JUNE 2019

A group of volunteers from mid-Cornwall, who form part of the China Clay History Society, have been honoured with the Queens Award statmentQueen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

The China Clay History Society was established some 19 years ago, as an integral part of Wheal Martyn Clay Works.  The Society supports the museum in its role to preserve and make accessible the heritage of Cornwall’s china clay industry, including furthering the study and research of the industry, which was a driver of the Cornish economy for over 100 years.

presentation of queens award to volunteersThe activity of the Society, which has c240 members, is driven by a team of over 30 volunteers, who contribute c800 days of time each year to administer the Society and carry out activities including: documenting and preserving an extensive archive, producing a triannual newsletter, hosting talks, field trips and film shows, answering research enquiries, and providing content and support for exhibitions and educational work at Wheal Martyn.  A great deal of the volunteer effort is spent caring for an impressive documentary and photographic archive, which predominantly contains records from the former company English China Clays, as well as material collected and donated from many other organisations and individuals.

The China Clay History Society is one of 281 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations and awards has increased year on year since the awards were introduced in 2002, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.  Winners are announced each year on 2 June – the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse.  They include volunteers helping people overcome mental health problems through sport, volunteers using caravans as mobile cafe/information centres in geographically remote locations and a group mentoring children who have a parent in prison.

Representatives of the China Clay History Society will receive the award from Colonel Edward Bolitho, Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, later this summer.

Colin Vallance, Director of Wheal Martyn and Chairman of the China Clay History Society, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the volunteers of the China Clay History Society have been recognised with such a prestigious award.  Their commitment to preserving such an important aspect of Cornwall’s industrial history is outstanding.  Their hard work has achieved so much in terms of keeping the heritage of the industry alive, while establishing a remarkable archive resource which will support Wheal Martyn’s work and ensure people understand, long into the future, how the landscape, economy and lives of people in this part of Cornwall has been shaped.”

Derek Giles, founding Chairman from the Society, said: “The China Clay History Society was founded in the year 2000 by myself, Ivor Bowditch, John Tonkin, Charles Thurlow and Laurie Stuthridge.  We had all worked or were working in the China Clay History Society Volunteerschina clay industry and recognised that considerable interest existed in the industry’s history, and that it should be recorded for posterity. With the co-operation of Imerys, we began to gather a lot of information and documents, establishing today’s extensive archive which will eventually be moved to Wheal Martyn.  The Society also began organising excursions, lectures and a popular newsletter.  Everything we have achieved is due to a team of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers and I am thrilled to hear that this work has been recognised by this special award as we approach our twentieth year.”

For more information about the China Clay History Society, including membership and access to the archive, please contact us on 01726 850362 or email 

More information on the winners and the Award can be found here.

Queens Award logo