Annual General Meeting – 15 February 2017

46 Members of St Agnes Museum Trust were welcomed to their 33rd Annual General Meeting in the Methodist Church Hall by our Chairman, Roger Radcliffe.

The Treasurer’s report, read by the Chairman, revealed a total income of £16691, with total payments of £10406, leaving a surplus of £6285, as against a surplus of £2378 in the previous financial year. The Treasurer, Sue Amor, recommended that subscriptions be held at the same rate for 2018.  Gift Aid, collected by Lesley Kazan Pinfield, had raised £2171 and shop sales £7049.

The Curator’s report, given by Assistant Curator, Philip Mitchell, mentioned that all information required for Accreditation had been sent to the Arts Council, and showed photographs c1880s-1896 from a photograph album recently acquired at auction, which were much appreciated by Members.  The farming scene shown in the January Newsletter was identified as Presingoll Farm, owned by the Hichens family.

Membership Secretary, Mary Wilson, reported a membership of 212, made up of 129 single, 80 family, 69 lifetime and 3 Honorary. There were 55 Members still to renew for 2017.  Six new Members had joined during the year.

Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, paid tribute to all those who helped keep the Museum open, including all the Stewards, sponsors, who generously contributed to new purchases, donors, who gave objects to the collection, the Curatorial Team, shop managers, Mike and Lynn Furness, the Journal and Newsletter Editors, our membership, and the “quiet army behind the scenes”, including Emily Morgan who maintains the website.  All the officers, including Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, Vice Chairman, Clive Benney, Treasurer, Sue Amor, and Secretary, Laura Coggins, were re-elected unopposed, as were the eight members of the Committee, Isobel Burrows, Clare Murton, Liz Thompson, Mike Furness, Colin Harris, Philip Mitchell, Steve Roberts and Peter Thomas.

After a coffee interval, Philip Mitchell gave a fascinating talk on the Donnithornes of St Agnes, who made and lost a huge fortune based on mining and smelting in 60 years, starting with Nicholas Donnithorne, 1668-1737, and continuing with his sons Joseph (1691-1743), James (1706-1757) and Isaac (1708-1782).  It was Isaac’s son, Nicholas (1744-1796), who lost the family fortune.  Philip, who answered many questions from his appreciative audience, was warmly thanked by the Chairman.

Third time lucky for purchase of Wheal Towan decanter

In September 2012 the Museum unfortunately failed to buy at auction a fine late 18th/early 19th century decanter inscribed ‘Wheal Towan’, dropping out at just under £400 – something we have since regretted as we have no Counthouse china or glass in our collection and Wheal Towan was a significant mine in the Parish, although scarcely a trace of it survives.

It began its first phase of work in around 1765 and in its second phase from 1799 – 1814, it not only helped make R A Daniel (Guinea-a-minute Daniel) a fortune enabling him to build Trelissick, but the mine later became the scene of great interest in the development of the Cornish beam engine. An engineer called Samuel Grose in the mid 1820s used the Wheal Towan 80” engine to help pioneer his insulation system to reduce heat losses and increase fuel efficiency. For a short time during the mid to late 1820s the Wheal Towan 80” became the most efficient engine in Cornwall. The decanter seems to originate from the 1799 – 1814 period.

A Gentleman and a Miner by John Opie

A Gentleman and a Miner by John Opie

The famous John Opie painting entitled ‘A Gentleman and a Miner’ captures the essence of the period evoked by the Wheal Towan decanter. The miner is either Joseph or Thomas Morcom of St Agnes and the Gentleman is now believed to be Thomas Daniel (rather than R A Daniel) holding a piece of copper ore with possibly Wheal Towan in the background.

So, when we heard in early December that the Wiltshire firm, Delomosne & Son Ltd. had the decanter for sale on their website, we contacted them, only to find that they had sold it to another dealer just a day earlier. Our Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, was later successful in purchasing the decanter for the Museum, finally bringing it to the Museum on 3 January. It is a first-class addition to our collection.

Decanter

Late 18th/early 19th century decanter inscribed ‘Wheal Towan’

A splendid new purchase

Photograph of a team of horses hauling a boat

A team of horses hauling a boat

On 8 December 2016 Liz and Tom Thompson set off for an Antiques Sale at David Lay’s , Penzance, with a formidable “War Chest” in the hope of buying a very old and extremely rare photo album containing a least 34 wonderful early images of St Agnes (there may be more, as we have not yet identified all the places) amongst similar photos of other Cornish sites, and some from outside the County. The album dates from the pre-postcard era.

Among the photos are many of boats in and around the harbour, a team of horses hauling a boat, Bawden Rocks, Nobel’s Explosive’s traction engine at Trevaunance Cove, the newly-built Mount Hawke Church, and a view of Peterville. Some are faded but many are in good condition. The album itself is large and leatherbound.

To the Committee’s great relief, the interest was less than anticipated and we were able to buy this important addition to the Museum collection for the hammer price of £250, just a little above the Auctioneer’s lower estimate.

Winter Coffee Morning raises £430!

The Museum’s Winter Coffee Morning was a great success, raising £430, and being a very busy, happy occasion. There were the usual stalls to browse, as well as a particularly well supported raffle with a 1st prize of a Dinner for Two at the Driftwood Spars Restaurant.

Membership Secretary, Mary Wilson, took £405 in subscriptions, so a total of £835 was raised for Museum funds.

Visitors to the museum, 2016

The Museum welcomed 4988 visitors, tantalisingly short of 5000, from 19 different countries during this season. Visitors came from all over Cornwall and the United Kingdom, as well as from around the World. There were 53 visitors from Australia, some researching their Cornish heritage, 36 from Germany and 34 from America. Among other countries with a significant number of visitors were Canada (17), Holland (18) and Spain (25). Small numbers came from Russia, Sweden, Argentina and Denmark. The highest number of visitors recorded on a single day was 87 on 17 August.

Many appreciative comments, particularly of the welcome given by volunteer stewards, were recorded in the Visitors’ Book:

  • Very impressed
  • Very nice, and lovely prepared displays
  • Shows history of this beautiful town, in Cornwall