South Caradon Mine worked from 1837 to 1885 and consisted of Jopes Shaft, Rule North Shaft, Rule South Shaft, Kittows Shaft and Sumps Shaft. Sumps was very deep at 457 meters (1500 feet)
The granite dome of Caradon Hill (404m OD) dominates the Area.
Engine houses, chimney stacks and thousands of tonnes of waste rock tips encircle
the hill. So does the bed of the Liskeard and Caradon Railway, built to link
the mines with the copper-ore port of Looe.
South Caradon Mine. The remains of two pumping engine houses, side-by-side, represent
it was the extraordinary copper riches found at South Caradon Mine that were responsible for the rapid development of the Caradon Mining District. Over a period of fifty years its copper output ranked third in Cornwall
Engine houses, such as the one at Jope’s Shaft (1862; subsequently the site of the last man-engine to be built in Cornwall in 1872) and at Holman’s Shaft (1875), form distinctive landmarks. The massive waste tips on both sides of the Seaton valley (West and South Caradon Mine) and on the southern flanks of Caradon Hill are a striking testament to the scale of operations beneath the moorland landscape. The mine’s well-preserved cobbled dressing floor can still be seen in the valley floor.
Wheal Agar, employing thirty workers, was situated within the village itself and over the other side of the valley lay South Caradon mine employing over 600 by the late 1860s, the major period of development within the village.
n the early nineteenth century Ennor, a miner working for the
Plymouth and Devonport Adventurers developed an adit on Caradon Hill in an area
thought to contain copper. The trial was unsuccessful, but was later retried
by Captain James Clymo and the Kittow family who acquired the lease in 1833.
It took three years to strike copper during which time Clymo
unsuccessfully tried to sell shares to raise capital. Within a few months of striking the main lode the shares were worth £2,000, and the mine (South Caradon) unusually remained in the control of the original miners, who were by now very wealthy.
The discoveries on Caradon Hill prompted large numbers of adventurers to take up setts on what they believed to be extensions of the lode. Some of these speculations were more successful than others. West Caradon was one of the more profitable ventures where work was first recorded in 1837, and the mine rapidly expanded. Other smaller mines in the area included Caradon Consols and Tokenbury Mine, where production at first was small scale and spasmodic. To the north of Caradon Hill the London Adventurers worked the Stowes sett at Wheal Julia and Wheal Jenkin east of Minions between 1824-5. In 1836 the old Stowes lode mines, including Clanacombe, were taken up by Cornwall Great United Mining Association who continued to search for tin and employed 197 men.
The first reference to the Eastern District of Cornwall Great United Mining Association working the setts of Prosper and Greenhill just to the north of Minions dates from the same year. Small amounts of copper, tin and manganese were produced, but the output was not consistent
By the early 1840s 4,000 tons of copper ore were being produced
annually from the eleven lodes at South Caradon. By 1844 the mine employed 410
people and the great mining engineer William West had constructed a pumping
engine and was acting as engineer. By the late 1840s there were nearly 4,000
miners working in the district. During the years 1845 – 64 the output
rose to 5,744 tons a year and during those nineteen years the overall production
from the mine totalled 850,000 tons, which was worth £756,613. In 1855
600 people were working at South Caradon. The mine itself continued to expand
and develop, as did associated buildings. In the Seaton Valley there was a changing
house, barber’s shop, wash house and tool house. Over at East Caradon
a new company took over the interest and by 1862 there were 180 employed which
rose to 250 in 1865. The mine at West Caradon had 250 employees in 1844, and
by 1851 there were 363 men, 83 women and 107 children working at the mine. Between
1845 –55 45,000 tons or ore were sold.
Due to the great productivity at South Caradon the continuation of its lodes were explored at Gonamena, New West Caradon, Craddock Moor and East Wheal Agar. None of these ventures however achieved comparable success. Gonamena began with just 30 people employed in 1854, and at its peak in 1865 there were 82 men, 4 women and 8 boys working the mine. New West Caradon at its peak never employed more than 28. East Wheal Agar was equally small scale and in 1865 employed 28 men and 2 boys. Craddock Moor, however, was more successful and in 1862 250 were working the mine.
During the mid 1860s, however, all the copper mines in the area were badly affected by the slump in copper prices due to the market being flooded from sources around the world. Even Europe’s largest copper mine, Devon Great Consols, was affected by the recession. On Bodmin Moor many of the smaller copper mines had to close. By 1871 Gonamena Mine had been abandoned, in 1873 the machinery at Craddock Moor Mine was advertised for sale and Caradon Consols closed in 1870, followed by West Caradon in 1874. East Caradon continued with a reduced workforce and in the early 1880 there were a maximum of 63 employed at the mine. Due to its size South Caradon was able to weather the recession more successfully than its neighbours, but it too was hit profoundly by the slump. The rise in output could not be matched
by a rise in income and in 1866 the miners decided to strike. The strike collapsed after it was met with resistance by the owners and the men were forced to accept new conditions. By 1869 Captain Clymo had resigned due to ill health and was succeeded by Captains Rule and Holman. They continued to carry out developments and in 1873 there was a brief rise in the price of copper. The annual output at South Caradon was still 5,000 tons, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to pay dividends.
