Wheal Martyn China Clay Heritage Centre is two miles north of St Austell. Follow signs to Carthew near Stenalees, on the B3274.
Wheal Martyn China Clay Heritage Centre is on a 26 acre site, where there was once two 19th century china clay works, Wheal Martyn takes tells you how china clay was produced from its early beginnings around 1800 to the present day. It includes a spectacular Pit View where you can watch a modern working clay pit.
The china clay deposits and how to work them were discovered in the area by William Cooksworthy in 1746. Formed from the decomposition of minerals in Granite, china clay (or Kaolin) is extracted by mixing it with water to give a slurry. The clay slurry was then pumped from the pit to a series of settling tanks. Once the clay had solidified, it would be dried in a kiln, cut into blocks and stored.
By 1858 there were 42 different companies in the St Austell area, producing 65,000 tons of clay every year. China Clay is still Cornwall's largest industry but today only three or four companies operate pits in the area with an output of three million tons, 80% of which is used in paper.
Elias Martyn established the Wheal Martyn Clay Works in the 1820s and became one of the major clay producers in Cornwall. Elias Martyn died in 1872 and the work ceased. In 1880 John Lovering took over the lease and introduced new techniques to get maximum productivity. In 1931 the pit closed when a slump effect clay demand. The site started up again in 1971 and the large quarry continues to be worked today producing about 2,000 tons of china clay a week - about the same amount that Elias Martyn mined in a year back in 1869.
In 1975 the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum was established in two of the old clay works. Most of the buildings and the processing equipment date from when Lovering took over the clay works.
As well as the clay museum, the Historic Trail takes you through the old clay works with the largest working water wheel in Cornwall. Undercover exhibitions lead to the Transport yard, where a locomotive and railway stock are on display together with a 1916 Peerless lorry and other vehicles used in the industry.
The Nature Trail leads through man-made and natural habitats to the spectacular pit-view where you can look down and see how a modern china clay pit works
Wheal Martyn Museum
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