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Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum and Discovery Centre

Updated on October 7, 2016
Wheal Martyn Entrance.    Photo by: madnzany
Wheal Martyn Entrance. Photo by: madnzany

Wheal Martyn China Clay Country Park and Discovery Centre is the UK's only China Clay museum and visitor attraction. It's a fabulous day out for the whole family, with a museum, nature trails in the 26 acres of woodland in the Rubble Valley ... and more.

China Clay has played an important part of Cornish history since it was discovered and then commercialised and sold worldwide over 250 years ago.  China Clay is used in the making of porcelain as well as paper coatings, in fact the paper industry is its largest use nowadays. 

China Clay has been a major employer in the Cornish region for over 200 years - and still is today, mostly as a result of all the one-man and small, independent china clay operators getting togethr to create one large company; working together they dominated china clay across the world, bringing great prosperity to Cornwall which had previously been known for its copper and tin exports.

As you drive around Cornwall in the China Clay areas above St Austell, you'll see towering mountains of old mine materials dotting the landscape.  Peek inside this world of yesteryear.

In the main entrance to the China Clay Museum is an exhibition by local artists and local craftsmen and women. The exhibition gives space to professional artists/designers and also to high quality amateurs. The exhibitors change across the year, so when you re-visit you'll discover something new here.

There's enough here to spend the entire day exploring, so why not pack up a picnic lunch and head over to the Country Park this weekend? You'll learn everything there is to know about the history and present of the china clay industry, How the people lived, where they worked, how the business ran. Enjoy a wonderful step back in time in the visitor centre, with the interactive displays ... and more.

Visitor Centre: Indoor Interactive Displays

In the Visitor Centre, there are dozens of interactive displays taking you back in time and telling the story of the men, women and children who lived, worked and played within the shadow of the China Clay tips.

You can also:

  • Take a virtual drive to the bottom of a china clay pit
  • Take a test of strength by grappling against a village tug 'o war team
  • Find out how clay is mined today.

Wheal Martyn Entrance.   Photo by: kevinzim
Wheal Martyn Entrance. Photo by: kevinzim
Water Wheel.   Photo by: madnzany
Water Wheel. Photo by: madnzany
Lansalson Pit, Wheal Martyn.  Photo by: madnzany
Lansalson Pit, Wheal Martyn. Photo by: madnzany

Children's Adventure Trail

The children's adventure trail is an opportunity for children to run free in the outside, on a voyage of discovery. The Country Park has 26 acres of woodland, set in the Rubble Valley, meaning it's green and lush and invigorating. The Trail is a commando-style assault course, for children of 10 years and over only.

Adults should accompany their children on the Trail, to supervise them and make sure they're not over-stretching their abilities (most 10 year olds can't fly yet, I believe!).... but they might want to try.

Children's Historical Trail

This Trail takes you round the outside space of the Country Park, where you'll discover the 35' high water wheel, which is the largest working water wheel in Cornwall. The Trail takes you past the old China Clay works, waterwheels and other old artefacts, helping you to really understand how the china clay industry worked.

You'll also see the original workers' tea hut, or Crib Hut as they're called. This would have had a small stove in, enabling the workers to heat up a pasty, or make a hot drink. A Kettle Boy would have been employed to keep the water hot and make sure the pasties didn't burn, kettle boys would typically be aged about 13.

You'll see where the clay was dried by furnaces.

After that, you can walk up to the viewing platform at the top of the pit and be able to look down hundreds of feet into the working area, where you'll be able to see modern day china clay manufacturing going on.

Children's Nature Trail

Explore and discover different trees, plants, insects and birds. Simply stroll through the Country Park and see what you can spot.

There's another viewing platform, enabling you to look far and wide across the Park.

In total, the nature trail is 1.25 miles in length.  A lot of it is across hilly or rough terrain, so is unsuitable for wheelchair users.

Picnic Area & Cafe

You can bring your own picnic along, to enjoy in the Park, or make use of the cafe, serving food made from top quality local ingredients.

During the summer, you can eat al fresco on the outside patio area, where BarBQ meals are prepared on hot days during the peak season.

Where possible, ingredients are sourced within just 20 miles of the Park, reducing food miles and bringing fabulous local produce to your plate. Experience fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh farm-reared pork, and a selection of Cornish cheeses.

There's also a good range of organic ice-cream, Cornish orchard ciders and apple juices, St Austell and Skinners' Ales and guest beers from local micro breweries. The cafe is fully licensed.

All of these great ingredients are used in the cafe meals.

If you do want to enjoy a picnic, you can simply find your own great spot in the Park, If you want a picnic but don't want to prepare one, then there's a great selection of picnic/takeaway foods available in the cafe.

Free Parking + Cafe and Gift Shop are Free to Enter.

Directions to Wheal Martyn

A markerWheal Martyn Discovery Centre -
Carthew, St Austell, Cornwall PL26 8XG, UK
get directions

Directions to Wheal Martyn

Wheal Martyn China Clay Country Park and Discovery Centre is just a couple of miles inland and north of St Austell, Cornwall.

Opening Hours: Open all year.
The cafe and gift shop are open 9am-5pm daily
The country park and museum are open 10am-6pm, with last entry at 4.30pm

Admission Prices (2016):

  • Under 5, FREE.
  • 5-16, £5.
  • Adults £9.75.
  • 60+ and students with a valid NUS card £8.
  • Family tickets £27 (2+2) and £33 (2+4)

Pay once visit all year.

Address: Carthew, St Austell, Cornwall, PL26 8XG
Telephone: 01726 850362


Photos By:

Madnzany - Wheal Martyn Entrance
Madnzany - Lansalson Pit
Madnzany - Water Wheel
Kevinzim - China Clay Sculptures


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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      How cool! I'd especially love to walk the historical and nature trails!