Fossils and Minerals
(fn. 1) .—"As it is not the purpose of this work to enter into a
particular description of the natural productions of Cornwall, we shall take only
a general or enlarged view of its mineral riches.
And first, it may be observed, that the whole of this peninsular county is composed of strata which bear the marks of the most ancient formation (fn. 2) , insomuch
that no extraneous substances or organic remains in a petrified state have ever
been discovered here.
On the other hand, there is no country, perhaps, of equal extent, which presents a greater variety of metallic substances, or the ores of some metals, for
instance, those of tin and copper, in such variety or abundance. We must refer
the reader to the sketch already given of the general aspect of the county, in which
some particulars are mentioned of its geological constitution. The granitic hills,
which, like the vertebræ of the human body, run through the centre of the peninsula, and appear to form the basis of all the others, abound in veins of tinore,
and the lower hills of Killas, which skirt these, or are recumbent on them, are
more peculiarly the site of the richest mines both of tin and of copper which are
known to exist in Europe.
These metals are found in veins or lodes, which intersect the strata in an easterly
or westerly direction, and extend a great way both in length and depth, under
various degrees of inclination to the horizon. They are usually intermixed with
other metallic substances, such as the sulphurets of iron and zinc (which are not
objects of mining research), or with more valuable ores, such as those of lead and
cobalt, which, if they occur in any quantity, are separated and reserved for use.
As we retire from the central ridge of granite, towards the sea-coast, we find
numerous veins of lead and antimony intersecting the lower Killas hills, the former
of which are sometimes richly impregnated with silver; and in the alluvial strata of
the vallies have been deposited, at an early period of our globe, the mineral contents
of numerous veins of tin, which have evidently been brought hither by the currents of water from the higher grounds (fn. 3) ; these too are the objects of mining
adventure, under the name of stream-works, and furnish a considerable portion of
the mineral riches of the county.
It is a fact now well known, that the veins of mineral districts abound in those
crystallized bodies which may be said to represent the wonders of the creation in
the mineral kingdom; and accordingly, since the passion for studying this branch
of natural history has become so ardent and so general, the Cornish mines have
enriched the cabinets of the curious in all parts of Europe.
And here we cannot omit to notice the very laudable exertions of some of the
natives of this county, to collect and preserve whatever might illustrate its mineral
history, and promote the science of mineralogy.
We owe to Dr. Borlase the first scientifical (fn. 4) account of Cornish minerals, whose
collection (now comparatively small) was deposited in the Ashmolean Museum
at Oxford. A more enlarged collection of these was formed by the late Mr. Soper,
of St. Columb, which, since his death, has been sold and dispersed. But by far
the most numerous and scientifical collection of the mineral productions of this
county, is that which was formed by the late Phillip Rashleigh, Esq., at Menabilly.
The choicest specimens are here preserved, of whatever crystallized substances have
been discovered in the Cornish mines, during the latter half of the eighteenth century. To this noble repository of mineral curiosities, the late worthy owner always
granted the most easy access; and here travellers were received with hospitality,
and had the means of acquiring the most extensive knowledge of the mineral
productions of the county, before they entered upon the tour of its mining
In the following enumeration of these productions, we shall endeavour to comprise all those which are remarkable for their beauty, their rarity, or their utility,
some of which are peculiar to Cornwall; specifying the places where they have
been found or are still found, but omitting a much greater number of mineral
substances which are of general occurrence.
Native gold (alluvial), — from the stream-works of Probus, Ladock, Creed,
St. Mewan, Carnan, and Perran-Zabulo. (fn. 5)
Native silver, — from Herland mine, in Gwinnear (fn. 6) , - - - - - in St. Mewan, and
Huel Mexico in Cubert.
Muriat of silver, horn silver, — from Huel Mexico in Cubert.
Native copper. — Most of the Cornish copper-mines produce copper in their metallic state, chiefly in the upper parts of the veins; rarely in the deeper. The
finest crystallizations have been found in Botallack Adit, in St. Just. It is not
unusual to find veins of native copper in the serpentine rock of Mullion and
Landewednack, a most remarkable instance of which is recorded by Dr. Borlase.
Red oxid of copper, red or ruby copper. — This beautiful ore of copper usually
accompanies the native copper above-mentioned, and both are most abundant in
the mines of Gwennap.
Green carbonat of copper, — Malachit.
Blue carbonat of copper, blue copper.
Arseniat of copper, olive copper ore. — A species almost peculiar to the mines
of Cornwall, and to those of Gwennap in particular. There are numerous
varieties of this ore, most of which distinguish themselves by their great beauty,
and have been described in the Philosophical Transactions for 1801.
Sulphuret of copper, vitreous copper ore.—The mines of Camborne are reremarkable for their fine crystallizations of this ore.
Grey copper ore, fahlerz of the Germans. — This ore occurs only in the veins of
lead or of antimony.
No discovery has yet been made of native tin in this county, the substance
formerly described as such being now considered as the produce of ancient smelting works.
This metal usually occurs in the form of an oxid, the crystallizations of which are
very beautiful, particularly the very minute prismatical crystallizations from Glastening mine in St. Mewan, and the larger from Trevaunance and SealHole in St. Agnes.
The substance called wood-tin, (from its resemblance to the fibres of wood,) is a
very singular variety of the oxid of tin. It is almost peculiar to this county, and
is found only in the alluvial strata of Ladock, St. Columb, Roche, St. Dennis,
St. Austin, St. Mewan and Madron. It has lately been discovered in Mexico.
In the mines of Huel Rock in St. Agnes, and Huel Speed near St. Ives,
upwards of thirty years ago, tin was discovered in the state of sulphuret,
mixt or combined with the sulphuret of copper. The same substance has
been since discovered at Stenna Gwyn, and in other places. The lead-mines
of Cornwall have produced fine specimens of crystallized carbonat and phosphat
of lead; and not long since, in the neighbourhood of Penzance lead was discovered in combination with the sulphuric acid, in well defined crystals. A still
rarer, and no less beautiful species of the arseniat of lead, is the produce of a
copper-mine called Huel Unity, in the parish of Gwennap.
