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South Caradon 19th century copper mine

A Scheduled Monument in St. Cleer, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.5032 / 50°30'11"N

Longitude: -4.4429 / 4°26'34"W

OS Eastings: 226856.383022

OS Northings: 69891.250562

OS Grid: SX268698

Mapcode National: GBR NG.KQL0

Mapcode Global: FRA 17LQ.LY3

Entry Name: South Caradon 19th century copper mine

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020614

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15556

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Cleer

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Cleer

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument includes the surviving remains of the South Caradon Mine, one of
the largest 19th century copper mines in the mining district of south east
Bodmin Moor. Along its western edge are traces of an earlier tin streamwork.
On its south west edge, the former Liskeard and Caradon Railway trackbed is
partly included in this scheduling. The Jope's Shaft pumping engine house and
the railway bridge in this scheduling are Listed Buildings Grade II. This
scheduling is divided into two separate areas of protection.
The South Caradon Mine extends across the south and south west slopes of
Caradon Hill, reaching the River Seaton in the valley floor on the west where
remains of the mine's chief ore-dressing and service complex are sited. The
valley also contains earlier mining remains: a deepened channel along the
valley floor and defined on the east by a steep scarp 10m-30m from the river
at the north, the result of medieval and early post-medieval tin
streamworking, applying controlled water flows to the valley floor deposits to
flush away unwanted subsoil and grits but retaining the heavier tin ore. This
streamwork is identified with that at `Middle Seaton Coombe' documented in
1691. As it extends downstream the channel has been much modified to
accommodate floors and buildings of the 19th century mine, its scarp revetted
in places and the river diverted to the west of the channel.
The 19th century mine grew rapidly from 1836 when trial working struck one of
the hill's main copper-rich lodes in an adit dug east from the streamwork
scarp; the adit's entrance is now choked with debris. By 1837, the extension
of levels and shafts required the sinking of the Sump Shaft on the south west
slope of Caradon Hill, 100m north east of the adit and pumped by the mine's
first steam engine, with winding powered initially by flat rods from a water
wheel in the valley floor. This shaft remained the main pumping shaft
throughout the mine's active life, reaching 457m deep and served by pumping
and winding engine houses, a steam-powered capstan and their boiler houses and
chimneys, whose remains are grouped near the collared shaft head, with leats
and reservoirs for the boiler houses and substantial finger dumps of primary
spoil, to 20m high, extending NNW and south along the hillside.
The mine's development from the 1840s resulted in further shafts being sunk
on the mainly east-west lodes. By 1844, winding at Pearce's Shaft, 110m east
and upslope from the Sump Shaft, was powered by flat rods from the Sump Shaft
winding engine. Beside Pearce's Shaft and its dumps are the collapsed remains
of its later, 1870, pumping engine house with its boiler house, chimney and
reservoir. A small shaft was sunk on a northerly lode, 220m north east of
Pearce's Shaft and worked by a horse engine called Webb's Whim, whose circular
levelled platform survives with its pivot stone, called a mellior stone, and
impressed horse track, which are located to the south of the rectangular shaft
mouth and with dumps adjacent to its west and north. Remains of a similar
shaft powered by a horse engine survive on the lower slope 280m to the WSW.
Concurrent with the mine's underground development, its ore-dressing and
service facilities rapidly expanded along 350m of the Seaton valley floor and
its lower eastern slope: the bustling activity and sensation of the steam and
water powered machinery here was graphically recounted by the writer Wilkie
Collins who passed through the valley in 1850. Their later development, as
depicted on the Ordnance Survey map of 1883, presents a range of surviving
remains. At the north end on the lower slope, a walled quadrangular yard
contains substantial remains of miners' drys on its north and south sides,
where work clothes were dried between shifts, the drys' chimney in the south
east corner, and small stores and a barber's shop on the east side. Walls of a
smithy and another long building survive to the south on the lower slope. Most
valley floor buildings have been demolished and former sheds dismantled, but
central to this area are traces of an engine house which powered stamps to
pound the ore to a size suitable for further dressing; its boiler house
chimney stands almost to full height on the slope to the east. The north of
the valley floor processing area retains the large neatly-cobbled floor of the
