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>

South Caradon Mine- history

Navsbooks>South Caradon Mine>History  

The South Caradon History posts

A Victorian enterprise

South Caradon Mine was born in the early Victorian period, during the decades of social

A view of Holman's and Rule's shaft
Holman’s Shaft

unrest and change caused by the Industrial revolution. The mine started production in 1838 at the beginning of the Victorian era and raised its last ton of ore towards the end of the Queen’s reign in 1890.

Its peak production coincided with the “high” Victorian years, represented by the Great Exhibition of 1851, a time when Britain became the workshop of the world. Its final struggles for survival occurred in the late Victorian years, a period when the whole country was feeling the impact of industrialization abroad. This was a true Victorian enterprise.

Early history

Tin extraction in the area has a long history, but much of the evidence of earlier streaming in the Seaton Valley has been lost beneath the upheaval caused by South Caradon Mine. A small section of tin streaming remains exist in the upper part of the sett, and nearby. the huge open scar of Gonamena openworks dominates the landscape.

Milestones in Cornish history

South Caradon’s History is also set against a backdrop of great changes within Cornwall. Its founding was towards the end of the great copper boom initiated by the advances made in steam engine technology in the Duchy. Its growth in the 1840’s occurred when the Western mines were closing due to the exhaustion of their reserves.wpid-wp-1427407113584.jpeg

The 1860s were to mark the collapse of the industry and lead to poverty and a emigration on a massive scale. Cornwall’s population has never recovered to its 1860’s levels, and today descendants of the Cornish miners can be found all over the world.
Another great change occurred in 1859 when Brunel’s railway bridge was opened at nearby Saltash. The river Tamar was finally no longer the physical border it had represented since the Dark ages, splitting British from invaders, Celt from Anglo Saxon, Cornish from English. The Railway age removed Cornwall’s traditional isolation from the rest of Britain.

Geography influences History

A major factor in South Caradon’s history was its location in the eastern part of

Liskeard mining map 1863
Brenton Symon’s Map of the Liskeard and Ludcott Mining District

Cornwall. The large granite mass of Caradon Hill overlooks an area that is many miles from the rich mineral deposits of West Cornwall. A separation that  influenced the late development of copper mining in the district. This late start placed the mine in a position of having large copper reserves available when mines in the West started to fail. Unfortunately, this also left the mine struggling in its later years against the rapidly falling price of copper.

These factors led to the migration of miners across Cornwall into the Caradon region, and caused huge social changes in the area. When South Caradon finally closed, it left miners with no prospects of work anywhere else in Cornwall. Many went to England to find work in factories of coal mines, but large numbers emigrated to work hard rock mines all around the world.

The Hypocrisy of the finance market

Many speculators believed that little copper lay east of Truro and it was left to practical miners to disprove this theory. The Clymo brothers and Thomas Kittow worked on a previous abandoned trial adit and struck copper. Even after the discovery of the lodes, the money markets of London refused to risk money on the mine.

View of Graylands
Graylands House in Liskeard This large house was built on the wealth from the mine. Constructed for Peter Clymo in 1855 it was originally named Dean House.

The miners therefore funded the mine’s development themselves, and became extremely wealthy in the process. Once copper mining had become established however, speculators jumped on the bandwagon forming a multitude of mines with the word “Caradon” in their title hoping to attract unwary investors. Most of these ventures proved unsuccessful and helped give Cornish mining a poor reputation for investment.

A Mine Operated by Miners

Being left in the hands of skilled miners gave South Caradon mine several advantages financially over those owned by “up country” investors. For most of its life the mine operated under the Cost book system as regulated by Cornish Stannary law. This system was extremely simple and success often depended on balancing investment in new exploration with the profitable extraction of ore. The practical skills of the Clymo brothers allowed them to get the most out this large mine for many years without resorting to forming a public company.

A wealth still underground?

