Geevor Mine


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


Ordnance survey map of Geevor Mine
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cornwall (Unitary Authority)
St. Just
National Grid Reference:
SW 37470 34557, SW 37500 34322

Reasons for Designation

For several millennia the western part of the South West Peninsula, namely Cornwall and West Devon, has been one of the major areas of non-ferrous metal mining in England. It is defined here as prospecting, extraction, ore processing and primary smelting/refining, and its more important and prolific products include copper, tin and arsenic, along with a range of other materials which occur in the same ore bodies. Throughout much of the medieval period most of the tin was extracted from streamworks, whilst the other minerals were derived from relatively shallow openworks or shafts. Geographically, Dartmoor was at the peak of its importance in this early period. During the post-medieval period, with the depletion of surface deposits, streamworking gradually gave way to shaft mining as the companion to openworking methods. Whilst mining technology itself altered little, there were major advances in ore processing and smelting technologies. The 18th century saw technological advances turning to the mining operations themselves. During this period, Cornish-mined copper dominated the market, although it was by then sent out of the region for smelting. The development of steam power for pumping, winding and ore processing in the earlier 19th century saw a rapid increase in scale and depth of mine shafts. As the shallower copper-bearing ores became exhausted, so the mid to late 19th century saw the flourish of tin mining operations, resulting in the characteristic West Cornish mining complex of engine houses and associated structures which is so clearly identifiable around the world. Correspondingly, ore processing increased in scale, resulting in extensive dressing floors and mills by late in the 19th century. Technological innovation is especially characteristic of both mining and processing towards the end of the century. In West Cornwall, these innovations relate chiefly to tin production, in East Cornwall and West Devon to copper. Arsenic extraction also evolved rapidly during the 19th century, adding a further range of distinctive processing and refining components at some mines; the South West became the world's main producer in the late 19th century. From the 1860s, the South West mining industries began to decline due to competition with cheaper sources of copper and tin ore from overseas, leading to a major economic collapse and widespread mine closures in the 1880s, although limited ore-extraction and spoil reprocessing continued into the 20th century. A sample of the better preserved sites, illustrating the technological and chronological range, as well as regional variations, of non-ferrous metal mining and processing sites, together with rare individual component features, are considered to merit protection.

Despite limited damage on the cessation of mining activity, and some subsequent modification, the remains at Geevor Mine are very well preserved. The extent and range are outstanding, the near-complete dressing mill in particular. The 20th century layout is an exceptionally good example of its kind, demonstrating the systems, technology, and organisation of mines at that time. There is scope for detailed study and archive research of features, such as mill equipment; some typical, some unique to Geevor. Earlier mining processes and practices are represented, and there is potential for the survival of further underground and buried surface works. Taken as a whole, the remains illustrate well how mines can impact on the physical and human landscape, changing surface landforms and settlement patterns in addition to the underground world. They also show how mining responded to continuing factors like the need for water used in its processes, and to changing ones such as widening economies.


