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  • Writer's pictureSteeple Woods

History of Trelyon Consols

Victorian tin and copper miners

The early history of the mine is not known, but in 1849 ‘Trelyon Consolidated Mines’ was formed, an amalgamation of several small mines including Wheal Venture, Wheal Widden and Trelyon Downs mine. The mine was recorded as being only 34 fathoms deep (the depths of all Cornish mines were measured in fathoms, i.e. six feet, probably because of the association between the two principal Cornish industries of fishing and mining). Teams of horses were the motive power for both pumping water and raising the ore and waste rock.

At the same time, the investors in Trelyon Consolidated also acquired Wheal Margery, the mine in what are now the grounds of Treloyhan Manor. There was a plan to link the two mines via a drainage adit, but this was never implemented. Wheal Margery was sold in 1853 and it closed in 1870, having raised 16,400 tons of 5% copper ore and 100 tons of black tin (cassiterite concentrate).

As Trelyon Consolidated grew, the investors installed a 24” double-acting steam engine for pumping, winding and stamping (crushing). Pumping was done at both Parry’s and Lawry’s shafts, the power being transmitted to the shafts by horizontal flat rods. The flat area now known as the reservoir would have held water both for the steam engine and for processing the ore. As there are no obvious natural sources of water on Trelyon Downs, it was probably supplied with water from the pumps. There were several other smaller ponds.

In 1858, an agreement was reached with Providence Mines to the south of Trelyon Consols, for working the Trelyon Downs section of the mine under the name Providence and Trelyon United. Costs and profits were shared, and Trelyon Consolidated were paid a fee for the use of their pumping engine.

The number of employees varied between seventy and one hundred through the life of the mine, including men, women and children. Black tin was the principal ore raised, but a modest amount of copper ore was also produced. Between its opening in 1849 and 1872, the company sold almost 1,200 tons of black tin and just short of 262 tons of 9% copper ore. Income over that period was £88,760, while outgoings, including dividends to the investors, and wages, were £89,909. Profits were good in the early years, but losses started to be made into the 1870’s. The falling price of tin and rising costs eventually made the mine uneconomic, and it closed in 1874 after twenty-five years in operation.

There were six principal shafts and many smaller ventilation shafts and trial pits. The six shafts were New Shaft, approximately 150 yards N.E. of Knill’s Monument, Parry’s Shaft, 120 yards E.N.E. of New, Lawry’s Shaft (also known as Engine Shaft), 100 yards E.N.E. of Parry’s. Flat Rod Shaft was 145 yards N.E. by N. of Lawry’s, Daniel’s Shaft, 150 yards E. by N. of Flat Rod, and Whip Shaft was 84 yards S.E. of Daniel’s. The St. Ives Archive holds a tracing of the mine plan.

The drainage adit was 17 fathoms (about 100 ft.) below surface at New Shaft, decreasing in depth with the fall of the land as it followed the lodes (veins of tin ore) in a northeasterly direction until it reached Flat-Rod Shaft, in the garden of what is now ‘Wheal Venture’ house at the top of Wheal Venture road. From there, it turned east to Daniel’s Shaft, somewhere near the little roundabout at the top of the Tesco access road, and then went southeast to Whip Shaft, later covered by the Tesco car park.

The adit passed under the Tesco car park and then under the main road on the St. Ives side of the Tesco roundabout. It ran down the north side of what is now the public garden at Chy-an-Gweal. There were several ventilation shafts on the line of the adit, on the boundary between the public and adjacent private gardens. The adit emerged beyond the northeast corner of the public garden, 310 yards E.N.E. of Whip shaft and 240 yards S.E. of the Cornish Arms pub.

At one time, the water from the adit formed part of the supply for St. Ives, piped along the Hain Walk to a reservoir in Albert Place. What looks like a collapsed adit portal by the kissing gate below Tremorna on the cliff path down to Carbis Bay beach and on the line of the adit, may also be related to Trelyon Consols.

A few years ago, Whip Shaft and the adit under the Tesco car park collapsed. The hole and subsequent excavations were known locally as ‘Wheal Tesco’!

Cornwall Council own the land covered by the Steeple Woodlands Nature Reserve, and in the late 1990’s, they surveyed the area. The mineshafts that they identified were fenced and surrounded with Cornish hedges. At the same time, they cleared the rhododendrons that had invaded the area over the century and a quarter since the mine closed.

When the council contractors had finished, the group of volunteers who manage the site on behalf of Cornwall Council, planted the mine area with local indigenous trees, which are now well established. They provide a rich and varied habitat for wildlife, the complete opposite to the sterile understory found beneath dense stands of rhododendrons.

The old mine plans show some twenty shafts on the site, but the surveyors were unable to identify all of them due to very thick undergrowth in places. When walking on Trelyon Downs, visitors should keep to the paths, because shallow pits abound. Where there is a mound of broken rock, there will probably be a pit or even a shaft close by.


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