Compton Castle

Compton Castle

The Compton Castle on the River Dart

It initially served as a ‘character’ restaurant and was quite popular. Later, it was taken over by Jane Adele, whose flower business prospered. It was sold and re-let as a ‘café’. Unlike when it was operated as a flower shop, the quay and the boat were separately sub-let. Eventually, John Cockle’s prophecy proved correct, as tidal silt forced its way between the quay wall and the hull – on-board services were condemned and eventually the mooring device failed and a hole appeared in the bottom.

Today, the Compton Castle is a hulk. Whether or not it is salvageable is a moot point being feverishly discussed by Cornwall Council with the leaseholder. Whatever the outcome of this encounter, the question must be asked: ‘Do we want the Compton Castle, or is there something better to be done.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the floating part of the leasehold rests with Truro Harbour Authority, which is currently part of Cornwall Harbours Authority (am amalgam of municipal ports set up by Cornwall Council via a Harbour Revision Order). The Quay falls to Cornwall Council – so the ‘landlord’ may be in two minds!

Harbour dues are quite expensive, especially when added to business rates, lease rent, insurance and utilities – so operating a business on-board needs to be very profitable – and with only limited visibility – the boat goes up and down on the tide! – it is a very real challenge.

John Cockle would say, if he were still with us, break it up; be done with it!

There is much talk about Lemon Quay – most of it unfairly critical, because it is the venue for a varied range of activities, and sports at its western end an internationally acclaimed work of art which brings a flow of appreciative people to town. It is, of course, prey to Cornish weather, but that’s the reality of alfresco life, isn’t it?

Some have argued since before the advent of the Compton Castle, that if something is to me located on the river, then it should be a craft which would be more usually associated with Lemon Quay – something like a brigantine. Paul Greenwood, of Looe (author of ‘Once upon a Cornish Lugger’), once suggestyed that there are restoration projects undertaken by trusts and that they are always on the lookout for places to locate their projects, where they can be useful and admired.

The appearance of the Compton Castle has been radically and detrimentally altered since it first arrived in Truro. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the craft which once plied the River Dart in Edwardian times. It is ugly! And now, it is also sunk!

Looking at images of Lemon Quay when it was open and operational, small schooners, barques and brigantines were the craft one would be used to seeing – the sort of craft skippered by Peter the Viking and sailed by First Mate Cockle. Something of that ilk would feel more like real Truro. If the ownership and arrangements were carefully worked out, then a replacement would be nothing like the liability this old hulk has become.

What should be done? Who can help?

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