In the mines of antimony, which are confined to the parishes of Pillaton and
Endellion, occurs the usual sulphuret of that metal; and in the mine of HuelBoys in Endellion was found, about twenty years ago, a triple sulphuret of antimony, lead, and copper, which has been described in the Philosophical Transactions for 1804.
The fine tetraedral crystals of the sulphuret of zinc from St. Agnes deserve
notice in this place.
No metal occurs in this county under a greater variety of forms than iron.
Besides the usual oxides of this metal, viz. the magnetic (from St. Just), the
specular and spathose (from the Lizard), the brown iron-stone and brown hæmatites from Lanhidrock, there are found here the cupreous arseniat of iron (in the
mines of Gwennap), and all the known crystallizations of the common sulphuret
and arseniat of iron. The more common ores alone have been found of bismuth,
cobalt, arsenic, and manganese. Of the newly-discovered metals, Cornwall
produces the ores only of titanium, of uranium (fn. 7) , and of tungsten. The ferriferous oxid of the former, in the form of a sand at Manaccan, together with the
properties of this new metal, were first discovered by the Rev. Wm. Gregor, of
Creed, in this county. The ferriferous oxid of tungsten, called Wolfram, is found
in the mines of Kit-hill, near Callington, and in various tin-mines in the west of
the county; but the substance called tungsten, which consists of the combination
of the oxid of tungstic acid with lime, has been found hitherto only at Pengelly,
in the parish of Breage.
None of the stones denominated precious have been found in Cornwall, except
the white topaz, which has been found in the rock at St. Michael's mount.
The slate-quarries of Dennybal have supplied the curious with the largest specimens of transparent and colourless rock-crystals; the mines of St. Agnes with
the finest groups or druses of the same substance; that of Hewish in St. Mewan,
with the most beautiful crystallizations of amethystine quarz; and that of Travascus in Gwinnear, with the so much admired stalactitical chalcedony. Dennybal quarries, and the rocks of the neighbouring northern coast, furnish some
specimens of adularia (fn. 8) . Crystals of axinite are found at Botallack in St. Just,
and in the parish of Lanlivery, and other places. Crystallized apatite, or phosphat
of lime, occurs at Godolphin-Bal in Breage, and at Stenna-gwynn in St. Stephen;
which last mine has produced specimens remarkable for their beauty, of the rare
mineral, at first called Hydrargillite or Hydrat of Alumina, but now Wavellite (fn. 9) .
Both the cubic with bevilled edges, and octaedral, crystals of fluor, or fluat of
lime, in the mines of St. Agnes.
Carbonat of lime is rarely found in the Cornish veins, although so abundant in
the same situations elsewhere; nor have the least traces been found in these veins
of the earths of Barytes or Strontian.
Cornwall produces three materials of primary importance in the manufacture
of porcelain:—the steatite of the Lizard, and the granite and decomposed feltspar
(petuntze of the Chinese) of the parish of St. Stephen. It produces, too, some
varieties of serpentine, which readily take a fine polish; and of greenstone, which
emulate the finest antique granitellos.
Indigenous Plants.—There are a few plants which may be considered as peculiar
to this county, having been found in no other part of England, as the ligusticum
Cornubiense, the erica vagans, and illocebrum verticillatum: herniaria glabra, we believe, has been found only in Cornwall and near Newmarket; and sibthorpia Europæa
only in this county and in Devonshire. We saw the ligusticum Cornubiense growing
abundantly on the skirts of St. Margaret's wood, about a mile north of Bodmin,
where, having been lost to the botanists ever since Ray's time, it was re-discovered
by Mr. Pennington of the Priory, about twenty-five years ago: we heard of it,
also, as growing plentifully between Dunmere wood and the river; but it has
never been found except within a few miles of Bodmin. The erica vagans has
seldom been found out of the peninsula of Meneage; never, we believe, far from
it: we observed a few plants in the parish of Constantine. In Meneage it is confined almost wholly to Goonhilly downs, where it grows most abundantly: the
hedges (fn. 10) near Trelowarren are covered with it. Contrary to the usage of other
heaths, it grows in a soil which is rather stiff; its substratum is a serpentine rock.
We found the berniaria glabra growing plentifully on hedges near the Lizard, and
the illecebrum verticillatum on the turf, in the way from the village of Sennen to
the Land's-end. The sibthorpia Europæa, although one of the most common
plants in the southern parts of Cornwall, is not one of those which readily presents
itself to the notice of a traveller, being small and delicate in its organization, and
growing in obscure situations, where it is frequently hidden among taller plants.
The bartsia viscosa grows in almost every little valley in the south of Cornwall:
we did not observe it anywhere to the north of Bodmin. We found the Silene
Anglica growing plentifully in corn-fields near Towednack. That elegant little
plant, the campanula bæderacea grows abundantly wherever the growan or granite soil
prevails. We found a few plants of the exacum filiforme near St. Blazey bridge,
in the habitat described by Mr. Stackhouse, and the melittis grandiflora, between
Cotehele and St. Dominic. We observed the hypericum androsæmum growing
more universally in Cornwall, than we had seen it in any other part of England;
indeed, we saw it occasionally in all our rides, but never growing abundantly.
The anthemis nobilis (chamomile) is to be remarked for its very abundant growth
on all the Cornish downs, which it scents with its aromatic smell. We could not
find the tamarix Gallica growing in what appeared to be a wild state, either on
St. Michael's Mount or elsewhere, though we have been informed that it is to be
seen in that state at Coverack-Cove, near St. Kevern. This shrub is said to have
been imported into England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth (fn. 11) , by Bishop Grindall.
It is certainly well suited to the soil and climate of the south of Cornwall, and it
is probable that no part of England can shew tamarisks of such a size as are to be
seen in a hedge-row surrounding an old inclosure near Landewednack, where they
are as large as good-sized willow-trees.
Tonkin mentions fig-trees as growing in a wild state in the parish of St. Gorran,
and says, that in some seasons the fruit ripened, if not destroyed by birds; but he
supposes that they might have belonged to a garden. (fn. 12) In the parish of Gwythian
the fig-tree appears to be naturalized to a greater degree than perhaps anywhere in
the kingdom. We observed a considerable group in the church-yard, and were
assured that there were many in the neighbouring hedge-rows.
