The Railway at South Caradon Mine 

ViewRail

The South Caradon Mine Website resurrection is still on-going, although the pace has slowed. Here is another of its railway themed posts, with a touch of light editing.

The South Caradon Mine provided the core traffic for the Looe and Caradon Railway (LCR)  for most of its history, and without the Railway the mine’s development would have been severely restricted. This interrelationship explains the presence of the LCR trackbed within the dressing floors of the mine. 1844 was the year that the LCR started transporting ore from South Caradon, seven years after the mine has started production.

The railway layout in the Seaton Valley

 

scrail

The unusual layout of the lines Within the Seaton valley came about from the historical development of the railways around Caradon Hill. The Original LCR line split at Polwrath depot, with one branch following the western slope of the valley up to the Granite quarries at Cheeswring via the Gonamena Incline. South Caradon Mine was served by the lower branch that ran to a siding at Valley floor level. 

In 1861 the line was extended around the Southern slopes of Caradon Hill to Tokenbury Corner, with the siding at South Caradon becoming a headshunt for trains using that branch. The layout changed again in 1877 with the opening of the Kilmar Junction Railway, which enabled trains to reach Cheeswring around the Eastern side of the Hill, and therefore bypassing the Gonamena incline.
This Plan is based on OS Maps 1882 (Copyright reserved),site visits, interprestions of the photographs in Messenger and notes within that book.

The Office

RailOffice

In the view above a small office is prominent beside the railway track at the head of the ore yard. The hut is dwarfed by the reveted piles of waste rock behind it and a lone worker appears to be busy with a shovel just outside its door. It has been assumed that the building was an office associated with the ore transport and was possibly owned by the LCR rather than the mine. CAU Minions survey.

The Office Today

viewHut

The remains of the office in 2001 as seen from the footpath. The foundations can be seen to the left of a patch of undergrowth with a line of fence post runnung infront. None of these fence post existed in the Victorian photograph, indicating that these originate from the period when the LCR remained open but the Mine was shut, and the headhunt remained in use to allow trains to reverse onto the Tokenbury branch.
Using the hut as a reference point it can quickly be seen how much material has been removed from the valley floor since South Caradon’s closure. The huge wall of rock had disappeared and undergrowth now grows over the ore floors

Tolls

The tolls in 1877 paid by the mines to LCR varied from 5s to 5s 9d per ton.(ref messenger pp 48)


For each wagon loaded the railway would collect about £1 10s and earn approximately 5s profit. South Cardon would therefore be paying tolls of just under £30 per week and adding to the railways profits by approximately £5 weekly.
Today these figures seem small, but to place them in perspective the amount of profit made on each wagon was roughly the same as the weekly wages paid to some of the mine’s surface worker at the time.

The wagons

RailWagons

The photograph above shows three wagons alongside the loading bank on the South Cardadon siding, The head shunt ran in front of these wagons and the ore yard can be seen behind. Dressed ore was probably delivered to the yard by the overhead tramway in the background.
The wagons shown are some of the stock bought in the early 1860’s when the line was converted to steam haulage. Smaller bottom discharging hopper wagons were used In the lines early history when the line terminated at Moorswater canal basin. These unloaded from overhead stages direct into the canal boats and only carried about 3 tons.

The wagons in the photograph were 6 ton capacity and to enable gravity working had screw brakes ( handles can be seen on the back right hand corners).These brakes enabled a guard to ride on a platform on the buffer to control the wagons descent down the gradient to Moorswater.

The Ore

Parcels of ore can be seen piled up behind the wagons. This ore had been dressed ready for sale to the Copper smelters who would bid for it by a system called ticketing. Copper Ore was normally concentrated ready for selling to the point where it contained about 6.5% metal.
the parcels would be sold by a system called ticketing. At certain dates the smelters agents sampled the ore parcels and made bids by placing tickets on them. The parcel would go to the smelter with the highest bidding ticket in on the parcel. From here the parcels would go down to loow where they would be stored on the quay ore yard to wait shipment by sea to the South Wales.

Some Traffic figures to give a sense of scale

Estimated weekley traffic In wagon loads:

  • Ore from South Caradon 16
  • Freight Carried on LCR 99
  • Maximum Ore from South Caradon 22
  • South Caradon ore as a percentage of LCR Freight tonnage 17%

Estimated weekly ore traffic In wagon loads from South Caradon, by decade:

  • 1840’s 12.69
  • 1850’s 12.05
  • 1860’s 18.58
  • 1870 ‘s 19.09
  • 1880’s 17.46

The above figures are based on Ore production figures published in Burt and LCR figures in Messenger with an assumed wagon size of 6 ton capacity. They only show the Copper ore traffic and do not indicate the return freight of coal,timber and machinery. Despite the limitations of the calculations they show that a couple wagons of ore a day must have left the siding for the quays at Looe, and also indicate that the mine gave provided a relatively consistent source of traffic right up to its closure.


