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Cornwall Museums Partnership

The Bethlehem Pasty - Museum of Cornish Life, Helston

This pasty was carved from stone by William (Bill) Jewell in Bethlehem in 1943 when he was feeling homesick for Cornwall. It was then kept safe as a memory of international travels.

Bill was a butcher and enlisted in 1941 to the Royal Scots Greys, part of the ‘Desert Rats’. In 1942 the Scots Greys moved from Syria to Egypt, and remained there until the end of the North Africa Campaign. At some point before the Scots Greys were redeployed to Italy, Bill must have visited Bethlehem.

The Scots Greys returned home in 1944 before taking part in the Normandy Landing. Bill ended his service in Germany on 21 April 1946 with a note of ‘exemplary military conduct’, having also been ‘a butcher with responsibility for the ration store’. On his return, he worked again as butch in Helston where he lived until he died in his 90s.

Bill kept his handmade memento all his life, and his family then chose to give the pasty along with photos, medals, and archive documents, to the museum. This little pasty was a memory of home, adventures, and full tummies at a time of shortage.

The Museum of Cornish Life, Helston, says, ‘We love the little pasty which is plain and understated. It is an expression of what was important to a Cornish soldier very far from home in a very unreal situation. He went from being a butcher to tank battles in the desert. This pasty is no ‘tacky gift’ – it is both a remembrance of home and of people now gone. It is funny to think of Bill sitting in the heat carving a pasty from a bit of stone he picked up in Bethlehem, which was a small village at the time. Maybe it made him laugh that the translation of Bethlehem is ‘House of Meat’. What we do know is that this pocket-sized pasty journeyed safely with Bill from Bethlehem to Helston and was treasure all his life.’

Shortlisting judge Mark Trevethan said this object was ‘A pasty with a story that reflects Cornish exploration and participation in the wider world but continued strong attachment to custom and roots.’

Find out more about the other shortlisted objects here or click on a specific object below.

The Gurney Stove – Castle Heritage Centre, Bude

The Bethlehem Pasty – Museum of Cornish Life, Helston

St Mary’s Church Clock Hand – Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol, Looe

Cornish Miner’s Sweetheart Jewellery – Murdoch House, Redruth

Penzance Market Cross – Penlee House Gallery and Museum

‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ Hood Ornament and Mould – Wheal Martyn

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