Tin is coming to Liskeard

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Looks like being a great evening. A chance to meet the director, see the film, and of course eat some cake!  If you know anyone in the Liskeard area that may be interested- pass the word.

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Phoenix United Mine- An index of blogs, and yellow creatures

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The walk around Phoenix United with the Pensilva History Society was a great day. A day blessed with excellent weather and excellent company. Despite the cotoneaster and bracken we found plenty of William West’s mine to explore. The had grown in my absence to becoming part of Mark Camp’s excellent South East Cornwall Walking festival- it was a bonus to be able to play our part in the week’s activities.

I have listed all my the Phoenix United blog posts on a new page on this site, click here to view. The new page should provide a useful index for any one researching the mine.

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Now that the walk is over this blog will switch its focus to subject the next outings for my books. After perhaps a quick diversion into some random facts gathered in the background whilst Phoenix demanded its attention.

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One parting thought on Phoenix. My final image of the site was visitors lined up at the Minion’s Village sign to grab ‘selfies’.  Conclusion-Fictional Yellow gibbering beings now trump Heritage and landscape. Move aside Poldark!

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The Phoenix United Dressing Floors in 1880

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Phoenix United’s dressing floors were impressive. They spread out downhill in two directions from the stamp engines to cover the valley sides with in a complex array of tanks, buddles, leats and dressing machinery.  This large industrial site was described in 1880 by the Mining Journal.

Mining Journal January 1880
“The situation of the Phoenix is admirably adapted for the laying out of tin floors, and full advantage has been taken of the position. Almost every available point on the northern slope of the hill down to Darley Ford is occupied with dressing apparatus, and the tin is followed from the shaft mouth down to very limits of the sett.

There are three drawing shafts at Phoenix –Seccombe’s Sump, and West’s, and the three roads converge to one point on the dressing-floors. Both the shafts at West Phoenix are used for drawing, and as that mine is at a considerably higher elevation than the Phoenix, though the latter is on a hill, the stuff is sent down an incline to the West Phoenix floors, which lie a little to the west of Phoenix.

The produce of each portion of the sett is kept apart, West Phoenix giving produce of 13 5/ 8 in 20, and Phoenix one of 13 ¼. The copper ores of which the mine is yet importantly productive, and of which in the south lodes it may be expected to be still wealthy, are, by the way, far above average quality.

From the shafts the skips, which take an average load of 15 up to 17 cwts., are run direct to a Blake’s stone-breaker, which reduces the stuff for the stamps immediately below. Of these there are 96 heads on the Phoenix side, to which we are now confining our remarks, driven by a double 26-inch engine. We observe that the lifters of one half of the sett are of wood, and those of the other half iron; and on enquiry learn that the difference is due to experiment, but that as it has been found that wood is as good as iron for this purpose, and vice versa, each lifter as it wears out is replaced in the same way. These stamps were out by Mr. West in 1865, the first twelve heads of steam stamps having erected in the beginning of 1864, and the second dozen in July of the same year.

It is a singular proof of how good men may be mistaken when dealing with matters that they do not fully understand, that the erection of even the first dozen stamps was opposed by Captain Uren, then agent, on the ground that there was not enough tin stuff in the mine to keep them going. Now, to keep up the regular returns, something like 100 tons of stuff has to be stamped a day.

The stamped stuff is treated in the usual way, with buddles and frames. Of buddles there are upon this side 75, the great majority convex, and of frames 24. There are a couple of burning-houses of the ordinary type, and the water flowing thence is made to pass through a series of strips filled with scrap iron for the precipitation of the copper in solution which the calcinations releases. The craze is taken from the burning-houses to the pulverisers (of which there are three, capable of treating 10 or 12 tons a day), and after it is brought down, buddle and framed, and tossed and packed in the usual manner. The stamp heads weigh about 3 cwts. each, and with the lifters to 4 ½ to 4 ¾ cwts.

The arrangement of the dressing-floor at West Phoenix, where there are 64 heads of stamps, started in May, 1870, differs in no essential degree from that of those at Phoenix. There is, however, a very much larger proportion of frames –180 double frames to 45 buddles. The floors all through are admirably laid out for the treatment of the stuff with the minimum of handling, a and a shammel wheel is now being put in to lift back slimes for re-dressing, and so to do away with the labour and cost of wheeling back in barrows.”

