A look back on the 2019 season

Having looked through the Museum’s Visitors’ Book, some interesting figures and comments have been extracted. The figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt as not every visitor signs the book and sometimes only one member of a family signs, but it will hopefully give a reasonably accurate idea, particularly of our overseas visitor numbers.

St Agnes Museum

We had 5318 visitors in all – a wonderful total – with many British visitors from all over the United Kingdom, and a great many Cornish visitors too. One St Agnes visitor wrote: “Lived here for 65 years, my first visit!”

All the visitors wrote of the friendliness and helpfulness of the Stewards and of being made welcome. Many commented on how well laid out the Museum was and the professionalism of the displays. The new Tony Giles exhibition was singled out for praise and, of course, mining and maritime history, and the Turtle were, as usual, appreciated. Children enjoyed the Cuckoo Hunt as mush as ever. Here is a selection of the comments:

  • Magnificent morning in a fascinating museum, with enchanting history and super informative, friendly staff. Thank you so much.
  • Fabulous artwork
  • We enjoyed learning about Tony Giles and went to visit his house and spotted his railway in the garden
  • Fun time had by little ones, searching for cuckoos
  • Been a few times – so good that displays change
  • My favourite artist of all times. Lovely to catch up with this new exhibition.
  • Very interesting, especially after Roger Radcliffe’s superb talk
  • Lots of mining history, which is one of my reasons for visiting
  • The mining display is superb (from an ex miner)
  • Interested in Hurling Ball (a visitor from Northern Ireland)
  • A calm spot in a crazy world
  • Lots of cool rubbings
  • Wi-fi would be great (an Australian visitor)
  • Well done to QAFVS winners
  • Would like to know who the WWI sketch artist is. Great sketches.

Our overseas visitors came from 20 different countries. This year we have listed them all, with the numbers of visitors.

  • Australia 58
  • USA 51
  • Germany 49
  • France 22
  • The Netherlands 18
  • Canada 15
  • New Zealand 9
  • Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden 5
  • Ireland 4
  • Turkey 3
  • Denmark, Russia, Malta, Italy 2
  • Antigua, Botswana, China 1

Stewards’ get-together as storm rages!

On the stormiest morning of the year, and despite the blandishments of the Rugby World Cup, a goodly number of Stewards gathered at the Museum for their annual End of Season Get-together on Saturday 2 November. Fortunately everyone had a warming cup of coffee before there was a power cut and the Museum was reduced to its emergency lighting.

Stewards' get together

Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, praised the Stewards’ dedication for coming in such weather which gave proceedings a Hallowe’en-like quality. He thanked them for their hard work and dedication and quoted from the Visitors’ Book to show how much their welcome and support for visitors were appreciated. It was good, he said, to again break the 5000 barrier for visitors with a total of 5318 against 5183 last year. One visitor noted that he had lived in St Agnes for 65 years and had visited for the first time. The peak day was 28 August with 77 visitors.

Rota Organiser, John Oaksford, said that everyone had done fabulously to keep the Museum open daily, but made a plea for everyone to try to recruit more Stewards.

The Shop Manager, Mike Furness, said that 3103 individual items had been sold. The card reader had dramatically helped increase sales. The total raised so far this season was £9062 (up £1511 on last year) with the Winter Coffee Morning still to add in.

In the light-hearted League Tables, the best sales day of the year was by the Thursday Titans on 15 August with sales of £125.45. Seasonal Champions were, in reverse order, 3rd place with £1169, the Thursday Titans, 2nd place with £1486, the Wednesday Wonders, and 1st place by a margin of £6 with £1492, the Saturday Supershots. The Saturday Supershots were Joan Bunt, Audrey Miller, Margaret Kimmins and Diana Good-Dixon.

Gift of Tony Giles St Agnes Beacon painting

The Museum is delighted to have been given this superb large painting of St Agnes Beacon and mines by renowned local artist, Tony Giles.

St Agnes Beacon by Tony Giles
St Agnes Beacon by Tony Giles

Local collector, Alan Dumper, loaned the painting, for one evening only, at a recent Drinks & Nibbles evening at the Museum and subsequently offered it for sale to the Museum.

Later, our Honorary Assistant Curator, Philip Mitchell, bought it to give to the Museum in memory of his grandparents, George and Betty Mitchell. The view of the Beacon is very similar to that from George and Betty’s home. They were highly respected in Trevellas and their recollections of life there are recorded in the Museum archives.

A first chance to see this superb painting will come unexpectedly at the Penwith Society’s 70th Anniversary Exhibition, entitled “The Penwith, a Society like no other”, at St Ives. The exhibition will run from Saturday 5 October until Saturday 2 November, from 10am to 5pm, and will include works by Patrick Heron and Terry Frost among many others. As the Society did not have a work by Tony Giles, its Chairman approached the Museum to see if it could help. The Museum was delighted to do so and hopes that some visitors to St Ives will be able to see the exhibition, for which the entrance is free.

Welcome visitors to the Musuem

A large appreciative group (we weren’t sure if it was 15 or 17) from St Kea Old Cornwall Society visited the Museum on Tuesday 11 June, braving squally winds and heavy showers to do so.

The members were welcomed by Vice Chairman, Clive Benney, and Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, who gave them an insight into the Museum’s beginnings and its development in its current home.

We are number one!

St Agnes Museum’s latest acquisition is an Art Deco telephone number! The very first telephone number ever to be installed in St Agnes recently became available, so the Museum wasted no time in adding it to the collection by making it a functional everyday tool as well as an artefact of local significance.

The first telephone exchange in St Agnes was opened in 1928 in what is now the Sorting Office Cafe. There were initially just 23 subscribers and ‘St. Agnes 1’ was the telephone number for the Post Office. Initially the first telephone exchange was manually operated, there was no need to know the numbers – “Just put me through to Doctor please”.

Bill Morrison, one-time Postmaster at St Agnes, wrote an article St Agnes Posts for the Museum Journal (No 5) and recorded that a camp bed was provided for the night operator and that the man who used to sweep up early every morning said that he could knock the bed with his brush and not wake the sleeper, but if he released the catch on a line on the switch board, the sleeper would plug in his jack and say “Number please” immediately.

Later, the number was allocated to a public telephone which was placed in a phone box outside the Post Office.

Phonebox outside Golden Bowl
Phonebox outside the Golden Bowl

In 1948, the exchange was moved and enlarged and all telephone numbers became three digit hence “1” became 301. The public phone box with this number was then relocated to the corner of what is now Taste restaurant and became 2301. The photograph here shows the Golden Bowl restaurant and would have been taken prior to April 1980 when it became the Entrecote.

In March 1981, a new spot was found for the phone box, outside what is now the St Agnes Parish Council office, and in the summer of 1991, the number became 552301.

The advent of the mobile phone obviously signalled the end of the telephone box and, like so many others, the phone box containing the first St Agnes telephone number became so little used that it was declared redundant and its phone disconnected and removed. All that now remains is an empty red shell itself earmarked for removal… but the number lives on! St Agnes Museum’s new ‘vintage’ number is: 01872 552301.

Roger Radcliffe.

Editors’ Note

On 30 April Roger appeared on Radio Cornwall’s Breakfast Show to talk to host, James Churchfield, about the Museum’s acquisition of the first telephone number ever issued in St Agnes. It was excellent free publicity for the Museum during a programme themed around telephones.