South Caradon Mine in 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

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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.


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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>

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.

William West of Tredenham – A new page is launched

wpid-backimagewest.jpg

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…. 

 

 

 

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

1801

William West is born at Dolcoath

1808image003

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

1817 to 1819

West works at Dolcoath fitting shop

1822

West is chief working engineer at South Roskear and other mines

1828

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

1831

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

1833

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

1834

Austen’s Engine is started


1835


1837

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

The Victorian period starts

1838

The East London Engine was startedw13

1839

W4

1840

West started working for South Caradon mine

1843

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

1845

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

1847-1858

Brownes engine reporter is printed

1848Map1881Tredenham

St. Blazey foundry is established by West

1850

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

1852

Tredhenam  house is built

1852

1856

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

1863

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

1864

1867

  • Fowey Consols failed
  • South Fowey Consols founded

1869

Newquay and Junction Railway completed to Drinnick Mill

1868

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

1870

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

1872

The South Caradon man engine is installed

1873

Cornwall Minerals Railway’s Act of Parliament was laid

1874

Cornwall Minerals Railway opened

1879

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1891

St. Blazey Foundry closed

1897

Phoenix United closed


wpid-westcover.jpgThe Last Great Cornish Engineer

William West of Tredenham

A paperback from the Trevitihick Society

John Taylor-Mining entrepreneur and Engineer

1779-1863

John_Taylor_(civil_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.

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.

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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.

Gonomena
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

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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.

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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.

Phoenix
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

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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

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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.”

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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.