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British Industrial History

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Wheal Towan

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Wheal Towan Mine overlooks Porthtowan and was a profitable 18th century copper mine.

1784 James Watt wrote in a letter - "I have yours of ye 5th. Wheal Towan [mine, St Agnes] Cyl[inde]r is ordered to come with Poldice, and I shall immediately order one for crane. "

1785 In rare cases steam engines were erected underground, the first was at Wheal Towan

The Great Wheal Towan mine, St. Agnes, was reworked by Nicholas Vivian, with Captain S. Grose as chief engineer, erecting a couple of 80-inch cylinder pumping engines, the most powerful at that time in Cornwall.

About 1828, Mr. Rennie, Mr. Henwood, and others, reported on the advantages of high-pressure expansive steam in the Wheal Towan engine on the north cliffs of Cornwall

c. 1830 (circa) Wheal Towan mine had a Wilson’s 80” engine.

1836 report in West Briton. Coroner's Inquests. On Thursday, the 25th ult, an inquest was held before Hosken James Esq., at Porth Towan, in the parish of St. Agnes, on the body of Henry Peters, a boy of about 13 years of age. It appeared from the evidence that on the previous Wednesday morning the deceased accidentally fell into a shaft, in South Wheal Towan Mine, about 30 fathoms deep, and was killed on the spot. Verdict, accidental death.

1855 In the north of the village there are eight copper lodes lying east-north-east. The most southerly is called Brewery lode and is about 270 metres south of St Uny's church. Thereafter the lodes, in order going north, are called Cooper's, Berryman's, Penaluna's, Mitchell's, Penberthy's, Champion's, and Chapel Rock. Penaluna lode runs under St Uny's church. These lodes are the basis of the mine called West Wheal Towan or Lelant Wheal Towan and later West Wheal Lucy. This mine was abandoned around 1824. In 1850 it reopened as West Wheal Towan but closed in 1867.

1872 the mine was reopened as West Wheal Lucy but was very soon abandoned. Chapel Rock lode had shafts a short distance inland from the cliff; two adits in the beach cliff to the north of the ferry and humps on the golf course are the only remnants to be seen today (Jenkin; Noall 1982, i 18).


South Wheal Towan (Wheal Lydia), Porthtowan Area, St Agnes District, Cornwall, England, UK

  • UK OS Grid Reference: SW696475
  • Map Reference: 50°16'54"N , 5°14'3"W

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] Cornwall Calling