Cornish Object of the Year 2019 Vlog 5 – ‘The Gurney Stove’

In the run up to the Cornwall Heritage Awards, I have been visiting each of the museums with shortlisted objects nominated for Cornish Object of the Year Award 2019, to hear from the staff and volunteers about the amazing stories behind the objects.

In this vlog I speak to Janine King, Heritage Development Officer at The Castle, Bude, to hear about their shortlisted object the Gurney Stove.

The Gurney Stove, a predecessor to the modern radiator, was patented by Cornish inventor Sir Goldsworthy Gurney in 1856 and heated many public buildings including the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The stove is an object belonging to Britain’s industrial age, yet aspects of the design can still be seen in radiators today, particularly the fins for radiating heat. Viewing all of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney’s different inventions made me think, once again, how the Cornish inventors of the industrial age, such as Sir Humphry Davy and Richard Trevithick had a great impact on Britain.

To vote for your favourite Cornish object click here.
Voting closes at midnight on Tuesday 12 February 2019.

– Peter Lower, Marketing and Events Intern

Cornish Object of the Year Award 2019 Vlog 2 – ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ Hood Ornament and Mould

In the run up to the Cornwall Heritage Awards, 21 March, I have been visiting each of the shortlisted objects nominated for Cornish Object of the Year Award 2019 to hear from the staff and volunteers about the amazing stories behind the objects.

In this vlog I speak to Si Durrant, Trainee Curator at Wheal Martyn Clay Works, to hear about their object the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ Hood Ornament and Mould.

I have always been fascinated by the industrial heritage of Cornwall and the many different links that Cornwall has to industry all around the world. The story of this Rolls Royce icon and its accompanying Molochite mould is another great example, with Cornish clay (forming the Molochite mould) being influential in the present day aviation industry.

The Cornish Object of the Year Award 2019 is open to public vote, vote for your favourite object here.

Voting closes Midnight 12 Feb.
The winner will be announced at the Cornwall Heritage Awards, 21 March 2019.

The next vlog will feature Penlee House Gallery.

– Peter Lower, Marketing and Events Intern




My Experience of Firm Foundations – Elisa Harris

Presentation by CMP CEO Emmie Kell

The invitation to go on the Firm Foundations course came at the perfect time for me. Krowji had secured the match funding for Phase 2 of our redevelopment project and we were waiting for news of our ERDF bid – we have since been told it was successful!

The course is true to its name – designed to enable you to create a solid foundation before embarking on a capital project, there was a huge amount packed into just two days with a good balance of talks, site visits and tasks making it very engaging. During the first half of the course we were given direct access to an impressive list of experts covering everything from board structure to funding and marketing to risk management.

Highlights for me included a talk by Eden’s CEO Gordon Seabright, in which he spoke very candidly about the successes and challenges he’s faced during his time at Eden, and an informal surgery with Phil Gendall of Wolf Rock focussed on creating a clear message in your marketing materials. The risk assessment of preparing and eating a cream tea was also a lot of fun!

Firm Foundations has been designed for small groups of delegates in order to create an open, honest and safe environment in which to share experiences and ask questions. It’s relevant to all levels so there’s a good mix of people who have worked on capital projects and those who have never done anything like this before.

CMP have generously paired each of us with a mentor, one of their team of experts, so that we are supported in the months between the two halves of the course – an invaluable resource which I intend to make full use of. I’m now very much looking forward to diving into second instalment of the course come February, in particular attending an exclusive evening with Jamie Fobert over supper at the Tate!

– Elisa Harris, Krowji Studio Manager

To find out more about the Firm Foundation programme click here

Pool School Gallery celebrates National Lottery Funding

Photograph from left to right shows Pool Academy students, Leah Matthews, Harry Kessell and Leia Knight

Pool School Gallery, a community interest company, has been awarded £45,400 by the National Lottery to work with the Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection. This important and culturally significant collection was created with the intention that children in Cornwall should have access to great art. Artists represented include Jacob Epstein, Barbara Hepworth, Alfred Wallis and Terry Frost.

