John Henry Clifton

John Henry CliftonJohn Henry Clifton was born in a small village called Carn Entrail. Just outside of the Camborne-Redruth area, in the shadow of Carn Brea. Carn Brea, a hill can be likened to an island, its perimeter clearly defined, with a wide field of interest from archaeology and folklore to military and industrial relics. The most important being the Neolithic settlement at its summit with five thousand years or more of history.

When John was a young boy, he and his family probably spent many happy hours on the grassy slopes of Carn Brea, as did many other families from the nearby villages. Carn Brea was a place where the miner could lie in the sun and breathe in the clean air and not think of the dark and dangerous mines that he had to spend so many hours in the pursuit of his work. The miner’s wife could relax and keep an eye on the children while they played their games among the Hut Circles and the large boulders; each one with a name of its own that was passed down from the past.

On bank holidays it was like a county fair with the venders selling their wares and for a penny the children could join the line to walk through the castle at the top of the hill seven hundred and forty feet above sea level. The castle was probably built in the fourteenth century — it seems no one knows for sure. On the hill not far from the castle is a monument that was erected by subscription to the memory of Francis Lord de Dunstanville and Basset of Tehidy (the name of the home of the Basset family). The foundation stone was laid in June 1836 with a ceremony and was attended by the largest gathering ever in Cornwall — estimated to be thirty thousand people.

While visiting Olive Sorkin, a niece of John Henry Clifton in Camborne, her husband David mentioned that the poor miners who had enough trouble buying food for their families were forced to donate money for this monument while the Basset family lived in the lap of luxury. The Basset’s owned most of the land in the area and most of the mines. As I write this paper I can’t help but wonder if Joseph Clifton, John’s father, worked on this monument — he was a stone mason.

Possessions of ancient man have been found in this area. Articles such as pottery, arrowheads, and crocks have been found on Carn Brea. In 1744 a Mr. Stevens dug up the floor of a hut circle on the side of Carn Brea hill and found several bronze “celts” or axe heads and a quart size jar of Roman coins. The celts were made in the late bronze age and had perhaps survived into the iron age to be buried with the Roman coins. Carn Brea means rocky hill — it attracted a tribe of iron-age people. These people were celts, the ancient forebearers of the Cornish. They came from the upper valley of the Rhine from about 500 B.C. In June 1749 in the middle ridge of Carn Brea hill were found a number of pure gold coins. These coins were found to be minted in Gaulby by some of the Belloraci tribe. This tribe lived between Paris and the English Channel and were introduced into southeast England during the latter part of the second century B.C.

Today the Carn Brea Castle has been turned into a restaurant. When I called to reserve a table for my family, I was told that they serve at seven. After driving up a dirt road only big enough for my small rented ar, we arrived to find only one car in the parking lot. After knocking on the door for five minutes, they allowed us in. We sat by the fireplace — although it was the last week of June — we were blue from the cold. The food was of good quality and prepared with the skill that requires talent. After dinner we went outside and my son, John, took some pictures of the area. In this area of the world it doesn’t get dark until 10 p.m. at this time of the year; otherwise, I don’t know how I would have driven down that hill with the bad lights that I had on the rented car.

The Village of Troon is about one mile from Carn Entrail — that is the birthplace of John’s mother (Loveday Treague). She was the first wife of Joseph Clifton, and John was their first child.

One mile to the east lies the village of Beacon. This is the birth place of my father William Richard Clifton. People didn’t move too far from the area that they were born in, unless living conditions forced them. I didn’t have the address of the house that John and Loveday lived in when they resided in the Village of Beacon, but I did take a drive to Troon and Beacon just to see the area. I made an attempt to find the Village of Carn Entrail. I drove down a small dirt road to an old engine mining house. Some men were working on an old car. I asked them where I could find Carn Entrail and one of them said that he thought it was behind an old metal building that was nearby. I didn’t look any further because there didn’t seem to be any other residential properties in the area. Perhaps someday I will return to look for it.


This is a genealogy site for the Cliftons of Cornwall.