The arundo arenaria or common sea-rush, happily for the inhabitants of the
north coast, is most abundant in that district, and indeed is planted as the only
means of arresting, by its long-spreading fibrous roots, the progress of the moving
sand-heaps. The value of this useful rush has been long known. There was an
act of Parliament in Scotland, so long ago as the year 1695, to prevent persons
who collected this rush (then known by the name of starre or bent) for the purpose of making mats and baskets, from plucking it up, and thereby loosening the
sands, to the injury of the land-owners. A clause to the same effect was introduced in a multifarious act of Parliament in the year 1742. The operation of
this clause extends generally to the north-west coasts of England; but such
persons as claimed a prescriptive right of cutting starre or bent, on the sea-coast
of Cumberland, are exempted from its operation.
Dr. Borlase speaks of a peculiar furze of humble growth, called the dwarf or
Cornish furze. This is what Ray, who saw it in Cornwall, calls genista spinosa
minor. It has been since recognized as a distinct species, under the name of ulex
nanus. This shrub is not peculiar to Cornwall, but particularly abundant on
the downs of that county, to which, in the autumn, it gives a great richness,
being intermixed with the common heath, and flowering in profusion at the
Borlase and Ray speak of the linaria monspessulana (now called antirrhinum
repens), as growing plentifully along the hedges near Penryn. They also
mention peplis maritima, now euphorbia peplis, as growing plentifully on the
sands between Penzance and Marazion. This plant, as we were informed by the
late Mr. Thompson, of Penzance, (who shewed us some dried specimens formerly
found there,) has been quite lost from that habitat by the shifting of the sands.
Panicum dactylon, by the name of gramen dactyloides, is mentioned by Dr. Borlase,
as it had been before by Ray, as having the same habitat. Mr. Turner, in his
Botanist's Guide, enumerates among other rare plants observed by himself, anchusa sempervirens, as growing near Liskeard, and viola lactea on heaths between
Liskeard and Lostwithiel; corrigiola littoralis, growing on the banks of Loo-pool;
alisma ranunculoides, between Penzance and Marazion, on the authority of
Mr. E. Forster, jun.; and stellaria saxifraga in the fissures of rocks at CastleTreryn, on that of Dr. Maton, besides several rare lichens and fuci
(fn. 13) . The genista
pilosa (a very rare plant) was found by Sir Thomas Gery Cullum, Bart., growing profusely on the heath near the soapy rock: it was found also by the late
Dr. Sibthorpe, near Kinan's Cove.
It may be remarked, that several of the rarer plants found in this county are,
strictly speaking, natives of the south-eastern parts of Europe; sibthorpia Europæa
being found in Crete and Thessaly; panicum dactylon in Greece; corrigiola littoralis
on the Bosphorus; and ligusticum Cornubiense on Mount Athos.
Birds, &c.— With respect to this department of natural history we have little to
say; there is, however, one bird so connected with the county, that we think it
should be noticed: that species of graculus which is distinguished by its red bill and
feet, though it is found in other parts of this island, has obtained the name of the
Cornish chough, from its having been very abundant in Cornwall: it is now
become rather scarce. Upton, in his heraldic work, written in 1440, speaks of
this bird as particularly abundant in Cornwall, and notices the circumstance of its
being adopted as an armorial bearing by many of the Cornish gentry. Dr. Borlase
has given an account of the rarer birds of passage, which occasionally frequent
this country: to these may be added, the merops apiaster or bee-eater, a bird
rarely seen in England; four of which were seen, and two of them shot, in the
parish of Madron in 1807; and a white bird, somewhat larger than a thrush,
approaching nearer to the cuckoo than any other genus (fn. 14) , which was taken up in
a very exhausted state, in the parish of Stratton, in June 1813.
Dr. Borlase has described such rare fish as are occasionally caught on the Cornish
coast, and the rarer shells which are found on the shores.
Mineral Waters and remarkable Wells.—Dr. Borlase says that there are no saline,
aluminous or sulphureous waters in the county: he mentions a spring near Redruth
called Carnkei, said to be impregnated with tin, and several chalybeate springs.
The most remarkable of these were one at Treleven in Mevagissey, called the brasswell, from the colour of the scum upon it; and that of Colurian, in the parish of
Ludgvan, which he speaks of as the strongest, and says that it was much in request
as a chalybeate water; that it was used in various complaints, both external and
internal, and particularly was esteemed a good collyrium
(fn. 15) . Two springs in St. Minver
are still in some repute for curing disorders of the eye. There is a chalybeate spring
on the barton of Trewoof in Burian.
Several springs of pure water, which do not appear to be impregnated with
any mineral, were in great repute formerly for wonderful effects in the cure of
diseases, as that of St. Maddern, near Penzance; Holy-well in Cubert; St. Uny's
in Sancreed, &c. Norden, speaking of the first-mentioned, says, "its same in
former ages was greate for the supposed vertue of healinge, which St. Maderne
had thereinto infused: and manie votaries made annale pilgrimages unto it as they
doe even at this daye, unto the well of St. Winifrede beyonde Chester, in Denbighshire, whereunto thowsands doe yearelye make resorte; but of late St. Maderne hath denied his or hers (I know not whether) pristine ayde; and as he is
coye of his cures, so now are men coye of coming to his conjured well; yet
soom a daye resorte." A circumstance happened not many years afterwards,
which again raised the credit of St. Maddern's well to its former height. A
man, said to have been restored to the use of his limbs by the water of this
well, was seen by the learned Bishop Hall, whilst in Cornwall on his visitation;
and the Bishop, after conversing with him, was so thoroughly convinced of the
reality of the cure, that he recorded it in one of his publications, entitled,
"The Mystery of Godliness." There was formerly a chapel belonging to this
well, which was destroyed in Cromwell's time by Major Ceely, of St. Ives.
