East Wheal Rose Mine, Cornwall

East Wheal Rose Mine, Cornwall

East Wheal Rose Mine is in St. Newlyn East. Lead was found here in 1812, and there was also a silver content in the lead ore (galena).

1814 the working opened as Wheal Rose.

1834 new workings, known as East Wheal Rose, were begun nearby.

1838 East Wheal Rose Mine began discharging into the Gannel causing it to slowly silt up. This meant that it became navigable only at the highest of tides. It is now totally impassable.

1842 a young miner fell thirty fathoms (180 feet or fifty-five metres) to his death down a shaft at Wheal Towan. A local newspaper the West Briton, noted that there had been 'two men working a few fathoms below the mouth of the same shaft on single planks, and how the deceased passed them in his fall (without knocking them off) is most extraordinary'.

1846 East Wheal Rose mine employed over 1,200 men, women and children.

1846 The East Wheal Rose Mine was struck by a disaster in which 39 men died.. On 9th July 1846 a thunderstorm caused a flash flood. The mine was in a natural bowl, and the flood waters had nowhere to go, except into the mine. Captain Middleton organised 300 men to pile up earth around the collars of the shafts but the volume of water pouring down was so great that soon torrents of water poured down the shafts. This caused a wind to blow that extinguished the candles that the miners used underground. So when the water hoit them, they were in utter darkness. Captain Champion somehow managed to climb the slippery ladders against the tremendous weight of down-rushing water. A timber-man, Samuel Bastion, went down into the mine to lie across a manhole, diverting the flow of water and saving eighteen lives. The beam engines were put to work in raising men to the surface, clinging to the kibbles and chains 'like strings of onions'. Forty-three men and boys were missing but four of them were brought up alive next morning. The lower levels of the mine were completely flooded. But, by November 1846 all the debris and water had been cleared and the mine was in full production again.

1849 a mineral railway line from Newquay to East Wheal Rose, it later became part of the Great Western Railway's Newquay to Chacewater branch line. This was closed in 1963, but in 1974 part of the line was reopened as a narrow gauge railway for tourists.

1881 The mine closed

An unsuccessful attempt to rework the mine was made from 1882 to 1885.

1882 East Wheal Rose Mine Engine House was erected to house one of the largest mine pumping engines in Cornwall, a 100-inch beam engine (known as the 'Great Hundred') which had been made originally for Great Wheal Vor. The size of Cornish beam engines was indicated by the diameter of their steam cylinders. The cylinder was so large that when it was installed as new in 1854 at Great Wheal Vor thirteen people and a dining table ate a celebratory meal on top of the cylinder.

The massive construction of East Wheal Rose engine house was necessary to withstand the vibration of the engine as it pumped thousands of gallons of water an hour The beam or 'bob' of the engine was made of cast iron weighing fifty-five tons. The large opening above the bob wall would once have been filled in with weatherboards leaving a slot for the beam. At East Wheal Rose, the carpenter made a mistake and the first time the 'Great Hundred' moved, in May I884, it splintered the weatherboards to matchwood.

The chimney stack which stands apart from the engine house, is 120 feet high. At most Cornish mines the stack was built into a corner of the house, so a separate stack is unusual. Over time the weather eroded the top of the stack, the top was rebuilt in 1992 and a lightening conductor added.

The shaft in front of the engine house is East Wheal Rose North Shaft which is 160 fathoms (960 feet or 293 metres) deep and to the north is Jubilee Shaft.

Now part of the Lappa Valley railway tourist complex.

East Wheal Rose: Cornwall's Greatest Lead Mine
H L Douch

North Coast Cornwall Mines