Wheal Frances Mine, Cornwall

Wheal Frances Mine

South Wheal Frances Mine lies in the middle of the Great Flat Lode with its area bounded to the northeast by Wheal Basset and to the southwest by Grenville United sett. There had been workings in this area since the early 1720's, and Lady Frances Bassett, the mineral Lord, offered a new lease on the land in 1834.

The golden period for ore production was the 1850’s but even in the early years of the 20th century several thousand men, women and children worked in the mine.

A pumping engine house with a 75-inch cylinder was built at Marriott's shaft in 1847 and pumped water from Pascoe's shaft as well as Marriott's. In 1857 a 24-inch winder was installed nearby.

The main road forms the boundary between North Wheal Basset and West Wheal Basset. North Wheal Basset was a small operation begun about 1852, a fair-weather mine intended to profit from the upturn in world tin prices, and remain only in production until the next downturn in prices. The last record of the mine at North Wheal Frances was in 1864.

Between 1856 and 1871 South Wheal Frances experienced three boiler explosions, with one fatality, a not uncommon occurrence for Cornish mines

Tramways took ore crushed to the crushing stamps and dressing floors to Carnkie where there are still ruins of stamps-engine houses on both sides of the village.

The shallow dipping ore body known as the Great Flat Lode was first hit about 1872-74, although its extent was not truly realised at that time. This improved the profitability of the mine, and they expanded their operations by building a winding engine house at Pascoe's shaft in 1879 and a pumping engine house with an 80-inch cylinder in 1887.

In 1892 the company reformed as South Frances United prior to its amalgamation with Wheal Basset in 1895. The amalgamated company was called 'The Basset Mines Limited'. South Wheal Frances continued to hoist the ore whilst crushing and ore dressing took place a mile or so away at West Basset Stamps. South Wheal Frances, West Wheal Basset its neighbour to the north and Wheal Basset to the east inevitably had boundary disputes but the two successful mergers bought the three mines together in 1896 to form Basset Mines Limited.

Large buildings at Marriots shaft housed a compressor and compound engine. Between 1896 and 1899 a major refurbishment of the shaft was undertaken to get down to 6,000 feet. The Boiler House provided steam for the whole site and contained six Lancashire boilers side by side.

‘The Miners’ Dry’ it was not completed until 1908 but it was said to be the finest ‘dry’ in Cornwall. So called as it was where the miners changed at the end of a shift, changing out of their working clothes and drying them on large steam pipes in the building.

The post World War I slump in tin prices forced the closure of the Basset Mine company in December 1918.

South Wheal Frances today is a group of buildings centered on Marriott's shaft. The buildings include the Boiler House, Compressor House, the Miner's Dry, Smithy and winder house as well as the bases of the ore bins.

Illogan Area Mines, Cornwall