The Saltash volunteers who are keeping local history alive

The small yet flourishing town of Saltash is known as many things. It is the last place where you stop before crossing the Tamar, as well as the gateway into Cornwall. It is also home to one of Cornwall’s most interesting and unique cultural experiences and the first museum you will come across as you enter the county.

Saltash Heritage Museum and Local History Centre is a hub of community activity. Run by a dedicated team of volunteers, the museum organises everything from archaeology digs to research projects, conservation activities and family history days.

Saltash Heritage was formed in 1986 after a group of like-minded local residents started to research their ancestry within the area. Excited about the information they found, what decided to create a more permanent home for this information, preserving it for the future generations. Thanks to their drive and determination, coupled with years of hard work and fundraising, the Saltash Museum and Local History Centre found its first home, officially opening its doors in 2000.

The museum today is run thanks to the hard work of over 50 volunteers, many of which initially donated to the museum’s collection and have since become more widely involved in the running of the organisation.

Inside, the walls are littered with memories, including photographs and important documents, each telling a story of the town’s rich history. The museum’s permanent display gives a detailed overview of the town as well as the stories of the well-known ‘characters’ of Saltash. Visitors to the area are also encouraged to get involved, through a specially created trail that runs around the old part of the town. Following the map, visitors can explore local history by finding the special blue plaques and visiting key points of interest.

The museum is also a popular hub for those looking to retrace their own past, as it acts as a research centre for those interested in local history. Many of the volunteers teach classes on family history, sharing their knowledge and answering queries both online and face to face. The building has its own dedicated research room, that remains open all year round, as well as its own Archaeological group, that works both in the Saltash area and other parts of Cornwall.

Not only that, but Saltash Heritage acts as an active contributor to the local community, working with schools, nursing homes and youth groups regularly, sharing their resources and running activities. The organisation has recently been working with the local council to provide photographs in celebration of the regeneration of the old Saltash Railway Station, which will be displayed on the hoardings around the building.

Of course conserving and uncovering the past is an ongoing project. This year, thanks to the Arts Council, Saltash Heritage have been able to transcribe and preserve approximately 200 personal letters that were given to the museum and written by a prestigious Saltash family from the late 1700’s. The project, entitled the ‘Napean Papers’ was fully inclusive, allowing those volunteers who were unable to get to the museum in person, whether due to illness or access requirements, to work from home on digital copies of the artefacts. This new approach has seen new volunteers engage with the organisation as well as embracing those who were unable to continue their voluntary work previously.

What makes the museum so special? True to the day it started, Saltash Heritage could not run without the dedication and commitment of its volunteers. Passionate about their local heritage, every individual makes a difference, no matter how small, to the running of the organisation. A special celebration event takes place every year, where volunteers get together and discuss upcoming plans for the following years. Together they are helping to educate and inform the future generations, just as those before them did those 32 years ago.

Saltash Heritage is funded entirely by membership subscriptions and fundraising. For more information on how to get involved visit their website http://www.saltash-heritage.org.uk or call 01752 848466.