St Day Mine near Portreath
Not to be outdone, John Taylor from his mines near Carharrack and St. Day also built a railway but to new wharves at Devoran on the Fal River. This line was called the Redruth and Chasewater Railway and opened in 1824. It extended eventually to Wheal Buller and Redruth via Carharrack and Lanner, although a line on to Chacewater was never built. From the port of Portreath the raw tin ore would go to the smelters of Wales and to onward exportation. Tin smelting requires a higher heat than copper and in Wales coal was cheap. Coal was shipped back to Cornwall to work the mighty steam pumping engines that raised the gallons of water from bottom of the wet mines.
Into the wharves at Devoran would come the timber and other goods needed to keep the mines in production, as well as coals and iron, for the major foundry at nearby Perran-ar-worthal Traffic on the Redruth and Chasewater line survived until well into the 20th century.
Truly was this area once described as the ‘richest square mile to be found anywhere on the earth’ In one year alone, 1836, the Consolidated Mines used 11,817 tons coal, 113,916 lbs candles and 64,000 lbs gunpowder. Gwennap had a population numbering some 8,500 souls and over a quarter of these worked in this one mine. With mining development came sudden expansion. In Carharrack alone the population between 1841 & 1881 rose to about 1,700 souls. By this time the great Consolidated Mines employed over 3,000. For every man underground it was said there were three times that on surface, working in allied and supporting trades. Accommodation was in short supply and the majority of the village housing stock was built at this time. Miners and other craftsmen came to this area from all over Cornwall in the hope of a share of the wealth. Huge fortunes were being made by shareholders, promoters and mineral lords like the Williams family of Scorrier or William Lemon, whose agent gained the nickname ‘guinea a minute’ Daniel
With the tram-road of 1809 and the railway of 1824 came a coal yard at each end of the village. The developing mines relied on traders to service its needs. The carpenter shops, sawyers and foundries were closely followed by ponies, horses, carts and carriers. Then came the blacksmiths and feed dealers to service the animals. With all these people to feed and clothe the grocery and hardware shops traders soon exploited the opening in the market. Previously the scattered population had relied on itinerant traders for supplies of anything but very local products. With the later failure of the mines this was all to slowly and quietly crumble away. It survived in a state of limbo for many years only because absent miners continued to send money home to support their family members too old or too weak or disabled to follow them. Many were to return themselves, crippled by the “Miners Disease” caused mainly by the introduction of the rock drill and the dry dust it set up underground. It was aptly named the “Widow Maker” Through many bedroom windows left open in the night time, passers-by could hear the dreadful sound of a still young man struggling to get some air into his lungs
With the rise in population health problems soon arose. There were outbreaks of cholera and tuberculosis was rife. There was no burial ground, save for that of the parish church at Gwennap. Under church law baptism conferred the right to be buried in the consecrated ground of the churchyard. The Cornish knew their rights. The problem came with the children of non-conformist parents, who had never been baptised into the established church. Vicars could, and did, refuse these infants burial. Sextons sometimes took bribes from parents to bury the little bodies at night within the churchyard walls. As with drowned seamen, murderers and suicides any vacant ground was used to bury the remains of those refused “Christian burial”. With the rise in non-conformity came a rise in indiscriminate burials. As the numbers of such burials increased so did health problems, especially in the more urban areas.