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Trail Stop No 9 - Mining in the St. Ives area

There is no doubt that the history of mining in West Cornwall goes back many centuries. Archaeological evidence points to trade in minerals between Cornwall and other parts of Europe dating back well before Roman times. The Latin name for tin is stannum and the Cornish word is Sten. From this is derived the name “Stennack” which means “place of tin”. By the medieval period the Cornish tin industry was subject to special taxes and had unique privileges granted by Royal Charter.

Early tin deposits could be removed by streaming or shallow open cast mining, but deeper mines needed to be dug to find the richest lodes of tin, copper and other metals. The ores were often found in large bodies called “carbonas”.  As technology advanced, with the advent of steam engines to power pumps, hoists and presses, deeper shafts could be sunk and engine houses began to appear all over Cornwall.

By the mid 19th century there were nineteen mines in St Ives and the surrounding district. The St Ives Consols mine at the top of the Stennack was one of the largest, and in 1832 its owner James Halse built the nearby village of Halsetown to house many of its workers. Amongst the mines in the town, still recognisable from street and place names, were Wheal Ayr, Carrack Dhu, Pednolver (North Wheal Providence) and Wheal Trenwith. The latter, where the leisure centre and car park now stand, reopened in the early 20th century when it was discovered that the spoil from the mine contained radium which when processed could be worth between £2,500 and £10,000 from each ton of ore. Samples were sent to Marie Curie and it was said that they were amongst the purest in the world.

In Carbis Bay Wheal Margery was one of the most impressive and extended out under the seabed. Wheal Providence was another extensive mine and you can still see the adits which allowed for drainage and ventilation around the coastline of Carbis Bay.

Most of the mines in the area closed in the late 19th Century because of the decline in tin prices, although there  was a slight resurgence in 1905 when prices rose.

An early engraving showing St. Ives from Wheal Trenwith

Engine Houses from Rosewall Hill.jpg

A view from Rosewall hill showing mine engine houses 

Wheal Consols Mine 1860s.jpg

Wheal Consols mine in the 1860s 

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