Prince of Wales Shaft engine houses

Dodgy practices- Cornish Mine Share trading

Prince of Wales Shaft BuildingsTrading Cornish Mining Shares in the 18th Century

As I prepare for the up and coming talk at Luckett, a village with its own amazing mining heritage, it seemed apt that I should produce a quick summary on the trading of Cornish Mining shares. I have used a publication written by Roger Burt as the main source of information, “The London Mining Exchange 1850 to 1900”.

Click here for extract on Google Books>

Unfortunately the Cornish mining industry of the 19th century was often hindered by the bad reputation it gained as an investment. This reputation was obtained by the actions of the system that was supposed to support it by raising capital.

Cornish mining has always been an industry of extreme fortunes, extremes driven by the unpredictability of the lodes beneath the ground. This was an industry where luck and skill could bring huge wealth of within yards huge losses.

In the 19th century additional factors came into play, the man made factors of  share fraud, and share manipulation. Much of these malpractice s was made possible by the manner in which the mining shares were traded.This was compounded by the change is share structure of many mining companies, a change that brought the shares to a growing market of unwary investors.

The buying and selling of Cornish Mining Shares

In the 18th and 19th Centuries most mining companies excluded from stockWindow at Prince of Wales engine house market instead the shares were  traded by direct contact seller and buyer, or sometimes in the case of large sales by public auction. 

Dealers did not buy and sell on commission, but  Instead bought and sold, and exchanged shares between mines, even buying whole mines. This  business was conducted from their  own offices, on the pavement outside of the stock market or in Royal Exchange. Share issues and sales  were  advertised in the of the mining Journal. Richard Hawke of Liskead for example was a common seller through the pages of the Journal.

As time went on Cost book companies divided their shares to attract more capital.In the mid 1840s most had shares of 256 or less, but 20 years later numbers in thousands. Such division made the shares affordable to a wider range of investors, a wider range of investors that where ripe to be relieved of their money by unscrupulous dealers.

Malpractices flourished

The share dealers direct involvement in mines gave opportunity for malpractice, an Prince of Wales Shaft engine housesopportunity that some took advantage of.

As adventures in the mines they could become involved in their  management would influence activity to maximize share value,  even if it impacted long term working of mines. They often became the mine’s purser or secretary to maximize their ability to direct the activities of the mine.

Some would start  a mine at inflated prospects, collect in share capital from hopeful investors and then take a large slice for their services.  Their aim was not to extract ore from underground,  but to extract money from gullible public’s pockets. Once the mine was formed their influence was still exerted, sometimes they would divert profits to high prestige projects such as grand buildings, and sometimes falsely boost production with the richest parts of  lodes at the expense of the longer term fortune of the mine

The Mining Exchanges

But many honest dealers giving good advice, and some of them attempted from the mid 19th Century more reputable attempted to form place to trade shares, These involved creating  a ‘Mining Exchange’ where mining shares could be bought and sold under regulated conditions, through accredited dealers. Several attempts were made, but each failed, often amid acquisitions  that the exchanges created small cliques that excluded some of the experienced smaller dealers.

The collapse of the Cornish Mining Industry would overtake the attempts to form a widely supported Mining Exchange. This was a collapse hastened by the bad reputation gained by the very malpractices the exchanges were attempting to prevent.

 


Luckett Talk PosterA date for the diary


 

Advertisements

Charles Babbage and Cornish Mines

An up and coming talk based on my Recent John Taylor‘s publication has led me temporarily away from the South Caradon Mine’s post series, but I will return once the talk has been and gone (follow this post for news of the talk). So here is the start of some posts on the Cornish system.

The Cornish System supported

Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage (1791-1871) is best known for his role in the development of what Charles Babbagewould become today’s computers. But Babbage was a  multifaceted genius, he was a mathematician, inventor, philosopher, scientist and astronomer.

One of his influential works  was “On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures” published in 1832.  A work on which he lays out is ideas on the organisation of manufacturing. The later editions of this work included views on combining the interests of labour and capital  into a system that would be far more effective than the normal employer-employee arrangement. One of the key pieces of evidences supporting his argument was the effectiveness of the system used in Cornish mines, “The Cornish System”.