During 2018 Pool Academy students worked with artists to transform the school’s old caretakers’ bungalow into a new art gallery. Thanks to National Lottery players, the grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will support an exciting project using the Cornwall Council Schools Art CollectionStudents will research its history and create exhibitions and learning materials based around it. The project examines not what art means, but what art means to us. Students will be responsible for telling its story and they will help to shape and secure its future. The project is supported by Pool Academy, The Royal Cornwall Museum, Cornwall Museums Partnership and Cornwall Council.

Claire Meakin, Pool Academy’s Principal, says: ‘I am really proud that our students are working with this culturally significant collection.’

The Chair of Governors at Pool Academy, Clive Bramley, says: ‘We are very grateful to the National Lottery for awarding us the grant.’

 Ian Wall, Director of the Royal Cornwall Museum, says: This initiative, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is a great example of partnerships coming together to nurture the creative talent of young people’.

 Emmie Kell, CEO of Cornwall Museums Partnership says: ‘We are delighted to support this project as it completely aligns with our values of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity. We look forward to seeing students realise their creative potential through the range of projects the gallery will enable them to be involved in.’

 Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: ‘Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this project will put Pool Academy students at the heart of telling the history of Cornwall’s Schools Art Collection and the cultural heritage it has built for them to explore and enjoy!’

 Cllr Bob Egerton, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Economy at Cornwall Council says: ‘Cornwall Council is thrilled to see this innovative project getting underway. The purpose of the Council’s Schools Art Collection has always been to bring great quality art into the heart of our schools and this project achieves exactly that. It will give students the time to study the artworks more intensively and to be inspired to make their own creative and critical responses. The students will also develop a series of exhibitions and activities that will enable the local community and other schools to appreciate the works. We very much look forward to seeing the new approaches to working with the Collection that the students will develop.’

EB Year 7 says: I think it’s important to work with the Cornwall Council Schools Art Collection because it’s a great experience to go to the gallery, enjoy making things for it, and being able to come back and look at the work you’ve created and what you’ve achieved. I think that they (artists) are inspiring children to achieve what they want to achieve. Let’s say an artist showed some children his or her work, then the children might want to create something like that.

Spotlight on: Si Durrant, Trainee Curator at Wheal Martyn Clay Works

We catch up with Si Durrant at Wheal Martyn, one of the Trainee Curators supported by Cornwall Museums Partnership’s NPO programme, to talk about his showcase ‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’.

“I am now halfway through my placement as Wheal Martyn’s Trainee Curator. My role at Wheal Martyn primarily involves assisting Jo (Curator) and Nikita (Exhibition and Engagement Officer) with unlocking stories from the collection and archives held at Wheal Martyn. As a Trainee Curator, I have been gaining valuable on-the-job experience and attending training sessions at partner museums across Cornwall. I have already seen great variety in the role of a museum Curator. This has included an introduction to museum accreditation, health and safety training, record keeping, working with schools, collections handling, collections hazards, digitising negatives and, more recently, combining these new skills to curate my first ever showcase exhibition.”

“‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’, features a selection of curios from the St. Austell china clay area, with each display telling a unique community story from the last 200 years. Village shops, sports, housing, clothing, forgotten trades, industry, and the impact of two World Wars are represented in the extensive collection.”

“The theme of the showcase is stories from our villages and towns. The majority of our collection focuses on the industrial heritage of the china clay industry; however, buried within these c.10,000 items are certain objects that hold hidden stories about a specific area of the local community. For example, our Rolls Royce figurine and mould represents the relationship between the village of St. Dennis and the Aerospace Industry. In fact, this item has just been nominated for an award – Cornish Object of the Year 2019.”

“My research for the showcase began with a map of the St. Austell china clay district – an area which is bounded by St. Austell Bay in the south and the A390 to the north. This map revealed over 50 villages and hamlets that were in close proximity to clay workings. Once I had a list of villages, I was able to search our onsite database for relevant objects, documents, photographs and film. Over the course of several weeks I was able to shortlist these items and then research the stories behind them. Finally, these stories were condensed into a display in the museum atrium and weekly social media posts.”

“I have really enjoyed the huge variety this internship has offered me and greatly look forward to the next three months.”

