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MNH Acquires Historic Mining Artefacts 16 October 2007

George W. Dumbell Oil Portrait Manx National Heritage has recently acquired two fascinating objects connected to the Island’s mining history.

The first is an historic oil portrait. It shows George W.Dumbell, a major figure in the commercial life of the Island in the 1840s & 50s. He was the founder of Dumbell’s Bank, and later became Chairman of Directors of the Great Laxey Mining Company. It was Dumbell who brought extra investment to the company to overcome the problem of flooding in the mines. This resulted in the construction of the Great Laxey Wheel, the Island’s greatest industrial monument.

Curator of Social History Matthew Richardson commented:

“We were aware that a branch of the Dumbell family owned this important portrait and are delighted that the family have decided to donate it to the Manx nation. This is a tremendously generous gift. Dumbell, together with the designer Robert Casement, can truly be considered to be the man behind the Great Laxey Wheel. Casement came up with the engineering solution, but the wheel’s grand size and imposing presence in the landscape are reflections of Dumbell’s bold and assertive character.” Polglase's Shovel

The painting was in the possession of the widow of George Dumbell’s great great grandson, who lives in Sussex.

In addition to Dumbell’s portrait MNH has acquired a decorative coal shovel, presented to James Polglase. Polglase was a Cornishman who had worked in the tin mines and who was Captain of the Great Laxey Mine from 1872 to 1873. He left Laxey mines because his attempts to improve the lot of the Laxey workforce by increasing wages led him into conflict with Dumbell, who eventually forced him to resign. He was understandably held in high regard by the workforce. The shovel was acquired by MNH at an auction in England.

Matthew Richardson continued

“Together these items help us to tell more of the history of the Island’s mining past, and the human stories which lie behind it.”

Both items will shortly be on display as part of Manx National Heritage’s mining displays at the Manx Museum in Douglas. Which is open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and admission is free of charge.

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