Welcome visitors

On 17 May St Agnes Museum warmly welcomed 23 members of Mylor Local History Group to the Museum. Welcomed by our Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, the group had a chance to look around the exhibits, including the new Surfing exhibition, before finishing their visit with tea and biscuits.

Museum visitors

Welcoming our Museum visitors from Germany

Later the same day, Roger Radcliffe welcomed a group of seven Germans, shown here and accompanied by Barry Gamble, who are applying for World Heritage Site status for their industrial region of the Ruhr, and wanted to know how being a part of the Mining World Heritage Site benefits the Museum. Once again the group had the opportunity to look around the exhibits before going to watch the sunset at Wheal Coates.

Spring Coffee Morning raises valuable funds for Museum

The Museum held its Spring Coffee Morning in the Church Hall on 22 April. It was a beautiful day and crowds filled the hall all morning.

Spring Coffee Morning 2017

A busy scene at the Museum’s Spring Coffee Morning

There were all the usual stalls, with the Museum Shop stall raising the highest individual total – £100. All the stalls did well, and there was some beautiful bric-à-brac, as well as Cornish books on sale.

A valuable total of £430 was raised, while Membership Secretary, Mary Wilson, took £120 in subscriptions.

Rare Sammy Solway camera loaned to Museum

Thanks to our Vice Chairman, Clive Benney, the rare camera used by St Agnes photographer Sammy Solway to make postcards between 1906 and 1912 has been loaned permanently to St Agnes Museum. The camera is a 1903 Cameo No 5 postcard model and has the price £3-15s-6d on the original cardboard box it came in. That would be about £345 today. It is a plate camera using postcard size glass plates and was first introduced in 1901.

Sammy Solway photographed everything from street scenes to regatta, tea treats, the beach, people and portraits. This view of Wheal Friendly Mine dates from about 1905. He took photographs only close to where he lived, of St Agnes, Mithian, Trevellas and Cross Coombe. His postcards are now very sought after.

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.

Donnithorne family coat of arms

Donnithorne family coat of arms

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.


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