Our intention is to give an interesting, engaging and educational introduction to Cornwalls mining and social heritage. The museum and grounds are home to many unique exhibits, interpreting the fascinating story of the Cornish miners overseas and at home. The museum offers something of interest to people of all ages.
Described as the Jewel in the Crown of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site the mine tour gives a unique insight into working conditions in 18th and early 19th century tin mines and into Cornwalls geology. It is the only complete underground mine open to the public in Cornwall.
For an overview of the history of the grounds see the quick page links panel on the right.
Thankfullly the mine changed hands in 2014 having lacked investment for the previous 14 years, many of the machines and collections for which the museum was renowned were sold off. Some of this was plain asset stripping, thankfully some items went to good homes, some should never have been sold having been gifted. All of this stopped when the museum was saved in May 2014. Some items have been recovered and hopefully others will be returned.
The original owners the late Peter and Jose Young, were very supportive to the new owner and were pleased to know that the machinery so valiantly rescued and donated to the museum in the 1970s is now on the way to being restored and placed under cover for new generations to enjoy.
The lovely gardens are being restored, a bandstand was added in 2015, and 8 concerts and two played were performed in the gardens in 2016. Much of the Poldark Demesne is starting to look as it used to do. Lots of new exhibitions are planned and a new visitor centre and museum was opened and will be expanded later this year. Many new artefacts have arrived and are already on display.
The lower part of the grounds was acquired by Peter Young & opened to the public as Wendron Forge on June 1st 1971. With great foresight Peter collected steam engines, which at the time were being sold for scrap metal, and installed them in various locations. The mine was discovered in 1975, a new access passageway was driven at a cost of £75,000 and with a team of volunteers the mines passageways and stopes were cleared ready for public opening in 1976. It was first opened to the public as Wheal Roots Mine.
Wendron Forge & Wheal Roots mine was renamed Hapenny Park, in 1977 BBC TV started filming at the mine for the Poldark Television drama and the author Winston Graham and Peter Young agreed to rename the mine as Poldark Mine. Some of Winston Grahams books were launched at the mine including his last work, Bella Poldark in 2002.
Poldark Mine grew into one of Cornwalls major tourist attractions and one of the UKs first industrial heritage museums. By the end of the 1980s Peter decided to retire and John McLeod took over having worked with Peter for some years. John drove a new passageway from the lowest part of the mine enabling a circular adventure trip for visitors. This was at great expense.
The gardens and mine changed hands again in 1999, sadly many items given or loaned to the museum were sold off by these owners or just taken away, and finally went into bankruptcy in 2013.
In the very nick of time the mine and open air museum were rescued from developers in May 2014 by a new owner bringing with him a considerable heritage related tourism experience along with London hotel and restaurant management skills, with a determination to bring the Poldark Mine Demesne back into good order and to restore the machinery saved by Peter and Jose Young.
Several collections of items came with this new owner and some of these are now on display in the ever expanding museum - things that shaped our world such as telegraphy, telephony & telecoms all rely on tin & copper and a new Techno Tin & Copper section is already evident. The Wesleyan Connection Collection which now includes no less than three full size church organs, one made in Cornwall, and many large & small items from a variety of Methodist churches, explains how the Wesley brothers ministry had such a profound influence on the lives of Cornish Miners, farm workers and fishermen.
The mine pumps around 20 million gallons of water out of the mine each year - that`s about 35,000 to 40,000 gallons (160,000 to 180,000 litres) per day. Poldark Mine is the only Cornish Mine open to the public being pumped today - it`s the very last of thousands that once operated. The mine is also electrically lit throughout. The mine is also force ventilated 24 hours a day all year around by a large electric fan. All of this power being used makes an impressive annual bill! We hope to get our 1904 water wheel into operation with a turbine alongside to generate our own power in order to reduce the enormous costs of keeping this unique Tin Mine open to the public.
It is with regret that we have to report the sad passing of Peter Young the founder of this open air museum in 1966. Peter was the man who discovered and opened Wheal Roots Mine to the public in 1976 thus giving many millions of visitors the opportunity to go down Cornwalls only Tin Mine and its historic location that has a tinning history of an incredible 4000 years.
Regarded by many historians as the veritable cradle of Cornish Tin production and location of a unique Bronze Age Scheduled Ancient Monument to pre-historic Tinners, the Trenear Mortar Outcrop was listed by English Heritage in 2009. The living rock outcrop is the only known example of an early hand tin-crushing site in the South West of England.
The Outcrop and Mine, set in a lovely riverside garden Demesne and associated Museum would not be here only for Peter and his wonderful collection of unique machinery, Cornwalls last beam engine in service and other treasures such as the Holman Museum contents that Peter obtained for £1 in 1979.
We were very privileged to have had his support and encouragement and we were saddened by the news. He was delighted to know that the Poldark he created was being rescued and telephoned our present director a short while before he passed away ago and chatted amiably for the best part of two hours, which was remarkable as he was ill at the time.
He was pleased to know that the 95 year old steam railway locomotive from Falmouth Docks had been located was to be returned to the mine. Peter had originally rescued this 26-ton Peckett of Bristol engine in 1976. It arrived home in October. Now our challenge is to restore it to working order and we are intending to name it Peter.
Clearly a remarkable man who did much for Cornish tourism and employment in this area and saved many historic things that would otherwise have been lost including the very last beam engine to work commercially in Cornwall which can be seen on site having been taken down and moved here by Peter and his team in 1972 at enormous personal expense. Some of Peters ashes were brought to the mine by his daughter Carol. These are due to be placed within the mine in a suitable place. Sadly in January 2017 Jose Young passed away after a short illness. She was in her 90th year.
