Post 31 – The Industrial Heritage of West Cornwall

It is not possible to visit the Penwith Peninsula without noticing the large number of  relics from Cornwall’s industrial past.   Mining began in the South West of England as far back as the Bronze Age circa 2150 BC and continued with varying degrees of success until the closure of the South Crofty Tin Mine in 1998. In addition to tin, both  copper and arsenic were successfully mined bringing great wealth to Cornwall .

Tin mining took place as far East as Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor and around the Caradon Hills on Bodmin Moor, however the bulk of mining activity took place in the far west of Cornwall from Redruth to St Just near to Lands End.  Mining has always been a dangerous occupation and many Cornish miners perished in pursuit valuable metals.

There are many tales of the hardship stoically suffered by these brave Cornishmen.  One such tale tells of miners living in Penzance on the South Coast and walking each day to Levant on the North Coast, a distance of approximately seven miles.  On arrival at the mine they would then descend in a man engine to a depth of 600 meters and then walk up to 2 Kilometers to the rock face under the Atlantic Ocean.  On completion of the shift , miners returned to the man engine and were taken to the surface and then to walk home.  It is interesting to note that miners were only paid for the time they were at the at  rock face and received nothing for all the hours of traveling.

Compressor House, Levant

Compressor House – Levant

Sometimes referred to as the mine under the sea, Levant Mine operated from 1820 – 1930 producing tin, copper and arsenic in substantial quantities.  There were several subterranean level, the 278 fathom level stretching one mile out under the sea.  The compressor house, which provided compressed air for the miners drills, was built in 1902.  Through the opening on the far right of the building can be seen Pendeen Lighthouse.

Levant was the scene of a tragic accident on the afternoon of 20 October 1919 when the upper shaft of a man engine with more than 100 miners being drawn to the surface broke. The heavy timbers crashed down the shaft  and thirty-one men lost their lives. The man engine was not replaced and the lowest levels of the mine were abandoned.

Crown Mine

Crown Mines, Bottalack

These engine houses are located at the bottom of cliffs to the north of Bottalack and and were used to pumped water from the Crown Mine.  The mine, which produced tin, extended 400 meters out under the Atlantic, with the deepest shaft extending 500 meters below sea level.  The lower engine house was built in 1835 and the upper in 1862.

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Crown Mines Engine Houses

Crown Mines with its spectacular setting is popular with visitors to West Cornwall in the summer months.  There is a path that leads from the cliff top down to the engine houses and is well worth taking in fine weather conditions.

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Towanroath Pumping Engine House -Wheal Coates

I make no apologies for posting three images of this iconic and much photographed engine house in Cornwall.  Wheal Coats is located on cliff tops between St Agnes and Porthtowan on the North Cornish coast.  Built in 1872, the Towanroath Pumping Engine House, which was located halfway down the cliff face, was used to pump water from the adjoining Towanroath shaft.

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Towanroath from the South

There are two routes down the cliff to Towanroawth.  The first is the direct route from the cliff top falling steeply to the ruins of the engine house, the other is a longer and more gentle route along a well defined pathway.

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A Close Up of Towanroath 

Wheal Coates was opened in 1802 and was worked as a tin mine until its closure in 1898.  It briefly opened again in 1911 but finally closed in 1913.  In its heyday Wheal Coates employed up to 140 miners,


One of the Stamping and Whim Engine Houses at Wheal Coates

Wheal Coats had three engine houses in operation.  In addition to the iconic Towanroath Pumping Engine House there were two Stamping and Whim (winding) Engine houses located on the cliff top above Towanroath   The remains of one can be seen in the image above.

If you would like to comment on any of these images or have any questions regarding my work please feel free to do via my contact page.   If you would like prints of any of my images either here or at please go to my Print Sales page.


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