Dr. Borlase mentions another superstition attached to St. Maddern's well, which,
on enquiry, we find is not yet worn out. "Hither," says he, after speaking of
its supposed medical virtues, "upon much less justifiable errands, come the
uneasy, impatient, and superstitious, and by dropping pins and pebbles into the
water, and by shaking the ground round the spring, so as to raise bubbles from
the bottom; at a certain time of the year, moon and day, endeavour to settle such
doubts and enquiries as will not let the idle and anxious rest. Here, therefore,
they come, and instead of allaying, deservedly feed their uneasiness, the supposed
responses serving equally to increase the gloom of the melancholy, the suspicions
of the jealous, and the passion of the enamoured."
In the neighbouring parish of Gulvall is a well much resorted to formerly, for
similar purposes, particularly by those who wished to make enquiries after absent
friends. "An old woman," says Hals, "attended to shew the well; before
whom, on their approach, the question was to be asked aloud. If the person
enquired after were in health, the water was instantly to bubble; if sick, to be
suddenly discoloured; and if dead, to remain in its natural state." Dr. Borlase,
who writes in 1749, speaks of this woman as then lately dead, and says, that "she
was supposed to be so conversant with the mysteries of the well, that she was
daily resorted to by numbers of persons, who wished to consult its oracular waters,
and have their curiosity satisfied, particularly as to goods or cattle lost or stolen."
We find on enquiry, that this superstition still keeps its ground, and that the
spring is called Guifwell, "the Hebrew brook."
Norden speaks of our Lady of Nants well, in Cornwall, in the parish of
St. Colan, to which men and women came, and children were brought to
"foreknow of the Ladye of the well, (by givinge an offring, and castinge a
palme crosse into the water on Palme-Sunday,) what fortune should befall them
that yeare; so blind were people to followe and beleve such deceyvinge oracles."
Precisely the same superstitions and customs respecting wells are to this day prevalent in several parts of Wales.
Camden says, that the county of Cornwall yielded such plenty of corn as not
only to have supply enough for its own use, but to export large quantities annually to Spain. Some parts of the county still produce great abundance of corn,
particularly from Endellion to St. Columb on the north coast, the district called
Meneage, the neighbourhood of Burian and of St. Germans, the lands near the
Fowey, and great part of the hundred of Stratton; but the superfluities of these
districts are supposed to be scarcely enough to supply the deficiencies of other
parts of the county. (fn. 16) The avena nuda or naked oat, called in Cornwall pillis or
pill-corn, from the Cornish word pilez (bald), is still cultivated, though perhaps,
not in so great abundance as it was in Ray's time; it yields, as it then did, the
same price as wheat. Its chief use is for making gruel for calves, and as food for
poultry. The peculiar manures of this county are sea-sand (fn. 17) , sea-weeds, and
damaged pilchards. The sand, which is carried inland in great quantities, and
occasionally to the distance of 20 miles or more, is known to have been in use
as early as the reign of Henry III. (fn. 18)
This county produces potatoes in great abundance, and it appears that they
have been cultivated to a great extent in Cornwall, longer than in other parts
of the kingdom, for Dr. Borlase speaks of potatoes as the chief support of the
poor in 1758. Both the soil and climate, particularly in the southern part of the
county, are well adapted to the culture of this useful root. About Penzance the
lands produce two crops in the year; and an acre has been known to yield 300
bushels (Winchester measure) of the early kidney potatoes at the first crop, and
at the second, 600 bushels of apple potatoes. (fn. 19) Large quantities of potatoes are
exported from Cornwall to London, Plymouth, and Portsmouth; besides which,
and the home consumption as human food, a large overplus is applied to the
feeding of pigs. (fn. 20)
Orchards abound in all the southern parts of the county, in some parts of the
hundred of Stratton, and in that part of the hundred of East which borders on
the Tamar, particularly in the parishes of Calstock, Stoke-Climsland, St. Dominick, and Landulph. The best cyder made in this district is from an apple
called the Duffling, which is a rich and strong-bodied liquor, equal to the cyder
of the South-Hams, in Devonshire; but it is not made in large quantities, and
only for home consumption. The parishes of Calstock and Stoke-Climsland
abound also in cherry-orchards.
Carew speaks of great quantities of garlick cultivated in the neighbourhood of
Stratton for exportation: its culture is now chiefly confined to private gardens;
it is, however, occasionally exposed to sale in the market, and purchased by the
Cornwall has been celebrated for the produce of its tin-mines from very remote
antiquity. We learn from Strabo, Herodotus, and other ancient writers, that
the Phœnicians, and after them the Greeks and Romans, traded for tin to Cornwall, under the name of the islands Cassiterides, from a very early period. Diodorus Siculus, who wrote in the reign of Augustus, gives a particular account
of the manner in which that valuable metal was dug and prepared by the
It would be beside the purpose of our work, and would unnecessarily increase its
bulk, if we were to enter into any detailed history of the tin and copper mines,
the manner of working them, or of preparing the ore, which have been treated
of at large by authors who have written expressly upon the subject. It may be
deemed sufficient that we give a few leading facts as to the history and extent of
the trade in these most important and staple commodities of the county, with a
brief mention of some of the principal mines.
In the reign of King John, the annual toll or duty on tin, payable to the Earl
of Cornwall, was farmed at 200 marks (fn. 21) ; but we are not certain what the rate
of the duty then was. In the beginning of Henry III.'s reign, the earldom of
Cornwall being then in the hands of the crown, the coinage and the stannaries
were granted to William de Pucot during pleasure (fn. 22) . In the reign of Edward I.
the payment to the Earl was fixed at four shillings for every hundred-weight of
white tin; and for the better security of that payment, it was agreed, that all tin
should be brought to certain places appointed for that purpose, to be weighed and
stamped, or as it is usually termed, coined (fn. 23) ; and that no tin should be sold
till this stamp had been affixed. It is stated in a record of 1337, that the profit
of the coinage to the Earl was then on the average 3000 marks per annum; but
that, in consequence of the abundance of tin raised, it was that year 4000 marks (fn. 24) .
