After the last post’s wander into the subject of the May tree fair, the South Caradon Mine series returns. Dando the Monk will re-appear once I have gathered some more photographs of the fair day, meanwhile here is another Cornish engine site.
The remains of a ore crusher and Cornish Stamps
This is one of the least well preserved engine houses of South Caradon Mine. Its chimney is still standing, but the rest of the structure is no more than rubble. It is however, the engine house with the best photographic evidence in existence.
The Stamp engine house was located just above the Seaton valley bottom among the dressing floors. The engine was of 28 inch diameter; it powered a set of 24 headed stamps on the Southern side of the flywheel, and a rotative crusher to the North. These crushed the ore for dressing prior to further treatment on the floors that lay on the valley bottom. A tramway system linked the many shafts with the plant and with other parts of the processing area.
The substantial concrete structure to the south of the stamp engine is the remnant of a screen (grizzly) used in the reworking of the mine waste in more recent years.
The Crusher and stamps
Copper ore was difficult to reduce in size by stamps, they tended to over-crush the ore, resulting in too much being carried over in waste. Hand processing therefore formed an important part of the copper
dressing process right up to the end of the copper mining industry in Cornwall.
Crushers, otherwise known as Cornish Rolls, was a method introduced by John Taylor to mechanically reduce copper ore in size. They use two mechanically powered rollers, between which the rocks were passed for crushing.
The small set of stamps were used to treat the small amount of material that could not be processed by the manual methods or the crusher. The fine material produced by the stamps would be treated on the halvan floors in the lower part of the valley.
The 19th Century view
This extract from a 19th Century photograph (courtesy of Neil Parkhouse collection) clearly shows the layout of the stamp engine complex. The Crusher house is on the left, flywheel in the middle and stamps to the right. The sweep rod is a blur, indicating that the engine was at work at the time of the photograph being taken.
The full 19th century photograph is reproduced in the centre of the Trevithick Society’s reprint of ‘The History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District’.
I can thank the St.Just Mines Research group for this blog’s drive to bring the old South Caradon Mine website back into life. For it was the opportunity of accompanying the group around the amazing landscape that is South Caradon that inspired me to finally get around to bringing the site back from the dead. Now that the very enjoyable walk has been completed (thanks to the group for the invite, thanks to the sun for a lovely day), the blog will wander off in a few random directions to answer questions raised on the day; starting with the lodes.
The source of South Caradon’s wealth
These views in this post are taken from the footpath opposite the mine, and show the approximate location of the copper lodes on the surface as indicated on the 1863 Geological map and described by Webb and Geach. These sources differ in some details from the closure plans and the description given in Dines.
The Lodes dip to the North (apart from Caunter) so their location underground will shift to the left of the pictures with depth. The view should help to visualize the relationship between the surface remains and the underlying ore lodes, if you disagree with my interpretation please feel free to leave a comment.
Red lines mark the location of the lodes as they strike Eastwards across the Seaton Valley and up the Slopes of Caradon Hill. The grey lines indicates the cross course running parallel to Valley and causing a small amount of Heave in the lodes as they cross its path. The names have been taken from the 1863 map apart from those marked with a question mark that I have taken from Webb and Geach.
The Northern Lodes
Main lode was the first of South Caradon’s lodes to be found and it formed the source for much of the ore in the mines earlier years. The engine house remains of Sump and Pearce’s shaft lie beside this lode, with Pearce’s’ shaft sunk where it outcropped.
Towards the Northern boundary of the sett are a batch of Lodes that gave little success, unfortunately, the richness of the main lode was not to be repeated in this direction.
The Southern Lodes
This view is to the south of the one above, and it shows the lodes that provided the ore for the latter part of the mine’s life.
This Southern group of lodes extend across the South slopes of the Hill to the Eastern boundary of the Sett and then onwards into the adjoining East Caradon mine.
Kitto’s and Caunter lodes provided the largest tonnage of the ore from South Caradon. The Eastern end of the workings was accessed from Kitto’s Shaft.
