What's the story behind this Cornish tally?

I have a brass check/token/tally (see above), which is of the same general style as those used in the collieries, but is labelled "ECLP Gothers" with a stamped number. It is 35 mm in diameter, uniface with a milled type edge. Gothers was the site of a china clay pit near St. Dennis in Cornwall. 

The initials "ECLP" stands for "English Clays Lovering Pochin",. This major Cornish clay producing company was formed from the amalgamation of many smaller clay producers in the early 1930s.  "Gothers" is the name of one of the company's many clay pits. This is the only check that I've come across relating to the Cornish China clay industry, not that I'm particularly a collector of them, and I wondered if any of the keener collectors have any, as there seems to be an interesting story of the use of the check I have. 

The Cornish clay pits don't have any underground workings (unlike the Devon ball clay ones) and so checks were not issued for the usual purpose of controlling and monitoring the movements of men into and out of the underground workings. 

I'm a member of the China Clay History Society and enquired of a few people I knew at Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum. The explanation that I had (from John Tonkin, who I know very well) was that he'd heard from an old chap that these discs were issued to German POWs who had elected to stay in England for a while after the war on reconstruction work. These POWs were assigned to E.C.L.P. who put them to work on building "Cornish units" - pre-fabricated houses made from china clay waste that earned E.C.L.P. a lot of money in the years following the war. Unfortunately many of the houses are now in a bad state and it is virtually impossible to get a mortgage on one. There are thousands of them in the West Country. There isn't much that John Tonkin doesn't know about the china clay industry, having worked in it for much of his life, and he is at a loss to come up with any other explanation for the checks. 

Any further information would be gratefully received! 

Submitted By : Steve Roberts.
Date: August 2003
A hoard of these checks came onto the market about eight or nine years ago when I also picked one up for my collection. All of the examples I have seen from this hoard were in very good condition and were apparently uniquely numbered. Their good condition implied that they had not seen much use. 
I tried to research theses checks in the mid 1990s but didn't get very far. It is my guess that they were originally made for use as time or pay checks for use at Gothers Pit but then,  after the pit ceased clay production in 1942, found other uses within the E.C.L.P. organisation. One such use immediately post the closure of the pit would be as John Tonkin has suggested to you. When I contacted Wheal Martyn Museum about these checks in 1996 I also got some feedback additional to that you have off John. At that time the museum kindly contacted eleven ex-clay pit workers who they thought might have been able to throw some light on the checks and their history. Only one of these people - Owen Jose, was able to help. Owen believed the checks dated from about 1952 and were used as some sort of tool check at the Gothers site. In particular he quotes them being used for the issue of a 110 volt Wolf Rotary Percussion Impact Drill. Owen went on to clarify that after the Second World War the Gothers site was used to make pre-fabricated concrete sections for "Cornish Unit" prefab type houses. This plant closed down in the 1970s after which time the Gothers site was used as a research area and for pilot plant  operations. 
With regards to John Tonkin's information - how exactly does he account for the checks being used by E.C.L.P. and the German POWs they employed? Were they tool, pay or time checks? Please keep us posted if you find out any further information from him or anyone else.
Submitted By: Mark Smith 
Date: August 2003

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