Colin Vallance, Director of Wheal Martyn says, “It’s been fantastic to have Si as part of the team, uncovering some of the many stories that are hidden within our museum collection and sharing these with our local communities and visitors. Si’s internship is part funded by the European Social Fund, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council, as part of a Cornwall Museums Partnership NPO programme and we are very grateful for their support.”

‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’ is free to enter and runs until the end of February 2019. The showcase coincides with Wheal Martyn’s Cornwall Residents’ Pass Offer; for 12 months, admission passes are available at a reduced price of just £6.50 for an adult ticket.

Wheal Martyn would like to encourage visitors during January and February to discover some of these fascinating stories linked to local villages and towns. If you are inspired to share stories from your own village, pop into the museum, email or share them on Facebook (@whealmartyncw).

For more information about the Cornish Object of the Year Award 2019 and to vote click here.

Special museum celebrates unique heritage of a town

Standing tall in Helston’s town centre, the historic market buildings are an iconic part of the town’s long standing history. Whilst many admire the outside, the real story of the town’s colourful past lays behind the building’s doors.

Home to Helston Museum, the former Market House and Drill Hall houses a treasure trove of memories, artefacts and archaeological history. The museum has five display halls spread over three floors, all packed with thousands of objects that tell a unique story of local ancestry and Cornish heritage.

Although the museum was originally founded in 1937, the collections moved to its current location of the Market Buildings in 1949. The historic building was originally designed as the town’s Market House and was made up of two separate structures. These buildings originally occupied the butter market and then expanded into the meat market in the early 1980s. The unique sloping granite floor, still in place, is a reminder of the bustling activity that took place in decades past.

Today, the museum is an interactive family attraction, visited by hundreds every year and encourages people of all ages to take part and get involved. The museum houses one of the largest and diverse social history collections in the South West, which ranges from archaeological evidence of the earliest settlers to the Lizard Peninsula, to a fully stocked 1950s kitchen.

With local heritage at the heart of everything they do, there is also a permanent display dedicated to Flora Day, including the famous Flora Day Clock.

In addition to this, the museum has a collection of over 20,000 photographs, documents and objects, which archive and demonstrate how life was on the Lizard Peninsula during the 18th – 20th centuries, providing an insight into everything from mining, fishing and farming through to home life. This year the collection was digitised, allowing more people to view these artefacts online.

The museum is run by a small team of two permanent members of staff and supported by a team of over 80 volunteers. This support allows the organisation to host events and special school workshops, such as immersive learning sessions, allowing children to ‘go back in time’ and relive how life would have been in the Victorian period or during WWII.

The museum hosts one of the best collection of costumes in Cornwall, allowing the general public to view historic garments, including a Victorian gentleman’s smoking jackets, a prisoner of war shirt, as well as more conventional clothing from various periods.

Staying true to its local roots, the museum also has intensive information on various local personalities of interest, which has proved popular with local residents, including boxer Bob Fitzsimmons, inventors William Bickford and Guglielmo Marconi, as well as inventor of the ‘Rocket’ life saving apparatus, Henry Trengrouse.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Museum, which is officially celebrated throughout November. 2018 is set to be another packed year of activities as January sees four new projects taking place, including a project entitled ‘walk with me’ which involves working with Sithney Guides and Kneehigh Theatre. There is also a project working with artists Melanie Young and Caroline Schanche, entitled ‘Cooking with Gas’, which is inspiring the stories of cooking and sharing food that bring people together.

Admission to Helston Museum is free for the general public, and is open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 4pm. For more information on the exhibitions, or upcoming events, get in touch by calling 01326 564027 or visit their website



  • Previously run by Cornwall Council, management of the museum was taken over by the South Kerrier Heritage Trust in August 2013. The Trust is a local registered charity working with the community, and day to day work at the museum is largely undertaken by volunteers. 
  • The museum has a set of of 11 memory boxes that go out to schools, memory cafes and residential homes. These boxes ignite memories of the past for older people and for young people provide a physical link to that past.  
  • The museum celebrates 80 Years of being a museum this year in November 2017. 
  • In June the museum finished an 18 month project funded by HLF to digitize their extensive photographic collection – you can now view them at 
  •  In December the museums will be 3D documenting their amazing costume collection and will be the first museum in the SW to embark on a project like this using SketchFab – thanks to funding from Cornwall Museums Partnership supported by ACE 
  • The ‘Walk With Me’ project working with young people (Sithney Guides) and Kneehigh Theatre is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund 
  • The ‘Cooking with Gas’ project that takes as its starting point ‘food glorious food’; songs, memories, utensils and artefacts inspiring the stories of cooking and sharing food that bring people together, funded through Bright Sparks by Cornwall Museums Partnership & Feast supported by ACE

This article was featured in the West Briton on Thursday, November 30, 2017. 