This post contains a short extract from Babbage’s book, an extract that describes the Cornish System through the eyes of an economic philosopher. The extract has been formatted and re-paragraphed to make easier reading on-line, a change that I suspect Babbage would have enjoyed seeing.

For books about, and by, Charles Babbage-Click here>

On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures
1832

Extract from Chapter 26 On a New System of Manufacturing

307. In the mines of Cornwall, almost the whole of the operations, both above and below ground, are contracted for. The manner of making the contract is nearly as follows. At the end of every two months, the work which it is proposed to carry on during the next period is marked out. It is of three kinds.

  1. Tutwork, which consists in sinking shafts, driving levels, and making excavations: this is paid for by the fathom in depth, or in length, or by the cubic fathom.
  2. Tribute, which is payment for raising and dressing the ore, by means of a certain part of its value when rendered merchantable. It is this mode of payment which produces such admirable effects. The miners, who are to be paid in proportion to the richness of the vein, and the quantity of metal extracted from it, naturally become quick-sighted in the discovery of ore, and in estimating its value; and it is their interest to avail themselves of every improvement that can bring it more cheaply to market.
  3. Dressing. The ‘Tributors’, who dig and dress the ore, can seldom afford to dress the coarser parts of what they raise, at their contract price; this portion, therefore, is again let out to other persons, who agree to dress it at an advanced price.

The lots of ore to be dressed, and the works to be carried on, having been marked out some days before, and having been examined by the men, a kind of auction is held by the captains of the mine, in which each lot is put up, and bid for by different gangs of men. The work is then offered, at a price usually below that bid at the auction, to the lowest bidder, who rarely declines it at the rate proposed.

The tribute is a certain sum out of every twenty shillings’ worth of ore raised, and may vary from threepence to fourteen or fifteen shillings. The rate of earnings in tribute is very uncertain: if a vein, which was poor when taken, becomes rich, the men earn money rapidly; and instances have occurred in which each miner of a gang has gained a hundred pounds in the two months. These extraordinary cases, are, perhaps, of more advantage to the owners of the mine than even to the men; for whilst the skill and industry of the workmen are greatly stimulated, the owner himself always derives still greater advantage from the improvement of the vein.

This system has been introduced, by Mr Taylor, into the lead mines of Flintshire, into those at Skipton in Yorkshire, and into some of the copper mines of Cumberland; and it is desirable that it should become general, because no other mode of payment affords to the workmen a measure of success so directly proportioned to the industry, the integrity, and the talent, which they exert.

NOTES:
1. For a detailed account of the method of working the Cornish mines, see a paper of Mr John Taylor’s Transactions of the Geological Society, vol. ii, p. 309.


JT cover FrontJohn Taylor’s account reprinted

The Paper mentioned by Babbage is available in paperback or Kindle format.

Click here for paperback on Amazon>

Click here for Kindle>

 

Cobbled flooring at South Caradon Mine

South Caradon Dressing Sheds

Navsbooks>South Caradon Mine>Maps>Dressing Sheds

The dressing shed floors in 2018

Another one of the gaps in the South Caradon Mine’s views posts has been closed with this post. It has been slightly delayed in being published whilst I was distracted into pulling together all this series into a more cohesive resource. So if you are interested in finding more about South Caradon have a look at its updated index page, and use the ‘breadcrumb’ navigation at the top of each post to help find your way around. Meanwhile, its back to the views….

The Bal Maidens workplace

In front of  the main adit  can be seen the remains of one of the many  buildings that jostled for room on the flat space of the valley floor. Within this building  much of the processing of the copper ore would have been undertaken.

The role of the shed

Copper ore dressing was mainly a series of manual tasks requiring large numbers of people. The rock was broken down in size and the ore sorted the ore from the waste by hand.This hand processing was a feature of copper mining and was a result of the nature of copper ores which tended to break in a fine powder if crushed.

Click for information on the dressing process at South Caradon>

Click for a map of the dressing floor>

The dressing shed in 1880

A rare surviving example of dressing floors cobbled flooring

Cobbled flooring at South Caradon Mine

This is one of the gems of the South Caradon’s remains; a feature closely associated with copper ore dressing.

The flooring

On the valley floor below and down stream of the Yard can be seen some  cobbled flooring. These cobbles are the remains of the large main processing shed, of which some of the northern walls still remain.

