Joseph Treffry, the 19th century Cornish engineer, mining adventurer and industrialist was born in Plymouth in 1782 as Joseph Thomas Austen. After his father’s death early in his life, he moved with his mother, Susanna Ann Treffry Austen back to Place at Fowey.
Trained in civil engineering, by 1837, Joseph Austen had become one of the most outstanding figures in Cornwall. He was engaged in many commercial enterprises – the building of the harbours at Par and Newquay, and the construction of the mineral railway which linked the two places. He built the Luxulyan viaduct- aqueduct, between 1839 and 1842, entirely of granite from his own quarries. He owned ships and smelting works as well as shares in tin and copper mines. In 1838 he assumed the name of Treffry in place of Austen, and held office as Sheriff of Cornwall. He was an active magistrate and was chairman of the Cornwall Railway Company.
Through his influence, the New Road leading into Fowey was constructed, and he renovated and extended Place which had become very dilapidated. This included the building of Porphyry Hall and the south west tower, both requiring the engineering ingenuity used to build his viaduct. In 1847 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were notable visitors.
Joseph Treffry was a many faceted man; he was fascinated by archaeological artefacts, greatly interested in the antiquity of the house; he was a conservationist and planted over 1,000 trees and scientifically farmed over 1,000 acres. He died at Place of pneumonia in 1850 and was buried in the south chancel of St Fimbarrus Church.
Research Sally Penhaligon
Sources: Adelaide Rideout, The Treffry family, (Phillimore, 1984); John Keast, The Story of Fowey, (Dyllansow Truran 1950); John Keast, King of Mid Cornwall : The Life of Joseph Thomas Treffry, 1782-1850 (Truro: Dyllansow Truran, 1982); http://www.multilingualarchive.com/ma/enwiki/en/Joseph_Treffry (accessed 28/01/12)