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The remainder of this description of Phoenix United Mine is reproduced within the paperback “The Last Great Cornish Engineer”.

Phoenix United Mine in 1863-According to ‘Webb and Geach’

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This is an extract from ” Webb and Geach- History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District”,  published in 1863. This Victorian book was written as a reference source for those considering investing in the mines of Southeast Cornwall.

In addition to its description of Phoenix United Mine, the extract gives an example of the use of Victorian Cornish mining terminology.

Phoenix Mines
This  is a rectangular piece of ground 760 fathoms in length  by 500 in width, and is located  in  the  south-western  corner  of  the  parish  of  Linkinghorne. The  Western  Boundary  of  the  sett  extends  along  the  top  of  a  ridge  known  as the  Cheesewring.  From  the  top  of  this  hill,  as  far  as  the  eye  can  reach,  westward  and  north  nothing  is  visible  but  bare  conical  hills,  covered  with  short heath  sloping  on  every  side  to  marshy  bottoms.  Eastward  the  whole  length of  the  sett  is  laid  out  like  a  map  beneath  the  observer.  The  hill,  falling  at  first  precipitously  to  a  deep  narrow  vale,  rises  sharply  for  a  short  distance,  when the  level  and  cultivated  land  is  reached.  It  is  on  the  summit  of  this  small  plateau that the buildings and works of the present Company are placed.

There  is  only  one  lode  operated  on,  and  this  at  surface  runs  through  the  entire length  of  the  rectangle.  The  lode  backed  up  close  to  surface,  and  was  laid open  by  the  old  men  for  about  a  mile  in  length  in  their  efforts  to  discover and  raise  tin,  large  quantities  of  which  they  returned.  This  and  other  lodes which  they  also  backed  up  strongly  attracted  the  attention  of  some  mining 
speculators  and  they  about  1836  formed  themselves  into  a  Company,  under  the  title  of  the  “Cornwall  Great  United“,  which  also  comprised  several other  mines  in  the  county.  They  held  a  lease  of  considerable  extent  of  Duchy Land,  which  included  the  present  Phoenix  Mines,  West  Phoenix,  South  Phoenix  and  parts  of  North  Phoenix  and  West  Sharp  Tor.  Under  their  management,  these  mines  were  named,  Stow’s  Mine,  Clanacombe  (present Phoenix  Mines),  Greenhill  Mine,  Wheal  Prosper,  and  Wheal  Jenkin.  These last  three  having  been  noticed  in  South  Phoenix  paper,  will  not  be  again  referred  to  here. A stamping  engine  was  erected,  which  produced  considerable quantities of low-priced  tin ore raised from the  Stow’s Mine.

After  working  several  years,  without  any  good  result,  and  having  spent  the whole  of  their  paid  up  capital,  amounting  to  upwards  of  £50,000,  they  were compelled  to  abandon  the  adventure.  A  portion  of  the  adventurers,  however, still  un-dismayed,  and  seeking  to  retrieve  a  portion  of  their  losses,  obtained in  December  1842  a  renewal  of  the  lease,  nominally,  for  twenty-one  years; but  the  lease  was  ante-dated  about  twelve  months,  thus  practically  reducing it to only twenty years’  duration. This  lease  reduced  the  sett  to  the  limits  before  described.  And  the  title  of  the Phoenix  Mines  was  given  to  the  Company. 

After  a  further  outlay  of  £12,425, the  mines  became  profitable  in  November  1852,  since  which  time  to  December  1861  regular  half-yearly  dividends  have  been  declared.  After  a  steady perseverance  and  the  large  outlay  of  £62,425,  the  concern  was  brought  into a paying state. There  seemed  now  every  probability  that  the  shareholders  would  be  reimbursed  their  original  deficit.  But  at  the  end  of  1858,  the  working  became so  deep  and  the  water  so  fast,  that,  in  order  to  carry  the  mine  profitably,  it  was deemed necessary to erect additional and more powerful machinery, involving  the  expenditure  of  some  thousands  of  pounds.  The  lease  terminating  in  1861, it  was  considered  by  the  shareholders  inexpedient  to  sink  such  a  sum  until they  were  assured  by  the  Duchy  of  a  renewal  of  the  lease.  It  appears,  however, that  the  Duchy  and  the  Committee  could  not  agree  upon  terms,  and  the  lease was  ultimately  granted  to  some  of  the  principle  adventurers  in  South  Phoenix, who  have  been  in  occupation  for  about  eleven  months. 