A downside of the late timing of the venture was that it was hit by the fall in the price of copper. It was the low price of copper that closed the mine, not the lack of available ore. For example in 1864 the mine made over £57,000 from the sale of about 5,700 tons of ore. In 1880 however, over 6,800 was sold to give only £30,000. This halving of the ore price was to cause costs to outstrip revenue and lead to the mines closure when workable reserves where still available underground.

Next is this series will be a timeline of the mine’s history.


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The Liskeard Mining District in 1863

Brenton Symon’s map of the Liskeard mining district is available in Kindle format.

Click here to view on Amazon>

The View of South Caradon Mine resurrected

Navsbooks>South Caradon Mine>Resurrection of the old website

It is over a decade now since I last updated my views of South Caradon Mine website. That expansive and rambling website was the result of many years of exploring the amazing landscape of Caradon Hill, near Liskeard. In 2016 all that work disappeared whilst I was away at sea, when Geocities closed up shop and took their websites with them.

But then, a rather clever company called Oocities stripped down the webpages and published them under their own banner. Seemed like good news, but unfortunately, despite all my attempts I have been unable to gain access to those files to correct, edit or develop what was once my own website. 

So it is now time though to rebuild the South Caradon Mine pages through the words of this blog. So if you are interested in the mines of Liskeard, please follow along. JM

The Views of South Caradon Website

The purpose of the original website was to record and  add to the knowledge of this very important industrial heritage site, and to illustrate Cornish mining terms and technology.

To avoid legal problems arising from right of way issues it was based on the view from the Crow’s Nest to Minions footpath. Since 2016 however, the rights of way act has been passed, and the area is now part of open access land. This change has removed the self imposed original restrictions on the website, but for the time being I will focus on bringing back on line the original material, tweak it a bit, and then look at additional topics

South Caradon Mine

An annotated view of South Caradon Mine

South Caradon Mine was one of the largest copper mines in Cornwall, and one with a fascinating history. It is an enterprise with a rags to riches story and one that had a huge impact on the social, financial and transport history of South East Cornwall. The emigration that resulted from its final closure spread this impact around the world to wherever metal was mined.

It has left an amazing landscape, a landscape rich in tales of Victorian industry. A richness is acknowledged thtough its inclusion within the of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site.

Changes in time

Over the last 20 years there has been some important
developments that have changed the information contained on the original website.

As mentioned  above, the area is now part of a World Heritage site and the moorland is now officially classed as open access land. The Caradon Hill project is no longer with us, but  their good work has left many of the buildings in a far more stable condition then recorded in 2016.

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On closure of the website, I transferred my research into three related publications- The Liskeard Mining Area in 1863, a reprint of Webb and Geach’s account of the Liskeard Mining district, and a biography of the mine’s engineer, William West. Unashamedly, I will plug these publications throughout the posts. If you are tempted to buy one of the paperbacks, pop into Liskeard’s excellent book shop and support their local history section…it is a real gem of a bookshop.

And Next-

I am not sure where to start this challenge, or in which direction to explore the old web pages, but that will be part of the fun; let the exploration commence!

 

An important Note from the original website

On many mine sites in Cornwall dangers may still exist, many hidden.  This web site is published as a resource to those using public rights of way.

South Caradon Mine by Wilkie Collins

Navsbooks>South Caradon Mine>History>1851

Another piece of writing from a Victorian author, this time from Wilkie Collins.

Ramble Beyond Railways

1851

“soon the scene presented another abrupt and extraordinary change. We had been walking hitherto amid almost invariable silence and solitude; but now with each succeeding minute, strange mingled, unintermitting noises began to grow louder and louder around us. We followed a sharp curve in the tramway, and immediately found  ourselves saluted by an entirely new prospect, and surrounded by an utterly bewildering noise. All around us monstrous wheels turned slowly; machinery was clanking and groaning in the hoarsest discords; invisible waters were pouring onwards with a rushing sound; high above our heads , on skeleton platforms, iron chains clattered fast and fiercely over iron pulleys, and huge steam pumps puffed and gasped, and slowly raised their heavy black beams of wood. Far beneath the embankment on which we stood, men women and children were breaking and washing ore in a perfect marsh of copper coloured mud and copper coloured water. We had penetrated to the very centre of the noise, the bustle and the population on the surface of a great mine”

Wilkie Collins

A portrait of Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins was a best selling  Victorian novelist, and therefore understandably, this account is more descriptive than factual. It forms an evocative image of the mine in its heyday, an image far more atmospheric then any photograph could.

