Tag Archives: Victorian

South Caradon Mine- history

I have decided to commence the views of South Caradon mine Website resurrection with a few posts on its history. So to here is a few words extracted from the old website to get started. 

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.


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>

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Dame Schools- William West and Charles Dickens

Before this blog moves on to the next industrial heritage theme there will be brief excursion into Victorian literature 

Great Expectations and Mr. Wopsle’s Great Aunt

I have just finished my first reading of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’; a novel that is often considered to be the best of the Victorian writer’s work. It is the tragic character of Miss Havisham that many remember best from the book, but for me is is unnamed character hidden away in chapter 7 that grabbed my attention.

William West’s success as an engineer was founded on a sparse, almost non-existent childhood education. His only eduction was for a brief period at  ‘Dame school’ ; a period shortened by an incident involving gin, a drunk school mistress and a fire place. His  school mistress he called ‘Old Betty Hip’, and  he is reported to have said that:

” she thought much more of sending him to the drams of gin in which she delighted than of imparting the small amount of knowledge she possessed” Sketch of the life of William West of Tredenham

Charles Dickens in Great Expectations also describes a ‘Dame school’. His descriptionDSC00398 describes so much about these Victorian institutions in very few words.

“Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt kept an evening school in the village; that is to say, she was a ridiculous old woman of limited means and unlimited infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening, in the society of youth who paid two pence per week each, for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it”  Charles Dickens Great Expectations.

Such a brilliant sentence, and one must use in my future talks.

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William West of Tredenham – A new page is launched


The Last Great Cornish Engineer now has a web page

The completion of my talk at the Friends of  Luxyluyan Valley was a good reason to dig back through all the assorted posts on William West and place then in some sort of logical order. The result of this piece of web house keeping is a page dedicated to William West of Tredenham, with links across to the various rabbit holes that my research has tempted me to dive into.

I have no doubt that this will be a page that will get added to as time goes by, there are plenty of ideas bubbling away, demanding to be explored. So if Victorian Engineers are an interest of yours, especially those with a Cornish connection, pop back to this website once in a while to have a browse.

And now that bit of tidying up the site is completed, time to go exploring history again…. 




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William West- Some key dates

wpid-screenshot_2015-08-21-17-43-45.pngDates in the life of William West of Tredenham

The Last Great Cornish Engineer

As a foundation to build my next talk around I have thrown together a few dates in William West’s life. Yes there are many gaps, and yes it is all a bit random in topics, but it does create a quick orientation time.  As this series of posts progress, so will this post be updated.  For a very quick biography of  William West Click here


William West is born at Dolcoath


West held a candle for Trevithick has he designed his ‘Catch-Me-Who-Can’ locomotive

1817 to 1819

West works at Dolcoath fitting shop


West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines


Grose’s engine at Great Towan achieves an impressive 87 million duty with Wilson’s engine, a result TowanHeatherpartially the result of West’s improvement in insulation


  •  Engaged by  J. T. Austin at Fowey Consols
  • Austins Engine was first proposed


Contract for Austen’s engine signed51tRtgzctrL__SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_


Austen’s Engine is started



  • West became the Fowey Consols sole engineer
  • The East Cornwall The engine was put up for sale by Harvey’s

The Victorian period starts


The East London Engine was startedw13




West started working for South Caradon mine


  • West installed the first horizontal whim at Par Consols
  • West obtained a licence to build Sims compound engines


  • West installed his first large Sims engine at Great Wheal Martha
  • Was contractor  on  Brunel’s atmospheric railway


Brownes engine reporter is printed


St. Blazey foundry is established by West


William West commenced wpid-th-5.jpeghis association with Phoenix United Mine


Tredhenam  house is built



St. Austell Lower foundry purchased by Westwpid-41f3tbq-cnl._sl500_1-2.jpg.jpeg


Brenton Symons publishes his map of the Caradon mining District and Webb and Geach produce their book.



  • Fowey Consols failed
  • South Fowey Consols founded


Newquay and Junction Railway completed to Drinnick Mill


  • Penquite house purchaced
  • West obtains majority shares in Phoenix United


Presentation to West of a time piece by the Phoenix United minersPhoenixCounthouse


The South Caradon man engine is installed


Cornwall Minerals Railway’s Act of Parliament was laid


Cornwall Minerals Railway opened




St. Blazey Foundry closed


Phoenix United closed

wpid-westcover.jpgThe Last Great Cornish Engineer

William West of Tredenham

A paperback from the Trevitihick Society

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John Taylor-Mining entrepreneur and Engineer



John Taylor in 1825 by Sir Thomas Lawrence

John Taylor was one of the most remarkable characters involved in the British Mining industry. He is the subject of my next Trevithick Society talk, and the next series of posts on this blog will part of my preparations for that presentation. So if you want to know more about this amazing Victorian, follow along and enjoy the journey.

