South Caradon 19th century copper mine


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


Ordnance survey map of South Caradon 19th century copper mine
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Cleer
National Grid Reference:
SX 26758 70208, SX 26921 69840

Reasons for Designation

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.


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 material. 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.

MAP EXTRACT 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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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 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Maps SX 26 NE & SX 27 SE Source Date: 1983 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: 25": 1 mile Ordnance Survey Map Cornwall sheet XXVIII: 10 Source Date: 1883 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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