Ramble beyond Railways contains some other fascinating snapshots of Victorian Cornwall, including a non-too flattering account of a pub in Liskeard. It is a rich travelogue that is well worth a read.

‘The Moonstone ‘ by the author is regarded as the first detective novel, and created the format followed by Conan Doyel in his Sherlock Holmes books. Despite of this accolade, I consider that Rambles is a fare better book, but  being non-fiction it did not gain the recognition it deserved.

Click here for a Wilkie Collins biography website>
Wilkie Collins on Amazon

South Caradon Mine in 1851

In 1851 the mine produced 2,818 tons of ore along with 296 tons of metallic copper. This was a production which earned the mine an income of £20,208.

South Caradon was still growing; the amount of ore raised and income would triple in the years that followed.

Pearce's engine house at South Caradon Mine

The View of South Caradon is to return

Writing this post has stirred me into finally getting around to resurrecting some of the material lost when Geocities closed many years ago. This blog will now spend some time bringing that website back to life, and up to date.

The Man Engine- who invented it?

Navsbooks>William West>The Man Engine

The Levant Man engine disaster will be forever linked with the word ‘Man Engine’.

Iron straps holding the man engine rod to the beam separated the miners  from a successful journey and death. On that day the 20 October 1919, the tired overworked metal straps gave way and 31  miners fell to their deaths. It shattered a community, and it shattered the reputation of the man engine.

But it is not that day that this post will recall, nor a day many earlier in 1842 when Michael’s Loam‘s invention first started transporting miners at Trasavean mine. It will instead recall a day in 1851, an event at Fowey Consols, and an engineer called William West.

On that day, the 28th July 1851, an assorted crowd of mine owners, politicians, mineral lords, local gentry and even the Prussian foreign minister gathered at Fowey Consols. They were there to witness the starting of a new man engine, and of course the expectation of a grand count house dinner afterwards.

OS1881FoweyConsols

Once Lord Vivian had made the formal announcements to start the man engine, the 30 foot diameter water wheel started to turn. About every 10 seconds it completed a revolution, each of these revolutions turned through gears a flywheel that spun at three times of the speed of the waterwheel. It would be in obvious to the guests how this power was transferred to the shaft. A crank changed the wheel’s turning into horizontal motion to transfer the power to the shaft, where a large balance bob, resembling a beam of a beam engine, rotated the motion 90 degrees to an 8″ wooden rod that descended into the depths of the shaft.

To many in the crowd this was nothing new, it looked just like the system used at shaft mouths all over Cornwall to power pumps. It was down the shaft where West and his co-designer John Puckey had worked their magic. Looking down the shaft they would have seen the long rod rising and falling twelve feet. At every 12 feet on the rod was fixed a one foot square platform, and corresponding to these were platforms on the shaft wall. At this stage,  many of the guests would not have been able to comprehend how men could descend to the great depths of the mine on such an arrangement. But once the miners started to stand on the platforms, once the mesmerizing dance of the man engine started, the simplistic beauty of the man engine became clear.

W50
The dance went like this:
As the rod reaches the top of its stroke step onto the platform on the rod, and hold on tight to the handle in front of you.  The rod descends 12 feet, and then step off sideways to a fixed platform on the shaft wall. Wait as the rod rises to bring the next platform up to meet you, step on and repeat. Repeat, and repeat, 12 feet at a time until you descend into the dark levels and stopes of the mine where your work lay. To ascend the shaft, just reverse the dance.