It was not only the Caradon Hill mines which saw an increase in activity during the mid nineteenth century. In 1843 Clanacombe mine was renamed Wheal Phoenix and a new company formed by Captain James Seccombe. By 1848 copper ore sales had began and by 1851 there was a workforce of 132. In 1852 rich copper reserves were discovered and for the next ten years Phoenix rivalled South Caradon as one of Cornwall’s greatest copper mines. During the 1860s, as at South Caradon, the returns on copper began to diminish and the consulting engineer at Wheal Phoenix, William West tried unsuccessfully to persuade the company’s other adventurers to consider tin. By 1864 West had acquired controlling shares and immediately re-equipped the mine to produce tin. By 1860 enough tin had been raised for 36 heads of stamps to be installed and by 1865 there were 320 men, 60 women and 80 boys employed by the mine. Production continued to rise and in 1869 the workforce rose to nearly 600. In 1870 the mine had 144 heads of stamps and acquired the sett of the old Stowes Mine immediately to the west of Wheal Phoenix. The new company was called Phoenix and West Phoenix United mines. To the south the old mines of Greenhill and Wheal Prosper were reopened in 1847 under the name South Phoenix working the lodes of Greenhill, Grace Dieu, Prosper and New Lodes. They produced copper, tin and manganese but the output was inconsistent. The mine reopened in 1872, but by 1875 had gone into liquidation. Wheal Jenkin was in operation during this period, but no figures survive concerning its workforce and output. The old setts at Newlands were worked by Phoenix United in 1851-64 and the mine renamed East Phoenix. An engine was erected by William West in the mid 1850s and in 1864-72 the mine was run independently. In 1865 there were 25 employees. The success of the mines in the Minions area and on Caradon Hill during this period was greatly assisted by the expansion of the Liskeard and Caradon Railway. In 1842 a group of mine owners commissioned a survey to assess the feasibility of a rail link between the Caradon Mines, the
Cheesewring Quarry and Liskeard Canal. By 1846 a line was in place between South Caradon and Moorswater and a separate line to the quarry in the north was connected by an incline at Gonamena. The line was immediately profitable. In 1858 the Cheesewring Granite Company Limited extended the line up to Kilmar and a tramway joined the lines to Phoenix mines and the railhead. This railhead was situated in the area that became Minions. In 1861 the line was extended from Darite along the southern slopes of the moor to Tokenbury Corner. The traffic continued to increase and in 1863 alone 27,000 tons of copper ore were transported on the railway. By 1869 a branch line was constructed to the mines at Phoenix United replacing the original tramway. In 1877 the line was extended around Caradon Hill to Minions allowing the
closure of the Gonamena incline and improved access for the Cheesewring Quarries and the Phoenix Mines. The quarry at Cheesewring was first leased from the Duchy of Cornwall in 1845 by Trethewey, Clogg and Company. In 1851 the company produced a 9.1m Ionic column for the Great Exhibition. The output in 1858 had reached 111,274 tons. By 1868 Cheesewring and its neighbouring quarries were employing 240 workers and 40 masons at a finishing yard at Moorswater. The quarries greatly supported the newly arrived railway as they were situated 25 km from the port at Looe and transport costs were a significant factor. Further quarries in the area included Caradon Quarry and Goldiggings Quarry both run by Joseph Sweet and Sons which produced high quality stone for monumental mason
The 1880s began for South Caradon with disputes over carriage
tolls with the railway and with
the landowners over royalties. It became apparent to the adventurers that more capital was
required and in May 1883 a limited company was formed to take over the assets and raise new
capital. Under South Caradon Limited the workforce grew from 300 to 400 concentrating on the
eastern side as the older parts were now almost worked out. Attempts were made to explore to
the south but these developments proved costly and with little return. As the running costs of
the mine became excessive it was obvious there was no longer the capital to keep the mine in
production. At the end of 1885 the mine was closed and its machinery advertised for sale.
The South Caradon sale was not successful, however, and in 1889 following a rise in the price of
copper a new company was formed to work the South Caradon, East Caradon and Glasgow
Caradon setts. Despite the fact the price of copper had doubled confidence remained low and
the shareholders were unwilling to reinvest. As a result in March 1890 the mines closed. Between
1845 ad 1886 South Caradon had produced 202,094 tons of copper.