At  the  time  when the  Cornwall  Great  United  first  commenced  their  explorations,  there  was scarcely  a  mine  in  the  neighbourhood;  even  the  celebrated  South  Caradon  was  not  as  yet  dreamt  of,  and  it  was  indeed  exceedingly  against  the  reports  of several  able  mining  agents  that  the  Company  persevered.  No  one  can  refuse to  admit  that  the  working  of  the  mine  was  the  foundation  of  the  great  mineral discoveries  which  shortly  resulted;  and  it  is  not  exaggerating  too  say  that £100,000  has  been  laid  out  on  the  Duchy  Property  in  the  immediate  vicinity, entirely  on  the  strength of  Phoenix  Mines,  indeed  mostly  promoted by its adventurers.

The  lode  in  this  sett is  so  different  in  every  respect  to  those  of the  rest  of  the  district south,  as  to  merit  a  full description.  In  the  village  of  Upton  the  back of  the  lode  is  seen  in the  road  300  fathoms west  –  the  East  Phoenix  Company  works it;  still  west  250  fms. it  is  worked  as  Clanacombe  Mine.  The  back of  the  lode  to  the  west of  this  point  has  been so  wrought  upon  by ancient  and  modern miners  for  a  mile  as  to be  seen  at  a  considerable  distance.  After crossing  the  valley before  alluded  to,  the course  of  the  lode  runs to  the  summit  of  the Cheesewring  ridge,  where  it  was  first  worked  as  Stow’s  Mine;  it  then falls  down  the  western  slope  to  West  Phoenix  Mine,  now  abandoned.  It will  be  seen,  then,  that  there  are  four  distinct  mines  working  this  remarkable lode. At  the  Stow’s  Mine  West,  the  lode  contained  towards  the  surface  immense masses  of  highly  ferruginous  gossan,  becoming,  however,  as  it  approached Clanacombe  Mine,  less  impregnated  with  iron;  gossan  was  here  found  in one  place  200  fathoms  deep,  intermixed  with  grey  ore.  In  depth  the  matrix is  generally  composed  of  large  quantities  of  blue  capel,  carrying  a  leader  of quartz  and  iron,  in  which  the  ore  makes;  a  quantity  of  blue  and  green  carbonate  is  also  found.  There  is  a  little  chlorite;  butfluor-spar,  found  plentifully  in most  of  the  southern  lodes,  has  never  been  seen  here. 

A  marked  difference will  thus  be  observed  in  this  lode  (as  in  that  of  Sharp  Tor),  compared  to  those of the Caradon, little more than a linear mile to the south. At  Stow’s  Mine  large  returns  of  tin  were  made  by  the  Cornwall  Great  United  above  the  adit.  They  drained  the  mine  by  a  deep  adit,  taken  up  the  foot of  the  hill,  and  driven  westward  250  fathoms  to  Stow’s  Shaft,  with  which it  communicates  100  fathoms  below  surface.  Under  the  late  Capt.  Samuel  Seccombe‘s  management,  this  shaft  was  sunk  45  fathoms  below  adit,  and levels  driven  east  and  west,  but  the  lode  was  found  unproductive.  The  engine  not  being  powerful  enough  to  continue  below  the  45,  and  no  promising  indications  justifying  the  erection  of  more  powerful  machinery,  this portion  of  the  mine  was  suspended. 

