Botallack Mine, Cornwall

Botallack Mine, Cornwall

1721 Botallack Mine sett is a very old one, granted from the Boscawen family.

1778 William Pryce reported that the mine was worked for 80 fathoms length out to sea (i.e. beyond the high water mark), and the workings reached to three feet from the sea bed

1813 an advertisement in stated that it had produced over £100,000 of ore over the previous twenty years. The house may have acquired a new engine in 1819 as a 1½ year-old 22-inch engine was advertised for sale.

1820s the mine was considered to be largely exhausted above adit.

1835 the adventurers had felt disinclined to continue their efforts, and the sett was relinquished that year and offered for sale. Stephen Harvey James took up the lease of the sett. James became purser the following year, a position he was to hold until his death in 1870.

1837 to 1841 Botallack could only manage to sell copper ore to the value of £2,055. Whereas between 1814 and 1835 the mine had produced tin and copper ores worth £53,230,

1838 the mine was 100 fathoms deep below adit and employed 172 people.

1841 the first steam winding engine (the Carne whim) was built on the cliff top above the Crowns – it also drove the rollers for crushing the copper ore.

1841 at a meeting of the shareholders the agent declared that he “knew not where to find two penny weight of ore in all the mine”. The decision to continue the mine for the time being was in any event a good one as only two months later a copper lode was cut which yielded £24,000 profit to the mine over the next year and assured its prosperity for another few years. It was the beginning of the mine’s reputation for high returns on shares, and was to pay out £42,500 between 1842 and 1846.

1843 hundreds of spectators watched an eight ton boiler being lowered down to the new steam winder on Wheal Button Shaft, just to the north of the Crowns engine and not much higher above the sea. Another steam engine was erected at the top of the cliff to wind from Wheal Hazard Shaft, just uphill (to the south) of the Crowns.

1846 Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort visit the mine.

1850. Wilkie Collins the novelist wrote a terrifying account of his descent down into the mine. He reported that he could hear the roar of the surf above his head.

1855 Botallack was 200 fathoms deep and some levels had been driven 200 fathoms beyond the cliffs.

1856 Kellys Directory. Botallack Copper and Tin Mine is in the parish of St. Just, Cornwall. The company is on the costbook system, and consists of 200 shares. In 1850, the dividends were £5 per share; in 1851, £7 10s. per share; in 1852, £12 15s. per share; in 1853, £32 10s. per share; and in 1854, £55 10s. per share; making the total sum divided, £22,650. The purser is S. H. James, of St. Just.

1858 Exploration work in the Crowns section saw the start of the famous Boscawen Diagonal Shaft, completed in 1862. The shaft was sunk at an angle of 32½o, and extended out to sea for about half a mile, reaching a total vertical depth of 250 fathoms below the adit. To wind from the shaft a new engine, named Pearce’s Whim, was erected on the cliff just above the Crowns pumping engine. Pearce’s Shaft was actually another name for Wheal Button Shaft. This became disused after the Boscawen Shaft was finished, and the engine on the shaft supplied the boiler for the new whim.

1863 the chain which pulled the gig suddenly broke, precipitating eight men and a boy to their deaths further down the shaft. The gig was sent back to Holman’s to be cleaned and straightened out and was used by the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall for their trip to the mine two years later.

1863 The mine had reached 220 fathoms depth and employed 299 men, 116 females and 115 boys. The mine also had three pumping engines, one stamping engine and seven winding engines.

1865, Duke and Duchess of Cornwall in were among the famous visitors to go down the mine under the sea.

1865 There were eleven steam engines in and at this time Botallack employed 500 ‘persons’.

1866 Carnyorth Mine was added to the sett after which both mines were worked briefly as Botallack and Carnyorth United. The latter sett was about 120 fathoms deep in 1865 and employed 111 people in its own right.

1860s were the zenith of tin production at Botallack, with the dressing floors being greatly expanded during the early part of the decade to deal with the large quantities of lower grade ore which were being produced. This included the erection of a new stamping engine at Narrow Shaft, driving 64 heads of Cornish stamps. The engine also pumped water from Narrow Shaft for use on the dressing floors.

1870 the mine employed 530 persons although the use of buddles meant that 112 fewer girls were now employed at the mine.

1873 Kellys. Botallack In the parish of St. Just in Penwith,situate 7 miles from Penzance [Picture], which is the nearest railway station and shipping place. The mine is held under lease of 21 years, granted by Viscount Falmouth, at a Royalty of 1-24th on tin. There have been 12 shafts sunk Boscawen which is the principal working shaft, is sunk 250 fathoms, and levels extend from it under the sea for about 500 fathoms. A skip, running on rails at an angle of 32.5 degrees, is used for conveying miners and visitors down this shaft,and many distinguished persons have visited it, among others , their R.H. the Prince and Princess of Wales. The mine is drained and worked by 14 steam engines(pumping, stamping, and drawing). The average produce profits divided by the present company, since its establishment in 1836, have been about, £120,000. The company is on the costbook system, and consists of 200 shares.Purser and manager Stephen Harvey JAMES St Just Accountant Arthur H. JAMES Captains Francis BENNETTS, Francis OATS, Henry HOCKING and Nicholas HOCKING. Engineer John ROWE

1874 it was announced that all of the ends in the Crowns section were poor, and a decision was taken to abandon it, although the pumping engine remained in use until January 1883.

