we obtain further proof of the footpath, with stones taken from Tremyl Quarry (possibly Bangors).

From R & OB Peter’s Dunheved: Portion of a Deed of the Borough Council:-
From William Bodier to John, the son of John, and his heirs, of all the Grantor’s rights in all his land with the Quarry adjoining which lies between the land of one William Wodeham, in breadth, and the garden of Stephen le Duk and the water of Kyensy: to hold to the said John his heirs and assigns for ever in fee, by the accustomed rents or services. 
The account for 1386 gives credit for 4d received for one stone called in English ‘a rag’, and 4d for 2,000 stones drawn from Tremayl quarry. Unde the heading “New Perquisites” 28s are credited as received in ‘the Chapel of the Blessed Mary Magdalene’.

Post & News 13 Nov 1880, editorial:- Landslip: Increased alarm is being felt in regard to the heavy fall of land and rock from under the path leading to the station into the quarries underneath. No doubt the damage has been caused by the blasting, which should be stopped forthwith. Hundred of tons of debris have fallen, the fissures in the rock are increasing, and a further slip is expected, greatly to the danger of Horse Lane and the houses above. The path to the station is rendered useless for ever and it is closed to traffic.

Post & news 13 Nov, 1880: Town Council business report:- The Land Slip at the Station Path.
Launceston Land Board: The Chairman [Mr J Ching] in calling attention to the matter, said Mr Shearme who has visited the spot, confirmed his views, and didn’t think there was any danger to the homes, but feared that the path and other land would give way, thus affecting Horse Lane. No doubt the calamity was due to the blasting at the stone quarries underneath. No one could tell the full extent of the concussion, and Mr Hutchings, who lived in a house a short distance off, said it was sensable there. – Mr Peter had expressed to him his belief that most of the town surface water ran the path, and so caused the loosening of a great deal of the earth. – The Surveyor replied that that was not so. The wash went in at the other end of the quarry, into Mr Burt’s orchard.
Mr Ching said there was formerly a rubble heap there, and no doubt the blasting had shook down much of that. He thought an injunction should be obtained to prevent further blasting. He asked the Clerk for the law on the matter:- The Clerk replied that the Board had nothing to do with the damage to private property, the owners must seek their remedy against the parties blasting. The only question for the Board was the footpath and their road in Horse Lane. But as to the former, he questioned whether they would succeed in an action against the quarry owners, who might say, “Our quarries were there before the footpath, and if you chose to go and make a path right over where we are blasting, you must take the consequences”. They might caution the owners that they would be answerable to the Board for any further damage to their property; but at present, as Mr Shearme had said, there would soon be another slip, he thought they had better postpone action until then. They could then better see how far Horse Lane was affected and apply for an injunction or take other action accordingly.
Mr Treleaven said the wall against Mr Wise’s house was public property, and as it was cracked through, he thought it open for them to take action. He also thought it the duty of the Board to protect lives and private property. – The Clerk: “You can simply remonstrate. Take Plymouth as an example. They are blasting there in some places almost every day and no one can stop them. They only give a warning, and if it is on the highway they caution those who will pass at the time to do so at their own risk, as he had said; there were two sides to the question as to the path being over the quarries. Mr Treleaven: “But the other side of the question is that the right of blasting is not theirs”. Mr Nicolls thought they should have a qualified opinion on the matter, as not only the path but the road was in danger. – The Clerk: In that case the Board would be justified in applying for an injunction. I suggest letting the matter stand over for the Surveyor to watch the spot and report as to the prospect of things after the next slip – meantime private persons will look after their own interests. On the report of the Surveyor he would convene a special meeting. – Mr Treleaven said he called attention to the danger of the blasting so far back as 1879. – The Clerk said a remonstrance was then sent to Mr Burt, who told them he had not blasted in that part of the quarry since. – Mr Wise, who was in attendance, said he thought the Board would have taken more stringent action years ago, particularly in respect of the path. Blasting was dangerous. A friend of his some distance off had a large stone sent close up to his door. – Rev IB Vanstone also attended and complained that he felt the concussion at his house, and, in answer to Mr Dingley, the Clerk said anyone could proceed against the owners of the quarry by way of making an indictment at one quarter sessions, to be heard at the other.

Post & News 20 November 1880: Editorial Comment: The Landslip. As day after day passes, the danger increases in regard to the landslip at the old station path. Not only has one part of the path entirely disappeared into the depths below, but the hedge and a part of the gardens of Mr Wise’s house have followed; and the danger to Horse Lane itself appears more serious than ever. The sight of the ‘slip’ is certainly terrible. Where the winding station path formerly stood is now an abrupt and terrible precipice, and the whole of the ground at the back seems to be leaning in the direction of further falls at no far distant day; in fact. Almost daily now large quantities of earth continue to fall, and it is impossible to take any steps to prevent it.

