2020 Cornwall Heritage Awards – Trophy Road Trip Part 2

In this new blog series, join our Museum Development Officer, Stephanie Clemens, as she travels around the Duchy delivering some much-awaited certificates and plaques to the winners of the 2020 Cornwall Heritage Awards! Following our virtual awards ceremony in October we are thrilled to now be able to deliver these awards to their recipients in person this Summer. Buckle up and join us for the road trip…

We really couldn’t have picked a better day for me and Jody to head off up the Atlantic Highway on our second leg of the Heritage Awards trophy drop – the weather was gorgeous, and we were very excited to be out on the road.

Our first stop was Padstow Museum, to present the award for Object of the Year. This award is the only one voted for by the public, so the competition between the eight finalists was pretty stiff – you can read more about each one here. The ‘mounted horseman’ roof tiles captured the public imagination and galloped to victory (pun intended). Probably dating from the 15th century, these horsemen perch upon roof tiles originally above the Market Place. They were a sign to travellers of a site where they could have a change of horses. Tradition says that when the church clock strikes midnight, the horsemen descend to gallop around the Market Square.

They have a little further to gallop now that the museum is situated at Station House, having undergone a fantastic redevelopment in 2018. The museum is completely run by volunteers and is currently closed for their safety until September. So, it was all the more special for me and Jody to meet up with Daphne, George, and John for a sneaky look around. Had the mounted horsemen not won object of the year, there were plenty of other objects that could have taken the title, from the ‘Obby ‘Oss masks to a historic lifebelt to a magnificent soda machine. So many treasures all in one small room – that is the joy of our community museums. This was a fabulous start to our day, and we carried on up the A39.

Our next stop was The Castle Heritage Centre, Bude, who also had a shortlisted Object of the Year – the Bude fish. In 1932 the remains of a fossil fish were discovered in the Bude rock formation. It was classified as a new species and named ‘Cornuboniscus Budensis’ in recognition of where it was found. It was roughly the size of a sardine and had razor sharp teeth a bit like a piranha. It now has its own highly commended certificate to join the growing collection of Heritage Awards.

The Castle was the winner of the Contribution to the Environment and Circular Economy Award sponsored by Tevi. It was a pleasure to finally meet with Janine and hand over this well-deserved trophy. The museum has been committed to green initiatives for some time – starting 14 years ago with a large display about how long man-made materials washed up on the beach can take to biodegrade. Since 2014 Bude-Stratton Town Council, who own the Castle, have supported support A Greener Bude. This group works tirelessly to bring together like-minded people and organisations to come together to make Bude the greenest town in the UK. The museum has been leading on introducing green alternatives and communicating the importance of environmental sustainability. Janine has been a fantastic advocate for sustainable practice in museums and presented to the Museums Association Conference in 2019, putting both Cornwall and Bude at the centre of conversation on the climate crisis.

After a very pleasant lunch on the beach, a quick stroll and an ice cream, we headed back down the coast to Newquay for our final delivery. It’s probably easier to list the awards Newquay Heritage Archive & Museum weren’t shortlisted for or didn’t win because we arrived with quite an armful.

First up was the One to Watch Award, a new category for 2020 which recognises the achievements and commitment of young volunteers in museums in Cornwall, and kindly sponsored by PH Media. Most museums rely heavily if not entirely on dedicated volunteers, and a brilliant group of them are aged 25 or younger. It can’t be stressed enough how thankful we are that young people generously give their time to museums and bring in a whole new set of skills and fresh perspectives. All the young people who were entered into this category are superstars, but Will Emmett won the award with a combination of skills and enthusiasm that has made a continued impact at Newquay Museum. Will has used his IT skills across a range of digital projects: colourising and cleaning up digital historic images, film editing to help launch the museum’s YouTube channel, contributing to social media, and maintenance of the museum’s IT systems. He’s also integrated wonderfully into the existing volunteer team, who value his enthusiasm and his opinions. It was a pleasure to meet Will and to see that he continues to volunteer at the museum. Along with congratulations, we wish him well with his studies and look forward to seeing future content from the museum.

