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Letting off steam at the Boconnoc Steam Fair!

Boconnoc Estate is the location for the annual Boconnoc Steam Fair featuring a collection of clanging heavy metal in the form of restored traction engines.
Boconnoc Steam Fair is a three-day event hosted by the . Keeping alive the historic means of power that brought about the Industrial Revolution, this fun event takes place on the third weekend in July, from Friday through Sunday.

This leading Steam Fair takes place in the stunning setting of the Boconnoc Estate, so even if you have less than zero interest in noisy oily engines, you will certainly enjoy the chance to visit this picturesque and historic location.

What’s happening at the Boconnoc Steam Fair?

The main showground area is filled with vintage vehicles including large steam engines and miniature versions, all beautifully restored and in fully working order. This is the original “heavy metal” dating back to the late 1700s, although steam engines continued to be produced until the 1930s.

Other vehicles on display at the Boconnoc Steam Fair are vintage motorcycles, old tractors, classic cars and stationary working engines, as well as some nostalgic military and commercial vehicles from past times.

My family love taking a ride aboard a steam-hauled trailer or you can opt for a tractor and trailer ride to Boconnoc Lake with its gorgeous weeping willows. The historic vehicles parade in their various classes throughout the day.

Family fun includes craft stalls, model displays, a licensed beer tent, a children’s fun fair and the usual food concessions and trade stands. Don’t miss the crazy Lawnmower Race or the Family Fun Dog Show.

Admission for Saturday or Sunday is £9 for adults, with concessions for children and families. Friday admission is £8 for adults. Dogs and under 5’s are admitted free.

The historic use of traction engines

Many of the traction engines on display at the show weigh well over 20 tons, so watch your toes when they’re moving! They were used in agriculture and the timber industry, powering other machines off a flywheel and belts.

Most steam engine examples are cumbersome traction engines with two large and two smaller metal wheels, tractor-style, and a smoking chimney. They were the forerunner to the steam roller which was used for flattening ground and road surfacing, as well as preceding railway locomotives and smaller steam wagons.

The history of the Boconnoc Estate

The lies is a wooded setting between Dobwalls and Lostwithiel, just off the A390. Dating back beyond the Domesday Book in which the estate is listed, the present-day Grade II listed house was built in mediaeval times. It belonged for a time to the Pitt family, including Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger.

The estate is steeped in Cornish history and has the largest landscaped park in Cornwall, so it is pretty impressive. It is located on the banks of the River Lerryn and was used as the location for the filming of The Three Musketeers, the BBC drama Daphne, and scenes from Rosamunde Pilcher’s Cornish books.

There is an Important Plant Area, a deer park, an obelisk to family friend and MP Sir Richard Lyttelton, and a church with a 15th century font. The estate land was the site of the Braddock Down Battle during the English Civil War.

Now owned by the Fortescue family and used for weddings and corporate events, the beautifully maintained grounds are full of flowering rhododendrons and trees, although the camellias and azaleas have usually ceased flowering by July.

Have you ever been behind the gates of the Boconnoc Estate, perhaps for an Open Day, Flower Show or wedding? We’d love to hear your comments on what this private estate is really like. Have you attended the Steam Fair there, or perhaps know of other Steam Fairs that readers might enjoy visiting?

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.


  1. Zaiva says:

    Not only am I a huge fan of trains, but I adore learning about history, especially English history. This seems like great day out as it puts the two together. I remember ever since I was young, I preferred the steam trains to the more modern models, and always hoped to see one pass by on the railway near to my home where I grew up.

    I love everything with an engine and there’s nothing better than seeing the old work horses of the time, which played a huge part in Britain’s development and industrial success.

    I personally have never attended the Boconnoc Estate, but I will be putting it on my things to do list, when I get down to visit Cornwall in a couple of months time, the only thing is, it will be winter, so I hope it’s still open. Does anyone know if they still hold open days in the winter, or any shows I can attend?
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