One of the most interesting, but least visually prominent of the South Caradon engine houses.
It housed a horizontal 22″ (or 24″) single cylinder engine, a type pioneered in Cornwall by William West.
The building has been demolished and stone robbed but its outline can still be identified. A deep hollow to the east identifies the location of its boiler house. The chimney still stands behind the boiler house.
The prominent blocks of masonry are the granite loading for the winding gear. It does not however appear to line up with the shaft. The Brenton Symons map shows the engine as WE to the north of what is marked as “New Shaft”.
As a bit of a break from the string of posts covering the engine houses at South Caradon, I have dipped into the old website and pulled out one of the contemporary reports, given it a bit of a freshen up, and added some new photographs. Hope you enjoy the read.
“The prospects are exceedingly brilliant, and not surpassed by any other mine in Cornwall”
South Caradon Mine was on the up in 1843, a star of the British mining scene. This report from the mining commentator and share dealer J.Y Watson reflects its high status in the eyes of the industry.
A compendium of British Mining, Watson 1843
“In the parish of St Cleer near Liskeard was originally searched for tin, and when the lode was first discovered in Caradon Hill, and found to contain a quantity of gossan, it was considered so favourable to the existence of tin, that it was with difficulty a company was formed to work it; but the messrs. Clymo who has obtained the sett, persevered and three rich copper lodes were soon opened. The original outlay to the adventures before the mine made returns in August 1837 was only £327 8s 5d and from that time to the 31st March 1840 they sold copper ores to the amount of £15,635 10s 7d., paid all costs for machinery, including two steam engines and a whim; from that time to November, 1842 they have divided, altogether, a profit of £19,168 and are now receiving at the rate of £10,000 a year, with every prospect of greatly increasing the returns. Some mine agents have asserted that there is £150,000 worth of ore discovered in this mine; but be that as it may, the prospects are exceedingly brilliant, and not surpassed by any other mine in Cornwall. A great part of the workings are in Caradon Hill, which is 1,298 feet high. The monthly cost of working is about £18600”
This report was written at a time when the mine was growing, but in a period when the mines in the West of Cornwall had started to suffer. It had only been seven years since the Clymo’s had discovered the copper, and yet the figures being stated in this report are huge. It is no wonder the mine was being described in such superlatives as “exceedingly brilliant”.
The success of the mine was putting a strain on the local infrastructure. The roads proved incapable of providing the transport capacity required down to the port of Looe and a survey was commissioned in 1842 by a group of mine owners to build a railway from Caradon down to the Liskeard and Looe Canal. The route was surveyed by Robert Coad and the line was in operation by 1846.
This was a period of mass immigration of miners from the west of the Duchy. Over the next decade the population of many of the villages around was to double causing overcrowding and poor housing conditions. Drinking houses, brothels and makeshift miners camps allegedly grew up to serve the rapidly expanding workforce.
1843 was the year that the Clymo’s had started the lead mining boom in nearby Menheniot, with the launch of Wheal Trelawney.
Other events in 1843
To put the year in perspective.
Queen Victoria was on the throne
Robert Peel was Prime Minister
Marc Isambard Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, the first tunnel under the River Thames was opened
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain was launched
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was published
Back westwards across Caradon Hill in this post to return to the group of buildings around Rule’s and Holman’s Shafts.
The ‘Man in the Mine’ at South Caradon
This is the most imposing engine house on South Caradon Mine; dominating Caradon Hill’s southern slopes with its massive bulk and its well known “Man in the Mine” shaped collapse in its western wall. A feature that has recently changed shape after stabilization work. It now resembles a ‘Lady in bobble hat’.
Holman’s shaft is situated on the southern slope of Caradon Hill mid-way along the line of the southern lodes. It is located close by the less well preserved remains of Rule’s shaft. Around the shaft is a complex of buildings, tracks, tramways, tips and tunnels. With a prominent location on the southern slopes of Caradon hill the tips and engine house can be seen for many miles across South East Cornwall.
The shaft is sometimes called New Engine Shaft, with Sump Shaft being the original engine shaft.
