Wheal Martyn Clay Works presents Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns

A fascinating showcase is currently open at Wheal Martyn Clay Works until the end of February 2019.

‘Clay Stories: unearthing stories from our villages and towns’, features a selection of curios from the St. Austell china clay area, with each display telling a unique community story from the last 200 years. Village shops, sports, housing, clothing, forgotten trades, industry, and the impact of two World Wars are represented in the extensive collection. Pop into the museum and journey into St Austell’s rich local heritage.

Free to enter, and running until the end of February 2019, the showcase coincides with our Cornwall Residents’ Pass Offer; for 12 months, admission passes are available at a reduced price of just £6.50 for an adult ticket. Click here for more information.

The showcase has been collated by Wheal Martyn’s Trainee Curator, Si Durrant: “My role at Wheal Martyn primarily involves assisting Jo (Curator) and Nikita (Exhibition and Engagement Officer) with unlocking stories from the collection and archives held at Wheal Martyn. As a Trainee Curator, I have been gaining valuable on-the-job experience and attending training sessions at partner museums across Cornwall.”


“I am now halfway through my placement and have already seen great variety in the role of a museum Curator. This has included an introduction to museum accreditation, health and safety training, record keeping, working with schools, collections handling, collections hazards, digitising negatives and, more recently, combining these new skills to curate my first ever showcase exhibition”.

“The theme of the showcase is stories from our villages and towns. The majority of our collection focuses on the industrial heritage of the china clay industry; however, buried within these c.10,000 items are certain objects that hold hidden stories about a specific area of the local community. For example, our Rolls Royce figurine and mould represents the relationship between the village of St. Dennis and the Aerospace Industry. In fact, this item has just been nominated for an award – Cornish Object of the Year 2019” (click here for more information or to vote for your Cornish Object of the Year).

“Research for the showcase began with a map of the St. Austell china clay district – an area which is bounded by St. Austell Bay in the south and the A390 to the north. This map revealed over 50 villages and hamlets that were in close proximity to clay workings. Once I had a list of villages, I was able to search our onsite database for relevant objects, documents, photographs and film. Over the course of several weeks I was able to shortlist these items and then research the stories behind them. Finally, these stories were condensed into a display in the museum atrium and weekly social media posts”.


“I have really enjoyed the huge variety this internship has offered me and greatly look forward to the next three months”.

 We would like to encourage visitors during January and February to discover some of these fascinating stories linked to our local villages and towns. If you are inspired to share stories from your own village, pop into the museum, email info@wheal-martyn.com or share them on Facebook (@whealmartyncw).

Colin Vallance, Director of Wheal Martyn said, “It’s been fantastic to have Si as part of the team, uncovering some of the many stories that are hidden within our museum collection and sharing these with our local communities and visitors. Si’s internship is part funded by the European Social Fund, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council, as part of a Cornwall Museums Partnership programme and we are very grateful for their support.”

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