Once those important guests had witnessed the miners one after another descend out of their view it would have made sense how important West and Puckey’s new machine was.

Some would have seen the potential to save many lives. Falling off wet slippery ladders on those long climbs could be a thing of the past. More significantly huge numbers lives could be saved from removing the physical onslaught caused by climbing the equivalent of a mountain every working day of their lives.  This onslaught on the body that had to be undertaken after a long, hard shift of hard labour, and one that took the miner from the stifling heat of the depths to often the bitter cold of the surface. The result was predictable, heart and lungs took the brunt of the strain, and early death would follow.  So, some who watched on that day saw the machine through the eyes of the social good it would bring, but others saw it differently.

They saw the increase in  speed of miners disappearing beneath their feet as a increase in their private wealth. Every minute saved from climbing ladders was a minute usedman%20engine for productive work. The more imaginative saw beyond that to more profits.  Less tired miners reaching their workplace would be more productive, more profits. Less tired miners live longer, keeping their valuable experience, more profits. Older miners could now continue to work the deeper levels, more experience where it was needed, more profits.

This man engine of West’s was good for miners, and good for profits.

To those that had seen one of the  Loam’s man engines at work this one before them a Fowey Consols was visibly superior. Loam had staked the claim as the man engine inventor, and as a reward had received a hard fought for prize from the Cornwall Pyrotechnic Society.

On a Loam engine there was two rods, two oscillating rods with platforms, and the dance was different. Miners had to step from moving rod to moving rod. There was no room for error, and their was no fixed platform on which to pause.  More importantly for the shareholders in the crowd, those who were watching their profits rise, the twin rods could only carry half as many miners for the same number of strokes. A counter-intuitive result, but one that arises from West’s engine being able to move miners up and down at the same time.

WestManEngines
William West built man engines

Once that meal in the counthouse was consumed, the port drunk, and the speeches made, the guests dispersed with memories of that miner’s dance. West and Puckey had proudly demonstrated their new engine, an from then on only their design would be installed. Every man engine built after that date would have a single rod, including the one that so tragically failed in 1919.

West installed the last man engine at Jopes Shaft, South Caradon in 1872. The engine was later moved to Kitto’s shaft.

 

KittoPanN
Kitto’s Shaft at South Caradon Mine

Popular history is often deceptive. Its simplification creates wonderful story, but the deeper truth is always more interesting. This is such a case, for neither did Michael Loam invent this man engine, or the man engine was a machine that killed miners, it saved thousands and the one that was used all over Cornwall was invented by West and Puckey.


Click here for ‘The Last Great Cornish Engineer’- William West

Click here for the Navsbooks store William West book shelf.

Bomin Moor Granite- Was Brenton Symons right?

In the previous posts I identified that the Liskeard 1863 Geological map of the Caradon Hill area and the modern British Geological Survey disagreed on the location of the granite/killas boundary. So which one was right?

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I hoped it was Brenton Symons Victorian map, for no other reason that it appeared more detailed. However, with a bit of digging in some of the books on the shelves I managed to discover which map was best.

Much of the modern evidence came from my well worn, and annotated copy of ‘Dines’, or to give its full title ‘The Metalliferous Mining Region of South West England’

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South Caradon Mine
Strangely enough, Dines was of not much help here

“Granite overlayed with killas in the south east.”

Was the only scrap of information it offered. Webb and Geach in their 1863 book was of more use though

“The  junction  of  killas  with  granite  occurs  a  little  south  of  Caunter and Kitto’s lodes. “

This statement coincides with the course of the contact shown on the modern map. It is rather strange that Symons was in error within such a well mined sett as South Caradon, and even stranger that he was in disagreement with Webb and Geach, considering their book and his map were believed to be have been produced in association with each other.

The Victorian authors support the modern location of the granite boundary within their reports on South Caradon

image

Wheal Hooper
.