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The Geology of Caradon Hill- Cross-courses

This post continues the exploration of  the geology of Brenton Symons’ Victorian map of the Liskeard mining district’ with a wander around the cross-courses of the Caradon Hill area. My last post in the series came up with the conclusion that the modern British Geological map was more accurate than the 18th century publication, but a lot less pleasing on the eye. This post will put the two maps head to head on the topic of cross-courses.


What is a cross course?
A cross course is a mineral vein running a near right angles to the predominant lode direction in an area. Cross-courses are normally non metallic but sometimes will carry lead and silver.

In Cornwall Cross-courses normally run in a north to south direction, apart from the in the St. Just area. Where a cross-course intersects a lode it throws it off its regular course; a break in the lode’s course called a ‘heave’.

Cross-courses gave mixed fortunes to a mine. Sometimes the heave would cause difficulties in tracing lodes,  they also could form a route for water to follow, a route that increased the risk of flooding workings.  On the plus side, cross-courses gave a line of softer rock for miners to follow, a weakness exploited to drive adits and cross-cuts.

Brenton Symons and Cross-Courses
Brenton Symons’ map denotes cross-courses by thick light grey lines. Their presence can also be detected by heaves in the lodes.  This post describes the location of the  cross-courses in the Caradon Hill area, and compares it with the information given in the contemporary Webb and Geach book,  and a modern BGS map. The cross-courses have been named by the mine setts through which they pass.

“There  are  several  cross-courses  running  through  the  country,  both  in  Killas  and  granite,  and  which  are found  as  is  usually  the  case,  to  influence  the  deposits  of  ore  wherever they  intersect  the  lodes.” Webb and Geach

The Cross-Courses

Wheal Pollard-Wheal Norris, Caradon Hill (Vale)

This long cross-course runs close to the main engine shafts of all three mines. Symons shows it becoming indistinct for a portion of its southern section, where he has assumed its course.

The British Geological Survey mao does not show the cross-course at all. The modern map does show some faults forming part of contact,

Webb and Geach mention the large cross-course in Wheal Norris and Caradon Hill mines. The latter mine used its weakness to drive an adit. Smaller cross-courses are mentioned in the book, but are not shown on the map.

Wheal Norris
This  sett  is  in  the  parish  of  St.  Cleer,  and  adjoins  Craddock  Moor  Mine,  having  the  same  lodes  traversing  it  for  500  fathoms  in  length.  There  are  in the  sett  nine  discovered  lodes,  which  are  at  right  angles  crossed  by  one  large cross-course  and  three  smaller  ones,  against  which  the  lodes  generally  make poor,  and  are  disarranged.

On  the  cross-course  directly  west  of  Carter’s  Shaft  a  cross-cut  has  been driven  north  40  fathoms,  intersecting  at  the  adit  level  two  large  masterly lodes

Caradon Hill
This  adit  has  been  driven  on  the  great  cross-course,  which  is  30  feet  wide, and  five  promising  lodes  have  been  cut,  producing  tin  and  copper;  it  is  still being  driven,  and  it  is  intended  to  proceed  with  it  through  the  entire  width  of the  sett,  with  a  view  to  cut  other  lodes  which  are  known  to  exist.

Craddock Moor-West Caradon
This cross-course cuts across the southeast corner of Craddock Moor’s sett, where Fox’s shaft is sunk on its course. No heave is evident on the lodes.

Yet again the BGS do not denote the existence of the cross-course. And yet again Webb and Geach describe more cross-courses than those shown by Symons.

Craddock Moor
There are  five  cross-courses  known  to  intersect  the  lodes,  three  of  which  are  from Caradon  Consols  which  is  immediately  south.

Gonomena-West Caradon

A consistent heave is shown by Brenton Symons; all the lodes western portions are displaced northwards. The BGS do not show the feature. Brenton Symons names it has the ‘West Caradon cross-course’ and the ‘Great Cross-course’ , ad states the feature was used to work the mine, and that it gave a heave if 2 to 6 fathoms. As in the previous cross-courses it is apparent that the  Victorian map only displayed the most significant cross courses.

