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.
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.
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>