main ore-dressing sheds where ore was further reduced and separated by hand.
Further cobbled areas and settling tanks can be traced further south in the
valley floor, where the 1883 map indicates buddles and other structures for
ore-separation. Parts of that area are now over-dumped, however, with later
From the mid-1840s, these facilities were served by the terminus of the
Liskeard and Caradon Railway, providing a vital economic link with the port of
Looe for supplies and ore exports. Low walling of the offices and the
associated trackbed and loading platforms of the railway's terminus survive
beside the river at the south west edge of the scheduling.
By the mid-1850s, Jope's Shaft was sunk on a site 260m south of the Sump
Shaft and accompanied by a small engine house. Its collared shaft is now the
focus of a complex reflecting later developments: its 1860s pumping engine
house whose granite bedstones remain in situ survives to full height, with
distinctive features reflecting the rare Sims compound engine it formerly
housed. Immediately to its west is its boiler house with a tall detached
chimney, and to the north is the reservoir pond and a small powder magazine.
In the shaft collar is a slot for the balance bob to counteract the weight of
the pump rods. Foundations and earthworks survive east of the shaft from a
former winding engine house, boiler house and chimney, adapted in 1872 to
drive a man-engine whose angle-bob loading slot is visible beside the shaft
mouth. Tall lobate spoil dumps extend south and west from Jope's Shaft.
From the 1860s, the mine's main development occurred from four shafts sunk
along Caradon Hill's southern slopes, providing the mine's greatest output in
later years. The western of these, Clymo's Shaft located 225m ENE of Jope's
Shaft, is visible as a collared shaft mouth only. Situated 200m further east
are Rule's and Holman's Shafts, only 30m apart on a NNW-SSE axis, with remains
of their pumping engine houses and adjacent boiler houses to their west: those
serving Rule's Shaft, the northern of the two, are largely demolished and
collapsed, but extensive remains survive from those at Holman's Shaft, with
its engine house standing to full height beside the collared shaft.
Immediately north of these shafts are low remains of the winding engine house,
loadings and boiler house, with its chimney almost to full height; to the east
are two rectangular reservoirs which fed this complex's boiler houses. Very
large lobate spoil dumps extend south from this complex, pierced by two stone-
built tunnels to carry the dumps over two tramways running along the hillside
south of the shafts. A further 440m to the ENE is Kittow's Shaft, the mine's
eastern shaft on the southern slope; it is accompanied to its north by the
lower walling of its pumping engine house, and traces of its boiler house and
chimney base.
To the east are flywheel loadings of the man-engine moved here from Jope's
Shaft in 1884, together with low turf-covered remains of the demolished
winding engine house and boiler house; tall spoil dumps rise to the south of
the shaft, interrupted by the ENE-WSW aligned tramways. A large reservoir
north west of Kittow's Shaft formed a header tank for much of the mine's water
supply system. About midway between Kittow's Shaft and Holman's and Rule's
Shafts, a solitary chimney is accompanied by slight remains of a former engine
house whose purpose is undocumented.
Earthworks of almost the entire system of leats and reservoirs which supplied
the mine's boiler houses and ore dressing remain traceable on the ground,
though now mostly dry except for a very large water-filled reservoir on the
slope below the Sump Shaft. Similarly the metalled tracks and tramways of the
mine's internal transport system survive largely intact, their beds variously
levelled into or out from the slope and in places cobbled, linking the shafts
with each other and the ore-dressing and service area in the Seaton valley.
Central to this system is a broad track passing along the hill's southern
slope close to the south of the four shafts there; east of Kittow's Shaft, it
extends beyond this scheduling towards a former extension of the Liskeard and
Caradon Railway line at Tokenbury Corner.
Abundant contemporary documentation relating to this mine reveals that its
production levels and profitability remained remarkably high until 1873,
despite falling ore prices from the mid-1860s due to cheaper imported ores.
In the following years however, the mine did suffer from falling prices
coupled with exhaustion of its western shafts and difficulties in raising
capital, leading to the mine's closure in 1885. Attempts to reopen the mine
in conjunction with neighbouring mines to the east, which suffered flooding
after South Caradon's pumps were stopped, ended in failure in 1890.
All modern fences, signs and posts, electricity supply cables and poles, and
the surface of the metalled track passing beneath the railway bridge are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

