Ale and Cakes Mine, Cornwall

Ale and Cakes Mine

United Mines is the name taken by the company consisting of the former Ale and Cakes Mine, Wheal Cupboard and Poldory who amalgamated in about 1780. These mines are situated just to the south of the Great Consolidated Mines in the parish of Gwennap and border the villages of St. Day and Crofthandy in the west and the Poldice and Carnon valleys in the north. Some time later the group was expanded to take in the mines of Wheal Britannia, Wheal Clifford, Wheal Moor, Wheal Squire and Copper Hill Mine.

Pumping engine house at Wheal Garland, United Mines Mine

In the early 1820's A young man called John Taylor acquired the lease of abandoned mines in Gwennap parish and spent the next few years building up the mines. He initially re-worked their setts before striking the richest copper lode in the world (at that time). The fortunes of the Gwennap Mines and John Taylor in particular improved to such a great extent that they were well in profit by 1822. The chief production of the area was copper although there was some tin produced as well as ochre. The output was then shipped north along the Portreath Tramroad to the port of Portreath for smelting in south Wales. This was an acceptable situation but left his businesses open to the tolls levied by other people. As his fortunes increased so did its owners asking price. John Taylor's remedy to this was to construct his own tramway south through the Carnon Valley to the port at Devoran. It opened in 1824. Initially horse-drawn the Redruth and Chasewater mineral tramway was converted to steam in the mid-nineteenth century. The railway proved to be a great success and operated for over 90 years before closing in 1915. Many sections are still clearly definable today.

Eldons 30-inch pumping engine house United Mines

Eldon's pumping engine house, also known as Little's, held a 30-inch cylinder pumping engine and was built around the 1830's. Its main use was for pumping up water from the adit to the surface. It lies today rather overlooked by the large number of visitors to the 'United Downs Landfill Site'. John Taylor, now quite an entrepreneur in the mining industry, joined the company in 1840 when his lease to work the nearby Consols group was not renewed.

A reflection Of the Gwennap United Stamps house, United Mines

United Mines continued to expand its operations. Within a few years it became a rival to, and eventually amalgamated with, the neighbouring Consolidated Mines in 1857 to form 'Clifford Amalgamated Mines'. Production also increased to include ores of tungsten, zinc, lead-silver, iron and ochre. At its peak this area ran almost 20 engines on its mines and boasted over 80 miles of underground workings. Unfortunately the 40 or so years of prosperity were soon to come to an end as metals were located in other parts of the world depressing their price on the open market. The mines fell into decline and finally closed in about 1870.

The former explosives store at Wheal Clifford Mine, part of United Mines

The area is known today as United Downs and a few reminders of the areas rich mining past still remain for the enthusiast. The ore is found underground in two major lodes. These are the 'Great South Lode' and the more northerly 'Hot Lode'- indicating the extreme temperatures found at depth. The deepest shafts reached a depth of 285 fathoms or over 1700 feet.

3.7. United Downs
3.7.1 Field observations
This is a very good site for the purposes of the MINEO project, with lots of mine waste
exposed. A danger sign at the entrance suggests that field work would need access
permission. There is good exposure, with stunted vegetation, extensive mine waste and
good access by car. An interesting old tailings dam with evidence of several phases of
industrial activity makes up most of the site. Some measurements can be made from paths
designed for recreational use off the main road, without access permission.
Figure 7: Field photograph of United Downs mine.
3.7.2 Geology
The country rock of the area is dominantly composed of slaty metasediments of
greenschist facies and metabasites, both of late Devonian age. The chief lodes (Hot Lode
and South Lode) intersect Elvan dykes striking approximately E-W and dipping 30° north.
Hot Lode and South Lode strike E-W and dip 20° N and have been exploited throughout
the history of the mine. Several lodes have been mined for shorter periods, mainly
branches or droppers from other lodes.
Hot Lode ranges from 15-185 cm in width and consists mainly of fluccan, quartz and
copper ores. Great South Lode outcrops 155 m south of Hot Lode and consists of quartz
with chalcopyrite and pyrite at deep levels barite forms a lining to vughs. Many of the
smaller veins consist of tourminalized strings through quartzose schists forming
disseminated deposits of barite and chalcopyrite (Dines, 1956).
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3.7.3 Mining History
United Mines includes Wheals Squire, Cupboard, Poldory, Ale and Cakes, Clifford and
Andrew or Friendship Mines. The group was later amalgamated with Great Consolidated
mines to the north. Little is known of the history of the individual mines of the United
Mines group.
Poldory was probably active in 1760. It appears to have commenced production as a smallscale
tin mine and then been combined with other small-scale mines in the area in 1815
under the name of United Mines. In 1861 the whole group was included with Great
Consolidated as Clifford Amalgamated Mines. Wheal Clifford produced 50,167 tons of
6.5% copper ore and 365 tons of black tin during the years 1835-61. The other mines of the
United Downs group produced 347,500 tons of 7.5% copper ore, 250 tons of black tin, 158
tons of arsenic, 1,290 tons of pyrite and 271 tons of zinc ore during the years 1815-61. The
area was prospected again in the 1940’s and brief trial mining operations were conducted
(Dines, 1956), but this did not lead to any major activity.

Gwennap Area Mines.