'When music sounds, gone is the earth I know,
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow;
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies'
From: 'Music' by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
A band festival at a place called Bugle, what could be more appropriate? The proper title of the Bugle Band Contest is ‘The West of England Bandsman’s Festival’ and apart from a couple of short breaks during times of war it has been held at Bugle near St Austell since 1912. Mollinis Park rings out all day to the harmonies and oom-pah-pahs of dozens of brass and silver bands which come to Bugle from right across the West Country. It’s a grand day out for bandspeople and music lovers everywhere.
Bugle village is deep in china clay country and at the time of the establishment of the band contest, the industry was producing around a million tons of china clay every year, not just for ceramics but also for kaolin’s lesser known use in the manufacture of quality paper.
Cornish china clay was discovered in 1746 by William Cookworthy, a Quaker apothecary and polymath who patented its use for his porcelain factory at Plymouth. The industrial villages around St Austell grew up around the china clay industry as did the spoil heaps so clearly visible from the A30 and nicknamed ‘The Cornish Alps’, although the landscaping that has taken place has now rendered them less conical and less white!
Brass bands sprang up across Cornwall in the nineteenth century in a similar way to the famous bands of the north of England and in the same way were associated with mines, factories and other works. Not surprisingly band contests followed, giving as they did an opportunity to show off the bands’ skills, earn a few pennies and take a much needed respite from the harsh conditions in which many bandsmen worked.
Although there are still huge deposits of kaolin around Bugle, they are now underexploited and the industry has significantly declined. Ironically ‘The Eden Project’ with its huge biomes constructed in a disused china clay pit, has become the most popular tourist destination in Cornwall and brought renewed prosperity to the area.
Less than twenty miles from Bugle is the Tregothnan Estate. Not that long after William Cookworthy started producing porcelain from Cornish china clay, Tregothnan became the first place in Britain to grow camellia sinensis – Chinese camellia - tea to you and me, and tea plants are still grown at Tregothnan today. So it seems appropriate to make a thrifty tea bread with Cornish grown tea and serve it on a Victorian porcelain plate that may or may not have been made using Cornish china clay.
Cornish Tea Bread
8oz mixed dried fruit
4oz golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
Half a pint of hot black Tregothnan tea
8oz self raising flour and a pinch of salt
1 large egg beaten
Grated rind of half a lemon
Put the fruit, marmalade, sugar and hot tea in a bowl and leave until cold. Over night is best but you can speed up the process by bringing the whole thing to the boil then simmering for no more then five minutes. Leave until entirely cold.
Add the sifted flour, salt, lemon rind and egg and stir until thoroughly mixed together. Place in a well-greased and lined loaf tin and bake for about an hour and a half at 160c. The tea bread improves after a day or so and becomes more squidgy. Serve thinly sliced and spread with salty butter, I like it with cheese too...
You can of course make this with any black tea – it is particularly delicious made with black vanilla tea or Earl Grey.
Hey, there! Listen awhile! Listen awhile, and come.
Down in the street there are marching feet, and I hear the beat of a drum.
Bim! Boom!! Out of the room! Pick up your hat and fly!
Isn't it grand? The band! The band! The band is marching by!
From 'The Band' by C.J.Dennis (1876-1938)