The  boundary  cross-course  is  in  the  eastern  ground,  and  has  a  left-hand heave  displacing  the  lode  about  seven  fathoms.  West  Caradon  cross-course runs  through  the  centre  of  the  sett,  causing  a  right  hand-heave  of  about  three fathoms.  In  the  western  ground  three  other  cross-veins  come  in  from  West  Caradon and Craddock Moor, but these have not yet been seen in the mine.

West Caradon
These  lodes  are intersected  at  right  angles  by  numerous  cross-courses,  one  or  two  being  of a  large  size,  heaving  the  lodes  to  the  right  from  2  to  6  fathoms.  The  great cross-course  which  runs  through  the  centre  of  the  mine,  has  been  of  the  up most  service  in  working  the  mine  both  quickly  and  economically,  the  crosscuts  driven  on  its  course  costing  from  about  50s.  to  60s.  per  fathom,  which would  otherwise  have  to  be  driven  through  the  hard  granite,  at  a  cost  of  £12 or £14 per fathom.

South Caradon

This is Y shaped cross-course runs up the eastern slope of the Seaton valley, passing close to Jope’s shaft, and through Sump Shaft. The split of the Y is close north of Sump Shaft. The Cross-course causes the lodes western portions to be heaved norhwards.

This is the only cross course shown by the British Gelogicalk Survey. BGS show a single Cross-course running on the east of the Seaton River. It enters Gonomena set where its is heaved by a lode and then follows the western side of the openworks for a short distance. This coincides with the South Caradon Y cross course and a part of the great cross course. The gap in between the cross-courses shown by Symons coincides roughly with the heave shown by BGS

South Caradon
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  Jope’s  Shaft,  heaving all  the  lodes  to  the  right  hand  regularly

The Great Cross-course


South Caradon-Gonomena-South Phoenix-Phoenix
This cross course extends across a large portion of the map, from South Caradon to Phoenix. Its southern section, where it is called the boundary cross-course, is not directly shown by Brenton Symons. It can be identified however, by a heave in the lodes beneath the Seaton River.

This cross-course is shown only by the BGS in its southern section as it passes through the South Caradon and Gonamena Setts.


South Caradon
Greenhill  Lode  is  driven  west  at  the  125  to  the cross-course about fathoms in length, 85  and contains  green  carbonate, grey  ore,  and  rich  oxide  of copper;  the  154  and  166 are  being  driven  to  get  under  this  ore,  in  the  confident  expectation  of  making  large  returns.  One  of  the  great  objects  of  the  adventurers  is  the  driving  of  the  126  cross-cut  south  on  the  great  cross-course, to  cut  Rosedown  and  Marke  Valley  lodes.

in a  deep  valley  streamed  for  tin,  is  a  large  cross-course  –  a  continuation,  in  fact, of  the  West  Caradon  boundary  cross-course,  which  there,  as  well  as  in  South Phoenix,  heaves  the  lodes  to  the  left  hand  about  10  fathoms.  This  crosscourse  is  many  fathoms  wide,  but  has  never  been  seen  at  the  Phoenix  Mines; as,  although  they  have  driven  on  a  course  of  ore  close  to  it,  they  were  afraid to  proceed,  on  account  of  the  probable  great  influx  of  water  that  would  ensue.

Wheal Hooper-South Caradon


This cross-course may hold a clue to a mystery engine house. Its northern termination is close to the location of an isolated chimney whose purpose is not known. Symons shows and engine house located on the cross-course, a location that suggests that a shaft may have been sunk there in order to serve a cross-cut driven on the cross-course. This possible explanation for the mystery chimney is supported by the fact that the cross-course proved to be of great use to Wheal Hooper.

This is another cross-course is not shown by BGS.

Wheal Hooper
A cross-course,  which  has  been  of  considerable  utility  in  working  the  mine inexpensively,  stretches  across  the  sett,  bearing  a  few  degrees  west  of  north, and  intersecting  the  lodes  obliquely.  It  is  of  inconsiderable  magnitude,  and does  not  appear  to  affect  the  lodes  to  any  great  extent. WG

Glasgow Caradon


Brenton Symons shows three cross courses, each one associated with shafts or adits.  The eastern cross-course has a heave of the western parts of the lodes to the north. This heave is similar to that shown on other cross-courses, that is the ground on the western side in moved northwards, or the eastern southwards.