Some years after this, there appears to have been a considerable falling-off in the
tin trade; for in 1374 the coinage is stated to have produced a revenue to the
Duke of only 1,016l. 1s. 4d. per annum. (fn. 25) In the fifteenth year of the reign of
Henry VIII., the profits of the coinage of tin, in Cornwall and Devon, amounted
to 2,771l. 3s. 9½d.; in 1602, they were 2,623l. 9s. 8d. in Cornwall only. Carew,
writing about the latter period, says, "the sale of tin hath usually amounted to
the worth of thirty or forty thousand pounds in money, and carried price between
twenty and thirty pounds the thousand." "For some years past," says Dr.
Borlase, (in his Natural History, published in 1759,) "the tin has amounted, on
an average, to 180,000l. sterling, and the last four years 190,953l. 19s. 3½d.
Of this, the Duke of Cornwall receives about 10,000l. yearly." The annual
quantity of tin raised in the years 1799, 1800, and 1801, was on an average
16,820 blocks, producing a revenue to the Duke of 9,620l. (fn. 26) At present, on an
average it is only 8,500l. The quantity raised in 1811 was 14,043 blocks; and
16,698 in the year 1812. (fn. 27)
Among the most productive tin-mines spoken of by Norden, Borlase, and
other writers, are those of Polberrow and Goon-Lease, in St. Agnes; Polgooth,
near St. Austell; the Godolgan mines (fn. 28) ; Pool mine, in Illogan, (producing abundance of tin and copper;) and those of Roselyn, Garlinoc, and Portkellis in
Wendron, called by Norden the best in the county. Dr. Borlase says, that the
richest tin-mine he ever heard of, as to the quality of the ore, was that of Polberrow
in St. Agnes, near the Beacon, and that in the year 1750, it was so abundant that
they could not get horses to carry the tin to the smelting-house; but he adds, that
the mine which had turned out the most gain and the greatest quantity of tin
then known, was that of Polgooth in St. Mewan, by which, as appeared by the
old books, the adventurers got 20,000l. per annum for many years following.
In another place he says, that the monthly profit to government by this mine was
226l. 7s. 4d. It is now worn out, not having been worked for the last five or six
years. To the above productive tin-mines may be added Huel Peevor in Redruth, Seal Hole in St. Agnes, and Poldice in Gwennap. In Dr. Berger's
treatise on the physical structure of Cornwall and Devon (fn. 29) , it is stated (fn. 30) , "that
there were, about the year 1800, 28 tin-mines then worked in Cornwall, of which
seven were in the parish of St. Agnes, four in Wendron, three in Gulvall; two
each in Lelant, Redruth, and Perran-Zabuloe. Besides these, there were thirteen
mines producing tin and copper; of which there were four in Redruth, four in
Gwennap, three in St. Agnes, and two in St. Neot; and one mine worked for
tin and cobalt, in Madron. Drakewill's tin-mine, on Hengeston-down, in the
parish of Calstock, is said to be the oldest mine now working, in the county,
having been in working about 150 years. (fn. 31)
The most productive tin-mines now working are Cook's Kitchen, in Illogan;
Huel Unity, in Gwennap; Trevenen, near Helston; and Botallack, in St. Just.
The mineral rights of tin in the duchy manors have been lately sold, for a term
of years, to Edward Smith, Esq. of Ince.
The process of working mines is fully detailed by Dr. Borlase, Pryce, and
other writers on that subject, to whose works the reader is referred. It will be
sufficient here to mention, that in the earliest times the mines were worked only
to the depth of eight or ten fathoms, by open fosses, (the rock being first softened
by firing, and then broken by pick-axes and wedges,) and that the present method
of working them by perpendicular shafts, and under-ground galleries or adits, has
not been practised much more than 300 years. The art of blasting with gunpowder, which forms another æra in the history of mining, was introduced about
a century and a half ago. The power of working the mines to a greater depth
increased as the improved state of mechanics provided the means of getting rid
of the water by which the miners' works were interrupted; for, as Pryce observes, a shaft could not be worked, a hundred years since, more than 15 fathoms
deep, from the quantity of water, where, in his time, it could be sunk 50 fathoms
without a drop. The introduction of steam-engines, as invented by Newcomen,
about the year 1710, formed an important æra in the history of mining. Watt's
improved engine, which gave a considerable increase of power, whilst it lessened
in a great degree the consumption of fuel, was introduced into Cornwall about the
The tin-ore has always been smelted in the county. Sir Francis Godolphin
introduced some improved methods of stamping and dressing tin from the continent; and Sir Beville Grenville made an attempt to smelt the tin with pitcoal;
but it was not till the early part of the last century that the present mode of
smelting was adopted. Mr. Lyddell obtained a patent in the year 1705 for
smelting tin in iron furnaces, and set up works at Angarrack in the parish of
Phillack. The use of reverberatory furnaces soon followed; and the blowinghouses, in which the tin had before been smelted, grew into disuse. For many
years the blowing-houses at St. Austell were the only works of the kind in Cornwall. A new one was erected in 1811 near Penzance. For some purposes
(particularly for fixing the grain of the scarlet dye) the tin smelted in blowinghouses is esteemed more valuable than the other, and bears a higher price.
Norden, in his address to King James (annexed to his Speculum Britanniœ)
speaking of the copper of Cornwall, says, "it is a metall whose qualitie and
quantitie woulde so farre excede the former (tin), as, were the workes assumed into
Your Majestie's own handes, duly searched, trulie managed, and effectually followed, woulde rayse a greater yearlie profite than the value of Your Majestie's
land revenues, so riche are the workes, especially some lately founde, as by the
opinion of the skilfull in that misterie the like have not bene elsewhere founde.
Thowgh the worth hath bene formerlie extenuated by pryvate pryers into the
secrete, and covertly followed for their owne gayne, Your Majesty may be therefore pleased to cause a further view and more due searche by the skilfull in this
misterye, who no dowbte may finde out matter of admirable annuall revenue."
We find by Dr. Borlase, that it was not till more than half a century afterwards,
that the experiment was fairly tried; the event, however, has justified Norden's
opinion. It is said that the first copper-mines which were worked with success
were those on Lord Falmouth's manor of Albalanda or Blanchland, in Kea.