1875, work in the Parknoweth section of Wheal Owles was found to have encroached on the Botallack sett (probably caused by the same surveying error that was to cause the disaster at Wheal Owles eighteen years later). This section was acquired by Botallack at the end of the year for £300 in punitive damages, and subsequently worked as the Truthwall section. The next decade saw the commencement of arsenic production at the mine, with the erection of a six-shaft calciner near the track down to the Crowns.

1883 The mine was in severe financial difficulties before this, with the accounts recording a loss on three months trading in 1883 of £1,740 19s 7d, to be countered by a call of £2, with a further £2 called in May and £4 in June. In October it was resolved to try to sell the mine as a going concern, but no buyer could be found.

1886, the debit reduced to £526; an amazing reduction from the £3,427 it had owed in the previous month. However, the situation was beginning to reverse again by the end of the decade, and breakages of equipment combined with low metal prices began to take their toll on the mine.

1889, at a cost of £110, a Brunton calciner, built nearly opposite the count house.

1890's. In the early 1890s the Wheal Cock section was equipped with new pumping and winding engines, the aim being to operate this as the main producing part of the mine. A new skip-road was built in the Engine Shaft, and it is possible that timber from the old skip-road above the Boscawen Diagonal Shaft was used to build it. During most of the year, however, much of the mine was idle, the reduced grades and low metal prices making much of the ore not worth mining.

1894 the surface labourers were working only part time owing to flooding by the very bad storm (on November 12th) which had also destroyed many of the mine’s stamping mills in Botallack Bottoms. To try to reduce losses the Carnyorth section was given up at the end of the year, saving the mine £50 a month. A meeting in December considered whether the mine should close, however it was kept going to give employment over the winter period.

1895. In January 1895 it was rumoured that the mine would close but would be worked by another company. A meeting at the end of the month was adjourned, but when re-convened it was decided to try to sell the mine as a going concern. When no buyer could be found, the management resolved to sell the materials and equipment.

1896 The last men were discharged from the mine on February 15th 1896. The remaining materials were sold off in March that year, when the stamping mills in Botallack Bottoms (part of the Kenidjack valley) became independent. For the next decade the tips were reworked for their tin content using water powered mills in the Kenidjack Valley to the south, while water filled the underground workings.

1906. Several schemes to reopen Botallack appeared but it was not until the end of 1906 that this happened, with Botallack Mines, Limited being floated by Cornish Consolidated Tin Mines, Limited, a company created to reopen old Cornish mines and provide funding for them. When opened the new sett included Botallack, Carnyorth and Wheal Edward. The plan for the new company was to sink a new, central, shaft (Allen’s, after the managing director) and to unwater the Crowns and Wheal Cock sections. At this time Wheal Cock had already been drained to he 60-fathom level. When old Botallack was finally pumped the stopes were found to be worked out and the lodes had narrowed to “knife edges”.

1906 Exploratory work was also carried out at Wheal Edward, where deposits of pitchblende (now uraninite) were known to exist. Although about half a ton of concentrate was eventually sold to the Curies in Paris, but no true development work took place.

1907 and 1914 Botallack was reworked and arsenic flues and a stack were built on the cliff top.

1911 the company was forced to reconstruct because of financial reasons and the following year Cornish Consolidated went into liquidation.

1914. Botallack closed in February 1914 during the general mining depression. A major problem the company faced was actually recovering concentrate from ore; it was mentioned in a paper in 1913 that the waste from the mill carried about 5lbs per ton of cassiterite, but chemical analysis showed that it was closer to 50lbs. The ore was so fine-grained that the mechanical methods of concentration then in use could not trap it.

1980's Further exploration and a small amount of development work took place at Botallack during the 1980s through the expansion plans of Geevor Tin Mines, but the crash of 1985 stopped this.

Production (from Dines):
1815-35, 1837 and 1845-1905: 14,040 tons black tin and 20,290 tons 12% copper ore. This includes production from Carnyorth after amalgamation, while production 1895-1905 is from waste tips and possibly other mines.

Carnyorth (1853-65): 1,050 tons black tin

Wheal Cock (1821-38): 8 tons black tin and 2,175 tons 10% copper ore

Botallack (1875-1895): 1,525 tons crude arsenic

Botallack (1906-14): approx. 1,000 tons black tin

Botallack Count House

Botallack by Cyril Noall

Trevithick Society, Botallack Mine

St Just Area Mines, Cornwall