Non of the Glasgow Caradon lodes are shown by BGS.

“He  drove  an  adit  south  on  a  large  crosscourse  about  four  feet  in  width,  and  cut  several  lodes.”

“A  cross-cut  from  the adit  has  been  driven  north  on  a  cross-course,  in  which  two  lodes  with  a  north underlie  have  been  cut,  containing  kindly  looking  gossan.

Marke Valley Consols
The Victorian map appears to show a short cross-course running northwards from one of the lode, close west of the dressing floors. Webb and Geach describes a cross-course that crosses all the lodes, a description that does not coincide with the map details.
No cross-courses are shown by BGS.

“South of  these  are  three  known  lodes,  one  of  which,  named  New  Lode,  has  been worked  to  the  80;  the  other  two  have  been  nearly  intersected  by  the  crosscourse  which  crosses  the  lodes  at  right  angles,  and  is  a  little  west  of  the  old whim shaft.”


1 Wheal Pollard-Wheal Norris, Caradon Hill (Vale)
2 Craddock Moor-West Caradon
3 Gonomena-West Caradon
4 The Great Cross-course
5 South Caradon
6 Wheal Hooper-South Caradon
7 Glasgow Caradon
8 Marke Valley Console

Brenton Symons shows more cross-courses then the BGS, but less then those listed by webb and Geach.
Where a cross-course causes a heave, the ground to the west is northwards.
The cross-courses have been utilised by many of the mines for driving cross-cuts or adits.

Brenton Symons V British Geological Survey

Brenton Symons has the upper hand for this one. The Victorian map shows six cross-courses, whilst the BGS only one. The details described within the pages of Webb and Geach give credibility to the cross-course positions shown by Symons.  Therefore when it comes to cross-courses the Brenton Symons map is far superior to its modern counterpart.

Brenton Symons 1- BGS 1, Now a draw. Next round will be the elvans. 

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Phoenix United Mine in 1863-According to ‘Webb and Geach’


This is an extract from ” Webb and Geach- History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District”,  published in 1863. This Victorian book was written as a reference source for those considering investing in the mines of Southeast Cornwall.

In addition to its description of Phoenix United Mine, the extract gives an example of the use of Victorian Cornish mining terminology.

Phoenix Mines
This  is a rectangular piece of ground 760 fathoms in length  by 500 in width, and is located  in  the  south-western  corner  of  the  parish  of  Linkinghorne. The  Western  Boundary  of  the  sett  extends  along  the  top  of  a  ridge  known  as the  Cheesewring.  From  the  top  of  this  hill,  as  far  as  the  eye  can  reach,  westward  and  north  nothing  is  visible  but  bare  conical  hills,  covered  with  short heath  sloping  on  every  side  to  marshy  bottoms.  Eastward  the  whole  length of  the  sett  is  laid  out  like  a  map  beneath  the  observer.  The  hill,  falling  at  first  precipitously  to  a  deep  narrow  vale,  rises  sharply  for  a  short  distance,  when the  level  and  cultivated  land  is  reached.  It  is  on  the  summit  of  this  small  plateau that the buildings and works of the present Company are placed.

There  is  only  one  lode  operated  on,  and  this  at  surface  runs  through  the  entire length  of  the  rectangle.  The  lode  backed  up  close  to  surface,  and  was  laid open  by  the  old  men  for  about  a  mile  in  length  in  their  efforts  to  discover and  raise  tin,  large  quantities  of  which  they  returned.  This  and  other  lodes which  they  also  backed  up  strongly  attracted  the  attention  of  some  mining 
speculators  and  they  about  1836  formed  themselves  into  a  Company,  under  the  title  of  the  “Cornwall  Great  United“,  which  also  comprised  several other  mines  in  the  county.  They  held  a  lease  of  considerable  extent  of  Duchy Land,  which  included  the  present  Phoenix  Mines,  West  Phoenix,  South  Phoenix  and  parts  of  North  Phoenix  and  West  Sharp  Tor.  Under  their  management,  these  mines  were  named,  Stow’s  Mine,  Clanacombe  (present Phoenix  Mines),  Greenhill  Mine,  Wheal  Prosper,  and  Wheal  Jenkin.  These last  three  having  been  noticed  in  South  Phoenix  paper,  will  not  be  again  referred  to  here. A stamping  engine  was  erected,  which  produced  considerable quantities of low-priced  tin ore raised from the  Stow’s Mine.