In  Clanacombe  Mine  a  rich  course  of ore  was  discovered  at  the  86.  The  principle  bunches  of  ore  were  between  the 120th  and  the  161st  fathom  levels;  the  ore  holding  down  to  the  216,  which  is at  present  the  deepest  level  in  the  mine;  130  fathoms  west  of  the  old  sump,  in a  deep  valley  streamed  for  tin,  is  a  large  cross-course  –  a  continuation,  in  fact, of  the  West  Caradon  boundary  cross-course,  which  there,  as  well  as  in  South Phoenix,  heaves  the  lodes  to  the  left  hand  about  10  fathoms.  This  crosscourse  is  many  fathoms  wide,  but  has  never  been  seen  at  the  Phoenix  Mines; as,  although  they  have  driven  on  a  course  of  ore  close  to  it,  they  were  afraid to  proceed,  on  account  of  the  probable  great  influx  of  water  that  would  ensue. The  present  workings  are  in  granite,  but  a  tongue  of  killas  is  deposited  in  the south-eastern  portion  of  the  sett,  in  which  is  a  promising  lode  worked  on  the backs  for  a  long  distance,  and  called  the  Snuff-box  Lode.  To  cut  this  lode,  a cross-cut  is  being  driven  from  the  old  sump  south  about  70  fathoms,  and  it  is expected  that  in  a  short  time  it  will  be  seen.  The  underlay  shaft,  on  which  a 60-inch  engine  is  being  erected,  is  about  80  fathoms  east  of  the  old  sump,  and is  down  to  the  186.  These  mines  have  returned  £105,000  in  dividends. mine  is  divided  into  200  shares,  and  employs  about  250  persons.  Pay-day, second Saturday in the month.

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Although Webb and Geach gave an what appears to be an  extensive account of the mine’s operations in 1863, they failed to mention William West’s buy-out of the Company, and his transformation of Phoenix United into a tin mine. A major omission that indicates how well William West hid his plan to take control of the mine.

Webb and Geach’s book is available in paperback from the Trevithick Society. For more information about the book click here>

Phoenix United Mine in 1863-According to ‘Webb and Geach’

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This is an extract from ” Webb and Geach- History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District”,  published in 1863. This Victorian book was written as a reference source for those considering investing in the mines of Southeast Cornwall.

In addition to its description of Phoenix United Mine, the extract gives an example of the use of Victorian Cornish mining terminology.

Phoenix Mines
This  is a rectangular piece of ground 760 fathoms in length  by 500 in width, and is located  in  the  south-western  corner  of  the  parish  of  Linkinghorne. The  Western  Boundary  of  the  sett  extends  along  the  top  of  a  ridge  known  as the  Cheesewring.  From  the  top  of  this  hill,  as  far  as  the  eye  can  reach,  westward  and  north  nothing  is  visible  but  bare  conical  hills,  covered  with  short heath  sloping  on  every  side  to  marshy  bottoms.  Eastward  the  whole  length of  the  sett  is  laid  out  like  a  map  beneath  the  observer.  The  hill,  falling  at  first  precipitously  to  a  deep  narrow  vale,  rises  sharply  for  a  short  distance,  when the  level  and  cultivated  land  is  reached.  It  is  on  the  summit  of  this  small  plateau that the buildings and works of the present Company are placed.

There  is  only  one  lode  operated  on,  and  this  at  surface  runs  through  the  entire length  of  the  rectangle.  The  lode  backed  up  close  to  surface,  and  was  laid open  by  the  old  men  for  about  a  mile  in  length  in  their  efforts  to  discover and  raise  tin,  large  quantities  of  which  they  returned.  This  and  other  lodes which  they  also  backed  up  strongly  attracted  the  attention  of  some  mining 
speculators  and  they  about  1836  formed  themselves  into  a  Company,  under  the  title  of  the  “Cornwall  Great  United“,  which  also  comprised  several other  mines  in  the  county.  They  held  a  lease  of  considerable  extent  of  Duchy Land,  which  included  the  present  Phoenix  Mines,  West  Phoenix,  South  Phoenix  and  parts  of  North  Phoenix  and  West  Sharp  Tor.  Under  their  management,  these  mines  were  named,  Stow’s  Mine,  Clanacombe  (present Phoenix  Mines),  Greenhill  Mine,  Wheal  Prosper,  and  Wheal  Jenkin.  These last  three  having  been  noticed  in  South  Phoenix  paper,  will  not  be  again  referred  to  here. A stamping  engine  was  erected,  which  produced  considerable quantities of low-priced  tin ore raised from the  Stow’s Mine.

