Wheal Martyn in Cornwall Heritage Awards Finals

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Wheal Martyn has been shortlisted for not one, but two awards for this year’s Cornwall Heritage Awards 2019, organised by the Cornwall Museum Partnership and South West Museums Development Programme. The museum celebrated a great success last year, winning the Heritage Heroes award in recognition of the painstaking work carried out by a team of volunteers over a 12-month period on a historic crane. This year, Wheal Martyn are hoping to celebrate again, as they have been shortlisted for the Innovation Award and the Cornish Object of the Year Award.

The winners will be announced at the Heritage Awards ceremony, hosted by BBC Radio Cornwall, on Thursday 21 March 2019 at Trenderway Farm, near Looe. Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) and South West Museums Development Programme decided to launch the Heritage Awards last year to celebrate the achievements of museums and heritage organisations across Cornwall. With over 70 museums across Cornwall, the awards allow the great work of staff, volunteers and trustees to be recognised and raise the profile of their museums and heritage organisations.

Wheal Martyn was shortlisted for the innovation award in recognition of their recent Clay Stories campaign. Clay Stories aims to unlock historic stories from Wheal Martyn’s collection, centering around various monthly themes. These stories are shared through social media, exhibitions, themed children’s activities, engagement projects, and even new café creations. The Clay Stories themes allow staff and volunteers to highlight not only the importance, but also the variety of the clay industry.

Focusing on different areas of the industry, such as clay landscapes, the importance of water, and local stories, the museum has relished the opportunity to promote the clay industry’s global importance, whilst reinforcing its close connection to individuals in Cornwall. A particular highlight is Arthur’s story, a dedicated Wheal Martyn volunteer. As part of the museum’s Kettle Kids theme in summer 2018, visitors were able to discover the fascinating story of Arthur’s role in the clay industry as a Kettle Boy, from the young age of 14. The tale was brought to life through an interactive trail and quiz, children’s activities, dressing up and Kettle Kids menu in the café, in addition to information snippets and interaction on social media, and coverage on ITV news, BBC Radio Cornwall and St Austell Bay Radio.

Wheal Martyn are also fortunate to be shortlisted for the Cornish Object of the Year Award for their ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ hood ornament and mould. Recognisable around the world for adorning Rolls Royce cars, the Molochite mould was developed in Cornwall in the 1930s.

Molochite is a type of clay product used in investment casting. Rolls Royce also used this clay in large quantities to cast turbine blades for jet engines. These heat-resistant clays, known as refractory materials, are able to withstand the high temperatures of molten metals, such as the nickel super alloys used to make turbine blades. Molochite is also used to line blast furnaces for the steel industry and in the distinctive black basalt ware produced by Wedgwood Potteries. The mould and figurine once took pride of place in a trophy cabinet at John Keay House, former headquarters of English China Clays International (today Cornwall College, St Austell). When the company was sold in 1999, these items made their way to Wheal Martyn. Molochite is still produced today at the Parkandillick site, just southwest of St Dennis, and Rolls Royce is still a customer.

Simon Durant, Wheal Martyn’s Trainee Curator, who nominated the object said, ‘The ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ hood ornament and mould represents the enduring relationship between Cornish clay and the aerospace industry. From the 1950s to the present day, Rolls Royce has become one of the china clay industry’s most prestigious customers.’

Shortlisting judge Mark Trevethan, Cornish Language Lead for Cornwall Council, said, ‘This is a quirky object reflecting the quiet global impact of one of Cornwall’s key but little-known about industries’.

The winner of the Cornish Object of the Year will be decided by public vote, closing on 12th February. If you have been interested by our object, vote via this link!

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