After  working  several  years,  without  any  good  result,  and  having  spent  the whole  of  their  paid  up  capital,  amounting  to  upwards  of  £50,000,  they  were compelled  to  abandon  the  adventure.  A  portion  of  the  adventurers,  however, still  un-dismayed,  and  seeking  to  retrieve  a  portion  of  their  losses,  obtained in  December  1842  a  renewal  of  the  lease,  nominally,  for  twenty-one  years; but  the  lease  was  ante-dated  about  twelve  months,  thus  practically  reducing it to only twenty years’  duration. This  lease  reduced  the  sett  to  the  limits  before  described.  And  the  title  of  the Phoenix  Mines  was  given  to  the  Company. 

After  a  further  outlay  of  £12,425, the  mines  became  profitable  in  November  1852,  since  which  time  to  December  1861  regular  half-yearly  dividends  have  been  declared.  After  a  steady perseverance  and  the  large  outlay  of  £62,425,  the  concern  was  brought  into a paying state. There  seemed  now  every  probability  that  the  shareholders  would  be  reimbursed  their  original  deficit.  But  at  the  end  of  1858,  the  working  became so  deep  and  the  water  so  fast,  that,  in  order  to  carry  the  mine  profitably,  it  was deemed necessary to erect additional and more powerful machinery, involving  the  expenditure  of  some  thousands  of  pounds.  The  lease  terminating  in  1861, it  was  considered  by  the  shareholders  inexpedient  to  sink  such  a  sum  until they  were  assured  by  the  Duchy  of  a  renewal  of  the  lease.  It  appears,  however, that  the  Duchy  and  the  Committee  could  not  agree  upon  terms,  and  the  lease was  ultimately  granted  to  some  of  the  principle  adventurers  in  South  Phoenix, who  have  been  in  occupation  for  about  eleven  months. 

At  the  time  when the  Cornwall  Great  United  first  commenced  their  explorations,  there  was scarcely  a  mine  in  the  neighbourhood;  even  the  celebrated  South  Caradon  was  not  as  yet  dreamt  of,  and  it  was  indeed  exceedingly  against  the  reports  of several  able  mining  agents  that  the  Company  persevered.  No  one  can  refuse to  admit  that  the  working  of  the  mine  was  the  foundation  of  the  great  mineral discoveries  which  shortly  resulted;  and  it  is  not  exaggerating  too  say  that £100,000  has  been  laid  out  on  the  Duchy  Property  in  the  immediate  vicinity, entirely  on  the  strength of  Phoenix  Mines,  indeed  mostly  promoted by its adventurers.

The  lode  in  this  sett is  so  different  in  every  respect  to  those  of the  rest  of  the  district south,  as  to  merit  a  full description.  In  the  village  of  Upton  the  back of  the  lode  is  seen  in the  road  300  fathoms west  –  the  East  Phoenix  Company  works it;  still  west  250  fms. it  is  worked  as  Clanacombe  Mine.  The  back of  the  lode  to  the  west of  this  point  has  been so  wrought  upon  by ancient  and  modern miners  for  a  mile  as  to be  seen  at  a  considerable  distance.  After crossing  the  valley before  alluded  to,  the course  of  the  lode  runs to  the  summit  of  the Cheesewring  ridge,  where  it  was  first  worked  as  Stow’s  Mine;  it  then falls  down  the  western  slope  to  West  Phoenix  Mine,  now  abandoned.  It will  be  seen,  then,  that  there  are  four  distinct  mines  working  this  remarkable lode. At  the  Stow’s  Mine  West,  the  lode  contained  towards  the  surface  immense masses  of  highly  ferruginous  gossan,  becoming,  however,  as  it  approached Clanacombe  Mine,  less  impregnated  with  iron;  gossan  was  here  found  in one  place  200  fathoms  deep,  intermixed  with  grey  ore.  In  depth  the  matrix is  generally  composed  of  large  quantities  of  blue  capel,  carrying  a  leader  of quartz  and  iron,  in  which  the  ore  makes;  a  quantity  of  blue  and  green  carbonate  is  also  found.  There  is  a  little  chlorite;  butfluor-spar,  found  plentifully  in most  of  the  southern  lodes,  has  never  been  seen  here. 

