John Taylor’s St. Austell Mines-And a constructive rivalry

As this series of posts approaches its closure I finally get to bring William West into the story. He has had some brief appearances, but now the two paths start to intertwine.

Among the many Cornish mine’s that came under the Taylor’s control there was a group that merged to form a Taylor dominated district; that was those around St. Austell.  These coastal mines had been worked for many years, but from 1810 onwards they enjoyed a huge copper boom that made this district one of the most important in Cornwall.

John Taylor was behind this success, the  mines of Poolgooth, Pembroke Crinnis and Charlestown becoming very rich after he commenced working them.



OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

This was a mine with an ancient history, its workings being active hundreds of years before John Taylor’s arrival. By the 18th century the mine was one of the richest in Britain and its wealth justified the installation of an early 50-inch Newcomen steam engine erected in 1727 by Joseph Hornblower.  As technology moved on the engine was replaced in  1784 by a 58-inch Boulton & Watt engine. Taylor again updated the steam power in 1823 when he installed an n 80-inch William Sims engine.

From 1846 William West built several engines at the mine, some of which were built at his foundry in St. Austell.




OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

 Pembroke Mine was started before 1815 by John Taylor and worked until 1877. For a while he was very successful, becoming the second largest mine in the county.

For a while west’s long stroke 80″ engine was installed here. This remarkable 12 foot long stroke engine was built by Harvey’s of Hayle for Fowey Consols. From there it was moved to Par Consols, before being installed at New Pembroke in 1869.  That was not its final resting place for in 1879:

The very last, though not the least, mining work on which he was engaged was the taking down of an 80″ engine at New Pembroke, making good all the repairs, and refixing, with other additional machinery, at the Great Holiday(sic) Mines Flintshire”.

Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham



OS 1884 Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland. Website

This mine was originally known as Crinnins Cliff Mine which dated from 1811. It rapidly became a large producer of copper, 10,000 in 1812 and 40,000 by 1816, and all at shallow depths. This spectacular performance encouraged an influx of investment into the area, its copper reserves proved that significant amounts of ore could be found in the eastern half of Cornwall.

 Unfortunately it quickly exhausted its reserves , its mining boom was short lived. It  closed temporarily in about 1833, and reopened again in 1854 as Great Crinnis. After another closure it ended its life in the late 1870s as Great Crinnis and Carlyon Consols.

To the East

This John Taylor controlled mining district had a rival to the east. As the coastline turned towards Par Harbour it entered was Jospeh Austen’s ( latet Treffry) domain. Austen was an industrialist whose business empire in many way’s resembled Taylor’s. He also had canals and railway’s built, he also owned many mines, and he also used heavy investment in technology.

wpid-westcover.jpgAusten and Taylor’s rivalry found outlet in the arena of the battle of the duties. This was the drive to produce the best performing steam engine, a battle which Taylor was at the fore with his consolidated engines. Austen was determined to own an engine that would 51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_out perform any of Taylor’s. From this desire William West’s famous ‘Austin’s’ engine was born……but that is of course another story.

Click here for details of ‘The last Great Engineer’ William West>

Click here for information of the Sketch of the life of William West>


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