PLHG News, November 2016

News update from the Penwith Local History Group,
November 2016

St Just Wesleyan Methodist Chapel welcomed around two hundred visitors to two open days during October. The chapel is scheduled to close at the end of August 2017 and the open days were part of attempts raise awareness and identify a sustainable future for the building which stands as a monument of the great days of Cornish Methodism and mining. The chapels in Bojewyan, Boscaswell, Trewellard, Carnyorth, Botallack and many more have been converted into houses but the scale of “the miner's cathedral” is such that continued use as a community amenity for our more secular age probably represents the best way forward. Funding is being sought for a feasibility study to explore ideas which have put forward.


Readers may be interested to know of changes to the White Hart in Hayle. The White Hart stands in the centre of Foundry and is a listed building in the World Heritage site. Development in such locations is always a fraught business and what seems appropriate to one is repugnant to another. The current approach is apparently to build extensions to listed buildings in glass so that the original can be clearly seen. This is the approach being taken with the White Hart, does it work?

Still in Hayle, the Heritage Centre has reported a successful summer which saw the centre double in size. The coming winter will see further work cataloguing and digitising artefacts in the centres collection and increasing access to the oral history archive. The Newlyn Archive meanwhile reports 715 visitors to its open days in 2016 and a similarly successful year which saw visitors from both the local community and further afield demonstrate the ongoing appeal and relevance of local history. Meanwhile visitor statistics from Levant Mine show what has been dubbed the “Poldark effect” with over 30,000 visitors per year in the last two years as compared to 22,500 in 2014.

The Morrab Library Photographic Archive has now passed the milestone of its 5000th digitised image with all images available online via The archive is also actively engaged in conserving the glass plates, slides, negatives and prints in its care as well as continuing to grow the collection. The most acquisition was a collection of photos of ships and shipwrecks taken by Ronald Garlick Newport and donated by his daughter Saskia. Another recent acquisition was The Cornishman's gift of its microfiche archive of back issues.

The last issue of the Trevithick Society Journal
, no.42 2015, contains some fascinating reads but for those from Penwith the highlights are, Tin and the Newlyn River by Gerald Williams and The Cry of Tin: Pascoe Grenfell (1636-1665), Tinner by Penny Watts Russell. This issue also has an interesting account of a visit to Levant Mine in 1887, complete with cartoons, by Frank Allum who subsequently went on to become 2nd Deputy Master of the Perth Royal Mint.


The longest grave in the county is the title of a talk given at the autumn conference of the Cornwall Association of Local Historians (CALH) by Christine Edwards. On January 31st 1914 bad weather and an inaccurate chronometer saw the four-masted German barque Hera in the vicinity of Nare Head when it should have been off Land's End. In dense fog the ship ran onto rocks and all but five of the crew were lost. The 15 bodies subsequently recovered were buried head to toe in a single grave some 75 feet long in St Symhorian Church in Veryan, possibly the longest grave in the country. Just one of the fascinating papers presented on a full day and entertaining day which also covered the dragon of St Austell Brewery, the hanging of church bells, prisoners of the Barbary pirates, the Knill monument and the memorial to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. (

The world of Cornish mining history has lost a stalwart and extremely knowledgeable member with the death of Alasdair Neill on 28 October. Always willing to share his research and knowledge, Ali contributed to many published and ongoing projects and was a key member of the team who produced Mining in Cornwall and Devon in 2014. His indexes and statistical compilations will continue to inform mines research for many years to come.

Last month's news contained an item on research into Trinity House Light Vessels by Cedric Appleby. If anyone has any information to impart on this subject or is connected with former crew members, please contact Cedric via the Contact Page.

Tour the Morrab Library with knowledgeable guides from the Penwith Local History Group! Every Friday at 2pm (booking advisable during winter months via the Morrab Library on 01736 364474)

PLHG publications can be purchased online here or perused in the Morrab Library.

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The Morrab Library showing the new extension
The Morrab Library showing the new extension.
Photo Glyn Richards
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