April: Museum members’ preview

On a bright sunny Saturday morning St Agnes Museum threw open its doors to its members after a hectic winter of renovation largely funded by a £50,000 share of a £2 million grant to Cornish Mining World Heritage sites from the Rural Development Programme for England’s Discover the Extraordinary Project.

Ann Oxley, Roger Radcliffe, Clare Murton

Ann Oxley, Roger Radcliffe and Clare Murton

Visitors were enthralled by the light and spacious ground floor with its floor to ceiling glass cabinets, the new wheelchair-friendly route, new carpeting throughout the Museum, generously donated by Curator, Ann Oxley, in memory of Murray Thomas, and the new computer in the study corner which takes visitors on a virtual tour of the first floor, enables them to search the Museum’s extensive Family History library, and includes many objects from the reserve collection not currently on view.

Outstanding among the many new displays is the iconic Leatherback turtle now diving to the depths; a rebuilt Natural History display; one commemorating the Chacewater-Newquay branchline; an underground mining scene from Blue Hills Mine featuring everything from a kibble to a pasty; a maritime display featuring the last rocket to be fired in a Breeches Buoy rescue from St Agnes; and a display commemorating one of St Agnes’ greatest sons, John Passmore Edwards, the centenary of whose death is marked this year.

There are many events around the county marking the centenary, with proceeds of some going towards the proposed refurbishment of the Blackwater Institute which is only metres from where Edwards was born.

On view for the first time is a magnificent 18th century silver ewer given to the Parish Church by John Worth of Penryn and on loan from the Church Council.

Younger visitors have not been forgotten with the story of “Sam and the Leatherback Turtle” kindly recorded for the Museum by actor Bruce Alexander, perhaps best known as Superintendent Mullett in “A Touch of Frost”, and written by Carol Morgan and also a new “brass” rubbing activity.

Upstairs has also been transformed with a selection of the Museum’s paintings on view, some for the first time, along with village shop signs from businesses no longer in existence.

Welcoming members, Chairman Roger Radcliffe, paid tribute to the ongoing support of Mandy Kimmins and The Bolster who provided the delicious refreshments, and to everyone who had worked so hard on the Museum refurbishment and especially the two Honorary Curators, Clare Murton and Ann Oxley, who were presented with tokens of everyone’s gratitude, as were Mandy and her helpers, Jain and Alison.

Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

Committee members receiving the certificate

Committee members receiving the certificate

On 8 April four representatives from St Agnes Museum, Roger Radcliffe, Stephen Roberts, Beryl Thomas and Liz Thompson, accompanied by Mandy Kimmins, who kindly nominated us, and our County Councillor, Les Donnithorne, attended a reception at County Hall, Truro, jointly hosted by the Lord Lieutenant, Lady Mary Holborow, and the Chairman of Cornwall Council, Mrs Pat Harvey, to be presented with a certificate to mark the Museum’s achievement in being nominated for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

The Museum was among thirteen groups nominated, including the Cornwall Samaritans and Shelterbox Warehouse Volunteers. Before each certificate was presented by the Lord Lieutenant and Chairman, a citation was read by Cornwall Council’s Chief Executive, Kevin Lavery. The Museum’s included: “This is an outstanding local charity, providing not only a local community focus for the village, but also reaching a wider audience, giving an excellent volunteering experience for a large number of people, as well as aiding a diverse group of beneficiaries.”

The Museum will have to wait until the Queen’s Official Birthday to learn if it has been awarded the Queen’s Award, but it is delighted to have been nominated.