Today sees the launch of the new DigVentures project, Saints & Secrets: the Lost History of Leiston Abbey.
The now-ruined 14th century Leiston Abbey has never been fully excavated, and represents an extremely rare opportunity to join in with an evaluation to investigate and record a medieval monastery. You can read all about the planned programme of archaeological works.
The eagle-eyed will spot that the crowdfunding element of the site is not built on any of the major players, such as Sponsume, as it was last year. It’s built right into the DigVentures website itself, transforming the website into an archaeological crowdfunding platform.
But that was not the only interesting piece of news revealed today. DigVentures are also offering the use of their crowdfunding platform to other archaeological groups. Will this see the soft launch of a new way of funding archaeological investigations? Keep your eyes on DigVentures, for there are great things afoot.
I was responsible for building and designing the site architecture, and I’m looking forward to joining the rest of the DigVentures team to actually get my hands dirty this year!
Have you ever looked down when you’re walking about outside (do you walk about much)? We’re often encouraged to look up when we’re in the middle of towns and cities to admire the architecture of urbanisation above the modern, slightly jarring, signage of our high street shops.
But do you look down?
Local foundries made street ironmongery – that’s stuff like manhole covers, gutter grills, bollards, lamp-posts and railings. Here in Cornwall foundries were better known for building gigantic pumping and winding engines for the mining industry. Names like Harvey and Holman are household names, still.
Some of their iron and steel founding can be seen in our towns even though many have been replaced with less distinctive metalwork.
So next time you are out and about, take a look down, check out where that hydrant cover was made and by whom. I’m going to start collecting photographs of Cornish street ironmongery. If you want to add your own, just leave a comment or link us to your own images.Penzance
Last week I was in Truro which turned out to be a real find for Cornish ironwork. This gallery traces my route from Old County Hall to Truro Cathedral. Avondale Road was most interesting, the site of ironmongery from four different Cornish foundries.Newlyn and Mousehole
Some additions from Newlyn and Mousehole, including an unusual triangular manhole cover. All made by local founders N. Holman, St Just.
Cornwall Councillor Bert Biscoe today published a really thought-provoking article on the recommencement of mining in Cornwall:
Amongst other points he raises the issues of the tensions between preservation, environmental sustainability and economic gain; he also makes the point many of us have been thinking about not really articulating, that will this perceived economic boon really benefit the Cornish economy in terms of jobs, incomes and keeping a fair share of the profits? Considering the international consortium that is spear-heading the prospecting who is asking the right questions and seeking these assurances of local communities and Cornwall as a whole?
Surely our politicians can’t be so naïve to assume that any mining back in Cornwall is somehow a manna from heaven?
But that is not the point of this post. I have no quarrel with these excellent points.
Cllr Biscoe’s article begins with this sentence:
“Good news that Cornish tin has quickly become economic to mine. It is no shock to those who, like many Cornishmen all over the World, closely study the metals markets and geology. It offers an opportunity to rekindle skills and wealth generation and also to place Cornwall once again in the forefront of economic life – innovating, supplying, managing risk and prospecting.”That such a statement could come so naturally, and be made without need for qualification in this day and age seems to me astonishing.
The Hypatia Trust recently commenced a project called History 51: Unveiling Women in Cornwall and Scilly. History 51 aims to rebalance Cornish narratives about the past by flooding public consciousness with information on the lives and achievements of women both in traditionally male industries and walks of life, as well as those dominated by women. The project is based on the Elizabeth Treffry Collection whose books, archives and reference material bring together just some of the work of and about women in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Yesterday I attended an excellent field trip organised by the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall to Wheal Jane, Baldhu, near Truro. I later posted to the Elizabeth Treffry Collection’s Facebook group how heartening it was so see so many women working at Wheal Jane in internationally-important laboratories processing and analysing minerals and ore, and much more besides.
Cllr Biscoe’s starting sentence of course did not intend to be sexist but in the context of the above, what does it say about Cornish identity and heritage more generally? That such a statement could come so naturally, and be made without need for qualification in this day and age seems to me astonishing.
To me this highlights the great gulf between our public narrative, dominated by (small c) conservative politicians and the fear-mongering media, and reality. The irony here is that much of the management of Cornish heritage is under the care of women.
We clearly have a lot of work to do. The parlance of Cornish history, identity and heritage is entirely dominated by stories of men and a masculine take on the past.
You seldom read the words of women who have something to say about Cornwall and Cornishness.
You will note that women make up more than half of our population, always have done and always will–we are the 51%.
One commentator on Facebook said:
“A lecturer on Cornish mining told me (this century) that women didn’t use to work underground in Cornish mines because a Cornishman was too much of a genetleman [sic].”Cornwall used to a hotbed for radicalism and thinking differently. Think about what Methodism and Non-Conformism used to be about?
This conscious and unconscious privileging of some occupations over others has just reinforced the partial narratives of our past. Why do we romanticise and get nostalgic about those at the rock face but not about our midwives? Why do we privilege ‘bread winning’ occupations over ‘bread making’ occupations?
Women are just as much to blame for maintaining the silence of their female ancestors because they loyally adhere to what they have been made to believe are the most ‘important’ aspects of their heritage.
The emphasis on Cousin Jacks in the parlance of the World Heritage Site is regrettable. This stems both from folklore and school education. It then enters our history books, then onto our heritage interpretation and then into the vocabulary of the marketeers and PR officers.
Cornwall used to a hotbed for radicalism and thinking differently. Think about what Methodism and Non-Conformism used to be about? I find it very frustrating that this has been displaced by a general feeling of apathy, lack of aspiration and fear. Its impact on girls and women, boys and men, is plain to see in almost every Cornish town.
If only both boys and girls in Cornwall were given the opportunity to learn more about the diversity in their heritage, things may start to change. But while we privilege the vocabulary and narratives of men we are a long way off.
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