The scheduling includes remains of Geevor tin mine, situated on the north coast of Cornwall, north east of St Just in Penwith. The site occupies a small valley running north west to the sea, incorporating slight to moderate slopes, and steep cliffs below. Included in the scheduling is an adjoining tin works, Rescorla's, and the remains of a Mesolithic flint working floor. The mine is one of several in the area and is associated with nearby mining settlements. The scheduling is divided into two separate areas of protection. Recent surveys provide a detailed history of Geevor. The mine worked tin lodes trending north west-south east across the coast. In the 20th century, arsenic and then sulphides became significant by-products. Geevor is one of only four mines in Cornwall worked to the late 20th century. By this time it incorporated around ten earlier mines, and was around 800m deep. Mining started here in the later prehistoric or medieval periods in the form of tunnels into lode exposures in the cliffs, and outcrops inland. Also, the valley bottom is thought to have been worked from medieval times for tin, which would have been exploited by streaming, using water to remove overburden and waste. By the 18th century deeper mines were established; one, Wheal an Giver, was recorded in 1716. People, horse, or water power was used to hoist ore from shafts, and in dressing and processing it. Steam power was being employed by 1815. Through the 19th century these ventures were consolidated into larger ones. Under the North Levant group (1851-1891) the dressing floors spread over the valley bottom, and the mine service area emerged above them. Production shafts south of the scheduling were linked to the dressing floors by tramway. In the early 20th century the mine was developed beneath the sea. North Levant and Geevor (1906-1911) built the core of the modern dressing mill, and began Wethered Shaft south east of the scheduling. Both electricity and gas were introduced and growth continued under Geevor Tin Mines Ltd (1911-1992), though checked by periodic slumps and the two World Wars. Wethered Shaft was linked to the mill by aerial ropeway, but was superseded as the main production shaft by Victory Shaft, south east of centre in the scheduling, sunk from 1919. The neighbouring Levant Mine was acquired in 1934 and access to its submarine levels was secured by the mid-1960s. There was also early investment in compressed air as a power source. The mill was extended and remodelled in 1912, the first of two Brunton calciners for recovering arsenic being added in 1913, and a separate area for processing its slimes or waste by 1925. Its capacity and efficiency were improved by expansion and re-equipment using chemical, relative density, and magnetic separation methods. Spoil from nearby mines was dressed for residual minerals, to maintain throughput. Mine tours were begun in the 1970s, and growth and modernisation continued until the world tin price crash of 1985. The miners were laid off by 1990, and pumping ceased in 1991. Some machinery and fittings were removed for scrap, or displaced. In 1992 Cornwall County Council purchased the mine as a heritage centre and initiated a programme of safety and other amenity works, including shaft capping, securing or reopening adits, and limited reconstruction. The remains of the mine are of great complexity, both above and below ground. This is the result of its long life and relatively recent closure, large size, intensive working, and frequent reuse or adaptation of pre-existing structures, earthworks, and tunnels. The remains are complemented by a mine archive, old maps, and photographs, and are further enhanced by recent surveys, and by the testimony of former miners. The following account is intended to outline the remains in the scheduling, dealing first with those integrated in Geevor Mine at its peak, and then with abandoned earlier mining features. It is concerned primarily with remains at or near the surface, owing to lack of access to lower levels at the time of writing. However, the very extensive deep workings survive, with complex tunnels and features such as transport and pumping sytems, though flooded to third level (sea level). The adit draining to this level is visible at the base of the cliffs. The surface layout of the site, as developed through the 20th century, may be divided by function into three main zones. These are focused on Victory Shaft; their positions and those of their many components reflecting the use of gravity, and the flow of liquids, in achieving efficient preparation of the ore. Across the zones, most structures are of concrete, timber, or steel, with corrugated sheet roofing, and the most recent are of standardised design. Older granite walling and buildings with slate roofs are incorporated, however. Notable among these are the stable, carpenter's shop, and (excluded from the scheduling) the count house in the first zone; the calciners and slimes plant in the second; and sunken tanks in the third. Much of the fabric shows joints, blockings, and other evidence of the mine's evolution. The zone nearest the valley head contains structures for servicing the mine with supplies of power, water, tools, and materials, with an office, and miners' dry or changing house. These are spread along the road towards Wethered Shaft, and clustered around Victory Shaft, at the top of the next zone. Most buildings contain machinery and other fittings, and the dry has graffiti dating from the closure of the mine. The roads and yards between them have pipe and cable trenches and tram lines in situ. Victory Shaft retains both its timber framing (with service cables and pipes down to third level), and its steel headframe above. This has unusual gear for raising skips and man cages alternately. It also retains the overhead cable from the winding engine house. The electric winder is in situ, as is the plant in the compressor house. The second zone, below this, is dedicated to processing tin and by-products. The principal structures are the capacious, extended, and adapted mill, and the slimes plant. These are near complete, with shaking tables for sorting fine tin from liquified ore and other processing equipment inside; and tanks and storage bins without. Many machines are from the Cornish manufacturers, Holmans. Raw materials and waste are represented by a stockpile of Geevor ore west of the mill (part re-sited); a pile of spoil brought in for reprocessing to the east; and by parts of the dumps of gravel for sale on either side. Remains of the routes for liquids and solids through the dressing circuit, linking buildings and plant, tanks, bins, stockpiles, and dumps, are visible. These take the form of pipes and channels at ground level and launders, chutes, conveyors, pipes, and cables above. Downslope again is the third zone, where further tin was recovered from the tailings or waste slimes of the second. The tailings stream is fed down the north east side of the valley. Along its upper course are Geevor's settling tanks and ponds and sampling huts, connected to each other and the bottom of the mill by pipes, channels, and launders. Below is another 20th century tailings works, Rescorla's. This occupies the site of a Levant Mine dressing complex, and retains its terraces above the cliff and concrete settling tanks, as well as an earlier header pond. The older mining remains in the scheduling, not integrated in the system summarised above, mostly relate to the ventures of the 18th and 19th centuries, although some may be medieval or earlier in origin. Notable among the visible surface elements are the walls of a 19th century powder house, or explosives store, sited safely south of the core of the mine; walling east of the mill, probably part of an arsenic burning house of similar date; an early 19th century or older water powered stamps house on the cliff edge; and the chimney of a steam pump house for the Levant dressing floors. More will survive beneath the debris in the valley bottom. Abandoned pre-20th century underground remains also survive within the scheduling. The recent surveys record shallow workings, both wholly subterranean and open topped, post-medieval or earlier in origin. They are diverse in form and function, and have rare features including dome-sectioned excavated miners' shelters, some with hearths and benches, unknown outside Geevor. Modified examples of the latter are visible from the surface. These workings were mostly found filled or choked in the less intensively reworked ground west and south east of the mill; again, others are expected to remain buried downlope. In addition, it is considered that the valley bottom contains remains of medieval or later tin streaming. The massive stone walling above the cliffs may be retaining streamworking waste. Finally, flints and a cobbled flint-working surface of the Mesolithic period (around 7,500 BC) have been found in the valley above Rescorla's. A number of items are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the transformer house and adjoining store, the office with count house, the garage, and the fitting shops, and with all post-mine closure road surfaces, footbridges, fences, gates and stiles, safety equipment, benches, bins, services, signs, information boards and exhibits. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Padel, O J, Cornish placename elements, (1985), 102
PLB Consulting Ltd, Geevor Tin Mine Conservation Plan, 2002, Report for Cornwall County Council
Report for Cornwall County Council, Sharpe, A, Geevor and Levant: An assessment of their surface archaeology, (1993)
Report for Cornwall County Council, Sharpe, A, Land reclamation works at Geevor 1995 to 1998, (1999)
Report for Cornwall County Council, Sharpe, A, Land reclamation works at Geevor 1995 to 1998, (1999)
Report for The National Trust, Sturgess, J, Lower Boscaswell, West Penwith, Cornwall, (2003)
Sharpe, A to Parkes, C, (2003)
Sharpe, A, Geevor: DLG Works 1994, 1994, Report for Cornwall County Council
Title: St Just in Penwith Tithe Apportionment Map Source Date: 1841 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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