Based within two Victorian china clay pits, Wheal Martyn Clay Works delves into the history of this material and the people that worked and lived at the base of Cornwall’s iconic ‘white pyramids'.
Popularly known as the ‘Cornish Alps’, the impressive white peaks that dominate the landscape represent the key part china clay has played in Cornwall’s history. Although it is generally less well known than the tin and copper mining industry, china clay is actually Cornwall’s largest mining industry. Located within two former clay works dating from the 1820s, one of which is preserved in its working state and the only example of its kind open to the public, Wheal Martyn Clay Works tells the story of this industry and its influence on the lives of Cornish people. Visitors can marvel at the spectacular views of the pit, explore wildlife-filled historic trails and wander around the museum’s interactive Discovery Center.
Through a wide collection of machinery, photographs and other objects, the museum also shows the huge part that china clay plays in our daily lives. As its name suggests, the material, also known as kaolin, was first used in China more than ten thousand years ago to make fine white porcelain and is now a key ingredient in products ranging from ceramics to toothpaste or paracetamol.