Holman’s engine house has walls still standing to full height although some collapse has occurred around the openings. A result of the collapse on the southern side is a hole the shape of which resembles the outline of a hatted man who has run through the wall! The shaft on the eastern side of the building is choked with rubbish and is subsiding. On the opposite side is the substantial remains of the boiler house which is sunk below ground level. No chimney exists as it was believed to share the stack with the nearby Rules shaft. Beside the engine house can be seen the remains of a tramway and a track tunnel passing under the spoil tips.
The 70″ engine it housed was built new for the mine by Harvey and Co in 1875. It was installed as a result of the adjacent Rule’s Shaft engine being unable to keep pace with the extra drainage required of the expanding workings underground.
On closure of South Caradon it was bought by West Wheal Grenville where it was restarted in in 1888.
Brenton Symons’s 1863 Map is available on Kindle
The cover of the Kindle reproduction of the Victorian Map has Holman’s distinctive engine house silhouetted in the distance.
Before looking at the last set of engine house at the South Caradon Mine I have had quick diversion into maps, a diversion that gave me the opportunity to play on the OS maps online website.
The South Caradon explored with Grid References
‘Minions- An archaeological survey of the Caradon Mining District‘ by Adam Sharpe without doubt is the definitive resource on the industrial archaeology of Caradon Area. And now that the OS Maps on-line website has arrived there is a wonderful opportunity for armchair archaeology. Type in the grid references in the book into the webpage search, pinpoint the site and then switch on the aerial layer- a great way to read the book. To reduce some of the typing for the South Caradon mine here is a list of hyperlinks to the locations. Enjoy exploring.
The Caradon website resurrection has continues apace, this time looking at maps and views that cover the last three engine houses described.
Kitto’s shaft is South Caradon’s most easterly workings, lying close the boundary with East Caradon Mine. It is a collection of remains close to the car park at Tokenbury Corner that lie hidden behind extensive waste tips.
Although the engine houses are in a poor condition, none are standing more than a metre high, it is still a fascinating collection of remains. It is a historical set of remains as well, for this is the location of the last man engine installed in Cornwall.
Kitto’s Shaft area in 1883
In addition to the engine houses this map shows the tramway and leat layout. The tramways link the shaft with the tips, and also the dressing floor in the Seaton Valley. The leats run westwards to supply the engine houses that lie across the slopes of Caradon Hill.
An elusive engine house site at South Caradon Mine
Only a short South Caradon Post this time, a short post because there is so little to see of this engine house.
This is last of the trio of engine houses at Kitto’s Shaft; and it is one easily missed when visiting the site. Kitto’s whim was located to the south of the more visible man engine remains. All that can be found there are are some grassed mounds and undulations. This engine has left even less remains than the piles of rubble that identify Jope’s Whim.
The whim was a 22″ beam engine which was sold when the man engine was installed at the shaft. Wheal Strawberry (St. Austell District) bought the engine in 1886.
The lack of remains is probably the result of its house being demolished to provide stone for the man engine house.
The diversion of these posts into Man Engine related topics has left it at the easterly end of the South Caradon Sett, and so this is where it will resume its journey through the engine houses of this famous Cornish mine.
This engine house is often overlooked by the many walkers that use the track from Tokenbury corner; its low remains hidden behind the tips upslope from the track.
The shaft was sunk as part of the mine’s extension eastwards across the southern slopes of Caradon Hill. An extension that followed the rich trio of long loads, including the famous South Caradon Caunter lode. This expansion occurred in 1862-64 after an extended lease was agreed with Rev. Norris.
The shaft was unusual in having three shafts, accessing three lodes, in three directions from one collar. NW, NNW, SE. This can be seen in Dr.Russ’s amazing model of underground Cornwall found on his facebook page. Abandoned Mine Models>
Kitto’s shaft is best identified at 2:23 into the video.
Like several engines on this mine, author’s disagree on its size. The Minions report and Kenneth Brown State 35″, but Webb and Geach state 32″. Either way it was not a particularly large engine.
The engine was located to the north of the shaft with its boiler house lying to the east. Only lower part of engine house remains, although substantial balance pit exists. The Chimney now only stands about 1 metre high.