For several millennia the south west peninsula has been one of the major areas
of non-ferrous metal mining in England, its more important and prolific
products including copper and tin along with a range of minor metals and other
materials, notably arsenic, which occur in the same ore bodies. Before the
16th century, exploitation of this region's non-ferrous metal resources almost
exclusively involved tin. Extraction focussed along valley floors and
hillslopes on and around the granite uplands of the south west where tin ore
had accumulated after natural erosion from the parent lodes. These
accumulations were exploited by streamworks, using carefully controlled flows
of water to expose and then concentrate the ore, leaving behind distinctively
deepened valley floors with various patterns of spoil heaps.
By the early post-medieval period, most substantial deposits susceptible to
streamworking had been exhausted and exploitation transferred to the
mineralised lodes themselves, a change which marks the appearance of copper as
an important product of the south western mining industry. The early
post-medieval exploitation of the lodes was restricted by the ability to drain
the cut, resulting in relatively shallow workings directly into lode exposures
at the bedrock surface, often by pits called lode-back pits and sometimes
enlarged to form longer openworks along the lodes.
By the 18th century, ore extraction and processing rapidly expanded to meet
growing demands, aided and promoted by technological development. Surface
workings became larger and more extensive, and deeper extraction was achieved
from shafts, the water pumped from larger mines by early steam engines or
drained through near-horizontal tunnels called adits which also served to
access the lodes. Horse-powered winding engines lifted ore from the shafts
while larger and more efficient water wheels served ore-processing areas. By
such means, west Cornwall became England's main producer of copper ore in the
18th to early 19th century.
Intensification accelerated in the late 18th to early 19th century with more
efficient steam-powered pumping engines allowing deeper shafts from which
extensive underground workings spread out. By the mid-19th century, steam also
powered winding and ore-processing operations, the engines, boilers and
ancillary machinery housed in distinctive masonry buildings grouped around the
main shafts and dressing areas. Later in the century, compressed air was used
for underground extraction equipment, fed from steam-powered compressors on
the surface. Ore-processing became increasingly mechanised, along with the
development of more effective methods of separating and retaining different
ores, particularly in the production of arsenic which became a major saleable
product in the 19th century, adding a further range of distinctive processing
and refining components to some mines. With these advances, east Cornwall and
west Devon became one of the world's main sources of copper and arsenic ore
until the later 19th century, while in west Cornwall, copper ores became
exhausted and replaced as that area's main product by the tin ores present at
deeper levels.
From the 1860s, the south western mining industries began to decline in
competition with cheaper sources of copper and tin ore overseas, especially
from South America, leading to a major economic collapse and widespread mine
closures in the 1880s, though limited ore-extraction and spoil reprocessing
continued into the 20th century.
The South Caradon Mine survives well, retaining almost its complete layout at
its closure in 1885, unencumbered by later redevelopment and obscured only in
very limited parts by subsequent reworking and dumping. Despite some collapse
of original masonry structures, the mine contains many rare and unusual
features within its overall survival. These include the near-complete
earthworks of its water supply and transport infrastructure; the cobbled
copper-dressing floor in the valley; the horse engine-powered shaft at Webb's
Whim: one of the best surviving examples of such nationally, and the good
survival of shaft head complexes at the Sump and Jope's Shafts. At the Jope's
Shaft complex in particular, the pumping engine house was one of only four
built to house a Sims engine, while here and at Kittow's Shaft are features
from one of the last man-engines installed at a Cornish mine. This mine has
considerable historical importance as one of the most productive and
longest-lived of the 19th century mines in the area: its wealth of
contemporary documentation coupled with its survival allows the mine's
development to be traced on the ground. Its description by Collins in 1850
gives a valuable insight into the working atmosphere of this mine, adding an
important dimension to its surviving physical remains. The good survival of
the South Caradon Mine, prominent in its hillside setting, provides a highly
visible and tangible reminder of the scale of the 19th century mining boom and
its influence to the present day on settlement patterns, accounting for the
substantial expansion, and in some cases the foundation, of most of the
hamlets and villages in the surrounding area.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barton, D B , A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon, (1964)
Barton, D B , A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon, (1964)
Barton, D B , A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon, (1964)
Collins, W, Rambles beyond Railways, (1851)
Messenger, M J, Caradon and Looe The Canal Railways and Mines, (1978)
Shambrook, H R, The Caradon and Phoenix Mining Area, (1986)
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological and Management Survey, (1993)
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological and Management Survey, (1993)
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological and Management Survey, (1993), 84-6
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological and Management Survey, (1993), 95-107
Sharpe, A, The Minions Area Archaeological and Management Survey, (1993)
Todd, , Laws, , Industrial Archaeology of Cornwall, (1972)
Report for Caradon District Council, John Grimes Partnership Plymouth, Mine Srch/Geotech Survey/Risk Assmt Caradon Hill & Craddock Moor, (2000)
taken on 2/3/1986 in light snow cover, Oblique air photo F5/1/265700 in CAU Photo Archive, (1986)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map SX 27 SE
Source Date: 1983

Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Maps SX 26 NE & SX 27 SE
Source Date: 1983

Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map Cornwall sheet XXVIII: 10
Source Date: 1883

Source: Historic England

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