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Previous Window Displays

Our Window Display for March 2018


Our latest window display tells the story of  Queen Victoria's visit to Restormel Royal Mine in September 1846. We also preview the visit of The Man Engine to Cornwall over Easter 2018.

In 1846 Queen Victoria, then aged only 27 years, and Prince Albert were touring in the west country. At 8-00 am on 8th September the Royal squadron sailed from Falmouth to Fowey.The Royal Party then travelled by Royal Carriage from Fowey to Lostwithiel town, Restormel Castle and Restormel Iron Mine.

When they arrived at the mine, Her Majesty, one of her ladies, Prince Albert, and three gentlemen went underground in a train wagon lined with straw and covered in green baize.

The Queen and Prince Albert were conducted through the underground workings for a distance of 270 fathoms (540 yards).   The party got out of the wagon and inspected the lode and the Prince broke off a sample. It was the first time a Queen and Sovereign had ever explored the recesses of a mine.

Queen Victoria wrote in her diary:-

"We drove from Fowey through some of the narrowest streets I ever saw in England. We visited here Restormel Mine. It is an iron mine.  Albert and I got into one of the trucks and were dragged in by the miners. The miners wear a curious woollen dress, with a cap like this and the dress thus and they generally have a candle  stuck in front of the cap.

There is something unearthly about this lit up cavern place. The miners seemed so pleased at seeing us and are intelligent good people.     It was quite dazzling when we came into the daylight again.”


In the following month, Mr Taylor, the Chief Minerals Officer of the Duchy, who had accompanied the party, received Her Majesty's command to distribute fifty sovereigns among the miners.
 

The mine was renamed Royal Restormel Mine, Market Street  was re-named Queen Street and Albert Terrace and Duke Street  were names given to other parts of the town.

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Men often began underground work at the age of 12. Younger boys and women, or "Bal maidens" as they were known,
worked mainly above ground breaking rock. In 1839 7,000 children were employed.  Mines were small, cramped, and hot, with temperatures underground sometimes reaching 60 C. with air that could barely sustain a candle.  Miners often snuffed their candle and worked in complete darkness in order to conserve air.

Death and injury were a fact of everyday life. Rockfalls and explosions not uncommon. Many miners developed Bronchitis, TB and rheumatism from their time underground and few miners were fit to work beyond the age of 40.  There were 340 mines employing 50,000 people in Cornwall in 1862.

There were no cages to haul miners up and down as in collieries as colliery shafts were generally vertical, - in metallic mines shafts were commonly inclined at various and frequently changing angles. Access was by a ladder, and pay didn’t start until they reached the rock face, so the introduction of the man engine in the mid 19th century was welcomed by the miners.


Operation of a Man Engine


The 2018 version of the Man Engine will be visiting Cornwall from 31st March to 2nd April 2018.
Quoting  from Will Coleman, The creator of the Man Engine:-

“Our man engine takes his name from an amazing invention. This was a device that lifted miners up and down the shaft saving them the exhausting job, sometimes 2 hours worth, of climbing long wooden ladders. 

It is just over 100 years ago that at Levant the man engine collapsed and killed 31 men in a most horrific manner.  That is the sort of sacrifice that we are commemorating and we hope that our man engine shows the right level of respect to all of those who over 4000 years worth of Cornish mining history endeavoured and toiled to bring us treasure from under the earth.”


More pictures from our display are available via this link.

Lostwithiel Museum would like to thank  Iteracy Web Design  and Harmony Holiday Cottage for sponsoring our March Window.


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Our Window Display for  January / February 2018


Our January / February  2018 window display told the story of St Valentine’s Day.

The ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia was a fertility celebration that was observed annually between 13th and 15th February.  In 269 AD single Roman men were drafted into the Roman army so many men got married in order to avoid this. As a result Emperor Claudius II of Rome forbade Roman men to get engaged or marry. Claudius also ordered all Romans to worship the state’s religious icons, and outlawed Christianity.

A Christian priest, Valentinus continued to practise his beliefs and performed secret marriages. He was arrested and even attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity which angered Claudius II even further and he sentenced Valantinus to death.

While in prison, awaiting his execution, it is said Valentinus was approached by his jailor, Asterius, who had a blind daughter, Julia. Catholic legend states that Valentinus performed a miracle and restored her sight, and they became very close.

Just before the execution, Valentinus asked for a pen and paper from his jailor, and signed a farewell message to Julia "From Your Valentine" and included a yellow crocus, which is often referred to as St Valentine’s flower. Valentinus is believed to have been executed on February 14, 270 AD which has become known as St. Valentine's Day.

The rise of Christianity in Europe saw many pagan holidays being renamed including Lupercalia. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius turned Lupercalia into a Christian feast day and set its observance on February 14th in honour of Roman martyr Saint Valentine.

In 1382 Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his poem Parlement of Foules. This poem contains what is widely reported to be the first recorded instance of St Valentine’s Day being linked to romantic love.

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The British Library holds the oldest surviving Valentine’s letter in the English language. This dates from 1477 and was sent by Margery Brews to her fiancé John Paston. In this letter Margery describes John as her “right well-beloved Valentine”.

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By the 17th century Valentine’s Day gets a mention in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, when Ophelia is given the lines:

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

In the 18th century the most familiar Valentine’s poem made its first appearance. These lines, found in a collection of nursery rhymes printed in 1784, read:

“The rose is red,
the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.”

 
The first Valentine’s cards were sent in the 18th century. Initially these were handmade efforts, as pre-made cards were not
yet available. Lovers would decorate paper with romantic symbols including flowers and love knots, often including puzzles and lines of poetry. Those who were less inspired could buy volumes that offered guidance on selecting the appropriate words and images to woo their lover. These cards were then slipped secretly under a door, or tied to a door-knocker.

It was in Georgian Britain that pre-printed cards first began to appear, though these were not yet as popular as they were eventually to become. The oldest surviving example dates from 1797.

More pictures from our display are available via this link.

Lostwithiel Museum would like to thank Asquiths Restaurant for sponsoring our Valentine Window.