We were also able to present Len and Will with a whole raft of certificates, reflecting the number and quality of entries Newquay Heritage Archive & Museum made to the Heritage Awards. In addition to Will’s win, the museum was highly commended in the Innovation, Best Exhibition and Environmental categories, and their mineral spar tower was shortlisted for Object of the Year. For this reason, the museum was awarded the Judges’ Special trophy, as recognition of the sheer volume and diversity of their work and the dedication and drive of their whole team of volunteers. The museum covers all bases, from green initiatives to inclusivity to digital engagement. The team takes risks and tries new things. There’s nothing small about this small museum. Congratulations to all, meur ras for your inspiring hard work, and I’m sure we’ll see you at the next Heritage Awards.

Three museum visits in one beautiful day was such a treat, and we’re still not quite finished delivering trophies. The road trip will continue, and our next destination is the far west.

 

– Stephanie Clemens, Museum Development Officer

Bude Photo Credits: Mark Berridge

Citizen Curators Curate the Cornish National Collection: Falmouth Coastguard Station

Citizen Curators is a free work-based training programme in museum awareness and modern curatorial practice aimed at volunteers from our community. The programme is provided by Cornwall Museums Partnership in collaboration with seven museums, with the main goal of providing a new form of meaningful museum participation. The programme is led by Dr. Tehmina Goskar, Curator and Director of the Curatorial Research Centre.

 The Citizen Curators are invited to collaboratively curate a collection distributed among our museums that reflects the diversity of Cornish society past and present. In our latest guest blog, Henry Purbrick, a Citizen Curator on the virtual 2021 programme with a placement at Falmouth Art Gallery, explains his submission to the Cornish National Collection, Falmouth Coastguard Station…

Prince Charles and Camilla stand on the right facing towards the camera, as they look down at a computer screen. A man (Henry) in a naval uniform sits before the screen and looks towards them.

Everyone knows the Cornish heritage of the tin and copper mines, our fishing history, china clay works and industrial engineering. Most know how the international communication revolution got going at Porthcurno and the Lizard. But how many know of the massive changes in marine communications, and more especially that of ‘civil maritime search and rescue’ that took place during the latter years of the 20th century and the part that Falmouth Coastguards at MRCC Falmouth played in it. The important role played out in that little building out on Pendennis Point just below the castle, that many people hardly even realise exists.

Come to that, how many people really know what coastguards actually do anyway? No they don’t deal in smuggling or revenue. That’s the job of Customs and Excise. And no they are not the RNLI, that’s a charity run mainly by volunteers to rescue those in difficulties at sea or on the shore line. Although, it’s true that almost all of their tasking does come as a request via the coastguard. HM Coastguard is the government body responsible in the UK for carrying out ‘civil maritime search and rescue’ at sea and on the cliffs and beaches around our coastline. And it is true that they were once involved in the trade of illicit goods and largely created the walk now called the SW coast path in patrolling the coastline, but this ended early in the 20th century when the two organisations were split.

So what has this to do with the Cornish National Collection I hear you ask? Well up until 1999 the communications equipment carried on board ships had more to do with how big a ship was rather than where it went. Local communications, up to 60 miles, or so were carried out using VHF radio.  MF, manned and managed in the UK by BT coastal stations had a range of up to around 150 miles and beyond that ships were effectively out of range of shore based communications until they neared the other side. This meant that when I joined the coastguards in 1992 Morse code was still in operation, and it wasn’t unknown for ships to just disappear or be lost with no one on shore being aware of what happened.

All this changed in 1999 when the GMDSS system, or Global Maritime Distress and Safety System was implemented by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation). This relies on satellite technology and specifies the communications equipment required on a ship depending how far offshore it operates and includes the requirement for two separate and independent means for alerting a shore station in the event of difficulty or distress. And this equipment meant that instead of almost every ship requiring a dedicated radio officer, to deal with communications once the system became fully operational it become possible, for instance, for a passenger on an ocean liner to sit in their cabin, pick up the phone, and directly dial home with no human intervention (at great expense I might add). This was something that would have seemed a fantasy when I first joined. Under GMDSS each maritime nation designated a specific station to become ‘the single point of contact’ (SPOC) for all matters associated with international maritime emergency’s and search and rescue. Mainly due to its position close to Goonhilly on the Lizard, and it’s satellite receiving station, Falmouth was selected for this role in the UK.