Two sources of information to look out for
Exploring Cornish Mine’s Volume 2 is a great resource for anyone wishing to explore South Caradon Mine. It is written by Kenneth Brown and Bob Acton, but unfortunately is now out of print. The footnotes are well worth a read, for this is where Kenneth Brown’s technical and historical information can be found. To find copies of the book on Amazon Click Here>
Copies of the Minions Archaeological Survey (by Adam Sharpe) are harder to find, it is worth trying Amazon once in a while though, just in case.
This is a bit of a jump in the South Caradon Engine house posts, a jump across the southern slopes of Caradon Hill to the most easterly of the mine’s shafts. This jump has been inspired by my recent visit to the visits to one of Will Coleman’s amazing Man Engine Puppet events.
The man engine’s modern manifestation is working it way through the UK’s mining districts as this post is being written, its mechanical spectacle enthralling crowds wherever it ‘resurrects’. Meanwhile, up on Caradon Hill, sits hidden away behind waste tips, the remains of the last of the original man engines. This post describes those historic remains at South Caradon Mine.
The man engine moves
This was the second site that this William West designed man engine operated from, its original location being on the western end of the site at Jope’s Shaft. Its move to Kitto’s reflected the movement of production eastwards across this the hill as it chased the riches of the Caunter Lode.
The Man Engine was moved here in 1884. The equipment movement did not include the power supply, because a different engine was used used. The engine was a small 23″ single cylinder horizontal engine.
One closure of the mine this steam engine may have been sold to West Wheal Grenville, an unsuccessful adventure that quickly failed. (Ref Kenneth Brown)
This an interesting set of remains. The flywheel loading is clearly visible with a prominent semi-circular cut out for the flywheel. and holes for the holding down bolts. This is the remains of the reduction gearing and crank that drove a short length of flat-rod to the shaft.To the east a depression marks the site of a balance bob.
Brenton Symons published his map at a time when Cornish mining, its miners, methods, and engineering dominated hard rock mining all over the world. This map reproduces his map of the Liskeard, Menheniot and Ludcott mining districts at the peak of their production, when their output dominated mining in Cornwall.
This publication uses the original Victorian map as a starting point to explore the mines of the district. Each map extract is accompanied by a history of the adventure, and a description of its activities in 1863.
This is a book that uses the Kindle format to bring a fascinating Victorian document back to life; forming an invaluable resource for anyone studying the history of Cornish Mining, or for those wishing to discover more about the amazing landscape of Bodmin Moor.
The maps display best in the Kindle Fires, tablets or phones running a Kindle reader where the colours can be seen to their full advantage. If you intend purchasing the book for an e-ink reader, then I suggest you download a sample first to check the grey scale contrast on your device.
Last weekend I had the chance of sharing the experience of seeing Will Colman’s amazing Man Engine puppet resurrect itself above a soggy field at the Cornwall Show ground. It was an experience I shared with thousands of other hardy onlookers, one of which was my young grandson. It was an experience he would never forget, and that was surely the aim of all the event.
A reflection on the show
This showmanship, with its mixture of awe, Cornish humor, facts, and a hint of fear forged a link in his memory with the now, and the past. A link that maybe would inspire him to explore the past, and the landscape around him.
Far more importantly though, the razzmatazz on that rain sodden field would give him, and all the other children in the field an alternative view of the future.
Cornwall was in the past was a place of invention, engineering and industry. Great engineers and engineering came from the land west of the Tamar. And today, the mineral wealth beneath the feet of the crowds watching the man engine is calling investors, calling skills, calling speculators. Drilling rigs are working across Cornwall, and pumps are about to start removing the water that fill long silent levels and shafts.
So perhaps, just perhaps, some of those younger members of the crowd in that wet field will grow up with more options to find work in their home country than their parents. And perhaps, the man engine would have played a part in inspiring some of them to become engineers- this country needs its engineers back.
The real man engine and William West
William West (The Last Great Cornish Engineer) played an important role in the development of the original man engine. One of my earlier posts in this blog tells that story.