Towards the Count House site another level of cobbled flooring exists. This coincides with the structure shown below. Possibly a sorting floor or where spalling was undertaken.


Webb and Geach Book CoverThe full 1880 photograph of the South Caradon Mine is re-produced in the ‘History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon Distict’, a paperback printed by the Trevithick Society.

Click here to find the book on Amazon>

South Caradon Mine Counthouse in the 1880s

South Caradon Mine’s Count House

Navsbooks>South Caradon>Views>Count House

It’s back to exploring South Caradon’s views; filling in the gaps on the valley floor view.

The centre of the mine’s administration

Many Cornish Mines have left impressive Count houses, but not at South Caradon. Its derelict state possibly arising from its location deep within the dressing floors. This is not a location to be developed into a grand home, farmhouse or Nursing Home, it is a location where buildings  have been left to crumble.

The role of the count house

Mine count houses where normally imposing buildings, from which the mine was administered and the mine’s accounts kept. Traditionally, the bidding for work by the miners was carried out at the front of the  count houses, at the steps of the front door.

The remains of the count house

The area of South Caradon mine counthouse

On the terrace above the valley floor and down stream of the Yard is the sparse remains of the count house. In 1937 this stood to a substantial height but today only its foundations and a small pile if rubble remains. 

However , the nearby the count houses of West Caradon, East Caradon and Glasgow Caradon remain standing and in use as residences or hotels.

The Count House in the 19th  century

South Caradon Mine Counthouse in the 1880s

This photograph of the building shows it to be a rambling construction with several extensions added to its rear. The nearest corner appears to be of wood construction, and presumably the grand entrance is on the north side, hidden from the camera.

At that entrance the  miners would bid to take part in an auction (The setting) for work. This was an important part of the ‘Cornish system’ , the subject of the book described in my last post.


Second Hand Books

In addition to my own paperbacks and Kindle publications I sometimes also have a small selection of second hand books for sale, some on mining, some on railways, some on maritime and whenever possible some on maps. I say ‘sometimes’ because the listings are closed whenever I am more than a day away from the increasingly evasive post offices and their restricted opening hours.

Click here to see the current stock on Amazon>

If the shelves area empty try another day, when my travels may have brought me past a post office counter.

A Cornish Mining Cook Cover- must be an engine house!

On the Economy of the mines of Cornwall and Devon-1814

There has been a slight pause in the South Caradon posts whilst I divert my attentions to finishing off a little gem of 19th Century mining history. South Caradon is not been pushed completely into the wings however, for it makes an appearance on the book cover.

The Cornish System Described

John Taylor’s pamphlet on the Devon and Cornwall mining industry gives a great introduction to what was known as the ‘Cornish System’, a management and financial system used by mines all over the world that caJT cover Frontme under the influence of Cornish miners.

A talk I gave on John Taylor (that is the Norwich born mining genius, not the 1980’s guitarist) prompted me to bring some of his words back into print, and so I republished his 1814 book in the Kindle format .

Click to view the Kindle edition on Amazon>

I have had requests by non-Kindle readers to make a hard copy available, and that version is now nearing completion.

The Cover

Here is the first draft of the cover. The original intention of not following the well trodden route of ‘Cornish Mining Topic= Engine House’ rapidly became overturned as I delved through my image store. Over and over again the images that stood out and the same theme, a Cornish engine house. Despite the thousands of images of shafts, tips, adits, stopes, buddles, and winzes it was only the engine house images that shouted out “Cornish Mining”.

The significance of the engine house

Cornwall has been gifted with structures whose distinctive silhouettes are bold and simple trademarks of its history and identity.  There are few other man made landmarks around the world that form such an easily recognizable symbol. It is a feature that can be depicted in dramatic landscapes or simplified to a black and white icon. It can be placed on books, on gifts, in paintings, on road signs, on trade marks, on car stickers, and the message is clear.

And so, the book cover used an engine house, it says far clearer than any other image I could find that this is a book about Cornish Mining. In my defense, I must add that it is not the stereotypical view of a Cornish Engine house; the chimney is not visible, the walls are tumbled and there are no dramatic sea views. Instead snow lies on the ground and waste tips form the background. The engine house is Sump Shaft pumping engine at South Caradon Mine.