After  working  several  years,  without  any  good  result,  and  having  spent  the whole  of  their  paid  up  capital,  amounting  to  upwards  of  £50,000,  they  were compelled  to  abandon  the  adventure.  A  portion  of  the  adventurers,  however, still  un-dismayed,  and  seeking  to  retrieve  a  portion  of  their  losses,  obtained in  December  1842  a  renewal  of  the  lease,  nominally,  for  twenty-one  years; but  the  lease  was  ante-dated  about  twelve  months,  thus  practically  reducing it to only twenty years’  duration. This  lease  reduced  the  sett  to  the  limits  before  described.  And  the  title  of  the Phoenix  Mines  was  given  to  the  Company. 

After  a  further  outlay  of  £12,425, the  mines  became  profitable  in  November  1852,  since  which  time  to  December  1861  regular  half-yearly  dividends  have  been  declared.  After  a  steady perseverance  and  the  large  outlay  of  £62,425,  the  concern  was  brought  into a paying state. There  seemed  now  every  probability  that  the  shareholders  would  be  reimbursed  their  original  deficit.  But  at  the  end  of  1858,  the  working  became so  deep  and  the  water  so  fast,  that,  in  order  to  carry  the  mine  profitably,  it  was deemed necessary to erect additional and more powerful machinery, involving  the  expenditure  of  some  thousands  of  pounds.  The  lease  terminating  in  1861, it  was  considered  by  the  shareholders  inexpedient  to  sink  such  a  sum  until they  were  assured  by  the  Duchy  of  a  renewal  of  the  lease.  It  appears,  however, that  the  Duchy  and  the  Committee  could  not  agree  upon  terms,  and  the  lease was  ultimately  granted  to  some  of  the  principle  adventurers  in  South  Phoenix, who  have  been  in  occupation  for  about  eleven  months. 

At  the  time  when the  Cornwall  Great  United  first  commenced  their  explorations,  there  was scarcely  a  mine  in  the  neighbourhood;  even  the  celebrated  South  Caradon  was  not  as  yet  dreamt  of,  and  it  was  indeed  exceedingly  against  the  reports  of several  able  mining  agents  that  the  Company  persevered.  No  one  can  refuse to  admit  that  the  working  of  the  mine  was  the  foundation  of  the  great  mineral discoveries  which  shortly  resulted;  and  it  is  not  exaggerating  too  say  that £100,000  has  been  laid  out  on  the  Duchy  Property  in  the  immediate  vicinity, entirely  on  the  strength of  Phoenix  Mines,  indeed  mostly  promoted by its adventurers.

The  lode  in  this  sett is  so  different  in  every  respect  to  those  of the  rest  of  the  district south,  as  to  merit  a  full description.  In  the  village  of  Upton  the  back of  the  lode  is  seen  in the  road  300  fathoms west  –  the  East  Phoenix  Company  works it;  still  west  250  fms. it  is  worked  as  Clanacombe  Mine.  The  back of  the  lode  to  the  west of  this  point  has  been so  wrought  upon  by ancient  and  modern miners  for  a  mile  as  to be  seen  at  a  considerable  distance.  After crossing  the  valley before  alluded  to,  the course  of  the  lode  runs to  the  summit  of  the Cheesewring  ridge,  where  it  was  first  worked  as  Stow’s  Mine;  it  then falls  down  the  western  slope  to  West  Phoenix  Mine,  now  abandoned.  It will  be  seen,  then,  that  there  are  four  distinct  mines  working  this  remarkable lode. At  the  Stow’s  Mine  West,  the  lode  contained  towards  the  surface  immense masses  of  highly  ferruginous  gossan,  becoming,  however,  as  it  approached Clanacombe  Mine,  less  impregnated  with  iron;  gossan  was  here  found  in one  place  200  fathoms  deep,  intermixed  with  grey  ore.  In  depth  the  matrix is  generally  composed  of  large  quantities  of  blue  capel,  carrying  a  leader  of quartz  and  iron,  in  which  the  ore  makes;  a  quantity  of  blue  and  green  carbonate  is  also  found.  There  is  a  little  chlorite;  butfluor-spar,  found  plentifully  in most  of  the  southern  lodes,  has  never  been  seen  here. 

