THE Camelford History and Archive Trust, CHAT, were looking forward to opening up again in 2017, but were struck with the blow of the passing of their chairman and founder, Cllr Philip Lessels, earlier this year.
Philip had the vision to see that someone should step in and preserve the many artefacts that Sally Holden had collected over many years at the old North Cornwall Museum. He pioneered the setting up of CHAT, a group who want to preserve so many historic items for the town.
Philip was at the help when they had exhibitions — notably, the railway exhibition last October, commemorating 50 years since the closure of Camelford Station, and the North Cornwall line.
Philip had a way of ‘getting things done’, and also pioneered the set up of ‘Now and Then’. He will be greatly missed.
However, CHAT is determined to continue, even though they are a small band. One member said: “We are now looking forward excitedly to the re-launch. The displays will be changing on a regular basis, so as not to become stale.”
At the moment, there is a display of some of the ladies’ clothing from a bygone time and babies’ lace bonnets that must be seen to appreciate the quality, all of which was set up by Catherine Little and Diane Taylor.
Catherine is keen to contact anyone who could look at some of the collections of more fragile garments to see if they can be ‘saved’, some of them made of silk.
The ladies have also set up displays showing the local groups, the St John’s Ambulance, the Camelford Women’s Institute, and some items that may be remembered from schooldays. Also on display are bygone kitchen implements and domestic labour saving devices.
Keith Gwatkin, chairman, and Ken Harris have not been idle — the back display room has been redecorated and a lot of ‘fetching and carrying’ has been done. Keith is also in the process of ‘deciphering’ some local documents that were hand written in 1780 and 1813 at the time of king George III.
They are in very artistic writing, but are quite difficult to read with a modern eye. The documents, along with a modern translation, will be featured in a later exhibition.
The pride of place now, they all agree, is the John Hocken long case clock, the acquisition of which was Philip Lessels’ project. John Hocken was a Camelford clockmaker, who lived at 62 Fore Street from about 1860 to 1900.
Philip saw the opportunity to purchase this grandfather clock and bring it back to its ‘spiritual home’, the museum in Camelford. Due to Philip’s drive and the generosity of donations by local businesses and the people of Camelford, the £300 was raised and the clock is now ‘back home’.
Unfortunately Philip passed away before the clock was returned to the town, but it will always be Philip’s project. Philip’s family attended and his wife, Val Hopper, re-launched ‘Now and Then’, and gave the clock an official unveiling and dedicated it to the memory of Philip.
The clock is now accurate within a minute a day — not bad for a timepiece that is well over 120 years old.
While he was setting the clock up, Keith was using a modern quartz clock to adjust the timekeeping, only to find one morning that the modern clock had stopped — it needed a new battery. The John Hocken clock was still ticking quite contentedly!
A spokesperson for the group said: “We have some exciting plans in conjunction with other groups to display things that we hope will appeal to our visitors.” Word was let slip that the model railway display of Camelford Station may make a return.
The tourist information side, they thought, was neglected after the old North Cornwall Museum closed. Here, people can find booklets of so many places of interest to visit in Cornwall.
The most popular booklets are the ones of local walks around Camelford, which also promotes that Camelford is a ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town, with free car parks and toilets.
Now and Then would like to say a big thank you to any local businesses and individuals in Camelford, especially Jo Old, who have given them support and continue to do so, making this possible.
The group have said: “Thank you for having faith in us!”
Now and Then are financed only by donations from visitors and funds they raise themselves. They are all unpaid volunteers with an enjoyment of what they do, and a belief that what they do is worthwhile for the town of Camelford.
For those who would like CHAT to highlight an upcoming event or display for a group’s activities, then get in touch by calling Keith Gwatkin on 01840 212892 or Diane Taylor on 01840 213433.
To join their group of volunteers, helping in the day-to-day running or as an occasional help, contact Keith or Diane, or pop in for a chat.
There are so many skills that people in Camelford have, regardless of age, that can be applied but are not made use of. CHAT are ‘not a bunch of boffins’, just very interested in what they do. They believe that where they live and the people that live and had lived here are important and worth shouting about.
Showing the past, celebrating the present and highlighting the events to come in the future in and around Camelford and meeting visitors is what CHAT is all about.
Now and Then is open from 10am until 2pm from Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If more volunteers come forward, then these opening times will be extended. Look out for the posters about town — if the lights are on, someone is home.