Museum reports ‘good year’ with ‘much support’ at 2023 AGM

St Agnes Harbour
St Agnes Harbour

St Agnes Methodist Hall was packed for the 39th AGM of St Agnes Museum Trust on Thursday 2 February 2023.

Welcomed by the Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, the audience heard Treasurer, David Teagle, report a good year with a £5233 balance.  Shop sales exceeded £10,000 for the first time.  Fund raising had raised £1200.  The CCTV had been upgraded and a hearing loop purchased.  Membership fees would remain unchanged for 2024.  Money needed to be kept in reserve for future roof repairs.

Curator, Clare Murton, reported that she had much support behind the scenes from volunteers who were updating the touchscreen, monitoring the humidity and taking photographs of new acquisitions.  The shop area was being refurbished.  New acquisitions included a rare painting of Trevaunance Cove with the engine house of Wheal Ocean.  The Museum was hoping to purchase a portrait of Elizabeth Opie by her brother John.  The Museum had raised £1590, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund had offered a grant of £4750 and a decision from the Art Fund is awaited.

Membership Secretary, Mary Wilson, reported 220 Members, seven more than last year, with 17 new Members.  Three joined that evening.

The Chairman thanked everyone who kept the Museum open, especially the Stewards and Rota Coordinator, John Oaksford.  The Stewards, he said, had an innate desire to inform all that is special about St Agnes.  

The Chairman, Officers and Committee were all re-elected unanimously.  Curator, Clare Murton, announced that the Chairman had been nominated as “Outstanding Cornish Leader of the Year” by Cornwall Museums Partnership.

Chairman, Roger Radcliffe, then gave his lavishly illustrated talk on “The Story of St Agnes Harbour”, which attracted many visitors.  There had been five attempts to build a harbour at Trevaunance, the first beginning in 1632.  The early attempts were swept away by storms.  For the 1669 attempt, Hugh Tonkin enlisted the help of Mr Winstanley, builder of the first Eddystone Lighthouse.  Building the failed harbours caused Thomas Tonkin to run up huge debts in 1719, subsequently purchased by Samuel Enys of Enys who had no interest in the harbour.  Richard Oates, who had promoted the new Quay at St Agnes since 1783, put forward a Bill to rebuild a Pier in Trevaunance Cove.  Plans were announced in 1792 amid much public rejoicing.  There were 13 investors in the Trevaunance Pier Company.  Stones for the construction were brought in by sea.  By 1797 the first delivery of coal had been made and the South Quay was constructed by 1838.

Because the harbour was so difficult to get into, three flagpoles were erected to beckon ships in.  Every ton of coal was shovelled by hand – 11,000 tons being loaded in 1841.  Copper ore was brought over the cliffs from Perranporth by mule train.  In 1876 a French vessel shipped 50 donkeys to France.  In 1871 Regattas were started and people flocked from miles around.  There were sailing races, walking the greasy pole, the duck hunt, and miners’ drilling competitions.  The last regatta was in 1913.  There were four pilchard seines.

Gradually it became more of a leisure harbour, stripped of its equipment.  The first breach in the walls was in 1915, greatly enlarged in 1916.

There were attempts to rebuild the harbour in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 2000s.