In 1881 Wheal Jenkin reopened as part of Marke Valley Consols Mines Ltd who ran the mines
to the Northeast of Minions. The output was small, as were the numbers employed. By 1890 the
mine was closed and there were no subsequent attempts to rework the lodes.
South Phoenix mine reopened in 1882 with a new pumping engine at Houseman’s shaft and was
run under the new name of South Phoenix Tin and Copper Mine Ltd. This company was
liquidated in 1885 and the mine reopened again as South Phoenix Ltd in 1887. There was some
increase in production during this period and expansion – Houseman’s shaft was deepened and
new dressing floors were built - but work was suspended in 1892 and the mine abandoned in
Despite the slump in the price of copper and so many mines closing Phoenix United continued
to produce large amounts of copper economically alongside its very productive output of tin. In
1885 it was producing more tin than all the other Cornish mines except for Dolcoath and East
Pool. During the next ten years however the shafts had to be sunk ever deeper and the price of
copper and tin continued to slump. The mine survived for longer than many of its neighbours
by cutting the workforce and lowering wages but by 1894 the company was in the hands of the
Receivers. By 1898 it was abandoned, equipment sold for scrap and most of the buildings
demolished. Between 1848 and 1889 Phoenix United had produced 84,538 tons of copper and
between 1853-1898 15,996 tons of tin.
Just as foreign competition forced down the price of tin and copper the quarries at Cheesewring
also suffered from the importation of cheap granite from Scandinavia. During this period there
were a number of fluctuations and stoppages which in 1882 resulted in temporary closure.
However production recommenced and between 1887-9 the quarries produced stone for the
construction of Tower Bridge and in 1899-1903 for Fastnet Lighthouse
n 1907 Cornish Consolidated Tin Mines Ltd took over South Phoenix
and re-equipped the
shafts, but by 1909 there were only four men working on the site. The mine was finally
abandoned in 1911.
An Australian company Cosmopolitan Proprietary Company Ltd took up the lease on Phoenix
United, East Phoenix and Dunsley Wheal Phoenix in 1907. A new engine house, and ancillary
buildings were all constructed and the new shaft named after the Prince of Wales - the mine's
mineral lord. By 1909 there was a workforce of 150 and further shafts were reopened and
investigated. Unfortunately the tin was too deep and possibly further east than the new shaft
could reach and by July 1914 the mine had exhausted all its capital. After the Great War in 1922
there were proposals to reopen a huge sett which would include the Phoenix United site, but the
plans came to nothing.
In 1916 the Liskeard and Caradon Railway closed and the quarries at Cheesewring switched to
more expensive road transport. The granite continued to be used for important commissions
such as the King George V dock at Calcutta built between 1921-8 and the widening of Lambeth
and Putney Bridges in 1929-32. By 1934, however, production had ceased.
1840: In response to the major copper find at South Caradon a trial adit was dug by a Mr. Crouch.
1844 The trial did not discover the expected riches and the sett was abandoned.
1851 Another company formed in attempt to find copper.
1860 East Caradon commenced production after extensions of the South Caradon
East Caradon was one of many mines started in an attempt to share in the wealth of the great South Caradon. Some attempted to find continuations of its rich copper lodes whilst others simply used the name Caradon to entice far too willing investors . Of these adventures East Caradon, West Caradon and Glasgow Caradon proved to be the most successful.
1863Excessive share speculation results in an important stannary court case against the mine.
1864 Production peaks at 5933 tonnes of copper ore with a value of £34791.6
1865 A 48" and 30" steam engines are recorded to be in operation pumping water and a 242 on winding/stamping.
1866 Industrial unrest "At the East Caradon and Marke Valley mines on Monday last, three pitches at each mine were refused by the men, and the price offered, not being increased, the whole of the men at both mines turned out on strike, and have note resumed work.....The managers of the whole of the mine in the Tavistock district and many in the Liskeard district have signed a resolution not to employ men belonging to the Society". West Briton 2nd March 1866
1882 Maximum workforce recorded at 63 employees of which 40 are underground workers.
1885 The mine forced to close due to rising water caused by the closure of
South Caradon. The Liskeard and Caradon Railway also closes
William West designed and constructed the engines on this mine as well as acting as consultant engineer. This prolific and famous engineer was a partner of Trevithick and built a large number of Cornish beam engines . In addition to his engineering feats William West was the main owner of the nearby Phoenix mine.
Peaks and troughs
Speculation and rumours of discoveries caused huge price swings in the price of East Caradon shares in the 1860s. A problem that occurred in many other Cornish mines in the later years of copper production, damaging confidence for long term investment.
Attempts at re-opening
1889-90 An attempt to rework the mine as part of a combined sett with Glasgow,South and West Caradon failed.
