Botallack, Cornwall

Botallack is an old mining village, near St Just which has featured in the “Poldark” television series. It has a pub, the Queen’s Arms. And is a good place to see mining ruins. The Botallack Head Mine ceased production in 1895. It ran out half a mile from the coast and went down some 2000 feet, but it is said that the miners could hear the sound of the waves above them as they worked.

Botallack, Cornwall - crowns mine

The ruins of the Crowns Mine on the coast is particularly scenic and the old engine houses are remarkably close to the cliff edge. Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort visited the mine in 1846 and the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in 1865. Wilkie Collins the novelist went down into the mine in 1850, and it was he who wrote that he could hear the roar of the surf above his head.

In 1865 there were eleven steam engines, and the mine employed 500. A fall in tin prices made the mine close in March 1895, although some workings still carried on in the shallow levels. Between 1907 and 1914 Botallack was reworked for arsenic and the flues can be seen in the ruins today - an arch carrying the flue passes between the two main sections.

Today what you see is the last 2 remaining engine houses. The larger, lower house once contained a pumping engine, and the narrower structure above housed a winding engine. From 1862 -75 the upper engine house operated the Boscawen incline, a shaft angled at 32 degrees with wheeled wagons running on rails.

The Count House and Count House Workshop were restored by the National Trust in 1998. The buildings now house information about the industrial and natural history of the area, plus specific information on Crowns engine houses, Botallack arsenic works and other industrial heritage sites in the area.

It took over a year to consolidate the calciner that dates back to 1907 and was made to extract poisonous arsenic from the tin ore produced at the mine. The tin ore was heated in the calciner, and the vapour given off was condensed on the walls of long stone tunnels called labyrinths. The miners that scraped off the arsenic were scarcely protected from its effects. Once collected the arsenic would be sent off for refining. Ultinately it would be used in pesticides, dyes, clearing glass and in medicines. As tin prices fluctuated, the gathering and sale of arsenic was an important commercial by product for mine owners.

Botallack Mine information from the Trevithick Society

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