We’re pleased to announce that our augmented reality experience ‘Pilgrimage to Looe Island’ has finally launched!
This is an experience which is based on the fascinating history of Looe Island, also called St George's Island, its original Cornish name is ‘Enys Lann-Managh’ meaning ‘island of the monk's enclosure’. This is because in circa 1144 a Benedictine monastery was built on the island, which would later become a popular site of pilgrimage due to the rumour that Jesus Christ himself visited the island as a child with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. Supposedly they were visiting to trade Cornish tin. While this may sound pretty far-fetched, surprisingly there is strong evidence of trade in tin between Cornwall and the middle east in the 5th century. However, the monastery’s power declined after Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.
Which brings us to the present day! Today however all that remains of a once prominent monastery is a few ruins on the island. This is where Coastal Timetripping comes in to give visitors a chance to experience this long-lost past of the island. A 3D replica of Looe Island has been created which visitors will hover iPads over, provided by the museum, to activate different parts of a story told through augmented reality. You will follow the journey of a young pilgrim exploring the island and monastery, while trying to find ingredients to create medicine for a sickly monk. Augmented Reality is used to re-create the monastery, its gardens, and various imagined characters of the past before you. Through this experience you can select story segments, characters you want to talk to, and immerse yourself in the life and journey that these intrepid men took on the island itself at the time. (All iPads are sanitised between users to prevent the spread of Covid-19!)
Additionally, there is also an immersive ‘Times and Tide’ cabinet, that explores an important but hidden part of Looe’s history- smuggling. In the mid 1500’s, after the monastery had fallen and the Island had long since ceased to be a site of pilgrimage, it became the site of the much less reputable practice of smuggling. It was an ideal location for smugglers to avoid the customs men of Falmouth and Plymouth, as well as stash their goods until they could be shipped to the mainland at a safer time. Various famous smugglers would use Looe Island, such as the brother and sister duo Finn and Black Joan, Amram Hooper, and Thomas Fletcher (a former coastguard who used his inside knowledge to evade customs men). Some considered smugglers to be heroes, fighting unfair taxation laws to support their families. Others saw them as common thieves, who often resorted to violence to keep their secrets. This exhibit immerses visitors in the arguments of these deeply opposed sides.
To try these experiences for yourself just pop into Looe museum! (We don’t have a ticketing system or anything like that). These experiences were developed as a part of ‘Coastal Timetripping’, a project that uses modern technology to bring Cornish history to life across five different locations: Bude, Looe, St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly and Porthcurno. You can find out more about Coastal Timetripping, and the experiences at the 4 other destinations, here www.coastaltimetripping.com
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