This post in the series on South Caradon Mine contains extracts from the Mining Journal in 1885, extracts that tell the sad tale of a dying Cornish Mine.
The sales list of a once great Cornish mine
An attempt to breath new life into South Caradon by forming a limited company in 1883 had failed by 1885, when this article was published. The sale of the mine was advertised in the Mining Journal in September of that year. Within that notice was a list of equipment that provides an indication of the scale of machinery installed at the mine.
Extract From The Mining Journal September 1885
“Sale of South Caradon Mine (Limited), Liskeard, Cornwall
Mr May is instructed by the directors of the South Caradon Mine (Limited) to offer for sale by auction in one lot, at the auction mart, Tokenhouse yard, in the city of London, on Wednesday, 9th September, 1885, at two in the afternoon precisely, the whole of the valuable mining plant, machinery and stores of the South Caradon Mine (Limited), all in good working order and including…..”
The following has been extracted from the remaining text of the sale notice and reproduced in a more readable form.
List of items for sale
- 70″ with 3 boilers
- 60″ with 3 boilers
- 2 x 50″ with 5 boilers
- 40″ with 2 boilers
- 35″ with 1 boiler
- 24″ with 1 boiler
- 2 x 22″ with two boilers
Dressing floor machinery
- Stamp engine 30″ with one boiler
- 24 head of stamps and crusher
- 20 foot water wheel with stone breaker
- Man Engine 23″ with one boiler
- 14″ Horizontal with air compressor
- 12″ engine with air compressor
- 12″ with saw bench
- 7″ with steam hammer
- 1000 fathoms pumps
- 600 fathoms main rods
- 500 fathoms air tubes
- 800 fathoms wire rope
- Over 3000 fathoms tram rails
- 500 fathoms ladders
The list provides a snapshot of the infrastructure of South Caradon. Twelve pumping, winding, stamping and man engines are listed. The tramway lines total about 6 km, some of which was underground.
The final days of South Caradon Mine
The mine had attempted to survive as a limited company but rising costs had made it unprofitable to continue. The vast network of underground workings required constant pumping to remain accessible and the falling cost of copper could not support the expense. The auction appears not to have success and in 1888 a rise in copper prices triggered a last unsuccessful attempt to re-open the mine.
The figures for 1885 show 3,436 tons of ore raised for an income of £11,174 and the mine was employing 289 staff.
The sorry figures for 1886 are a meagre 83 tonnes produced by two surface workers. The great mine had died.
Silence of the pumps
The stopping of South Caradon’s pumps forced the neighboring mines to close. Interconnected underground, they could not win the battle against the rising water levels. It marked the end of an era in Cornwall, when an estimated 25% of the population emigrated as the result of the collapse of the mining industry.
1885 in perspective
Victoria was still Queen with her Prime minister changing from Gladstone to Robert Gascoyne. This was the era of the “Scramble for Africa”, and abroad the UK was involved in the Mahdist War in the Sudan.