Post & news 15 Jan 1881: Town Surveyor’s Report to Board: Land Slip: In regard to this matter Mr Burt wrote stating that he had not worked near the slip since he first had notice from the Board, and the Surveyor said there was no danger to Horse Lane whilst they only quarried east and west. The Surveyor was also requested to watch matters and to report to the Board on any damage arising.

Post & News December 1881. THE FOOTPATH
From Clifton Villas to the Railway Station
A Grant of £18 has provisionally been made by the Local Board towards the reconstruction of this Path. The acquiring the land that is necessary and the Job is calculated to cost £46. If the work is done, the remaining £28. will have to be made up by voluntary subscription.  The execution is intended to be very substantial and the plan may be inspected by applying to the Surveyor. As the Path was very much used in the past it is assumed that it was much valued as a speedy access to the station.

It is through these reports that Jim Edwards contends that the path’s course changed as the quarry below was worked.

Sat January 7th. 1882. Post & News. PUBLIC NOTICE.
The FOOTPATH from Clifton Villas to the Railway Station. A Grant of £18 has provisionally been made by the Local Board towards the reconstruction of the Path. The acquiring the Land that is necessary and the Job is calculated to cost £46. If the work is done the remaining £28 will have to be made up by voluntary subscriptions. The execution is intended to be very substantial and the Plan may be inspected by applying to the Surveyor. As the Path was very much used in the past it is assumed it was much valued as a speedy access to the Station. Those therefore, who are willing to contribute towards the expense will oblige by intimating the amount of their subscription to the undersigned, and these sums will be published weekly and the Job proceeded with immediately there are funds to carry it out.
Edmund P Nicolls, St Stephens. John Dawe, Town Surveyor.

Subscriptions promised to December 30th.
Mr CP Wise £2. Mr EP Nicholls £2.
M/s Dingley & Petheybridge £2. Mr J Brimmel 10/-
Mr WL Powell 10/- Mr Ching £2 2s.
T P Trood £2. R. B. £1.
Jan 14 Mr JL Cowlard £2 2/- TH Nicolls £1 1s/-
James Treleaven 10/- Mrs Bunbury £1. Mr John Powell 10/- Mr T Reed 10/- Mr Thomas B Hender £1 1/- Mr Thomas White 10/6.
Mr W Cater 10/-

March 4, 1882 Anonymous Subscriptions
There may be many who would be glad to contribute a small sum towards
The Fund, but who would not like their names inserted. From such Mr
Barriball has kindly offered to receive subscriptions.

Subscriptions promised to February 17th:
Mr R Peter £1 1/- Mr C Peter £1 1/-
Mr Hayman 10/- Mr J Oliver 10/6
Mr G G White £1 1/-

Post & Weekly News, 15 July 1882: Borough Surveyor’s Report: Footpath to the Station:
Mr Nicolls said he hoped the footpath would be finished shortly. Rather more was spent than was at first intended, but when finished it would be a thorough good job. Subscriptions fell short of the total cost by about £16., and he asked the Board to help make up the deficiency. The Board asked Mr Nicolls to complete the work first and then report to the Board. Mr Nicolls said he would do so but close the path against the public. The value of the path was shown by the fact that over 200 people had been known to pass there in one day. He though it hardly fair to leave the remaining cost to him. The Clerk said Mr Nicolls had no right to close the path against the public. The subject then dropped.

Weekly News, Saturday June 18th, 1891:
THE ZIG-ZAG Mr Symons called attention to the fact that a number of people were already using Zig-Zag, although no railings were up. Would the Council be responsible in case of an accident. It was understood that the matter was now being attended to and a suggestion as to more steps being placed there was left to a committee.

C & D Jan 3rd, 1912: Landslip at Launceston: A landslip of a somewhat serious nature took place on Wednesday morning in Horse Lane, Launceston, where a pipe track is being laid to deal with sewage which hitherto has found its way to the head of the quarry in which the new electric works have been built.
Almost without warning a large slice of the steep embankment, which supports the Lower Walk, slipped down and pushed in the side of the trench. Two men, William Hocking, of Angel Hill, and Richard Treais, who were working in that part of the trench at the time, were engulfed up to their hips and held as tightly as in a vice. A small army of workers under the direction of the Borough Surveyor were quickly on the spot and after two hours of strenuous work first Treais, and eventually Hocking were dug out and taken to the Infirmary. Drs Shepherd, Rentach, Budd, Legassick, and Gibson were soon in attendance and, in spite of the danger spent much of their time down in trench ministering to the victims. Both were much bruised, but no bones were broken.


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