Clay Country past is preserved at Wheal Martyn

On the edge of St Austell, amongst the scenic landscape of the clay pits, sits the fascinating heritage of one of Cornwall’s major mining industries – Wheal Martyn.

The UK’s only China Clay heritage centre, Wheal Martyn is a fully preserved Victorian china clay works. Established by English China Clays as a charity in 1974, the site became an Accredited Museum in 1990, before joining forces with regional environmental and recreational Charity, South West Lakes Trust in 2010.

The site itself houses the story of Cornwall’s thriving, billion-pound China Clay industry – which still exists today. It is made up of two former Victorian Clay Works, one of which is preserved in its working state, showing where china clay was refined, dried and packed before being transported away by horse and cart and later by lorry, to nearby ports including Charlestown.

The only example of this kind, Wheal Martyn shows an insight into a period of history spanning from the 1820’s through to the 1960’s when the industry was labour intensive and physically hard. This is in stark contrast to the modern day manufacturing, which is largely mechanised and becoming more and more automated.

Wheal Martyn is not only home to a key chapter in Cornwall’s mining past, but also houses hundreds of stories from the communities, culture and traditions of clay mining, which grew around the shadows of Cornwall’s famous ‘white pyramids’.  It’s become a place for people – young and old to discover their own personal family history, as well as providing that crucial opportunity to learn about relatives who worked in the industry. It’s helping to build a picture of the past as well as a sense of pride in where we live.

Wheal Martyn has also continued to encourage its sense of community in the present with the launch of its Memory Café in 2015. The Café provides a safe and friendly environment for people suffering from dementia and memory loss. Individuals and their carers are welcomed to socialise and engage with others through talking, singing, hand-on activities or watching live performances. This provides an important role for many who are often isolated and have few other opportunities for social interaction. The special Wheal Martyn and its unique collection of artefacts, photos and stories really help to evoke memories and positive thoughts.

It’s not just about retracing footsteps and discovering the past; the site offers something for everyone of all ages. Little minds are encouraged to explore nature trails and follow maps, as well as discover vast collections of industry tools and artefacts, vintage commercial vehicles and Cornwall’s largest working water wheel.

Colin Vallance, Managing Director of Wheal Martyn explains:

“It is clear to see the strength of passion people hold for Wheal Martyn across all generations. For many the site provides opportunities, whether it’s learning new skills, making new friends, building confidence or simply enjoying themselves. This is never more apparent than through the hard work and dedication of our wonderful team of volunteers.  They are so generous at sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm to really enhance the experience of our visitors.”

2018 is another milestone year for the museum, as the team are in the process of developing an important project ‘Clay Works!’, which is enabling the preservation of some of the site’s historic buildings, ensuring their accessibility for future generations.

Subject to funding being awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund*, the Clay Works! Project will commence in 2018 with the new facilities open by mid-2019. The project** will help provide opportunities for people of Cornwall and beyond to be inspired by our stories at Wheal Martyn.

A temporary exhibition gallery and learning space will be created as part of the project. Local people will also have the chance to work with the team to research and curate exhibitions as well as take part in a range of practical built heritage conservation skills training.

Wheal Martyn Museum is open to the public daily from 10am – 4pm and is currently offering reduced entry to anyone resident in Cornwall so that they have the opportunity to discover more about their heritage.  The Cornwall Residents Pass is available to purchase during November to February for just £6.00 per person and entitles the holder to 12 months admission. Dogs are welcome on leads and children can have fun on the adventure challenge trail through the woods or play in the play area. For more information on admissions and opening times visit their website –

*Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

**Supported by Cornwall Museums Partnership through the Major Partner Museums programme funded by the Arts Council England.

This article was featured in the West Briton on Thursday, November 23 2017.