Follow this blog for more information about the new book.

South Caradon Mine Yard

Navsbooks>South Caradon>Views>The Yard

The revival of the South Caradon website continues with more detail from the view of South Caradon dressing floor area. The original web page has been updated in this post with some pictures taken on a recent visit to the site.​ 

This is one of the most distinctive remains on the Seaton Valley floor. Within its walls some of the day to day logistics of running South Caradon mine were conducted.

The yard

South Caradon Mine yard

Above the main adit and below Donkey pond can clearly be seen the walls of an enclosed square yard. Although the structure has the appearance of a farm or domestic building it was built in the 1860’s as part of the improvements in South Caradon’s processing facilities and included two miners’ dries.

The dries provided important facilities in improving the miners welfare. In these buildings the workers could change their wet working clothes for a dry set prior to their walk home. This was not a luxury but an important factor in reducing the high death rates from lung disease.

The dry's chimney at South Caradon Mine
The miner’s dry chimney.

A modern track now cuts across the yard, breaching the walls at each end as it does so. The chimney that can be seen to the south of the yard served a boiler that provided the steam for the Dry. Around the yard was also located storage sheds, a wash house and even a barber’s shop.

The decision to invest in such a large set of buildings probably stemmed from the owner’s experience working underground as a miners.

A view of the yard In the 19th century

South Caradon Yard in the 19th Century

In this late 19 century view the Southerly wall can be seen with the dry’s chimney on the uphill side. The gate into the yard can just be made out (closed) and skylights or vents appear to exist in the roof.


Caradon Mining Books

Here are some suggested book searches on Amazon.

South Caradon Main Adit

Navsbooks>South Caradon>Views>Main Adit

South Caradon Main adit

There has been pause in these South Caradon Posts, a pause with a good reason. I have been off with the St. Neot local history group and Digventures in another part of the moor, and in another era of its history. But now it is time to leave the Bronze age behind and return to the 19th Century.

The Birth Place of South Caradon Mine

This is the location from which the Clymo’s started their great enterprise. The level dug in from here hit the great wealth of copper that lay undiscovered under Caradon Hill.

The great copper wealth discovered

The adit was originally started  by a miner called Ennor, backed by Devonport adventurers. He ceased exploration before the copper was found, and the lease changed hands several times before the Clymos restarted the prospecting in 1833.

Large exposures of Gozzan on the valley side led them to this area and according to Collins the Adit was started at a point adjacent to an outcrop of a lode exposed in the stream bed. Collins then goes on to explain…

“As they advanced into the deeper ground which the rapid rise of the hill gave them, the small patches of copper ore which at first discernible became larger and more numerous; the lode also began to increase in size, and to give strong indications of leading to a great body of copper ore.

These anticipation’s were fully verified as the development proceeded, but it was only by the exercise of the greatest determination , and the straining of their small resources to the uppermost, that the Clymos were enabled to hold on to the stake until the prize was won”

Hamilton Jenkin stated that these favourable indications started to occur at 50 fathoms in from the entrance.

The Adit

The two adits of the South Caradon mine opened out onto the Seaton Valley floor. This Pipe in the South Caradon Mine main aditwas the lowest level at which water could be naturally drained out of the mine.
The Adit opened out onto the dressing floors today the adit is marked by a gated pipe installed by the Caradon Hill Project. No access exists through the adit to the underground workings. The approximate line of the lodes can be seen on the landscape through Sump and Pearce’s shafts.

1833 –The year  in perspective

William IV was still King with the Whigs in power lead by Earl Grey (for whom the tea was made). This was  a period of social change after the passing of  first reform bill of 1832, the abolition of colonial slavery and the first factory act.

An era passed in Cornwall, with the death of Richard Trevithick, whose development of the steam engine had made deep mining in Cornwall possible. Another  era was starting with the formation of the GWR, whose arrival in Cornwall in later years would open up the Duchy to the rest of the UK.


wpid-wp-1438632155953.jpegThe Liskeard Mining District in 1863

The geology of the Caradon mining district is depicted in this Victorian map by Brenton Symons, a map made available in Kindle format in “The Liskeard Mining District in 1863”.

Click here to view on Amazon>