A  marked  difference will  thus  be  observed  in  this  lode  (as  in  that  of  Sharp  Tor),  compared  to  those of the Caradon, little more than a linear mile to the south. At  Stow’s  Mine  large  returns  of  tin  were  made  by  the  Cornwall  Great  United  above  the  adit.  They  drained  the  mine  by  a  deep  adit,  taken  up  the  foot of  the  hill,  and  driven  westward  250  fathoms  to  Stow’s  Shaft,  with  which it  communicates  100  fathoms  below  surface.  Under  the  late  Capt.  Samuel  Seccombe‘s  management,  this  shaft  was  sunk  45  fathoms  below  adit,  and levels  driven  east  and  west,  but  the  lode  was  found  unproductive.  The  engine  not  being  powerful  enough  to  continue  below  the  45,  and  no  promising  indications  justifying  the  erection  of  more  powerful  machinery,  this portion  of  the  mine  was  suspended. 

In  Clanacombe  Mine  a  rich  course  of ore  was  discovered  at  the  86.  The  principle  bunches  of  ore  were  between  the 120th  and  the  161st  fathom  levels;  the  ore  holding  down  to  the  216,  which  is at  present  the  deepest  level  in  the  mine;  130  fathoms  west  of  the  old  sump,  in a  deep  valley  streamed  for  tin,  is  a  large  cross-course  –  a  continuation,  in  fact, of  the  West  Caradon  boundary  cross-course,  which  there,  as  well  as  in  South Phoenix,  heaves  the  lodes  to  the  left  hand  about  10  fathoms.  This  crosscourse  is  many  fathoms  wide,  but  has  never  been  seen  at  the  Phoenix  Mines; as,  although  they  have  driven  on  a  course  of  ore  close  to  it,  they  were  afraid to  proceed,  on  account  of  the  probable  great  influx  of  water  that  would  ensue. 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.  To  cut  this  lode,  a cross-cut  is  being  driven  from  the  old  sump  south  about  70  fathoms,  and  it  is expected  that  in  a  short  time  it  will  be  seen.  The  underlay  shaft,  on  which  a 60-inch  engine  is  being  erected,  is  about  80  fathoms  east  of  the  old  sump,  and is  down  to  the  186.  These  mines  have  returned  £105,000  in  dividends. mine  is  divided  into  200  shares,  and  employs  about  250  persons.  Pay-day, second Saturday in the month.


Although Webb and Geach gave an what appears to be an  extensive account of the mine’s operations in 1863, they failed to mention William West’s buy-out of the Company, and his transformation of Phoenix United into a tin mine. A major omission that indicates how well William West hid his plan to take control of the mine.

Webb and Geach’s book is available in paperback from the Trevithick Society. For more information about the book click here>

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Hints to the Cornish Victorian Mine investor.


Here is an excellent article written in 1857 by  J.R. Leifchild offering his advise to those tempted to risk their money in the Cornish Mining industry.

If you have own copy of Webb and Geach,   put yourself in the mind of a remote investor, and after reading through this article attempt picking a mine worthy of your hard earned earned cash.

1. Use great caution when a mine is being represented as being capable of being commenced without machinery; or as being able to be wrought with an unusually small amount of capital.

2. Refrain from any mine proposed to be wrought by steam machinery with less capital than £5,000, unless you are fully satisfied by your own personal examination. No mine ought to be undertaken without the possible resource of a surplus capital. Nine out of ten mines which have been cramped for capital have failed.

3. Be cautious when the purser of the mine is a trader or shopkeeper. Mining capital is useful to extend private trade. Look at the Purser well, lest he look to himself too well; lend to him personally rather than inderirectly.

4. Resident shareholders sometimes take shares in a neighbouring project, if it will drain their own mine of water accumulated in it. Beware of projects got up by such gentlemen.

5. Avoid mines of which the traders in supplies have the agency, or in which their special friends are strong and numerous.

6. Avoid mines belonging wholly too non-resident shareholders, and which are left to the unchecked control of the Purser and Captain.

7. Look well to the registry and transfer of shares, if enstrusted to the Purser alone, by means of entries in the cost-book only.

8. Avoid mines of any metal except tin, the leases of which are incomplete, opr have been granted except by th sett and signature of the lord’s agent in the cost book.

9. The repute, skill, and character of the Purser and Capatain of the mine you invest in, are quite as important to you as your skill in your own buisness.