Borlase, writing in 1758, says, that "it was computed that for 14 years then
past, the copper-mines had produced 160,000l. per annum." This considerably
exceeds the calculation of that period as given by Pryce, whose statement is
We have been favoured with the following view of the quantity and price of
copper in the following subsequent years, by John Williams, Esq., of Scorrierhouse:
||Copper ore raised.
The most productive copper-mines of early date were Poldice, which, according to Hals, employed, for 40 years together, from 800 to 1000 men; Huel
Fortune, in Ludgvan; Roskear, in Camborne; Pool-Adit, in Illogan; and Huel
Virgin, in Gwennap. Borlase says, that the greatest and most sudden gain ever
heard of, was in the mine of Huel Virgin, in July and August 1757: — the first
fortnight, 5,700l.; in the next three weeks and two days, as much as sold for
9,600l. There are now several mines in the parish of Gwennap more productive.
In the year 1806, when, on account of the high price of copper, the quantity raised
considerably exceeded the average, the copper raised from this mine was 252 tons;
from Huel Fortune, about 293; Treskerby, 335; Poldice, 402; Huel Unity,
496; and Huel Damsel, 539. The total produce of the Gwennap mines that
year was 2962 tons.
The most productive copper-mines within the last 20 years may be considered
Huel Unity, Huel Damsel, Huel Virgin, United Mines, and Treskerby, in Gwennap; Cook's Kitchen, and Tin Croft, in Illogan; Dolcoath in Camborne; Oatfield, and Godolphin in Crowan; Herland, and Huel Alfred, in Gwinnear;
Huel Towan, in St. Agnes; and North Downs, in Redruth and Kenwyn. Some
of these mines, although they have produced great quantities of copper, owing to
the very heavy expences attending the working of them, have not yielded a large
profit to the adventurers. About the year 1800, there were 45 copper-mines
worked in Cornwall; of which, eleven were in the parish of Gwennap, six in
St. Agnes, five in Camborne, four in Gwinnear, four in St. Hilary, three each in
Germoe, Crowan, and Illogan, and two in St. Neot; the remainder scattered
singly in other parishes. Besides these, there were 18 mines worked both for
copper and tin, as before stated; one in Gwinnear, for copper and silver, and one
in Camborne, for copper and cobalt. (fn. 32)
The most productive copper-mines now working are Huel Alfred, near Hayle;
Crennis, near St. Austell; Dolcoath, in Camborne; Huel Unity, United Mines,
Huel Damsel, and Treskerby, in Gwennap; Huel Abraham, in Crowan; Huel
Towan, in St. Agnes; and Gunnis Lake, in Calstock. These mines, however,
owing to the low price of copper, and the great expence of working them, yield
little profit to the adventurers, except Crennis and Huel Alfred; it being calculated that Crennis yields about 2000l. a month, and Huel Alfred about half as
much. The mineral rights of copper, lead, &c. in the duchy manors, have
been lately sold for 31 years, to John Williams, Esq. of Scorrier-house; Mr.
Robert Were Fox, of Falmouth; Charles Carpenter, Esq. of Moditonham, and
others: an agreement has been since made by the same parties for the silver.
Tonkin speaks of several unsuccessful attempts at smelting copper, even before
the year 1700: one of these was made by Mr. Scobell and others, at Polruddan
in St. Austell, where copper-ore is said to have been first smelted in Cornwall.
This writer proposed that all the copper should be smelted in the county, as the tin
was; and that it should be coined, and pay a duty to the Duke. About the year
1754, Mr. Sampson Swaine, and some other gentlemen of Camborne, erected
furnaces for smelting copper at Entrall in that parish; but on account of the
convenience of importing coal, the works were removed to Hayle. Some other
works were established about the year 1770, in the parish of Redruth, whence
they were removed to Tregew, on a branch of Falmouth harbour (fn. 33) : these smeltinghouses remain, but they have not been used for some years; the only copper
smelting-houses in Cornwall being those at Hayle, in which about 6000 tons of
copper-ore are supposed to be smelted annually. The greater part of the Cornish
copper-ore is still shipped off to be smelted in Wales.
The produce of the lead-mines in Cornwall is inconsiderable, compared with
that of some other parts of the kingdom. Pryce says, that there were in ancient
times lead-mines in Perran-Zabuloe and St. Allen. Tonkin speaks of a rich leadmine in the last-mentioned parish at a place called the Garras. Dr. Borlase
mentions also a lead-mine at St. Issey. Dr. Berger speaks of two lead-mines in
Sithney parish, near Helston, and one of lead and silver in Wendron. These and
Pool mine are still worked, but the produce is not considerable.
Gold ore has never been found in Cornwall in sufficient quantities, to have been considered as an object of profit. It has been said, that in former times the silvermines
were very valuable. Holinshed says, that King Edward III. had some help towards
his charges from the silver-mines in Devonshire and Cornwall, as his grandfather
King Edward I. had (fn. 34) . Among the records in the Exchequer, is the fragment of
an indenture between King Richard II. and Henry de Burton, respecting the mines
of gold and silver in Cornwall. In the reign of Henry VI., Richard Curson had a
grant of all mines of gold and silver in Cornwall for twenty years, with wood and
underwood for refining the metals (fn. 35) . In the reign of Henry VII. the mines of gold
and silver were leased to Sir Robert Willoughby (fn. 36) . The principal silver-mines of late
years have been Huel Mexico in Cubert, Herland in Gwinnear, and Huel Duchy
in Calstock. A profit of about 5000l. was made out of Herland mine; in Huel
Mexico, the expence exceeded the profit, notwithstanding it produced considerable
quantities of rich horn-silver, and some crystallized in cubes: neither of these
mines is now worked. The Calstock mine, which has already produced about
4000l., promises to be more profitable.
