Some Cornish Mining Terms

My talk at Luckett next month will be rich in Cornish Mining terms, and so it seems like a good idea to create a quick reference for those attending to look through after the evening. So here is a collection of words that I will be explaining on the evening, in the rough order that they will appear.

A collection of some Cornish Mining words and terms

The Name

Wheal, Whele, Whild, Huel
A prefix to most Cornish mine name’s.
The word was a corruption of word huel which means hole, a mine pit.  Sometimes Wheal was used inside of a mines name, rather than as a prefix, such as in “South Caradon Wheal Hooper”.

Bal
An old term for a mine.
The name was derived from Cornish ‘Pal’, the word for a shovel, and hence ‘a digging’, a mine.In its earliest usage it referred to a group of small shallow, or surface tin works.

Consols
A shortened form of the word ‘Consolidated’.
This suffix was originally used where a number of mines were brought together and worked under a common management, but it was a word that became misused to inspire confidence in unwary investors. Consolidated Mine at Gwennap and Devon Great Consols are the two most successful mines to include this word in their names.

The Ground

Sett, Set
The legal boundary within which a mine could extract minerals.

Extract of Brenton Symons' 1863 map showing South Caradon Mine
South Caradon Sett as shown by Brenton Symons in 1863

The normal period of granting a sett was 21 years.

Mineral Lord
The owner of the mineral rights, this was not necessarily the landowner.

Royalty, Dish, Dues
The mineral lord’s portion of the produce.
The dish was a portion of the value of ore produced at a mine which was paid to the mineral owner. In deep-expensive to operate mines, the dues did not often exceed 15th, whilst in newer mines it may be a 10th or even a 8th. The payment was based on gross produce, that is before expenses, and therefore could act as a discouragement for the development of mines. The lords had little to loose, but much to gain the wealth underground.

The Country

Killas
A sedimentary clay-slate rock.
Killas is a Cornish miner’s term for sedimentary rock, often metamorphosed by the granite intrusion,

Elvan
An intrusive quartz porphyry rock, or an intrusion of that rock.
Elvan is a very hard rock that can add greatly to the cost of driving levels and sinking shafts. Its hardness made it a sought after building material.

Lode
A crack in the rock filled with minerals, from which the miners extracted the ore.

Lode
A lode in the ‘End’ of a Cornish mine

Lodes were normally vertical, or near-vertical; often extending for considerable distances. In other parts of Britain, they are known as a veins or seams.

Strike of a lode
The bearing of a lode.
The strike is the horizontal direction of a lode, given as a compass bearing.

Dip, Underlie
The angle of slope of a ;ode.
The underlie is the angle measured from the vertical, whilst the dip is the angle measured from the surface. A shaft following the lode was said to be underlie shaft.

The shareholders

Adventurers
The shareholders of a mine.

Out-adventurer
A mine’s shareholder who did not hold shares just to enable them to supply it with goods or services.

Bal-Selling, Share-jobbing
The selling of mine shares for speculative purposes.
Mines were often formed and promoted to make profits from the shares, rather then the minerals.

Financing the mine

Cost book system
A method of conducting the finances of a Cornish mine.
It was a simple system that had served the industry well for hundreds of years, but had limitations when used for the large capital hungry concerns of the 19th Century. Under the cost book system, adventurers put money into a new venture by buying shares, and then at periodic meetings it would be decided whether they would have to pay a call to provide more money to continue running the mine, or receive a dividend.

Cost book Companies could only raise money from its adventurers or from the sale of ore, the reserves of ore underground therefore had to act as its ‘bank’ and skillful management of reserves would be required for long term success. Development work had to be conducted alongside the extraction of ore to ensure new ore would be available in the future when needed.

One drawback of the system was that investors would become impatient if they had a long wait for dividends, and would refuse to make more calls. The mine would then run short of capital, and close before making a profit. Sometimes a new company would be formed to keep development going, or the mine went into liquidation, selling off its equipment. This explains the frequent starts and stops in Cornish mining history, and how unscrupulous companies could operate.

Cost book
The book containing the names and addresses of all adventures of a mine, along with all share transfers and expenses.

Progressive mine
A mine in operation, but not paying dividends.
Such a mine may be making calls on its adventures.

Call
A demand on the adventures to pay their share of costs.

The Workers

Tribute
A system of payment in which groups of miners bid for contracts to work sections of the mine for a percentage of the value of the ore raised.
It was given at so much in a pound, that is a sum per 20 shillings of ore raised. Normally from 3 to 15 shillings in a pound. The tributers account was charged with tools, materials, subsist and the wages of the ore dressers. The payment is based on the amount paid for the ore by the smelters at the sale.