Wheal Hooper
The  whole  of  the  sett  is  in killas,  which  overlays  the  granite  at  about  an  angle  of  45°,  and  the  junction occurring  at  the  northern  boundary,  the  engine  shaft  at  the  54  comes  into granite,  its  contact  with  the  slate  being  well-defined,  no  decomposition  having  taken  place.  It  should  be  noticed  that  two  elvan  courses  of  felspatic granite run parallel to the lodes.

Agents report
The  winze  below  the  62  (a  most  promising  point)  would,  however,  have been  proceeded  with,  but  for  a  great  influx  of  water  during  the  last  3ft. sinking,  causing  a  great  advance  in  the  price,  and  rendering  it  necessary to  purchase  a  larger  lift  in  order  to  proceed  with  the  work.  It  was  therefore thought  more  advisable  to  suspend  it,  as  the  cutting  of  the  lode  at  the  90 would  probably  drain  off  all  the  water,  and  enable  us  to  sink  the  winze  at a  very  considerable  saving,  and  without  the  aid  of  a  lift.  Near  the  bottom of  the  winze  is  a  sort  of  slide  which  appears  to  have  heaved  the  lode  to the  south,  whence  flows  the  water.  The  granite  in  the  bottom  of  the  winze is  of  favourable  description,  and  the  cleavages  are  faced  with  copper  ore

So far then, my hopes for Brenton Symon’s work being more accurate had been proven incorrect. The next mine to be looked at was second most important one on the map, Phoenix United.

Webb and Geach state-

Phoenix.
“The  present  workings  are  in  granite,  but  a  tongue  of  killas  is  deposited  in  the south-eastern  portion  of  the  sett,  in  which  is  a  promising  lode  worked  on  the backs  for  a  long  distance,  and  called  the  Snuff-box  Lode.”

Dines presented an excellent resource to disentangle the complex geology here, nice cross section of workings on the main lode.

image

Part of this diagram is shown here (Copyright BGS). The plan show the lode running west to east. My annotated yellow line is the granite/Killas contact. Killas to the right, granite to the left. It is indicated reaching the surface close east of West’s Shaft. The conclusion from this fact is that again the Modern map is more accurate.

The dotted yellow line is the Great cross-course, more on that feature in the next post.

The final mine I studied in detail was South Phoenix.  Brenton Symons shows that sett within granite, and yet the British Geological Survey clearly show a large slab of killas intruding between two faults as far west at the Hurlers.

Again Dines contained a diagram that provided an answer.

image

This cross section runs north to south across the South Phoenix Sett. It clearly shows the ground between Prosper Shaft and Parson’s Shaft being ‘clay slate’. An indication that yet again the modern map is more accurate.

Despite of my desire to prove the superiority of the Victorian cartography, when it came to depicting the granite/killas contact the modern map was clearly superior.

British Geological Survey 1, Brenton Symons 0

Next round would be the cross-courses, or faults. 


 

Brenton Symons’ 1863 map is reproduced in ‘The Liskeard Mining Area in 1863’

Webb and Geach’s book is available in paperback.

South Caradon Mine in the snow

imageNavsbooks>South Caradon Mine>

What an great opportunity,  blue sky, snow South Caradon Mine and a digital camera in the rucksack. 

It was just the perfect amount of snow to bring the detail of this amazing Cornish landscape to life. Every little feature highlighted by the deep contrast. The panorama above is taken from Pearce’s shaft looking across the Seaton Valley towards West Caradon Mine, and Craddock Moor Mine.

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These buildings are at sump shaft; the site of William West’s first engines on the mine. These  engine houses are prominent on the skyline in that amazing Victorian photograph reproduced in my two books. West Caradon’s waste tips form the backdrop to this shot.

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Pearce’s shaft, from the south. Pearce’s distinctive engine house breaks the skyline on the Victorian photograph, just right of centre.

And finally, Holman’s engine house, its bulk casting Sharp shadows across the untouched snow.

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My two books, The Last Great Cornish Engineer and The History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District can both be bought from the bookshop on the Parade at Liskeard, or if you are not in Cornwall they are available on  Amazon.