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Wheal Martyn Clay Works

wheal martyn clayworks

Interactive Mining Adventures at Wheal Martyn Clay Works

Delve below ground to discover the tough working lives of Cornwall’s clay miners at captivating Wheal Martyn museum near St Austell. Their extensive former clay works immerses curious families into the sights, sounds and stories of the China Clay Country that transformed mid-Cornwall’s landscape forever through interactive experiences across 26 acres of historic trails.

Read our guide on how to enjoy a day out unearthing the tales of the hardworking men, women and children whose manual work over two centuries left an indelible mark on the Cornish countryside and economy.

wheal martyn waterwheel

Getting to Wheal Martyn Clay Works

Wheal Martyn Clay Works occupies a rural wooded valley around 2 miles southeast of St Austell. Use the postcode PL26 8XG for satnav directions.

By Car – Free parking available onsite. Exit the A390 at Carthew then follow signs from Bugle and Penwithick along country lanes to Wheal Martyn.

By Bus – Frequent First bus routes connect St Austell train station to Carthew. From here allow 45 minute uphill walk to Wheal Martyn.

By Bike – You could cycle along one of the Clay Trails which connect various local attractions and provide a safe and clean way of travelling.

Opening Times and Entry Prices

Open daily from roughly mid-January until Halloween.

April – October 10am – 5pm | November – March 10am – 4pm

Last entry 1 hour before closing. Check website for seasonal exceptions.

Admission Prices

Adults £14 | Children (5-15) £6.50 |Children under 5 Free | Family (2 adult, 2 kids) £35

It is worth nothing that when you but a full price ticket, it is valid for 12 months so you can come back as often as you like. People who live in Cornwall will pay reduced prices with a Cornish Residents Pass.

wheal martyn clay works entrance

Wheal Martyn Clay Works History

The story of Wheal Martyn dates back to the early 19th century when the site was a productive tin and copper mine known as Wheal Martyn Mine. However, as demand for these metals declined, the focus shifted to the extraction of china clay, also known as kaolin, which became a cornerstone of the area’s industrial development.

In the mid-19th century, the Wheal Martyn site transitioned into a china clay pit, marking the beginning of its association with the booming ceramics industry. China clay, prized for its purity and versatility, became a crucial component in the production of porcelain and ceramics. The industry experienced significant growth during the Victorian era, driving economic development in Cornwall and shaping the landscape of the Wheal Martyn area.

The clay works witnessed technological advancements over the years, with innovations in extraction and processing techniques. The industry played a pivotal role during both World Wars, providing materials essential for various wartime applications. Wheal Martyn’s strategic importance during these periods further solidified its place in the industrial history of Cornwall.

As the demand for china clay continued to rise globally, Wheal Martyn Clay Works expanded its operations and infrastructure. The site became a hub for the extraction, processing, and transportation of china clay, contributing significantly to the local economy.

In the latter half of the 20th century, changes in the global economy and the decline in traditional industries led to shifts in the china clay industry. Wheal Martyn adapted to these changes, embracing its historical significance and transforming into a museum and heritage centre.

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Memory Cafe at Wheal Martyn

The Memory Cafe is a unique and compassionate initiative that offers a supportive space for individuals dealing with memory-related challenges, such as dementia. Nestled in the historic setting of the clay works, the cafe provides a warm and welcoming environment where participants can engage in reminiscence activities, socialize, and connect with others. The program leverages the therapeutic benefits of nostalgia, using the rich industrial history of Wheal Martyn as a backdrop. By fostering a sense of community and understanding, the Memory Cafe at Wheal Martyn Clay Works aims to enhance the well-being of individuals and their families facing memory-related issues.

Top Things To See and Do

Over two exciting floors, Wheal Martyn condenses Cornwall’s industrial clay mining history into easily digestible interactive experiences suitable for all ages.

From engaging exhibitions to immersive activities, the site provides a captivating journey through time.

One of the highlights at Wheal Martyn is its series of exhibitions that showcase the evolution of the clay industry and its profound impact on Cornwall. The interactive displays bring to life the stories of the people who worked in the clay pits, exploring their daily lives and the technological advancements that shaped the industry. Visitors can explore exhibits detailing the extraction process, the transportation of china clay, and its various applications in ceramics and beyond.

The preserved historic landscape itself is a fascinating attraction. The clay works feature remains of the industrial infrastructure, offering a glimpse into the once-thriving mining and processing operations. Visitors can stroll through the outdoor exhibits, including the iconic drying sheds and the impressive Victorian clay pit, providing a tangible connection to Cornwall’s industrial past.