1907/8 Budd and Co. operates the mine as the East Caradon and Marke Valley mine. A re-working that also fails.
The 1907 work appeared to have consisted of a hunt for new lodes. Assay pits
have been dug on Caradon Hill in a systematic manner. These pits exist West
of North shaft and on the Eastern slopes below the mine. Only two men were involved
in this work
1833 to 1890
Six Decades of Industry 217,820 tonnes of ore produced
First record of mineral workings in the area at the Gonomena open works.
Early 19th Century
A miner called Ennor working for a group of Plymouth and Devonport adventurers dugs an adit in from the Seaton Valley. This was probably at the location of what became main adit. Some indications of minerals may have been found but the trial is abandoned on advice of experts. The lease then changes hands several times, often for very small amounts.
A Promise of wealth
Experience in the West of the county suggested that Copper deposits probably existed under Caradon Hill.
Large deposits of fine gozzen near the surface suggested that workable mineral lodes would exist deeper down. These gozzans may have been worked for tin ref Collins . Attempts at finding copper had been made by small groups of miners driving adits into the hillside but with no success prior to the South Caradon find.
On each transfer the opportunity of huge wealth was missed by the leaseholder, at one point for less than a guinea.
The miner James Clymo and members of the Kittow family started looking for Copper in the area . An adit running eastwards from the Seaton Valley was the starting point of their enterprise.
Despite shortage or resources the miners continue to perevere in extending the adit, following promising signs of minerlisation deeper into the hill.
The adventurers perseverence and determination is rewarded when the main ore body is discovered but no investors in London could be found to finance the venture. The original miners therefore financed the mine themselves.
First returns are made for the mine after just over £327 had been paid out. 130 tons of ore (of 10%metal) is produced. Shambrock
(Alan gives this production as starting in 1838)
The first engine was installed at sump shaft
Within a few years South Caradon became one of the biggest Copper mines in the world.
The story goes
That James Clymo offered the shares to a mine adventurer on the coach back from London. The adventurer refused the shares at £5 each. A few months later the shares fetched £2000 each!
Another story is of two maidens who sold some rough land to a lawyer and immediately
learnt about the discovery of copper beneath its surface. By the following day
they had repurchased the land claiming that they where sentimentally attached
The lawyer heard about the copper the following morning.....just that bit too late!
The mines in West Cornwall suffered a decline but South Caradon's success sparked a mining boom around Caradon hill.
The mine was producing nearly 4,000 tons of ore a year.
Click here for an account of the mine in 1843
The mine was employing 600 people. The area around Caradon hill was said to resemble the gold rush mining camps of the Western USA.
Click here for an account of the mine in 1851
The Success of the mine sparked a rush of mines being named with the magic word "Caradon" in their title. In the hope of attracting investors and perhaps some of the luck of South Caradon. A practice that became far too common after 1850 and earned the term "market mining".
* Caradon Consols
* Caradon Vale
* East Caradon
* Great Caradon
* New West Caradon
* Glasgow Caradon Consols
* New South Caradon
* The Caradon Mine
* West Caradon Mine
* Wheal Caradon Mine
But none ever did match South Caradon!
The Price of copper drops, despite large amounts of ore being produced profits start to drop.
Nearly 6000 tons of ore a year was being produced by South Caradon .
o 28 Feb 1862 an accident at the mine
o An account of the mine in 1863
o An 1863 map
o December 1870 another accident
The mine became the biggest copper producer in Cornwall. But profits still fell.
Work Stopped at the Mine
A limited company
South Caradon Limited
was formed to raise more capital and attempts are made to keep the mine more profitable by extending the Eastern part of the workings
West to East
The mine started in the Seaton valley but its production moved Eastwards in the later part of the history.The richest part of the mine lay in these Easterly lodes.
The site of One of the last Man Engines installed in Cornwall
Fitted 1872 at Jopes Shaft and moved in 1884 to Kittows shaft.
This was the sum paid by the new Ltd company to the old Company for the machinery in place on the mine.
A sum that gave them 15 steam engines.
For some facts on the output of the mine figures.
Work Ceases, despite having copper reserves the mine was too expensive to run with the low price of copper
o A picture of the mine prior to closure
Attempts made to re-work the mine, but with no success
The venture planned to run East Caradon,Glasgow Caradon and South Caradon as one mine.
The site becomes mine history
The end of an Industry
When South Caradon Mine pumps stopped the water rose to flood the workings of adjacent mines forcing them to close as well.
Even Railways suffered. 1885 saw the Liskeard and Caradon Railway going into receivership. A railways whose existence was dependent on the wealth produced by the South Caradon mine.
Click here for an account of the mine in 1885
Bodmin Moor, Caradon and Liskeard Mines