Whoever would have believed in 2020 that the World would be affected by a Pandemic like COVID, and sadly it continues to spread.
We are delighted that the museum is able to open again on May 17th, and we have all the precautions in place including:
When we open we will have our Immersive Smuggling Cabinet in place, which asks our visitors whether smuggling was right or wrong, as well as showing the Timeline for the history of Looe Island and the rising tide levels. Designed by PLB it has been a wonderful way to include our volunteers ,over the Lockdowns, with the research, recording of character readings, and Zoom discussions. We have all benefited from this as it has kept us together as a Team, a very important part of our museum ethos.
On June 9th we will open our new Looe Island Augmented Reality model, designed by Falmouth University. Our Augmented Reality experience will follow the imagined journey of a monk and a pilgrim on Looe island, which was once home to a Benedictine chapel built in 1139. Within the museum, visitors will use tablets to hover over points on a 3D wooden map of the island to activate projected scenes from the story. They can choose characters to talk to as they find out more about the monks who lived on the island, whilst collecting ingredients to create a tincture for a fellow sea-sick pilgrim.
We are really looking forward to welcoming all of our visitors and please see our booking system on the website.
Because of the loss of income over the last year we will now be asking for a donation of £10 towards Family History Research. Our two volunteers work very hard with the many requests that we get every year, including 2020, and if a request is going to take a lot of time, we will charge an hourly rate. Over the Lockdowns we have answered over 50 family history requests and I am very grateful to our volunteers, Penny and David, who give so much of their time to research the information needed.
We are asking our visitors, including those online, to give us donations, if they can, towards our project for 2021, which is to renew our old cabinets with more modern ones, which are easier to open and conservation friendly, as well as enabling our visitors to have a better view of our artefacts, including their information and Looe stories.
We look forward to welcoming all of our visitors, young and old, and sharing our small museum and its many stories.
Volunteer museum manager
We have started of our brilliant journey with the Coastal Communities Wave project. We can't wait to get back in the museum and get our two new displays installed. We will post photos once we start the work.
Until then, here's the links to the team we are working with.
This is the link to the website: https://www.coastaltimetripping.com/
This is the link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXxSUj-UyLM
We heard the sad news last week that the museums former curator Barbara Birchwood Harper has passed away after a long illness. Barbara became curator of The Old Guildhall Museum in Looe in 2001 and with her late husband Neil spent many hours cataloguing the exhibits and promoting the museum, even organizing a Tudor banquet where Queen Elizabeth I herself turned up!
Barbara had a huge love of history generally, but it was genealogy where she excelled. While at the museum she helped many people in Looe, and those with connections to Looe, to further their knowledge of their family history.
This led in 2004 to her contributing information about local smugglers to Mike Dunn’s book on the history of Looe Island, and shortly after we decided it would be a nice idea to put our own book on the history of Looe together. We worked well together with Barbara concentrating on the earlier history, while I researched the 20th century. In 2007 The Book of Looe was published, written by myself and Barbara, and featuring photographs from the Raddy Collection.
Away from the museum, Barbara and Neil were important members of the Looe Old Cornwall Society, kept the Looe TocH branch going by selling secondhand books throughout the summer months and were also very involved with the Catholic community at Sclerder Abbey.
Her knowledge and dry sense of humour will be missed by both the museum and the town which she made home.
Mark Camp Feb 1st 2021
In Thomas Bond’s History of Looe, published in 1823, he talks of the fishermen of Looe drinking a concoction of two parts spirit, (usually gin) and one part black treacle to keep them warm on winter nights. The said drink was called Mahogany, probably due to the dark colour? Bond mentions a witness at the County Assizes telling (and puzzling) the judge by giving an alibi that he had been “eating fair-maids and drinking mahogany” (fair-maids being an old name for cured pilchards).
It is also known that at a dinner party held at Port Eliot in the mid 1700s, given by the artist Sir Joshua Reynolds, that Lord Eliot had a brew made up of, ‘a curious liquor, peculiar to his country, which the Cornish fishermen drink’, Attending the party was the writer and traveller James Boswell. He later described it as a “very good liquor” comparing it to ‘Athol Porridge’ a Scottish drink of whisky and honey. His friend Johnson stating that the Scottish version must be better as it has better ingredients!.
Our Looe museum survey has 48 hours left to complete and due to Lockdown 2 we have not got a captive audience in the museum that we can talk to. Our responses so far have been very helpful to us in learning what our visitors want from the museum, and if we could get some more that would really help us with what we provide in the museum and online in 2021. Thank you from all the Museum team for your support and help and we look forward to seeing lots more responses!!
In the late 1930s, with the threat of war on the horizon, the Negro singer John Payne came to stay in Looe, originally with the Hon Lady Cook at Porthallow, Talland. She had supported him when he first came to England and even helped him buy a house on Regent’s Park Road. The house soon became “the place to be” for African American who had come to Europe to establish professional music careers. This led to Payne recording a number of Negro spirituals for record companies including His Masters Voice (HMV)
Born in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1870s, he had arrived in England just after the First World War in the role of trainer for a spiritual choir who performed at the Philharmonic Hall for six months and later went on to train the choirs for both the London productions of ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’ and ‘Showboat’. It was during working on the latter show that he met Paul Robeson who then asked him to work on the films ‘Sanders of the River’ and ‘Jericho’ in which Payne also played a chaplain.
When Lady Cook died Payne moved into a flat on Hannafore Lane, West Looe, where he had a Steinway grand piano installed (with great difficulty!). He soon became something of a celebrity in the town helping local businessman Bert Middleton with fund raising concerts, and appearing on the Wilfred Pickles radio show. He would later go on to teach singing to local people including Jeanne Dingle, Bessie Currah, and Sybil Hooper.
He died at the Dawn Nursing Home in October 1952 and is buried at West Looe cemetery. His stone bears the inscription, ‘The song is ended but the melody lingers on’.
Additional info found at http://afrovoices.com/john-c-payne-biography/
Welcome to the new website for the Old Guildhall and Gaol Museum in Looe. We are going to be adding things as we go along, but would love to hear back from you on what you think of it so far!
If there is something you think we have missed, please don’t hesitate to tell us