Tributer
A miner whose pay was a proportion of the ore, or of the value of the ore raised.

Tribute pitches
The portions of a lode set to pares of tributors.

Takers
Those who took up a pitch on tribute

Take an end
To agree to drive an adit or level for so much per fathom.

Tutwork
Work in which a miner earned an amount in proportion to the work completed.
Tutwork was work done by measure, such as sinking shafts, driving levels or stopeing ground. These would be paid by fathoms sunk, fathoms driven, or cubic fathom. Each lot was called a bargain.

The Employment System

Captains
Experienced miners who supervised operations at a mine.
There were underground captains, surface captains, and dressing captains. The head captain was the manager.

Setting
A public auction of the work at a mine.
Setting generally took place every two months. It was held in the open air before the counthouse of the mine which normally had an elevated stage for the captains to stand on. The auction was normally started about the middle of the day, and conducted on a high to low basis. Bidding was closed by a pebble being thrown into air, when it hit the ground the bidding was closed. A reserve price may be set by the captain to prevent collusion amongst the miners to keep the prices high.

Survey
The action at a setting.

General article
A set of rules governing every contract made during a setting.
This was read out before the setting started.

Count house, Account house, Counthouse

South Caradon Mine Counthouse in the 1880s
South Caradon Mine Counthouse


The mine office.
This was a commonly used shortened version of the proper name, ‘Account house’.

Often a counthouses was used as a dwelling, and provided a venue for adventurers dinners. Smaller mines sometimes used shanty-type count houses suitable for moving from site to site.

Stope
An excavated area produced during the extraction of ore-bearing rock.

A disused Stope in a Cornish Mine
A Stope

Stopes are the most impressive of underground features, the larger ones form massive man-made caverns. Where open to the surface, they form gunnis or coffens.

Stoper
A miner who extracted the ore in a stope.

Overhand
A method of stoping by removing ore from the roof.

Underhand stoping
A method of stoping by working below a level.

Levels
A horizontal tunnel in a mine not extending to the open air.
Levels were driven on lodes, usually at a depth spacing of 10 fathoms.

End
The end of a level, or cross-cut.

Prilling the sample
A clandestine addition of a rich mineral to the sample submitted to the assayer.
Prilling would give a tributer a higher payment for his ore then he would have been entitled.

Selling the Ore

Ticketing
The weekly sale of ore by tender.
The mine agents met around a table at 12 o’clock. Each buyer gave in his ticket offering price per ton. The tickets were read by the chairman, who was the agent having the largest quantity of ore for sale, and the persons present note the prices. The lots were sold to the highest bidder. After the sales the attendees dine together at the expense of their mine. Ticketing was originally used for copper sales, but some ticketings also occurred for tin sales.

Doles of copper ore at South Caradon Mine
Doles of Copper ore at South Caradon Mine

Doles
Piles of crushed ore, laid out ready for sampling.
Doles were usualy about two three feet high, with flat tops. Six doles make up a parcel of ore for sale. Buyer’s agents took a sample from a dole for assaying before the ticketing.


wp-1453408124105.jpegThe map shown in this post is part of Brenton Symons’s map of the Liskeard Mining District.  The full map is reproduced in Kindle format in “The Liskeard Mining District in 1863”.

Click here to view on Amazon>

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A glimpse into the workings of Cornish Mining Companies- A talk for November

Hope, Luck and a Sprinkling of Underhand Dealings

A talk for the East Cornwall Mining History Association at Luckett

A brief pause in the posts this week to promote my talk for the ECMHA at Luckett village, a village rich in miming history and heritage. 

Luckett Talk Poster

On the 24th of November 2018  I will be giving a talk   on the dealings that went on behind the scenes of 18th Century Cornish mines. An evening that will bring to life many of the words and phrases that fill the pages of newspapers and mine reports of the day, and a talk that will throw some light of what was called the “Cornish System” .  Some come along and enjoy an evening of Tributes and Tuts, Wheals and Winzes.  This is local history with great a plot line!

Click here for the ECMHA website>

The Talk

Some of the talk will be based on my latest publication  “On the Economy of the Mines of Cornwall and Devon 1814 (Annotated): The Cornish System described” , some of it on my other publications, some of it on publications to come, and some of it on the research behind the posts on this blog.

JT cover Front

Click here to see Kindle Edition on Amazon>
Click here for the Paperback Edition on Amazon>

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books on the night

For those looking for a Christmas present then I will have on sale my range of Cornish Mining paperbacks on the night, and for the younger readers Cheryl will have her range of Cornish Legend themed storybooks.

 

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


 

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.

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