An aerial picture taken from inside a helicopter, showing a mean looking down towards Falmouth Coastguard Station.

As the system developed and equipment was rolled out,  imagine every ship obtaining new satellite communications (through INMARSAT – or The International Maritime Satellite Organisation) with a unique calling number but with no directory to find out each ship’s number. Or with an automated device that alerted when a vessel was being called on VHF radio (DSC or digital selective calling) which meant someone wasn’t needed to sit listening all the time. This using a 9 number unique identifier. With again no directory. Such was the case at the start so the initial satellite database was built up by a watch colleague Mike Collier who created the first database by listing the numbers of all the vessels we had been in contact with. And I began the VHF ‘digital selected calling’ UK database by taking copies of the printed applications sent to UK radio licensing in Bristol and typing them in one by one on to form another new database. (Until a new innovation came along – they could send a weekly CD so the new numbers could be introduced electronically – and remember this was only during he last decade of the 20th century – how times have moved on!)

Over the years that the system developed and became international law, the expertise at Falmouth grew such that it became fair to say that we became the best in the world at what we did. I remember delegations from as far away as South Korea coming to learn what we did and how we did it. And one time, without irony, after receiving a call from the American SPOC in Norfolk Virginia asking for information on some matter and on giving them the result later, the operator sating that ‘Falmouth, you’re the best.’ And another time after we’d covered the rescue of some local transatlantic rowers, in Portscatho there was a news board keeping the local population up to speed by notifying that ‘God’s coastguard does it again.’

The station covered something like 2000 live incidents a year varying from lost children on beaches or surfers in difficulty to the rescue and recovery of merchant vessels and cruise liners, and everything else in between. There were many high profile jobs and it’s again true to say that if any UK vessel anywhere around the world got into difficulties, Falmouth Coastguard was bound to know about it and be working to assist those concerned, either in our own right if it was in our area of UK responsibility or with other international stations if the incident was within their area. I remember being in communication with Australia over the Tony Bullimore rescue (featured in Falmouth Maritime Museum), I was on watch assisting in coordinating the helicopters and emergency services during the Boscastle floods in 2004 and, along with many other colleagues, appeared regularly in the media reporting on some incident or other. As an additional task, we collated regular weather information for the met office, and as a side shoot to this, reported actual weather conditions and jobs carried out on a twice daily broadcast live on Radio Cornwall. Along with others I also carried out regular PR events speaking to many groups in and around Cornwall, explaining what we did, with the fine details of some of the more difficult or hair raising incidents attracting rapt attention. Unfortunately due to staffing cuts, change in policy, and re-siting of the main UK coastguard station this media presence has largely disappeared but I still occasionally get people today saying they miss hearing me on the radio.

However if overall reports today are fewer and less newsworthy you can largely thank this new technology for being efficient and preventing what might once have been a tragic or expensive loss. And also due to the passing on of the learned experience from officers who paved the way at Falmouth as this new technology was being introduced and implemented. This is why I think Falmouth Coastguard Station should be recognised and recorded along with the other major developments that have taken place in Cornwall (And not just because I worked there for nearly 20 years).

Talk to any officer who worked at the coastguard station during those years and I’m sure they’d all have a host of stories to share. The following, whilst not being a typical night shift, does give a flavour of what we were up to. It is taken directly from notes for an annual report I wrote up at the time. And it’s probably worthy of note, to say this never made the media as all worked out well by morning, no one died, there was no pollution and other things were happening out in the big wide world.

