Tin and China Clay Mines in Cornwall

This post is for Alice who wanted to see my photos of mines in Cornwall.

I was very excited to see the remains of mines scattering the skyline during our recent holiday in Cornwall.

I’ve always been interested in industrial buildings.  I guess this is mainly due to my father’s influence as he was a steel man from the age of 13 and he developed in me a passion for ships, bridges and buildings.  The other reason could be because of where I grew up.  I lived in the Felling, a shipbuilding and mining area in the North of England.  I skipped past the railway station and shipyard every day on my way to school and there was a derelict engine house complete with winding gear at the end of our street of 2 up and 2 down back to back miners’ cottages.  These were our adventure playgrounds.  Children were never allowed to play on the grass or ride bikes in the municipal parks in those days!  Parks were for floral displays and grown ups to walk in and the park warden was fierce.

Being a traditional and romantic sort of person I accept that industrialisation almost wiped out the jobs for blacksmiths, weavers, spinners, millers and grinders. But I find there is great beauty in the  machinery that drove the mines and  the mills, and in the engines that turned their wheels and moved their goods.

The Redruth and Camborne area was the central tin and copper mining district of Cornwall.   The area is now part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site and has made the most of it’s heritage by opening up the old tramways and railways as trails for walking, biking or horse-riding.  Along the trails there are the remains of the historic mines.  And along the way there are spectacular views of the coast or  gorgeous countryside.  I was amazed to learn that Gwennap and the mines around it was once the richest copper producing area in the world.

One or two of the mines are now restored.  For example Geevor Tin Mine, Gwennap Pit and King Edward Mine are open as visitor attractions but we avoided those preferring to walk around and discover the remains of derelict mines.

We did however visit Wheal Martyn.  This place is amazing being almost a complete Victorian China Clay works.  Thousands of people made their living here in its day.  It is brilliantly preserved with its huge waterwheel, tools, machinery, vintage vehicles, pits and tunnels all in working order.  Walking round, it feels as if the workers have just left their labours for the day.

There is still a great china clay industry in Cornwall but it is not just used for ceramics now.  Mostly it is used in the production of paper, cosmetics and toothpaste, as well as in the farming, building, medical and chemical industries.

8 thoughts on “Tin and China Clay Mines in Cornwall

  1. Interesting photos and commentary. A particular area of my state of Wisconsin was settled by Cornish miners and family. They worked in lead mines (a lot of bullets for our Civil War) in the middle 1800’s. These areas are historical sites today, and there one can find restaurants that serve a good Cornish pasty. Smiles.


    • Ah how interesting. I wonder did they suffer from lead poisoning? While we were in Cornwall my husband ate his fair share of Cornish Pasties. I am not keen on them but he loves them!
      Thanks for reading and commenting x


  2. Wonderful photography. I’ve spent much of my life in California (born there) and Nevada (live there now) where mines are prevalent. When he was in his 70’s, my engineer grandfather struck a claim in gold country (California) and worked a spent gold mine. It kept him going till his late 80’s when he could no longer drive there. (Well, that’s an aside). A visit to the UK is on my bucket list. Beautiful, historical country with people I’ve grown to know and love more through blogging.


    • Wow Victoria your grandfather was a brave old guy. If you ever get to UK let me know and I’ll show you the Cotswolds x Blogging is great as I have now ‘met’ some wonderful and interesting people through it. Today is my catch up day. Lovely to meet you x


    • Oh I am glad you liked them ~ there was a lot of mining in the UK at one time for coal, tin, copper, china clay and even gold in some places! Mostly redundant now of course although there are still some working mines.


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