Other minerals of less importance, spoken of by Dr. Borlase, as the produce of
the Cornish mines, and occasionally the objects of commerce, are cobalt, bismuth, lapis calaminaris, antimony, and arsenic. This author speaks of a mine
of Mr. Beauchamp's, of cobalt, and bismuth, as one of considerable value. He
says, that "the bismuth was thrown away, till Dr. Schloffer shewed Mr. Beauchamp that the cobalt might perform its office of tinging glass blue, and the bismuth also preserved." Dr. Berger speaks of a mine of antimony at St. Austell,
and another at Endellion; but very little, if any, is raised at present (fn. 37) . Neither
bismuth, nor lapis calaminaris, is now found in sufficient quantity to form articles of
commerce. Cobalt has been found chiefly in Huel Sparnon, Redruth, and Dolcoath in Camborne, but it is not raised at present. There are manganese mines
near Callington, in the parishes of Northill and Lewannick, and on the borders of
Bodmin moor, near the Indian Queen; from which, of late years, about two
thousand tons of mangenese have been obtained, but they are not supposed to have
yeilded any profit.
The state of the Cornish quarries is an article of considerable commerce. The
chief quarries are those on the south coast; those between Liskeard and the
Tamar; those in the parishes of Padstow and Tintagel, and the famous quarry
known by the name of De la Bole, or Dennybal, in the parish of St. Teath, not
far from Camelford. Norden calls the slate of Menheniot the best in Cornwall;
that of Tintagel is of a very good and lasting quality; but that of the Dennybal
quarry is now in the highest esteem, and is exported in large quantities from
Port Isaac, about five miles distant. This remarkable quarry was described by
Borlase, fifty years ago, as 300 yards long, 100 yards wide, and 40 fathoms deep.
The stone of the Cornish quarries, though of a good quality for building (fn. 38) , and
sufficiently abundant, is scarcely to be spoken of as an article of commerce; but
the granite or moor-stone, which abounds on the surface of the moors, has of late
years been exported in considerable quantity for bridges and other public buildings.
The granite from St. Stephen's in Brannell (fn. 39) is exported also under the name of
china-stone, for the purposes of the porcelain manufacture in Staffordshire. A
fine white clay is procured also in abundance from some pits in the same parish
(the property of Lord Grenville) for that manufacture, and they are both exported
from the neighbouring port of Charles-Town (fn. 40) . The late Mr. Wedgwood is said to
have first applied these valuable articles to the purposes of the porcelain manufacture (fn. 41) .
The pure white steatites or soap-rook, from the neighbourhood of the Lizard, has
been long exported by the china manufacturers of Worcester for the same purpose.
A yellow sandy clay, which, from its standing intense heat, is called fire-clay,
found on an estate of Mr. Pread, near Lelant town, is exported to Wales in large
quantities for the purpose of laying the bottoms of copper furnaces; it is sold
at 10s. 6d. per ton.
To the various sources of profit, which the mines, the quarries, and the soil of
this county have supplied, may be added, as an important branch of commerce (fn. 42) ,
the produce of the fisheries on its coasts. Although the whale fishery has never
been attempted with success in modern times, it was formerly so profitable, that
some Bayonne merchants, in the reign of King John, farmed it of the crown, at
the rent of 10l. per annum, then no inconsiderable sum (fn. 43) . Tonkin says, that
the grampus's and blowers appear on the Cornish coast in great plenty in the
pilchard season; that in the early part of the last century, Mr. Corker of Falmouth, Mr. Kempe of Rosteage, and some other gentlemen procured a patent for
a whale-fishery, and were at some expence in providing expert harpooners, but
it did not answer, not however, as he observes, for want of fish, if they could have
taken them. He adds, that they disposed of their patent among the late bubbles
(1720), and saved themselves harmless.
The most esteemed fish for the table, such as the turbot, sole, piper, dory, red
mullet, whiting, mackarell, &c. are taken in abundance on the Cornish coast. The
London market is said to be chiefly supplied in the early part of the season with
mackarell from the fisheries at Newlyn. At Polperro is a very extensive hook
and line fishery for turbots, soles, whitings, &c. for the supply of the Bath
and Plymouth markets. The most important branch of the Cornish fishery is,
that of herrings and pilchards, particularly the latter, which are peculiar to these
coasts, the opposite coasts of Britanny, and those of the south of Ireland. We do
not find any mention of pilchards in very ancient records. The same Bayonne
merchants who rented the whale-fishery, as before-mentioned, paid six marks a-year
to King John for the monopoly of the trade of drying congers and whitings or
haddocks (merluciones). The act of the 22d of Edward IV., to prevent frauds
in the packing of barrelled fish, mentions only herrings and eels. In the reign of
Queen Elizabeth, however, it appears that the exportation of pilchards was carried
on to so great an extent, that the consumption of timber for casks became a
national object, and an act was passed in the 35th year of that reign, to enforce
the importation of clapboard for casks, in lieu of the casks so exported.
Tonkin speaks of 30,000 hogsheads, as having been cured in a year, of which
more than 22,000 were caught at Mevagissey only. Dr. Borlase states the average
of ten years (1747—1756) at 29,795 hogsheads, of which he reckons 1732 as
taken at Fowey; 14,6312/3 in the neighbourhood of Falmouth, 12,149⅓ in
Mount's-bay, and 1,282 at St. Ives. He makes no mention of Mevagissey. The
pilchard trade had become so much more extensive before the war, that 60,000
hogsheads, caught in St. Austell bay, have been exported from Fowey in one
year. Since 1800, the most which have been sent from that port in one year,
has not exceeded 20,000 hogsheads; from 1807 to 1811 the trade almost wholly
declined. In 1808 and 1810, there was no exportation except coastways. In 1811,
the trade revived a little, in consequence of the exportation of pilchards to the
West-Indies. Great quantities have of late years been sold for manure, the oil
having been first extracted. The chief pilchard fisheries at present on the south
coast are in St. Austell-bay and Mount's-bay, and at St. Ives and North-Quay on
the north coast.