Geevor Mine Gift shop
My two South Caradon Mine publications, The Last Great Cornish Engineer and the Re-print of Webb and Geach can be found for sale at the Geevor Shop book shop, along with a great range of Cornish Mining publications. This is one of the best places to find Cornish industrial history books. So if you are in the area, pop along, have a cup of tea, and browse the shelves.
Back westwards across Caradon Hill in this post to return to the group of buildings around Rule’s and Holman’s Shafts.
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’.
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.
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 side 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.
Brenton 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.
The area around South Caradon Mine’s Jope’s shaft in maps and images
The rescuing of the old ‘Views of South Caradon’ website has just gained an additional purpose . I will be assisting a mining history group interpret this amazing Cornish mining landscape in a couple months time, so this posts will build towards a resource for their visit.
Jope’s shaft is a fascinating little corner of South Caradon Mine. It is South Caradon’s most westerly shaft on the rich-long run of southern lodes, located on the eastern slopes of the valley at the bottom end of the Seaton Coombe.
The shaft can boast having the most complete engine house structure on the mine, despite of its cloak of Ivy. However, it also possess one of least well preserved engine houses, no more than a mere pile of masonry hidden among the trees.
This extract of Brenton Symons’s 1863 map shows the pumping house as P.E and whim engine as W.E. Lodes are shown by the red lines and the cross-course by light grey. The shaft is shown sunk pm Jope’s Lode, close west of the cross-course.
The ‘View of South Caradon map’
Not the most cartographic accurate map I know, and the style is definitely leaning towards the ‘simplistic’, but this map rescued from my now long-dead website shows well the features around the shaft. One omission is the possible site of a steam capstan engine on the shaft side of the boiler house.
Ordnance Survey 2018
The 2018 map shows the engine house, boiler house, and magazine; it does not however show the chimney and remains of winding engine house.
This small structure lies to the north-east of the engine house. It would have housed the gunpowder required by the miners for blasting.
The steam Capstan
On the south side of the boiler house are some loadings and a pit that may have been associated with some sort of machinery. The Minions Survey suggests that this may have been the site of a small steam capstan. If so, this is another link with William West, who introduced the use of steam capstans in Devon and Cornwall. This part of the remains has undergone some changes as part of the Caradon Hill project building stabilization work.
A Victorian Map of the area
Brenton Symons’s 1863 map of the Liskeard mining district is available in Kindle Format, and it is free for those with Kindle Unlimited.
Whilst Jope’s pumping engine house is the best preserved one on South Caradon mine, its whim engine house is he worst; merely a pile of rubble hidden beneath the trees. This engine was adapted by William West to drive one of his man engines, a man engine that would be last last built in Cornwall.
The 24″ winding engine lay to the south east of the shaft, its site now marked by moss covered masonry rubble, the largest pile marking the site of the chimney. The whim engine was installed in 1864.
On the north eastern side of the engine house can be found the most interesting feature of the engine house, the loadings for the whim, and later the man engine. From these loadings a trench can traced up to the angle bob pit at the edge of the shaft. Along this trench ran the drive rod for the man engine that West installed here in 1872. The man engine was powered by the whim engine, which have also continued to be used for winding between shift changes. The man engine moved to the eastern part of the set at Kitto’s shaft in 1882-3.
The design of man engine installed here was the single rod type, a design first introduced by William West at Fowey Consols in 1852.
The resurrection of the old South Caradon Website continues with another engine house.
Pearce’s engine house is one the most distinctive of all Cornish Engine house ruins. What it lacks in grandeur , it replaces with a strong Gothic profile; a profile that has emerged from its decay. Pearce’s hill slope location above the Seaton Valley make it a prominent landmark and its distinctive look arises from an unusual buttressed wall.
Pearce’s shaft is located uphill from Sump Shaft. It was sunk on main lode, but cross-cuts also gave access to other lodes to the north and south.
The pumps on this shaft were originally powered by flat-rods running uphill from the winding engine at Sump Shaft.
These rods were replaced by Pearce’s 50″ engine in 1870, relatively late in the mine’s life.
