Thursday, March 22, 2012

More Tin Mining in Regency Cornwall


Last time we talked about how tin mining started on the surface, in streams.  The people who undertook this kind of mining were called streamers.  And streamers were still around in the Regency. But most of the really profitable mining by this time was underground.

The mine we visited was originally known as  Wheal Roots.   Wheal is the Cornish word for mine. If you want to know what Cornish sounds like and learn some words you can find several links on the web. This is one. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/connected/stories/new_cornwall_language1.shtml

The picture above shows what is called Blue Peach. Veins like this formed the Wheal Roots Lode, the source of tin and therefore the place to start digging. This lode was found on the surface and followed into the hillside.

The tin bearing ore had to be dug out, crushed then smelted into ingots.  While waiting to go down the mine, I was handed a lump of tin ore.  It was amazingly heavy for its size.


To get down into the mine in regency times and before, miners would climb down a ladder like the one shown in the shaft  on the left. Only their ladder would have been made of wood and rope.   You can just see daylight at the top and this was only a small part of the distance they would travel down into the ground. In the winter, they would go down before it got light and not go back up until after dark, day after day.

Both men and boys worked down the mine. The small wooden barrow on the right would have been used by a lad. The men were called to work from their homes by means of a bell and signaled that the shift was up by that same bell.  The bell also was rung to summon help when there was an accident. And given that they were using black powder to move rocks it was likely to be a dreaded sound.

Lots more to come. Until next time, Happy Rambles.