The recovery of the ‘Views of South Caradon’ continues with the history theme. In this post I will rescue the timeline from its geocities vault, and along the way add some cross referenced dates from other time lines on this blog. Should be interesting to see how the histories interwine. The photographs on this post come from a series I took in 2015 on a rare occasion when the South Caradon site was covered in snow and bathed in bright sunshine.
1833 to 1890
Six decades of industrial industry
The mine started in the Seaton Valley but its production moved eastwards in the later part of the history. The richest part of the mine lay in these easterly lodes.
First record of mineral workings in the area at the Gonamena open works.
Early 19th century
A promise of wealth
Experience in the west of the Cornwall suggested that copper deposits probably existed under Caradon Hill. Large deposits of fine gozzen near the surface suggested that workable mineral lodes would exist deeper down. These gozzans may have been worked for tin. Attempts at finding copper had been made by small groups of miners driving adits into the hillside, but with no success prior to the South Caradon find.
On each lease transfer the opportunity of huge wealth was missed by the leaseholder, at one point the sett sold for less than a guinea.
1801 William West was born at Dolcoath
1817 to 1819 William West works at Dolcoath fitting shop
A miner called Ennor working for a group of Plymouth and Devonport adventurers dug an adit in from the Seaton Valley. This was probably at the location of what became main lode adit.
Some indications of minerals may have been found, but the trial was abandoned on advice of experts. The lease then changes hands several times, often for very small amounts.
1831 West was Engaged by J. T. Austin at Fowey Consols
The miner James Clymo and members of the Kittow family started looking for Copper in the area. An adit running eastwards from the Seaton Valley was the starting point of their enterprise.
1834 Austen’s Engine is started
Despite shortage or resources the miners continue to persevere in extending the adit, following promising signs of mineralization deeper into the hill.
The adventurers perseverance and determination is rewarded when the main ore body is discovered, but no investors in London could be found to finance the venture. The original miners therefore financed the mine themselves.
1836 -1838 Cornwall Great United Mining Association worked the mines that would become Phoenix United.
First returns are made for the mine after just over £327 had been paid out. 130 tons of ore (of 10% metal) is produced. Ref: Shambrock (Allan gives this production as starting in 1838)
The first engine was installed at sump shaft by William West.
Within a few years South Caradon became one of the biggest copper mines in the world.
William West started working for South Caradon mine
The story goes…
That James Clymo offered the shares to a mine adventurer on the coach back from London. The adventurer refused the shares at £5 each. A few months later the shares fetched £2000 each!
Another story is of two maidens who sold some rough land to a lawyer and immediately learnt about the discovery of copper beneath its surface. By the following day they had repurchased the land claiming that they where sentimentally attached to it.
The lawyer heard about the copper the following morning…..just that bit too late
1837 West became the Fowey Consols sole engineer
The Victorian period starts
1839 West patented the double-beat self acting valve
The mines in West Cornwall suffered a decline but South Caradon’s success sparked a mining boom around Caradon Hill. The mine was producing nearly 4,000 tons of ore a year.
1842 Wheal Phoenix was formed
1848 St. Blazey foundry is established by West
1850 William West commenced his association with Phoenix United Mine
What is in a name?
The success of the mine sparked a rush of mines being named with the magic word “Caradon” in their title, in the hope of attracting investors. A practice that became far too common after 1850, and earned the term “market mining”. None of these mines ever came near of matching the success of South Caradon.
- Caradon Consols
- Caradon Vale
- East Caradon
- Caradon Copper
- Great Caradon
- New West Caradon
- Glasgow Caradon Consols
- New South Caradon
- The Caradon Mine
- West Caradon Mine
- Wheal Caradon Mine
Tredhenam house is built
The price of copper drops, despite large amounts of ore being produced profits start to fall.
Nearly 6,000 tons of ore a year was being produced by South Caradon.
The mine became the biggest copper producer in Cornwall. But profits still fell.
1867 Fowey Consols failed
1868 West obtains majority shares in Phoenix United
1879 William West Dies
Work Stopped at the mine
A limited company was formed to raise more capital, and attempts are made to keep the mine more profitable by extending the eastern part of the workings.
Work Ceases, despite having copper reserves the mine was too expensive to run with the low price of copper. A picture of the mine prior to closure
Attempts made to re-work the mine, but with no success.
The venture planned to run East Caradon, Glasgow Caradon and South Caradon as one mine.
The site becomes mine history.
The end of an Industry
When the South Caradon Mine pumps stopped the water rose to flood the workings of adjacent mines forcing them to close. Even Railways suffered. 1885 saw the Liskeard and Caradon Railway going into receivership. A railway whose existence was dependent on the wealth produced by the South Caradon Mine.
Other Time lines on this blog
A Great Book Shop
To find books about the history of the Caradon Hill area pop in to the excellent book shop at Liskeard. They keep some well stocked shelves on Cornish local history, including my two paperbacks on William West– The Last Great Cornish Engineer, and the Liskeard Mining District .