19 February 1997 – A dark and stormy night! At 2200UTC the ETV ‘Far Minara’ was tasked to standby the cargo vessel ‘TRAMP’ broken down and drifting 35 miles southwest of Landsend. At 2330 the cargo vessel ‘INISHFREE’ reported broken down 2.5 miles southwest of Landsend and drifting onto the Longships. The Sennen Cove and Penlee lifeboats were immediately tasked and the ETV diverted at best speed. As the tug approached the scene a third vessel the ‘SOCNA’ informed the MRCC that she was 3 miles northwest of Landsend, her cargo of wood having shifted causing a severe list and immediate assistance was required. The St Ives lifeboat was tasked to standby the vessel with the rescue helicopter from Culdrose. Before morning, the ‘Inishfree’ managed to restart her engines and get clear, ‘Socna’ was escorted into St Ives Bay to re-stow her cargo and ‘Tramp’ was eventually towed to Falmouth by the ETV. The new Watch Assistants, [including me] who ate their sandwiches on the way home, thought this was a set up to train them and the new District Controller, Colin Sturman, was overheard to say that he glad to see some real coastguarding having just joined from Yarmouth.

 

– Henry Purbrick, 2021 Citizen Curator at Falmouth Art Gallery

A Day in the Life: Tasha Fullbrook, Finds Liaison Officer for Cornwall

Welcome to our blog series, ‘A Day In The Life…’ which features individual working across CMP and our partner museums and what they get up to on a typical day at work.

Next up is Tasha Fullbrook, who recently joined the Museum of Cornish Life as the Finds Liaison Officer for Cornwall with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Read on to hear about how Tasha spends her time at the Museum of Cornish Life…

A young woman wearing glasses and with long blonde hair stands before an exhibition board which reads 'Portable Antiquities Scheme'

My name is Tasha Fullbrook and I am the Finds Liaison Officer for Cornwall with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at the Museum of Cornish Life in Helston. The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a partnership scheme with the British Museum, which aims to record small archaeological finds from members of the public in England and Wales. The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) works with at least 119 national and local partners and has a network of 40 locally based Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs). So far the scheme has recorded over 1.5 million objects and plays a vital role in building up a picture of our national heritage.

The role of Finds Liaison Officer has provided me the unique opportunity to work with a variety of finds from different periods and every day I am learning something new. A typical day starts with a trawl through my emails and answering queries. I never know what I am going to be sent which makes this role incredibly varied and exciting. The role is dependent on building and maintaining relationships with finders, mainly metal detectorists, so they are encouraged to record their finds. So far I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing finders, all of whom are fascinated by history which is why they have such a love for their hobby.

A young woman sits at a white desk and handles archaeological finds.

On the 9th July, I ran my first Finds Day at the Museum of Cornish Life. This involved booked appointment slots where finders could see me to deposit finds for recording. We like to study finds when we take them in and will typically hold onto them for 12 weeks. In this time, I will weigh, measure and take high quality images of the find. Once I have all this information, I will then input this all on our publicly accessible database and look through my reference books to research the artefacts and find parallels for dating. Feel free to have a look through to see what types of objects we like to record. You can even search by postcode to see what had been found in your local area! To give you an idea of what information we like to record, take a look at this example of a post medieval saddle pommel, found in Cornwall:

Record ID: CORN-C78D78 – POST MEDIEVAL saddle

Three angles of a medieval saddle pommel

For my first Finds Day, I was spoilt with the variety of objects that people brought in. From medieval and roman coins, to prehistoric pottery and stone tools. The artefacts that we see vary enormously but I am lucky to have the network of Finds Liaison Officers and Finds Advisors who are always there to give advice. Most of us have different backgrounds and research interests so I always enjoy the opportunity to learn from someone who is an expert in their field and to exchange ideas about the identification of usual objects. The scheme also provides us with some exciting training, most of which are delivered by experts and curators at the British Museum. I recently attended Iron Age artefact training with Dr Julia Farley (on Zoom of course!). I look forward to a day when restrictions ease so that I can visit the British Museum for training and meet some of my colleagues in person.

A huge part of my role also includes outreach and events. So far I have delivered online talks and lectures about the scheme and also set up an exhibition at the Museum of Cornish Life. This explores the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Cornwall and takes a closer look at some of our collection to explore how things were made in the past. The exhibition will be on until 4th September so please go down and check it out (excuse the shameless plug!).

To learn more about the scheme and follow my work, you can visit the county pages on the database (Cornwall – County Pages), or follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Here I post details about appointments and recent finds from Cornwall so you can keep up to date with local archaeology!

 

Tasha Fullbrook, Finds Liaison Officer for Cornwall with the Portable Antiquities Scheme