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Courtenay Smale
(1937-    )

Courtenay Vivian Smale, a leading expert on the minerals and mines of Cornwall, was born in St. Columb Major, Cornwall in 1937, where his parents, William Vivian Smale and Ina May Kessell owned two farms. He grew up on the family farms bordering Goss Moor, an historically important ancient alluvial tin mining site. His interest in minerals was piqued at age nine when his uncle Russell Key gave him a quartz crystal from his own China Clay quartz collection. Courtenay still has that quartz specimen in his collection.

Courtenay attended Newquay Grammar School in Cornwall, and as his interest in minerals grew, so did his collection. His collection was significant enough that at age 16 he was awarded the Grammar School's Senior Hobby Prize for 1953-1954 when he exhibited his small cabinet of minerals. Because of his interest and involvement with minerals, Courtenay entered the Camborne School of Metalliferous Mining, graduating in 1959.

After graduation Courtenay did his National Service in the Royal Air Force, serving as a communications mechanic. He left National Service in 1961 and was employed as Technical Manager in Cornwall's China Clay Industry. This gave him opportunities to field-collect in the China Clay pits and his mineral collection continued to grow.

Over the next 70 years he initially collected minerals worldwide, but this soon evolved into an emphasis on Cornish minerals, particularly the arsenates and phosphates. His field collecting concentrated on the China Clay pits and stone quarries in the St. Austell area and elsewhere in Cornwall, with particular emphasis on Wheal Gorland in the late 1970s. His collection today spans the full range of specimen quality from fine large specimens to common and rare examples of Cornish minerals regardless of intrinsic value.

Courtenay's interest in minerals gained him the friendship of Peter Embrey, Curator of Minerals at the Natural History Museum in London, who became his most important mentor. It was through Peter Embrey that Courtenay met Dick Bideaux and Bob Jones when they visited Cornwall in 1981. He has also enjoyed being a reference and personal guide for visitors interested in Cornwall's mines and minerals.

During the 1970s Courtenay became more and more involved in Cornish minerals and mining-related activities. In 1977 he was elected President of the Cornish Institute of Engineers and served for two years. In that same year he became a founding member, Trustee and Treasurer of the Cornwall Industrial Trust. Two years later he was elected President of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall and also became an Executive Member of the Cornish Mining Association serving in that organization for 16 years.

In 1983 he was elected a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd for Research into Cornish Mining, his Bardic name being Sudhyer Munnow, (Researcher of Minerals), and is also former Fellow of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy. In 1988 he was named a Trustee of the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum and the Trevithick Society.

He continued his involvement in mining and education affairs in the 1990s as Chairman of the Cornwall Education and Research Trust. In 1990, while serving as a Board Member, he was elected President of the Royal Institution of Cornwall where the Philip Rashleigh papers and mineral collection are housed. From 1996 to 2008 he served as Executive Secretary of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Cornish Branch).

Courtenay also developed a strong interest in Ruskin Decorative Art Pottery. In 1998 He organized the Centenary Exhibition of Ruskin Pottery (1898-1935) which toured museums of England in 1999. Ruskin Pottery is well known as a distinctive form of English Decorative Art Pottery. Courtenay's collection of Ruskin Pottery is extensive, and through his research he has become an expert on the subject. He has lectured on Ruskin Pottery to Fine and Decorative Art Societies throughout England. Through his research he located the original pottery collection of William Howson Taylor, the owner of the Pottery, which he obtained from Taylor's stepson in San Jose, California.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Courtenay has lectured to organizations, including the Worker's Education Authority, on minerals, mining, geology and quarrying history.

His contribution to the literature has been mainly through articles for the Mineralogical Record, the UK Journal of Mines and Minerals, Lapis, and Mineralogical Almanac.

Courtenay began serving as Curator of the Williams Caerhays Castle Mineral Collection in 2008. The Willams family's history in mining in Cornwall dates back well over 300 years. They assembled a huge mineral collection from which many of the major Cornish mineral specimens were given in 1893 to the Natural History Museum in London, the School of Mines in Camborne, and the Royal Institution of Cornwall. The Williams Caerhays Castle collection still has a number of Cornwall's finest mineral specimens. Courtenay is currently cataloging and organizing the Williams Caerhays Castle collection (see

Being so involved with the noted Rashleigh and Williams Caerhays collections as well as his own, he has organized public exhibits of specimens from each of these collections at major shows including Tucson and Munich. In 1982 Courtenay was an invited exhibitor of specimens from the Rashleigh collection at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. In 2011 he returned to Tucson and exhibited highlights of the Caerhays Castle Mineral Collection, and the following year exhibited his own collection in Tucson. He has also exhibited minerals at the Munich Show: in 2011 the Williams Caerhays Mineral Collection, and in 2012 his own collection. In 2018, also in Munich, he exhibited gold specimens from the Wiliams Caerhays Collection along with the historically important Sky Disc of Nebra. The inlaid gold in that 3600 year-old Bronze Age Disc has been proven to have come from the Carnon Valley alluvial tin deposits in Cornwall. In the year 2019 he returned to Munich to exhibit miniature specimens from the Bryce McMurdo Wright collection and from the Williams Caerhays mineral collection. He also visits other shows including the Ste. Marie-aux-Mines Mineral and Gem Show and the Sussex Mineral and Lapidary Society Show.

Currently, Courtenay Smale, as a recognized expert on Cornish mines and minerals, is still promoting Cornwall's minerals, mineral collections, mining and mining history. He currently resides in Newquay, Cornwallm where he can be contacted at


Bob Jones.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2020)
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The Mineralogical Record - Courtenay Smale
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