A  marked  difference will  thus  be  observed  in  this  lode  (as  in  that  of  Sharp  Tor),  compared  to  those of the Caradon, little more than a linear mile to the south. At  Stow’s  Mine  large  returns  of  tin  were  made  by  the  Cornwall  Great  United  above  the  adit.  They  drained  the  mine  by  a  deep  adit,  taken  up  the  foot of  the  hill,  and  driven  westward  250  fathoms  to  Stow’s  Shaft,  with  which it  communicates  100  fathoms  below  surface.  Under  the  late  Capt.  Samuel  Seccombe‘s  management,  this  shaft  was  sunk  45  fathoms  below  adit,  and levels  driven  east  and  west,  but  the  lode  was  found  unproductive.  The  engine  not  being  powerful  enough  to  continue  below  the  45,  and  no  promising  indications  justifying  the  erection  of  more  powerful  machinery,  this portion  of  the  mine  was  suspended. 

In  Clanacombe  Mine  a  rich  course  of ore  was  discovered  at  the  86.  The  principle  bunches  of  ore  were  between  the 120th  and  the  161st  fathom  levels;  the  ore  holding  down  to  the  216,  which  is at  present  the  deepest  level  in  the  mine;  130  fathoms  west  of  the  old  sump,  in a  deep  valley  streamed  for  tin,  is  a  large  cross-course  –  a  continuation,  in  fact, of  the  West  Caradon  boundary  cross-course,  which  there,  as  well  as  in  South Phoenix,  heaves  the  lodes  to  the  left  hand  about  10  fathoms.  This  crosscourse  is  many  fathoms  wide,  but  has  never  been  seen  at  the  Phoenix  Mines; as,  although  they  have  driven  on  a  course  of  ore  close  to  it,  they  were  afraid to  proceed,  on  account  of  the  probable  great  influx  of  water  that  would  ensue. The  present  workings  are  in  granite,  but  a  tongue  of  killas  is  deposited  in  the south-eastern  portion  of  the  sett,  in  which  is  a  promising  lode  worked  on  the backs  for  a  long  distance,  and  called  the  Snuff-box  Lode.  To  cut  this  lode,  a cross-cut  is  being  driven  from  the  old  sump  south  about  70  fathoms,  and  it  is expected  that  in  a  short  time  it  will  be  seen.  The  underlay  shaft,  on  which  a 60-inch  engine  is  being  erected,  is  about  80  fathoms  east  of  the  old  sump,  and is  down  to  the  186.  These  mines  have  returned  £105,000  in  dividends. mine  is  divided  into  200  shares,  and  employs  about  250  persons.  Pay-day, second Saturday in the month.

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Although Webb and Geach gave an what appears to be an  extensive account of the mine’s operations in 1863, they failed to mention William West’s buy-out of the Company, and his transformation of Phoenix United into a tin mine. A major omission that indicates how well William West hid his plan to take control of the mine.

Webb and Geach’s book is available in paperback from the Trevithick Society. For more information about the book click here>

Phoenix United as shown on Brenton Symons’ 1863 Map

Brenton Symons’ 1863 Map

These extracts are from Brenton Symons’ 1863  Geological map of the Liskeard Mining District. Extracts complete with stains and cracks.

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The first map shows the Phoenix United Sett, a square Sett (yellow tint=border) crossed by a single lode (lode=red Line). Running in a north easterly direction is the Great Cross-course ( cross course=grey line). The wavy grey shaded line represents the junction between the Bodmin Moor granite ( to the west) and Killas (metamorphised clay/slate).

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The second map is a close up of the Clanacombe Mine section of Phoenix United. It depicts the site prior to the massive changes implemented by WillIam West as part of his transformation of the mine from a copper to tin producer.

The Phoenix tramway is shown running up from the southwest corner into the yard area. The extensive workings on the back of the lode are shown, and several shafts indicated. The ‘250’ denoted that the mine was 250 fathoms deep. A dotted line entering the extract from the northeast represents the course of flat-rods used to power the pump at Sump shaft from the large water wheel in the valley bottom.

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The final map shows the western part of the mine, which includes the  old Stow(Stowes) mine. As the lode crosses the cross-course fault it is heaved to the south, a dislocation  clearly shown. 

The Cheeswring granite Quarry is named near the western border of the set with a branch of the Liskeard and Caradon railway serving it from the south.

For more extracts from this map see ‘The Liskeard Mining Area in 1863′.