The 1880 photograph from which the photograph on this page was taken is reproduced Webb and Geach Book Coverin full in the Trevithick Society’s re-print of  “History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District”.

Webb  and  Geach  published  their  History  and  Progress  of  Mining  in  the Caradon  and  Liskeard  Districts  in  1862,  and  a  new  edition  was  issued  the following  year.  Although  predominantly  aimed  at  potential  investors,  it  is clear  that  the  authors  also  wished  to  put  on  record  the  history  of  the  area.  In consequence  their  book  is  an  invaluable  picture  of  the  Liskeard  and  Caradon area in those early boom times.

Click here to find the book on Amazon>

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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>

Holman’s and Rule’s Shaft complex Map

Navsbooks>South Caradon>Maps>Holman’s and Rule’s

South Caradon Mine’s best known set of mine buildings

Recycling one of the original website maps did not do this area justice, so instead I have dug up an image captured from an 1885 Ordnance survey map; the ability to digitally magnify the original brings out the detail crammed into this small area. 

The 1885 map

Holman's and Rule's Shafts area
OS 25″ map, 1885

This map was published in 1885, based on an 1883 survey. It therefore was printed in the year of the mine’s closure. As such, it captures the workings at their maximum extent.

Click here for a description of the mine in 1885>

The complex shown on the map

The engine houses

The most southerly building is Holman’s Shaft pumping engine house, withHolman's Shaft bob wall its boiler house situated on the western side Close north of that is Rule’s Shaft pumping engine house, again with the boiler house to the west. The two engines share a chimney on the opposite side of the track. The building on the northern side of the track is the winding engine for both shafts, with the loadings for the winding cages clearly indicated to the west of the horizontal whim engine’s house.

Tramways and leats

Running from east to west is the mine’s tramway, linking kitto’s Shaft to the dressing floors. Other tramways run from Holman’s shaft to the waste tips.

Three parallel leats are shown, along with ‘aqueducts’ (launders), and two boiler ponds.

Click here to explore more maps of South Caradon Mine>


 

wp-1453408124105.jpegBrenton Symons’s 1863  Map on Kindle

South Caradon Mine is included on Brenton Symon’s map of the Liskeard Mining district. The full map is available in the Kindle Publication ‘The Liskeard Mining District in 1863’.

Click here for the book’s Amazon page>

South Caradon Mine in 1885

Navsbooks>South Caradon Mine>History>1885

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.

Pearce's Shaft and tree in 2018

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

Pumping Engines

  • 70″ with 3 boilers
  • 60″ with 3 boilers
  • 2 x 50″ with 5 boilers
  • 40″ with 2 boilers
  • 35″ with 1 boiler

Winding Engines

  • 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

Miscellaneous engines

  • Man Engine 23″ with one boiler
  • 14″ Horizontal with air compressor
  • 12″ engine with air compressor
  • 12″ with saw bench
  • 7″ with steam hammer

Fittings

  • 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.

Waste tips at Holman's Shaft

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.

Click to search for books covering 1885 on Amazon>

 

South Caradon Mine in 1843

Navsbooks>South Caradon Mine>History>1843

A Victorian Mine through Victorian eyes

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.


South Caradon Mine in 2018 taken from West Caradon
South Caradon Mine in 2018

“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 theMinerals in the South Caradon waste 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”.

Click to search for the book on Amazon>

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

Click to search for the book on Amazon>

Holman’s Shaft Pumping Engine

Navsbooks>South Caradon>Views> Holman’s Shaft

Back westwards across Caradon Hill in this post to return to the group of buildings around Rule’s and Holman’s Shafts.

Holman's Shaft from the west

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’.

Being built in 1875 this engine house is not shown by Symons in his 1863 map of the Liskeard Mining District.

Holman's Shaft bob wall
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.

Click here for a map of the Holman’s/Rule’s engine house complex>

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 sideHolman's engine House in 2002 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.


wp-1453408124105.jpegBrenton 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.

Click here to view on Amazon>

The South Caradon remains plotted

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

South Caradon Mine panorama

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.

Copies of the book are hard to come by, so grab one when you see it.
Click to search for the book on Amazon>

View across the Seaton Valley across Sump's shaft

Western Hillslopes

Holman's shaft seen from Kitto's shaft

Southern hill slopes

South Caradon mine dressing floor area looking north

Seaton Valley floor


A map of South Caradon Mine for Kindle

Extract of Brenton Symons' 1863 map showing South Caradon MineBrenton Symons’ 1863 map of the Liskeard mining district is reproduced in ‘The Liskeard Mining District in 1863’.

Click here to view on Amazon>