For those seeking a hands-on experience, Wheal Martyn offers various workshops and activities. Visitors can try their hand at traditional pottery, creating their own ceramic pieces under the guidance of skilled artisans. This interactive aspect allows participants to gain insight into the craftsmanship involved in the production of ceramics, adding a personal touch to the visit.

lansalsom pit

Facilities

The on-site gift shop offers a selection of unique souvenirs and locally crafted items. Visitors can browse through an array of pottery, ceramics, and artistic pieces that celebrate Cornwall’s heritage. From small tokens to intricate artworks, the shop provides an opportunity to take home a tangible piece of Wheal Martyn’s rich history.

Adjacent to the gift shop, the cafe offers a welcoming space for relaxation and refreshment. With a menu inspired by local flavours, visitors can savor freshly brewed coffee, indulge in delicious pastries, or opt for heartier fare. The cafe’s scenic setting provides a perfect backdrop for unwinding after exploring the exhibits and outdoor attractions.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is wheelchair accessible? – Wheal Martyn is committed to accessibility. The site has ramps and accessible paths, and staff are available to assist.

Are dogs allowed? – Only assistance dogs are allowed.

How long does it take to see around Wheal Martyn? – Best to allow for about 3 hours to get to see everything.

china clay pit at wheal martyn

Nearby Family Attractions

Combine muddy adventures discovering Cornwall’s mining roots at Wheal Martyn Clay Works with:

  • Eden Project: A short drive from Wheal Martyn, the Eden Project is a world-famous ecological park housed in futuristic biomes. Explore diverse ecosystems and discover the importance of sustainable living.
  • Lost Gardens of Heligan: Just a scenic drive away, the Lost Gardens of Heligan beckon with beautifully restored Victorian gardens and a fascinating network of paths, showcasing the magic of horticultural artistry.
  • Charlestown Shipwreck Centre: Located near St. Austell, this maritime museum provides a captivating insight into the history of shipwrecks, featuring artifacts recovered from various vessels that met their fate off the Cornish coast.
  • St. Austell Brewery Visitor Centre: Beer enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the St. Austell Brewery Visitor Centre, where you can discover the brewing process, sample local ales, and learn about the brewery’s heritage dating back to 1851.
  • Pentewan Sands Beach: For a relaxing day by the sea, Pentewan Sands Beach is a nearby coastal haven with golden sands and clear waters, perfect for a leisurely stroll or a family picnic.
  • Fowey: A charming coastal town, Fowey boasts narrow winding streets, boutique shops, and panoramic views of the estuary. Explore the literary connections with authors like Daphne du Maurier, who found inspiration in this idyllic setting.
  • Caerhays Castle and Gardens: A short drive from Wheal Martyn, Caerhays Castle offers a picturesque setting surrounded by stunning gardens, renowned for their collection of rare and exotic plants, especially rhododendrons and camellias.
  • Cornish Seal Sanctuary: Located in Gweek, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a rescue and rehabilitation center for seals. Learn about marine conservation efforts, witness seal feedings, and support the rehabilitation of injured seals.
  • Bodmin Moor: Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the rugged beauty of Bodmin Moor, a vast and untamed landscape with historic sites such as Jamaica Inn and the mysterious Hurlers stone circles.
  • Tregrehan Garden: Tregrehan Garden, near St. Austell, is a botanical paradise featuring a diverse collection of plants from around the world, set within the historic estate of Tregrehan House.
  • Wheal Coates: Step back in time at Wheal Coates, a historic tin mine perched on the cliffs of the North Cornwall coast. The site offers stunning views of the Atlantic and provides a glimpse into the region’s mining heritage.
  • National Maritime Museum Cornwall: Located in Falmouth, this museum celebrates Cornwall’s maritime history, featuring exhibitions on boatbuilding, navigation, and the sea’s influence on the region’s culture.
  • Trebah Garden: A sub-tropical paradise, Trebah Garden near Falmouth offers a lush escape with exotic plants, picturesque lakes, and scenic pathways leading to the Helford River.
  • Golitha Falls: Nature lovers can explore Golitha Falls, a series of cascading waterfalls along the River Fowey. The ancient woodlands and riverbanks provide a serene setting for a peaceful walk.

From thundering steam engines to getting muddy hands-on with industrial history, Wheal Martyn Clay Works lets families unearth the gritty yet pivotal role of Cornwall’s unsung clay mining army in shaping our modern world.

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