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Daniel Gumb's House


Taken from 'Cornish Characters' written by Sabrine Baring Gould...... about this fascinating character who sat up on the roof of his stone house and contemplated the stars above and carved mathematical problems into the stone - sad but brilliant!

"All that is really known of this eccentric character is found in a letter of J. B. to Richard Polwhele, dated September, 1814. His correspondent says:—

"Daniel Gumb was born in the parish of Linkinhorne, in Cornwall, about the commencement of the last century, and was bred a stone-cutter. In the early part of his life he was remarkable for his love of reading and a degree of reserve even exceeding what is observable in persons of studious habits. By close application Daniel acquired, even in his youth, a considerable stock of mathematical knowledge, and, in consequence, became celebrated throughout the adjoining parishes. Called by his occupation to hew blocks of granite on the neighbouring commons, and especially in the vicinity of that great natural curiosity called the Cheesewring, he discovered near this spot an immense block, whose upper surface was an inclined plane. This, it struck him, might be made the roof of a habitation such as he desired; sufficiently secluded from the busy haunts of men to enable him to pursue his studies without interruption, whilst it was contiguous to the scene of his daily labour. Immediately Daniel went to work, and cautiously excavating the earth underneath, to nearly the extent of the stone above, he obtained a habitation which he thought sufficiently commodious. The sides he lined with stone, cemented with lime, whilst a chimney was made[Pg 92] by perforating the earth at one side of the roof. From the elevated spot on which stood this extraordinary dwelling could be seen Dartmoor and Exmoor on the east, Hartland on the north, the sea and the port of Plymouth on the south, and S. Austell and Bodmin Hills on the west, with all the intermediate beautiful scenery. The top of the rock which roofed his house served Daniel for an observatory, where at every favourable opportunity he watched the motions of the heavenly bodies, and on the surface of which, with his chisel, he carved a variety of diagrams, illustrative of the most difficult problems of Euclid, etc. These he left behind him as evidences of the patience and ingenuity with which he surmounted the obstacles that his station in life had placed in the way of his mental improvement.

"But the choice of his house and the mode in which he pursued his studies were not his only eccentricities. His house became his chapel also; and he was never known to descend from the craggy mountain on which it stood, to attend his parish church or any other place of worship.

"Death, which alike seizes on the philosopher and the fool, at length found out the retreat of Daniel Gumb, and lodged him in a house more narrow than that which he had dug for himself."

Bond in his Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Boroughs of East and West Looe, 1873, describes the habitation of Daniel Gumb as seen by him in 1802:—

"When we reached Cheesewring—our guide first led us to the house of Daniel Gumb (a stone-cutter), cut by him out of a solid rock of granite. This artificial cavern may be about twelve feet deep and not quite so broad; the roof consists of one flat stone of many tons weight; supported by the natural rock on one side, and by pillars of small stones on the other. How[Pg 93] Gumb formed this last support is not easily conceived. We entered with hesitation lest the covering should be our gravestone. On the right-hand side of the door is 'D. Gumb,' with a date engraved 1735 (or 3). On the upper part of the covering stone, channels are cut to carry off the rain, probably to cause it to fall into a bucket for his use; there is also engraved on it some geometrical device formed by Gumb, as the guide told us, who also said that Gumb was accounted a pretty sensible man. I have no hesitation in saying he must have been a pretty eccentric character to have fixed on this place for his habitation; but here he dwelt for several years with his wife and children, several of whom were born and died here. His calling was that of a stone-cutter, and he fixed himself on a spot where materials could be met with to employ a thousand men for a thousand years."
moss Posted by moss
7th August 2013ce
Edited 7th August 2013ce

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