Whitebays was built in 1935 by Mrs Nell Oakley, MBE.
She had come to Trebetherick first in 1919, renting St Enodoc Cottage for six weeks over the summer holidays, spent there with her two children Joan and Roland and her sister Kathleen Stokes and her two children, Allen and Phoebe. Both sisters were born in Calcutta, where their father, Lorraine King, was in business.
Nell Oakley continued to take St Enodoc Cottage more or less every summer. When her husband John Oakley died suddenly at the end of 1934 she tried unsuccessfully to buy the Cottage. She then discovered that her friends Mr and Mrs Grant-Davies from Mawgan Porth, who owned the field opposite, had decided not to build on the one-and-a-half acre site themselves and were willing to sell it. And so Whitebays came into being.
In her wonderful memoir written in 1967 shortly before she died, Mrs Oakley described the construction process. “Having a firm idea of what kind of house I wanted, I drew a rough plan. I was recommended a reliable builder, who although not Cornish agreed to employ entirely local labour. My brother-in-law then living in Cheshire, being an architect, came down for a consultation which we held on the site pegging out the exact position of the house which was to have round bay windows facing south-west with nothing to intercept my view of the golf course, the little St Enodoc church and Brea Hill”… At that point Mrs Oakley was due to visit her son Roland and daughter Joan with their respective spouses in India for three months, leaving her architect brother-in-law in long-distance charge. She returned “expecting to find the house well on its way up to the second floor, but I was disappointed to find that it had not got further than the ground floor windows, the builder tearing his hair because he could not get sufficient masons… If you are having a house built exactly to your own instructions, be on the spot and never leave it until it is finished!” Mrs Oakley solved the problem of the missing masons by contacting the local Labour Exchange.
She continued to live at Whitebays for more than thirty years, becoming a JP and County Superintendent of St John’s Ambulance for Cornwall, from whom she received a silver salver on her retirement in 1954. Her great-niece Prudence Cuming remembers her in uniform “driving her little Austin very dangerously”. Elsie McCorkindale at Torquil, an enthusiastic driver, sometimes chauffeured her friend instead.
When Mrs Oakley died in 1967, Whitebays was bought by Hugh and Nancy Edwards. Nancy had three sons by a previous marriage, one of whom invented Yarg cheese – his own surname spelt backwards. Yarg is still made in Cornwall.
Hugh and Nancy had several Pekineses, and were very dog-minded – so much so that they were prepared to lend their immaculate lower lawn (once a tennis court) to Charlotte, then 13, the youngest of the Sharpe girls from Torquil Cottage, as a venue for a dog gymkhana. A hilarious afternoon ensued, and £50 was raised for the PDSA, a large sum for the early 1970’s.
Nancy Edwards died relatively young. Hugh remarried, and went to live with his new wife Peggy at Peppercorn Cottage in Penmayne, Rock. Whitebays was bought in 1977 by Jonathan Stedall, a BBC TV producer who had worked with John Betjeman on many programmes towards the end of his life, filming in Trebetherick among many other locations. After only a short time Jonathan sold Whitebays in 1978, to Mr Leslie Jones, a toy shop keeper, and then bought Daymer Dunes instead. Whitebays was acquired in 1988 from Mr Jones by Michael Hawkes, who owns it still.