Reasons suggested for the distinctive buttressing are unstable ground, or the angle of the shaft. The shaft may have been sunk on the underlie from the surface, as opposed to the normal practice having a short vertical section before following the lode at an angle. Why this was does is not known, but it would have resulted in the engine house requiring additional support to oppose the forces pulling it down the sloping shaft.
The unusual buttresses are clearly visible on the north side supporting the collapsing bob wall, and the tallest remaining wall corner supports the chimney stump. The boiler house is on the western side and only foundations remain. More obvious is the reservoir pond, sited close uphill, which has a large retaining wall on its southern end.
If you fancy a quick browse around the Amazon store for some South Caradon Mine related books, then click on these links to try some pre-made searches. If you have a local independent bookshop that stocks local history books, then pop along and ask if they hold the titles on the shelves.
Christmas is well gone and past, and so this series of posts on South Caradon mine has restarted. Winter brought with it one of those amazing clear air days last weekend, no mist, no drizzle no rain, just pure blue light. And so, armed with a camera and Christmas cake and set off to Caradon hill to update some of my photographs of the mine.
Jope’s Shaft pumping engine house is the best preserved on South Caradon Mine, with its ivy clad engine house and chimney still standing to full height. It is fascinating engine house, packed with features.
Jope’s shaft is located on the south western corner of Caradon Hill , overlooking the entrance to Seaton Coombe.
It possibly housed one of the few Sims compound engines built in Cornwall the shaft was also historically important as the site of the last man engine to be built.
This is no ordinary engine house. This is an engine house with it has its plug door located at a level higher than normal instead of being on the same floor as the cylinder bed it hangs precariously one level up. Why this should be seems to a subject of disagreement, with two conflicting theories.
The engine transfer theory
This 60″ engine was built in New for South Garras lead mine in 1855 at Landeryou’s shaft. That mine was not a success, and the engine was sold to South Caradon in 1862.
Kenneth Brown in his excellent exploring Cornish Mines book (vol 2) explains that sometimes plug doorways were placed in a raised position when the cylinder was set down into loading to reduce the height of the engine house. This arrangement resulted in a raised engine driver’s position.
This was not case at Jope’s but may have been the case at South Gerras.
The Sims engine theory
This is the explanation given by Adam Sharpe in the Minion’s study (cau). The study states that the engine was a Sim’s compound, a design of engine that William West, South Caradon’s engineer, was an enthusiast of.
This was single acting Cornish engine in which the smaller steam cylinder was mounted above a larger low pressure cylinder, with the pistons having a common rod.
The engine was devised by James Sims in the 1840s. The duty was rarely more than a conventional engine, and its complexity and difficult maintenance meant that most Sims compound engines had short lives.
When it comes to Cornish engines Kenneth Brown was rarely wrong. This is a pity in this case, for Sims engine at South Caradon would be a wonderful example of Wests’s Sim’s compound installations. If you have more information, or comments, or views on the engine please pass me a message to share on this site.
Features to be found
This is a engine house rich in features.
The three piece granite Bedstone is still in place within the engine house, the cylinder holding down bolt holes clearly visible. Beyond the stones the cockpit/cataract pit is still open (the underfloor space were the valve timing mechanism was located). The eduction pipe is opening can be seen at the base of the bob wall, and on the western wing wall the opening for the steam pipe down to the boiler house is obvious.
To the west of the engine house is clearly defined remains of the Boilerhouse, a house which has evidence of a third boiler was added later in the engine’s life.
The Chimney putlog holes
The stack at Jope’s has one of the best examples of putlog holes in Cornwall. These holes in the side of the chimney are the remains of a crude form of scaffolding used to build the structure. Planks were inserted in the holes as the chimney rose skywards to give the masons safe footholds.
Many other fascinating remains surround the engine house, but these I will leave to a later post when I resurrect the map of the Jope’s shaft area.
This blog is written to enhance the enjoyment of those exploring Cornwall’s amazing landscape and history. It is not intended as a guide for walkers. If you are exploring industrial landscapes in Cornwall, please check the rights of way with the latest Ordnance Survey map, and take great care of yourself and anyone else accompanying you. Despite of all the due care and diligence shown by landowners, any open access ground can be dangerous to those not ensuring aware of the risks around them. So look after yourself.