Monday, 1 August 2011

Retew – once a village, now only a name

On Saturday, I had the privilege of opening an impressive new exhibition at the Wheal Martyn China Clay Country Park near St Austell.

The exhibition is titled “Retew – once a village, now only a name.” It explores the history of the former settlement of Retew near Fraddon, which was lost to the china clay industry in the 1960s when Remfry Pit was expanded.

The displays are a result of the collaborative work undertaken by the painter Chris Miller, the photographer Kirsten Cooke and the China Clay History Society. They combine historic images and documents, as well as more recent photographs of the surrounding area.

This all came about when Chris Miller returned to Cornwall after living in France for a number of years. She decided to revisit areas with family connections. This included Retew.

In recalling her thoughts, Chris has said: “Nothing had prepared me for the poignant moment of following a quiet tree-lined lane to Retew to find around the corner, a turf bank obscuring the gaping hole where Retew had sunk without trace.”

She became fascinated by the background history of this lost village and, with the help of her friend Kirsten and the China Clay History Society, started to piece together the story of Retew.

One fascinating part of the exhibition is the recorded memories of people who lived in the village up to the 1960s.

I do not remember Retew as such, but growing up in St Enoder Parish in the 1970s I do recall much of the area around where Retew once stood.

I remember going to the area on a regular basis with my parents to collect firewood, transporting it home in the back of our Ford Anglia estate.

I also remember exploring around derelict farm buildings, playing “Cowboys and Indians” in an area of pine trees, and loitering around the area of a badger sett, in the hope that we would get to see one of the animals.

Even these areas have now been lost to clay extraction, but my later childhood reminiscences are nothing compared to the memories of those people who lost their homes and community.

The story of Retew is one that needs to be told, and this exhibition does that admirably.

The exhibition runs from 31 July to 31 August. It is open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm and it is free to enter. I would encourage everyone to visit Wheal Martyn and learn more about Retew.

No comments: