Ding Dong Mine, Cornwall

Ding Dong Mine, Cornwall

Ding Dong mine is in an old mining area in the Lands End granite mass about 2 miles south of the St Just to Penzance road. The name Ding Dong is of uncertain root. One suggestion by Cannon Jennings in his book on the history of Madron, Morvah and Penzance is that name refers to ‘head of the lode’ or the outcrop of tin on the hill. In Madron church there is a ‘Ding Dong Bell’ that was rung to mark the end of the last shift of the miners.

The earliest record of it is probably the brief mention given by John Norden at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1714 three separate mines were operating: Good Fortune, Wheal Malkin and Hard Shafts Bounds. By the middle of the 18th century at least seven small concerns had sprung up although the name Ding Dong did not become the usual name until the turn of the 18th century.

Production is reported as 1814-78: 3,475 tons black tin (Dines), 1855-78: 2,799 tons black tin (Burt et al)

1782 sixteen working mines were to be found in the area and the present sett include Ding Dong in the middle, Providence, Tredinneck and Ishmael’s to the east and Wheal Malkin and Wheal Boys to the West.

1796 Ding Dong was in the news because of a copyright infringement lawsuit. A 28 inch cylinder inverted engine designed by Edward Bull was put into Ding Dong. Messrs Boulton and Watt brought the action against Edward Bull. Bull had been one of the chief engine erectors for Boulton and Watt but had then branched out to erect engines to his own design, with the beam directly beneath the cylinder instead of above. James Watt considered the engine to be an infringement of his ‘condenser patent’. One of these engines was erected at Ding Dong in 1797, when a conventional Boulton and Watt engine was inverted by Richard Trevithick and William West.

Trevithick worked with his father at Wheal Treasury mine and after making improvements to the Bull Steam Engine, Trevithick was promoted to engineer of the Ding Dong mine in 1796. The main thrust of his work was to improve the efficiency of the steam engine, thereby cutting down on fuel consumption and increasing output. He did this by increasing the operating pressure.

1820 Ding Dong appears to have worked in its final form from about this time, when a new 'fire engine' was erected.

1834 the mine had two pumping engines (24 and 30-inch) and two winding engines (12 and 15-inch).

1840 the mine was reported to have five engines and was working after a brief suspension.

1850s the eastern part of the mine was exhausted and work was concentrating on the western (Greenburrow, the old Wheal Malkin) section. The mine employed 206 men and boys, however by now it was barely paying its operating costs most of the time. The mine managed to survive the depression in tin prices caused by the American Civil War although manpower had decreased to 121 men and boys. The mine had a particular pattern with 22 lodes in the mine that were continually throwing out branches none of the lodes came to the surface and by the time the mine closed it had reached a depth of 138 fathoms from the surface.

1870s it was nearing total exhaustion, exacerbated by the fall in the price of tin caused by the discovery of the alluvial tin deposits in Queensland.

1873 Ding Dong tin mine is situated 3 miles from Gulval Church Town, in the mining district of Gulval and 4 miles from Penzance, which is the nearest shipping place and railway station. It is supposed to have been working continuously for a longer period than any other mine in the county. The company is on the cost-book system, in 656 shares, the majority of which have been held by the BOLITHO family for upwards of 120 years; it pays dues of 1-24th the "bound owners" receiving 7-12ths of the 24th. The greatest depth is 135 fathoms below the adit ( which is 20 fathoms below the surface) but the levels being chiefly worked are from 50-80 fathoms below the adit. There are 2 pumping, 1 stamping, and 2 drawing engines, all of which are worked by steam power and there are about 230 hands constantly employed. The mine is still very prosperous, and promised to continue so. Purser Richard WELLINGTON. Manager and Chief Agent William WILLIAMS. Second Agent Thomas DANIELL. Consulting Agent Joseph TREGONING. Accountant Nicholas PAUL

1877 July 11th, The mine ceased working on following an unsuccessful attempt to sell it as a going concern at auction.

1911, following a rise in the price of tin, the dumps were explored and the following year the Ding Dong Mining Syndicate was formed to work them. The mine was equipped with Californian stamps, ordered from Holman's at St Just, buddles and a round frame.

1912 September to March 1915 13,649 tons of hand-picked ore had yielded 51 tons of tin concentrate however at this juncture the war-time drop in metal prices caused the mine to close again.

Since that time three other attempts have been made to reopen the mine; the first failed because of water problems and the other two through local opposition.

St Ives, Zennor and St Erth Mines