Webb and Geach- History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District

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When  Peter  Clymo  and  his  fellow  adventurers  struck  copper  at  the  South Caradon  mine  in  1837,  they  began  a  mining  bonanza  in  the  area,  which  made fortunes  for  some  and  utterly  changed  the  local  landscape.  Yet  in  little  more than  half  a  century  mining  on  any  major  scale  had  ceased  completely,  never to resume.

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.

A Cornish mining landscape captured.
The  Cornish  mining industry  was  one  notorious for  fluidity  driven  by  the  twin vagaries  of  ore  price  fluctuations  and  the  unpredictability  of  the  richness  lying beneath  the  surface.  Mines  opened  and  closed  frequently,  their  boundaries moved,  and  names  often  changed.  Any  attempt  to  understand  the  rich  industrial  heritage  of  Cornwall has  to  contend  with  the  problem  of  interpreting this ever  changing  landscape.  This  book  by  William  Locock  Webb  and  Edward Geach  is  one  of  the  few  contemporary  publications  written  that  enable us in the 21st century to obtain a snapshot in time of this changing landscape.

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The  original  audience  for  the  book  was  the  investors  and  dealers  in  the  London  share  market.  It  was  written  to  inform  share  holders  about  the  distant  properties  that  they  would  gamble  their  money  on.  Within  its  pages  they  could  find  descriptions  of  the  mines,  tables  of  financial  information, and  selected  reports  from  the  mine  agents.  All  this  would  have  been  useful  as  a  reference  to  anyone  scouring  the  weekly  Mining  Journal  in  the  hunt for  potential  investments.

It  was  priced  at  1s  6d  and  published  by  Williams and  Strachan  or  Effingham  Wilson  at  Royal  Exchange.  Effingham  Wilson  became  famous  as  a  radical  publisher  but  he  also  printed  books  for  the  pioneering  London  Statistical  Society  so  perhaps  this  book’s  analysis  of  the finances of the mining market appealed to him.

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Webb  and  Geach  were  share  brokers  who  specialised  in  selling  mining shares.  They  were  in  partnership  together,  forming  one  of  the  many  companies  that  had  developed  by  the  1860s  to  serve  the  expanding  Victorian  finance  industry  surrounding  Cornish  mining.  The  partnership  was  later  expanded  to  include  John  George  Pennington  but  was  dissolved  on  the  13th April 1865.

It  became  common  practice  for  these  share  broking  companies  to  issue “expert”  advice  and  become  commentators  within  the  mining  press  on  the industry.  This  book  was  printed  as  part  of  that  advice,  a  service  to  their  potential  customers.

Another  publication  by  published  by  the  partners  was  A  brief  Review  of  the  British  and  Foreign  Mining  Markets  for  1861,  with  prices,  dividends,  ore  sales,  etc.  which  was  printed  in  1862.  Webb  and  Geach also  wrote  articles  for  the  mining  and  smelting  magazine  reporting  of  share price movements in the mining industry. They  worked  from  offices  at  8  Finch  Lane,  London  and  the  Stock  Exchange, very  much  in  the  centre  of  the City.

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Finch  Lane  lay  between  Threadneedle Street  and  Cornhill,  only  yards  away  from  the  Bank  of  England.  The  scene outside  their  office  door  was  very  different  from  that  of  the  open  moorland  of Bodmin  Moor  on  which  many  of  the  mines  described  were  located.  Power here  derived  not  in  the  huge  Cornish  Beam  engines  of  the  mines,  but  in  the money of  the  rich  capitalists.  It  was  not  the  skill  of  the  miner  that  was  important  here,  it  was  the  shrewdness  and  luck  of  the  investors.  By  coincidence  James Watt  the  engineer  served  an  apprenticeship  as  an  instrument  maker  in  Finch Lane,  learning  some  of  the  skills  that  one  day  would  make  a  massive  impact on Cornish mining.

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The 2011 Edition, published by the Trevithick Society.

This  reprint  has  been  transcribed  from  a  typewritten  transcription  held  by Liskeard  Library;  the  reason  for  the  original  manuscript  is  not  known  but  the fragile  state  of  the  pages  would  indicate  it  was  made  many  years  ago.  It  was the  fragile  state  of  this  transcript  that  was  the  prompt  for  this  new  transcription,  to  allow  future  generations  to  read  this  remarkable  description  of  this remarkable mining district. New  material  added  includes  the  sett  map,  contents  list,  editor’s  notes,  glossary  and  index.  This  additional  material  has  been  reproduced  in  a  modern  typeface  to  differentiate  from  the  original  text.  The  only  changes to  the  Webb  and  Geach  text  have  been  the  introduction  of  some  additional paragraphing to improve readability. Reference  has  been  made  throughout  this  reprint  to  the  Brenton  Symons map  of  1865. A Kindle version  of  this  map is available as ‘The Liskeard Mining area in 1863, a publication that gives  the  reader  the  valuable  opportunity  of  comparing  the  text  of  this  book  with  a  geological map produced in the same year.
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Click here to buy a copy of the book from Amazon>
If you in the Liskeard Area then pop along to the Bookshop on the Parade for a copy.

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15 thoughts on “Webb and Geach- History and Progress of Mining in the Liskeard and Caradon District

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