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.
By 1779, the Wendron area was the most populated mining district in Cornwall with 9,000 inhabitants – this was double the size of the combined populations of Camborne, Redruth and Illogan!
The parish of Wendron is the oldest mining district in Cornwall, in the oldest granite in Cornwall by some 20 million years! The Cober River Valley was one of the most important tin streaming areas.
Tin streaming started in the area during the Bronze Age. The testament to this is the Trenear Mortar Stone in the grounds of the Poldark Mine of today. It is a ground-fast granite outcrop that was used some 3000 to 4000 years ago by ancient man to pulverise the alluvial tin ore from the Cober River. Its now listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument of National Significance and has many mortar holes & indentations. Its the only such location in all of England.
Tin streaming thrived in the area during medieval times, the museum at Poldark Mine has no less than three Mediaeval Mortar Stones on display which were excavated in the grounds.
Wendron became part of the Cornish mining boom from the 1700s – the parish had very rich deposits of tin. Copper & a small China Clay mine also operated beside Poldark Mine. For these reasons, Wendron is one of the ten areas of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Inscription.
The River Cober flows through the grounds of Poldark Mine and its waters powered the Wendron mining industry. Over time, its waters were diverted along leats to work waterwheels and other machinery, the first being at Poldark Mine served by a mile long leat from Porkellis Moor which remains to this day and was created at the end of the 13th Century.
Cornwalls (& probably the worlds) first ever water-powered tin stamping mill and its leat was erected at Lower Trenear (the Poldark Mine Gardens of today) in the 13th or 14th Century by Cistercian monks from Rewley Abbey in Oxford who were given the Wendron Church and lands by Royal Charter on September 1st 1284, the Black Prince gave further lands to the Monks with Stithians Church in 1354. The tin mill and water wheels were recorded in the Royal Assession Rolls as still working in 1493 when a lease to John Trerys was renewed, and also during the Commonwealth in the 1650s. The mill continued in use until the 1880s.
Trenear became the residential and industrial hub of Wendron. In 1650, it was recorded that there were wheelwrights and blacksmiths workshops, a blowing house (for smelting tin), and crazing and stamping mills (for grinding and crushing the ore bearing rock). During the 1800s, at least four stamping mills operated in the area – known as Salena, Bodilly, Glebe and Wendron Stamps.
The engine house of Great Wheal Lovell in Wendron, less than half a mile from Poldark Mine & Museum can be seen from the roadside just beyond the village on the road to Helston, has a unique claim to fame as being the only mine in Cornwall known to have been overseen by a woman. Between 1840 and 1845, a Mrs Lydia Taylor was the mine manager. A woman’s usual role in mining was to work on the dressing floor as a ‘bal maiden’. They crushed up ore bearing rock into small pieces on special anvils with large hammers, and carefully sorted the valuable ore from the waste mineral. Bal maidens usually wore large bonnets called ‘gooks’ to protect their heads and faces from flying stones, and a coarse hessian apron (a‘towser’) to protect their skirts. Their legs were often wrapped in strips of material to protect them from the cold and damp.
Described by UNESCO as the Jewel in the Crown of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Inscription the underground tour of the workings at what was known as Hwel Roots at the Poldark Mine of today 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.
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