A welcome uplift

In the midst of the second lockdown we were delighted to have some cheerful news when our Assistant Curator, Philip Mitchell, first spotted, and then bid for, Alfred Quick Noall’s Canadian Memorial Cross in a London auction.

Alfred Quick Noall’s Canadian Memorial Cross

Alfred was born in St Ives in 1895 but by 1911 he was a tin dresser living with his parents in St Agnes. His father was a Coastguard and the family lived at 1, Coastguard Station, St Agnes. Alfred was attested for the Canadian Army on 12 April 1916 in Jarvis, Ontario. He joined the Overseas Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Private and was killed in action on 12 September 1917, aged 22. He was buried in the Aix-Noulette Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France, and is commemorated on both St Agnes War Memorial and the Parish Church War Memorial and Roll of Honour.

He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal as well as the Canadian Memorial Cross.

Philip successfully bid for the silver medal, sold for hammer price of £140, on 12 November 2020. The cost was borne by some very kind donors to whom we are extremely grateful. Until now the Museum did not have a Canadian Memorial Cross. 

Isaac Rogers’ “Obnoxious Smelting House”, Porthtowan

A Museum Steward has made a fascinating donation to the Museum, having found discarded in undergrowth on a hedge in Porthtowan what seems to be a Georgian stamp for tin ingots from a tin smelting works owned by Isaac Rogers. It is small, but quite heavy, the back is hollow and had been affixed with two now rusty screws/nails.

Isaac Rogers, an investor in Wheal Lushington, was a London adventurer and principal shareholder in a tin smelting works that began operations in the Porthtowan valley early in 1811. During this time, smelters were expected to stockpile a certain amount of their tin at a lower price to satisfy a long standing commitment to the East India Company who, in the latter part of the 18th century, had established a very useful market in China at a time when Cornish tin mining needed all the help it could get. However, when the price of tin was high, there was more money to be made in the home market, so Rogers initially refused to join in with the tin stocking arrangement. The consternation that Rogers’ decision caused evidently led to a fall in the price of tin and distress among the working tinners. J. G. Thomas writes: “Such was the feeling against him that ‘above a thousand working tinners assembled and destroyed some ladders and other materials’ belonging to the works and a resolution was adopted to send no more tin to ‘the obnoxious smelting house’[RCG 15.2.1812].”  (J. G. Thomas, 1974, Journal of the Trevithick Society, No.2, p71). Under considerable pressure, Rogers was eventually persuaded to tow the line but the operation at Porthtowan was in any event short lived and stopped smelting early in 1814. 

We hope to do some more research on our tin stamp and have it on display when we are able to reopen.

The Miner With A Camera

Clive Benney’s new book about miner and photographer Sammy Solway is now available to buy.

Unfortunately due to Covid-19 the Museum is not open to visit and buy a copy but you can order it at St Agnes Museum online shop.

The Miner With A Camera

It has many previously unseen photographs of St Agnes, Mithian, Trevellas, Cross Coomb and Perranporth.

It is a fascinating story about how this young man, whose aim was to enhance his mining wages, bought a camera and captured so much otherwise unrecorded history.

220 pages including 245 photographs.

Not to be missed.

Thomas Engine, West Kitty

On the 21st February the Museum took delivery of Ian Yarwood’s 1/16th scale model of Thomas’ Engine, West Kitty. Along with the model were all of his engineering plans and research, accompanied by a large number of books relating to Cornish mining. Any of the books not needed for the collection may be sold to help raise funds for the Museum. Three generations of the Yarwood family helped make this all possible. The model, plans and books were donated by Ian’s widow.

Ian was from Leicester but had visited St. Agnes on holiday for many years, regularly staying at Presingoll Farm. Ian was fascinated by Cornish Beam Engines. He was able to use his skill as a tool designer and model maker to draw the engine in full engineering detail, assisted by drawings from the Science Museum. Ian then commenced with building the model itself. All of the working parts were made by Ian. The cylinder (pictured) and beam were cast with the help of a local foundry. Our Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, recalls Ian showing parts of the model to him on one of Ian’s many holidays to Cornwall. The model is also mentioned in our Newsletters 15 and 22 in 1990 and 1994 respectively.

Ian Yarwood’s 1/16th scale model of Thomas’ Engine cylinder
Ian Yarwood’s 1/16th scale model of Thomas’ Engine cylinder

The craftsmanship of the model is superb and a testament to Ian’s skill.  Ian was never able to complete his model. However the majority of the parts are present and it is hoped that a suitable individual may be found to complete the model. Maybe one day we will even see it in steam?

The model is based upon the 40 inch engine built in 1863 by Harvey & Co. of Hayle. This engine also worked at West Polbreen Mine at St. Agnes from 1872 to 1885 before being moved to West Kitty (Thomas’ Shaft). It was later moved to the Carpalla clay works near St. Austell before coming to its final resting place at the Science Museum, London. The Science Museum’s plans of the engine are illustrated inside the cover of D.B. Barton’s The Cornish Beam Engine, 1965 (new edition 1969).