After a run of maps and engine houses its time for this blog to return to some history. This time its my favorite period in history 1862-3.
Webb and Geach description of of South Caradon Mine captures the mine at the peak of its success.
A modern reprint of the full book is available in paperback from the Trevithick Society.
The South Caradon Sett
“This is an extensive sett, but of a most irregular shape, having a linear distance between its extreme points of two miles, which in no place exceeds 650 fathoms. The Sett so accommodates itself to the lodes, however, that there is a clear course of at least a mile on the most productive of them, decreasing in width as it extends in a triangular shape northward, where the lodes have not yet been sufficiently tried to prove their value.
Commencing at the northern corner, which is close to the Old Wheal Jenkin mines, the eastern boundary (a compact and durable fence, lately built by the present proprietors of both the soil and minerals) runs along close by “The Caradon Mine”, now included in the West Rose Down Sett, whence it extends across Caradon Hill, passing within a few fathoms of East Caradon New Engine shaft. It then has the Launceston and Liskeard road as a boundary as far as Newton around which estate and Bladda it winds (excluding the cultivated land south). It then takes the road from Bladda to Crows nest, from whence, turning sharply to the North, it has first East Agar, and afterwards West Caradon and Gonomena mines as its western boundary, a stream of water which rushes down a deep gully bounding the sett for three quarters of a mile .”
The lodes and shafts
“To form some idea of the extent and position of the mineral wealth of this valuable property, it will be necessary to trouble the reader with a concise description. Commencing, then South: Kitto’s South lode comes first in order. Then Kitto’s North lode and Caunter lode; these two run parallel and close to each other their whole
distance, and it should be noted that although when first cut the direction then seemed to proclaim it a caunter, it soon took a regular course east and west. These two have been, par excellence, the productive lodes not only of this mine, but of the district, and it is mostly from them that the profits of the mine have been made. These lodes are unwatered by a 60 inch engine on Rules shaft, and a 32 inch on kitto’s , the most eastern shaft on these lodes is a distance from East Caradon New Engine shaft (Which works the caunter lode) a little over 200 fathoms. These lodes are worked as deep as 180 fathoms under adit in South Caradon, and still continue as productive as ever, and are worked nearly 600 fathoms in length. Next in rotation is Jope’s Lode, which as engine of 42 inch diameter drains.
Further north are Clymo’s, Pearce’s and Dowding’s lodes. The main lode next in order was first discovered and worked on in the mine, and was very productive. There were several lodes on which little has been done, including Mendue’s which has been so rich in West Caradon. Webb’s and Gerald’s lodes still north, and have been productive. Father still, the whole of Gonomena veins cross a short part of the sett, although they are untried here. It will be seen that the whole of the Caradon lodes traverse the sett, bearing about 8 north of west. These are intersected at right angles by several cross courses, the easternmost, near Jopes shaft, heaving all the lodes to the right hand regularly. There is nothing that can be called an elvan course, although numerous patches occur near the lode and favourably affect it. The junction of killas with granite occurs a little south of Caunter and Kitto’s lode.”
By 1863 it can be seen that the centre of production has moved eastwards and southwards. Caunter and Kitto’s lodes are described as the source of most of the mine’s profits. The mine was still growing in output at the time of this report, and yet it was beginning to feel the impact of a drop in the price of copper.
The lodes are stated as being worked 180 fathoms under adit. That is over 1000 feet under the the level of the valley, or about the same depth down as Caradon Hill is above sea level! The scale of the workings visible above ground pale to insignificance to the invisible workings beneath.
The Mine buildings
“From the top of the western slope of Caradon hill an excellent birds eye view offers itself to the observer: Immediately below all the mine workings and buildings are clearly seen, most of them in the narrow gully before alluded to, where every inch of available space is occupied by railways, ore floors engines, stamps, and the many appliances for the economical conduction of mining enterprise.
Immense masses of granite debris or “deads”, as technically termed, intrude themselves everywhere. In addition to the machinery already adverted to, there is on the old sump a 45 inch pumping engine, the first erected in the district, and which has worked uninterruptedly for twenty six years; a 30 inch engine does the crushing. There is also a 22 inch winding engine at Jope’s shaft, a 24 inch at rules and a 22 inch at kitto’s, and a water winding engine at old sump. The ores are reduced by water-power.
It commenced to work in 1836, when an adit was driven on the main lode. At this time there were no mines working the lodes on the southern slope of the Caradon range, nor was it remotely supposed by any one that such a splendid run of congenial strata existed there.”
This is the “narrow gully” described, formed from the valley of the Seaton River.
By the time of this report, Kitto’s shaft is operation at eastern boundary of the sett.
“The adventurers of this mine have lately presented Mr. and Mrs. Norris, the proprietors of the land, with a handsome piece of plate, as proof of the esteem in which they are held, and of their kind and considerate conduct in the renewal of their lease in May 1862.
The mine is divided into 512 shares, on which 25s. was originally paid: for that small outlay, £365 per share has been returned to the fortunate adventures, amounting to the aggregate of £197,632. It shows the importance such a mine as this must be to the neighbourhood in which it may be placed, when it is mentioned that £600,000 have been paid to labourers and merchants and £43,000 in dues to the Lord. There are engaged in various occupations at this concern 650 persons.
The purser is Mr. T Kitto of Linkinghorne. The manager is Mr. Peter Clymo of Liskeard. The agents, Captains Rule, Pearce, Holman and May. Pay-day, the second Saturday in the month.”
South Caradon’s output was to peak over the following 15 years. This report was written only a couple years before the fall in the value of copper being sold. A fall caused by the drop in copper price, a price which had already dropped from its summit of about £13 in the 1850’s.
The significant impact of South Caradon on the economy of the area is commented on by Webb and Geach. The second Saturday in each month was no doubt an important day in the surrounding towns and villages.
Notes from a General meeting
General meeting held 25th November 1862
I am happy in being able to state that our prospects are still very good, with every probability of a continuance.
The general meetings are held two monthly; the next meeting will be held January 27th 1863.”
An optimistic report, but the decline in mine’s fortunes had already started. It was now having to raise more and more copper to maintain the same profits. The copper price was on its downward trend towards the £3 per ton of ore of the 1880’s, and the mine’s final closure.
- Click here for more information on 1863>
- Click here for information on Brenton Symons’s 1863 map of the area>
The Liskeard Mining District in 1863
This Kindle edition of Brenton Symons’s 1863 map makes a perfect companion to the Webb and Geach book.