Heart's Content shows off impressive collection of heritage

Published on August 10, 2012
Lloyd and Pat Smith stand next to a display of dishes at Jack's, an old general store, now privately owned. Carol Mallam donated 14 boxes of dishes handed down to her from Ted Mallam's homestead. The incorporated Mizzen Heritage Society has charitable status and can issue receipts for donations.
Photo Courtesy of the Mizzen Heritage Society

History unravels itself in such an easy flow throughout the heritage section of Heart's Content one would never guess the effort that's gone into it.

After 18 years of hard work and cooperation things are falling nicely into place for the Mizzen Heritage Society and the historic town.

The society has about 20 regular members, a board of directors and, if you count the number of residents ready to lend a hand, that network can easily increase to 70 people.

A few days after Mizzen's Heritage Day celebration held July 28, Bob Balsom the society's past chairman and Claude Rockwood, current chairman, sat down together to review the event.

"We've got a wonderful archives, lots of information on Heart's Content and stuff that just keeps coming in: photos, letters, journals and newspaper clippings," Balsom says.

"The reason we held a heritage day is because we had so many new exhibits this year," adds Rockwood.

The society tied the day in with the 146th anniversary celebrations of the landing of the transatlantic cable (July 27, 1866) at Heart's Content Cable Station, making it a weekend event.

Mizzen members dressed in period costumes and welcomed visitors to a number of historic locations.

The first stop was Jack's Store where the shelves display old china and crystal once used at the homestead of Cable Station employee Ted Mallam.

"Then we went down to the SUF Hall where we had lots of artifacts on display and we served toutons. The public also brought in some of their own artifacts," Balsom explains.

The two cable staff residences that housed British staff members involved with the transatlantic cable are currently owned by Edward Woodley. Woodley graciously opened them to the public for the weekend, providing visitors with a glimpse into the home life of staff members in the late 1800s.

Next stop on the tour was Mizzen's headquarters - formerly the United Church School, built in 1917, where a rug hooking display and photo gallery are featured.

A short distance away Heyfield United Church, built in 1878 is getting a new picket fence. The society is currently fundraising "and doing everything we can" to restore the church to be used as a community arts centre.

"It's in pretty good shape and we got a grant awhile ago and started to do some work on it."

One of the fundraising events is a coffee house held from 8 to 10 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. Organized by Mizzen's vice-chairman John Warren, the fundraiser features local and regional talent.

Just a little further down the road, visitors got a look at another project in the works, the Rendell Forge. Blacksmith Charles Rendell moved to Heart's Content from Trinity in the early 1800s where he crafted ironwork for vessels. His descendants carried on the blacksmith trade for three generations. The society plans to eventually use the forge to demonstrate the blacksmithing tradition.

On the north side of the harbour there's a Newfoundland tradition still enjoyed by young and old.

The House of Commons (Bill Piercey's old fish store) welcomes one and all to pull up a chair around the old woodstove and share a yarn or two. The store gets its name from the many heated debates that have taken place there over the years.

"We've got some old photos displayed of a lot of the old guys who used to go there," Rockwood notes. "It's almost like a rendezvous, people meet there and sit around and chat on a Saturday afternoon."

Heart's Content's historic treasures are located within easy walking distance of each other and during heritage day visitors got a good view of the community's heritage, along with a peek of how more of its past will emerge as the future unfolds.

Mizzen is working on having the area designated a heritage district and Balsom says a half dozen houses in the section have already been restored.

Much of the history is archived in documents at the town hall under the watchful eye of town clerk Alice Cumby, Mizzen's treasurer/secretary.