Oysters are found in great quantities, and of a good quality, in the creeks of
Cornwall has never been considered as a manufacturing county, except as far
as relates to the dressing and smelting of its metals already mentioned. At Penzance the tin is manufactured into bars for the Mediterranean trade, and into
ingots for the East-Indies. At Hayle copper-house are very extensive works for
making copper spikes and nails for ship-building. Dr. Borlase mentions a vitriol
manufactory set up at Redruth in 1747: it was soon dropped, the consumption
being so small that it did not answer. Pryce speaks of some works for regulus of
antimony, set up by Mr. Reed at Feock, and a manufacture of crucibles at Calenick
near Truro, a few years before 1775: the latter is still continued. At Truro also
is a carpet-manufactory; and an iron-foundry has been lately established. There
is a manufactory of poldavies at Penryn: coarse woollen clothes are made at
Launceston, and other places in the north-east part of the county.
The Survey of Domesday mentions ten salt-works at Stratton, which yielded
a rent of ten shillings to the King. Dr. Borlase speaks of a place in the parish
of Sennen, near the Land's-end, where traces of salt-works were to be seen;
and adds, that, according to the tradition of the place, the works were discontinued, not through any deficiency of materials, or incongruity of situation, but
through the neglect or dishonesty of the persons employed.
Trade and Ports.
"The chief trade of Cornwall," says Dr. Borlase, "consists in exporting
tin, copper, and fish; and the principal imports are timber, iron, hemp, and
such other necessaries as mining and fishing require." Of these, coal is the
most prominent article. Dr. Borlase adds, that "the Cornish had a privilege
granted by Charles the First for their steady attachment to the royal cause, of
trading to all parts of the world, — a privilege," he observes, "of more credit than
profit, since trade has been fettered, and so confined to exclusive companies."
In ancient times the principal port in Cornwall was that of Fowey. Its commercial importance in the reign of Edward III. may be estimated from the following circumstance: Upon a call for ships and mariners for the King's service;
it furnished more ships than any port in the kingdom, and more mariners than
any port, except Yarmouth. The trade of Fowey is now inconsiderable,
whilst Falmouth, whose existence as a town, can scarcely be traced for two centuries, is become one of the principal ports in the West of England. Fowey
has an excellent and safe haven, capable of containing a large fleet; but from
its contiguity to the Atlantic, Falmouth, whose spacious harbour is scarcely
second to any in point of safety and accommodation, possesses peculiar advantages as
the rendezvous of outward and homeward bound fleets (fn. 44) . This port has for
many years carried on a very extensive foreign trade: it was one of the first ports
in the West, to which the privileges of the bonding act were extended, and is the
only tobacco port in the counties of Cornwall and Devon. Its trade, in common
with other ports, has suffered a great declension since the commencement of the
war. The following account of its Imports and Exports refers chiefly to the more
prosperous state of its trade: —
Imports. — From America — tobacco, wood, wheat, flour, Indian corn, staves,
From Spain and Portugal — fruit, wine, brandy, wool, salt, specie, &c.
From Holland — geneva, cheese, butter, and grain.
From Russia, and the North of Europe — hemp, tallow, tar, pitch, iron, linen,
sail-cloth, timber, and occasionally grain.
From the Mediterranean — fruit, oil, silk, salt, &c.
From South America — hides, sugars, cotton, wool, &c.
From France — grain, flour, fruit, wine, brandy, salt, &c. — Wine and brandy
have been occasionally imported thence, during the war, by neutral ships.
From Ireland — grain, provisions, &c.
From Wales, Liverpool, &c. — coals, iron, earthen-ware, salt, &c.
Exports.—Prior to the war, great quantities of pressed pilchards to Italy, besides
tin, tin-plates, leather, and other articles: pilchards and tin are now sent occasionally by licence to Naples, &c. Large quantities of pilchards (fn. 45) , which, are
generally at a less price than herrings, are now exported to the West Indies.
Considerable quantities of tin, tin-plates, cotton goods, &c. to Malta, Turkey,
&c.; tin, and tin-plates to Russia; and, in time of peace, to almost all other parts
of Europe, as well as cotton goods, pilchard oil, copper, and various other commodities, and wine, brandy, &c. which had been imported under the bonding
act. Cotton and woollen goods, iron, porter, stationary, &c. are exported to
Portugal and Spain.
There are several regular trading vessels from Falmouth to London, Bristol, &c.
which bring in large supplies of groceries, ship-chandlery, &c., and by which much
tin, &c. is sent to London.
A brief statement of the principal Imports and Exports of the other Cornish ports
is given in the following Table: —
||Pilchards, pilchard oil, &c.
||Salt, limestone, &c.
||Pilchards, and other fish.
||Coal, limestone, &c.
||Pilchards to the West Indies, Malta, &c.
||Timber from Norway, &c.; hemp, salt, coals, &c.
||Fish, copper-ore, china-stone, and china-clay
||Timber and coals.
||Pilchards, pilchard oil, &c.
||Salt, wood, staves, &c.
||Tin and tin-plates; copper-ore, carpeting, &c.
||Timber, hemp, tar, tallow, grain from Ireland; provisions, groceries, &c. &c.
||Granite for public works to London, Plymouth, &c.
||Timber, provisions, and grain from Ireland; grain and flour brought coastways for the supply of the mines, ironcastings, coals, &c.; manufactured goods from London, Bristol, Sheffield, and Birmingham.
||Potatoes, grain, herrings, and other fish, &c.
||Timber and coals.
||Fish, tin, and copper
||Timber, coals, and iron.
||Tin, copper, fish, &c.
||Timber, iron, hemp, tallow, wine, grain, flour, butter, provisions, &c.
||Pilchards, herrings, tin, slate, &c.
||Timber, iron, hemp, tallow, fruit, salt, staves, coals, grain, flour, &c.
||Copper, and copper-ore
||Timber, iron, coals, limestone, &c.
|Portreath, or Basset's Cove
||Great quantities of copper-ore (fn. 46) granite, &c.
||Timber, coals, iron, groceries, &c.
||Coals, lime, &c.
||Grain, fish, oil, &c.
||Timber, coals, and iron.
||Slate, pilchards, &c.
||Timber, bark, and oats
||Coals, and groceries.
Harrison, in his description of England, prefixed to Holinshed's Chronicle, says,
"a friar of late attempted to make a harbour at Bosynny, but in vain." Borlase
speaks of small vessels bringing coals into that port.