POLDARK MINE & DEMESNE
The Trenear Mortar Outcrop. This stone offers unique evidence of tin production from the rich alluvial deposits of the River Cober and is situated in the Main Car Park. The Mortar Outcrop was the scene of tin production in prehistory, of national importance the Outcrop is designated by the Secretary of State as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Tin production continued at Poldark and in 1493 it was the location of the worlds first recorded mechanical water powered tin stamps. Treating ores mined locally the site continued in operation until 1886.
The water powered tin mill became Trenear Dairy and used the water wheel to produce and process milk, cheese and Cornish Bard Butter. There was also an egg packing station which was in the building we use today as our museum, shop & ticket office. The dairy continued until 1972.
Built by Harveys of Hale around 1846 this engine was first supplied to the Bunny Tin Mine, near St Austell. Part of the ruined engine house remains may be found today.
It has a 30 inch cast iron cylinder with an 8 foot stroke. The beam weighs 12 tons.
The engine was moved to Greensplat near St Austell in 1894 at a cost of £65 at the time – not a small sum then. It was rebuilt there by Nicholas Manhay of Pescovillet. A reverend gentleman had to be taken home in a wheelbarrow following the traditional celebrations at the time of its restart in 1897! The engine was handed over to Caleb Nichols the first Engine Man. Caleb trained an apprentice from Carclew Arthur Hancock the driver who shut off steam for the last time during Christmas Week 1959. It was the last Cornish Engine to be in use commercially south of the Tamar.
The building and engine were isted but the engine was acquired by Peter Young in 1972 in a partly vandalised condition. Peter and his team moved it considerable effort and enormous cost over the winter of 72/73. It was re-erected at Wendron Forge, Trenear, which later became Poldark Mine. It has been running here since that date. Being in the open air the workings of the engine are exposed for all to see and makes the engine look most odd naked of its cladding and other fittings. The museum holds several steam gauges that belonged to the engine and also the unique hand made Enginemans chair.
The listed (1974) Engine House remained in situ but was de-listed by English Heritage so that it could be knocked down. It was demolished in 2002. Nothing remains on the site as the entire village of Greensplat was removed and the site mined for China Clay. The road to the former village ends abruptly some distance away.
This is the record at English Heritage:
Description: Greensplat Engine House
Date Listed: 11 March 1974
Date Delisted: 18 January 2000
English Heritage Building ID: 396626
OS Grid Reference: SW9968455418
OS Grid Coordinates: 199684, 55418
Latitude/Longitude: 50.3645, -4.8179
Location: Greensplat Road, Treverbyn, Cornwall PL26 8XY
Postcode: PL26 8XY
The following building was de-listed on 18th January 2000
SW 95 NE 5/573
Engine house complete with engine, not now in use. Stone rubble, one end cement rendered. Adjoining chimney with white brick upper stage. 30 inch Cornish Beam pumping engine, the last to be in use in Cornwall. Listing NGR: SW9968455418
The Open Air Engines & Artefacts
(1 & 2) We are hoping to move two of these into our compressor house as soon as funds are available. The first is a massive electrically driven GEC 500v DC motor linked to a Bellis & Morcom two stage compressor that came from ICI Billingham, the smaller steam driven set came from the same place and is a Reader Steam Engine driving a Reavell Compressor (The latter firm became part of Holman Bros
(3) The large black riveted Cornish boiler was made by Holman Bros in or around 1850 for Medlyn Moor Mine a mile or so up the valley from Poldark Mine and is a rare survivor - the only known hardware that remains from a mine in the extensive Wendron Mining District. An engine house still stands on the sett about 500 yards south of the Porkellis to Carnkie road and can be reached by following the public footpath sign
(4) The grate front door was made by Holman Bros in 1905 for another mine being Cooks Kitchen that became part of South Crofty.
(5) The Morganss Patent Traversing Winding Engine is in its own shed, it was built by Holman Bros in 1898 - as a one-sixth scale prototype - its not a model as some would claim. It was sent to be exhibited in Paris at the World Trade Fair. It won a gold medal and the Holman stand won a silver medal. These medals are on display in the museum. [They are not gold or silver but a plated base metal!!] The later full size version of the winding engine was at Williams Shaft 3000 feet deep [the deepest in the world at the time] and was scrapped in 1926 when the mine closed. It weighed in at 150 tons and traversed 16 feet in either direction as the cable was being wound or unwound. The engine we have is therefore globally unique as no other was ever built. The prototype was in the Holman Museum for most of its life and since 1979 is now in our museum - so over 115 years later it must be one of the longest periods a machine has been in a museum.
(6&7) Two belt driven Tangye water pumps came from Menvagissey (not Mevagissey) a tiny hamlet near St Agnes and were in a water pumping station for the area. We hope to get these two indoors very soon so that they can be restored and demonstrated.
(8) The massive 1920s (or earlier?) triple expansion reciprocating high speed Bellis & Morcom engine was No 1 of a pair at Newton Abbot Power Station for the Torquay Tramway Service - it was attached to a 200 kw DC generator. This was connected to an open 500 Volt DC Switchboard constructed on huge slate panels. This machine was removed when the station was demolished and it was presented to Poldark Mine. Continuous DC (Direct Current) supplies were maintained from the mid twenties onward by Rotary Converters until the station decommissioned. DC was used to supply the riverside DC pumps and some station auxiliaries. There were one or two feeders to local hotels relying on the DC supplies to power lift motors. These were ceased in the mid sixties. The station was decommissioned in 1974 and the engine was presented to Peter Young and the Museum at Poldark Mine. Its not known where the generator went, but it may be at the Science Museum
Website changes by CDA Products Ltd