10. Reference to an agent of uncertain character sometimes leads to a depreciation in the concern you are thinking of, and a recommendation of the concern he is thinking of.

11. What exactly suits the views of a mine agent, may not exactly suit yours.

12. It is far easier to put tin into a mine, then to get tin out of a mine; and its is more likely that you will lose £100 then gain £10.

13. To detremine the number of shares you will take in a very promising mine, first consult your wife, then count your children, and lastly, calculate your household expenses.

14. It is just possible that the sample ores you see in London, or some other city, have come from any mine except the one projected or offered to your consideration. Some samples have been known to serve for several mines.

15. As to foreign concerns, beware of wonderful reports and astonishing specimens. Not log since, some rich masses of copper were exhibited in London, and a company projected. A keen agent being sent out to report, found no such wonderful masses of copper, and hinted that more specimens had been brought to the spot by the hand of man than the hand of nature,

16. Before you invest, do not look over a list of mines whose returns have been extraordinary; but reckon up the failures. Be sure to be particular about these, as they will most concern you.

17. When you have invested, make your mind to loose; and then any gains will be clear gains, and pleasant disappointments.

18. Send the author a ten-pound note for his advice-good in either way.

From Cornwall its mines and Miners, 1857, J.R. Leifchild.

History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District, 1863, By William Webb, Edward Geach and John Manley.


Copies are available in the Liskeard Area from the Bookshop, on the Parade.

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1863 – a Victorian year in perspective


The early 1860’s were a facinating period; a period packed with technological innovation and social change.

Unfortunatly my transformation of the Liskeard Mining Area in 1863 CD ROM to kindle format did not lend itself well to including the scene setting page describing 1863. So here are those words, starting at the World level and descending through the UK, Cornwall to get the events surrounding Liskeard.

1863 a Victorian year
This was the Britain of Victoria’s widowhood, Prince Albert had died in 1861, and the Queen was in virtual retirement. Her Prime Minister was the elderly Lord Palmerston, then in the last three years of his life. 

Europe was in the aftermath of the Crimean war and feeling the economic impact of the American Civil war.

It was the age of the Pre-Raphaelites and the impressionist artists, Charles Dickens was writing his novels, and Neo-Gothic architecture was in fashion. John Stuart Mill’s philosophy was forming the concepts of the welfare state we know in the UK oday.

Railways were making huge impacts on life in Britain, and their growth was breaking Cornwall’s isolation from England.
Science advances included Francis Galton writing the first book on weather mapping, Gregor Mendal conducting his pea trials to discover genetics and Nobel inventing the mercury fulminate detonator.

World News


HMS Warrior

The American civil war was in progress.
Slave emancipation proclamation was made by Abraham Lincoln.
The second empire existed in France, where Napoleon the III was in power.
The Prussian Danish War occurd.
An industrial arms race exists between armour, guns, forts and ironclads.
Maximillian accepts crown of Mexico.
The Gold Rush is under way in Montana.

Events in Britain
The Duke of Cornwall marries.
The Albert Memorial was being built.
John Stuart Mill writes Utilitarianism.
First underground railway is opened in London.
Boots the Chemist is founded.

“Victoria’s personal physician Sir James Clark recorded that he feared for Victoria’s sanity in 1863, and there were some who thought that Victoria had inherited the “madness” that had taken hold of George III, Victoria’s grandfather. “

Queen Victoria: A Life From Beginning to End”



Brunel’s Bridge across the Tamar

A Railway line is opened to Falmouth.
Cornwall’s isolation is broken by the growth of railways.
The Duchy’s Population had peaked in 1861.
Emigration was in progress, but was not yet on a massive scale.

The Cornish mining industry


The mines of the West Cornwall were becoming exhausted.
Devon Great Consols, and the East Cornwall mines dominated the Industry.
Overseas competition was having an impact on the markets.
Share speculation was damaging confidence in the industry.
The great copper price collapse of 1866 was just around the corner.



New Methodist chapels were opened.
Mining dominated the economy.
Ore traffic on the Liskeard and Caradon Railway peaked.
Liskeard is sufferred from overcrowding and poor sanitation caused by the mining boom.
The Liskeard water works had been recently opened.
Many new buildings were constructed by architect Henry Rice, funded from the wealth flowing outwards from the mines.

The following books contain more information about mining in the Liskeard area during 1863.

The Liskeard Mining District in 1863


The History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard District


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