Poldark Mine is the only complete tin mine in Cornwall open for underground guided tours and is generally regarded as one of the most historic locations in the annals of Cornish Mining History. The mine is on several levels and the guided tours by experienced Cornishmen receive many accolades for their unvarnished presentation and the real atmosphere in the mine itself. The mine tour encompasses the 18th century workings of the 1700s, but can boast far earlier pre-Roman origins in areas of the mine that are inaccessible to visitors.
Poldark Mine at Wendron is centrally located near Helston on the edge of the beautiful Lizard Peninsula. The mine is set in over four acres of wooded waterside grounds and gardens in a beautiful glen on the River Cober valley. The tiny Poldark Demesne is in a rural area of Cornwall just 6 miles from the sea. Following closure and bankruptcy in 2013, the well-known mine re-opened in June 2014 under new ownership and heritage management.
As a Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Poldark Mine (Wheal or Huel Roots) has a special place in the story of tin mining. Its an ancient location that is the veritable cradle of tinning in Cornwall. There is a unique 4000 year old Bronze-Age Scheduled Ancient Monument in the riverside grounds where alluvial tin ore was processed by ancient Britons. The Trenear Mortar Outcrop is formed from a living granite outcrop some 270 million years old. The granite here is the oldest in Cornwall being over 20 million years earlier than the remainder and is part of the Carmenellis Pluton. This Monument Stone serves to confirm the great antiquity and national importance of the location. We call this our TIN HENGE.
Visitors have been coming from all over the world to explore the labyrinth of four levels, caverns, adits, stopes, passageways and shafts that make up this 18th century mine since it was first opened to the public in 1976. Its been seen by millions all over the world due to the BBC Poldark Drama that was filmed here in the 1970s and in the current BBC series of Poldark. Other BBC productions have also been filmed here, such as Penmarric, BBC Childrens programmes, BBC TVs FLOG IT, and sequences in a number of documentaries.
The mine has many unique features such as the Shammeling Shaft and distinctive veins of blue peach ore-bearing granite. The Carnmenellis granite pluton itself being some 20 million years older than other granite in Cornwall.
Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA FMA the former chairman of English Heritage and current President of the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) who is regarded as Britains leading authority on industrial heritage, declared that Poldark Mine was One of the two most atmospheric mine tours in Europe.
Moreover we have been open to the public for over 40 years, an incredible record than no other mine can equal. Literally millions of visitors have been here during those years and many millions more have seen the mine in a variety of television programmes and documentaries.
Most recently and in the 1970s the mine has been the location for underground sequences in the two BBC Television series of Poldark! People are continuing to come here from all over the world to have a peek at this remarkable and historic mine that is described as The Jewel in the Crown of the World Heritage site by the World Heritage Team.
TIME LINE ....... Poldark Mine, Gardens & Museum - Bringing the past to life for everyone.
Poldark Mine is the only complete tin mine in Cornwall open for underground guided tours and is generally regarded as one of the most historic locations in the annals of Cornish Mining History.
The Mine, at Trenear in Wendron, is centrally located near Helston on the edge of the Lizard Peninsula, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Peaceful woodland and hilly meadows surround the riverside car park and gardens in the lower part of a beautiful narrow glen on the River Cober valley. The riverside demesne and hamlet of Trenear is bounded by pastoral hills in a rural area of Cornwall just 6 miles from the sea.
The well-known mine & museum re-opened in June 2014 under new management that is concentrating on the heritage of the ancient place. As part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Poldark Mine (Wheal or Huel Roots) has a special place in the story of tin mining. Its regarded as the veritable cradle of tinning.
Visitors have been coming from all over the world to explore the labyrinth of levels, caverns, adits, stopes, passageways and shafts that make up this 18th century mine since it was first opened to the public in 1976 and reached global fame due to the BBC TV filming of Poldark in 1977 at the mine and in the historic grounds.
From the Bronze Age to Today.....
2000 - 1600 BC
The Trenear Mortar Outcrop is a Bronze-Age Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance [No. 1021409] and is located within the grounds of Poldark Mine. The northern flood plain of the River Cober, which flows through part of the mine grounds, is where the mortar outcrop sits and is believed to have been used during the latter half of the prehistoric period (approximately 2000 BC to 43 AD) to grind alluvial tin ore to fine sand before smelting. The heavier tin crystals were panned out with water [rather like gold panning] and then smelted in primitive furnaces using charcoal.
1660 BC - 1324 AD No detailed records appear to exist for this period.
1284 .... 15th of September The monks at the Cistercian Abbey of St Mary at Rewley in Oxford were given the advowson of St Wendron church & its chapels by Charter of that date by Edmund Earl of Cornwall with its Great Tithes and glebe lands - that was over 730 years ago. This is recorded in the village church close to the mine. Edmund was the son of Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall and grandson of King John. Before this St Wendrona Church had belonged to his Manor of Helston which included the whole parish. The ancient Wendron village church is on a hill overlooking the mine at Trenere Wolas,(Lower Trenere} the Trenear of today. Its tower can be clearly seen from the tea garden which were tin dressing floors from circa 1300 to 1871. The ancient bells of the church ring out for all to hear.
1354 .... Edward the Black Prince [1330 - 1376] added the advowson of lands at Stithians and its church and this was approved by the bishop in 1354, over 700 years ago. A record of tithes relating to the use of the waterwheels exists in Wendron parish records.
1400s .... The waterways in the valley that flow through the grounds were created by the mid 1400s or even earlier, most probably by the Cistercian Monks themselves. The waterways remain to this day, the tail race ponds and leats now form part of our pleasant gardens.
The Cistercian Monks controlled and may well have operated the tin stamps in the mid to late 1300s, or early 1400s - the Cistercians from the mother Abbey* in France were renowned metal workers and hydraulic experts from early times. An ancient system of waterways and water wheels exists at a Cistercian Abbey in Spain.
*Cîteaux Abbey is the mother abbey and was founded on Saint Benedicts Day, 21 March 1098. The abbey is at Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux, south of Dijon, France. Today it belongs to the Trappists, or Cistercians of the Strict Observance
Wikipedia tells us:
The Cistercian order was quite innovative in developing techniques of hydraulic engineering for monasteries established in remote valleys. In Spain, one of the earliest surviving Cistercian houses, the Real Monasterio de Nuestra Senora de Rueda in Aragon, is a good example of such early hydraulic engineering, using a large waterwheel for power and an elaborate water circulation system for central heating.
Much of this practicality in Cistercian architecture, and indeed in the construction itself, was made possible by the orders own technological inventiveness. The Cistercians are known to have been skilled metallurgists, and as the historian Alain Erlande-Brandenburg writes: The quality of Cistercian architecture from the 1120s onwards is related directly to the Orders technological inventiveness.
They placed importance on metal, both the extraction of the ore and its subsequent processing. At the abbey of Fontenay the forge is not outside, as one might expect, but inside the monastic enclosure: metalworking was thus part of the activity of the monks and not of the lay brothers.
1493 ....Stampyng mylls de Trenere Wolas. In 1493 a lease for the mill, waterwheels and leats was renewed to a private individual by the Duchy of Cornwall, John Trerys freeman, the title to the lands having changed. The simply detailed lease is contained in the Royal Assession Records of the Dukedom. The rent was 3s 4d per annum and included a water course, drainage channel,a fish trap, and a separate lease for a grain mill in same building sharing the water. The mill is the earliest recorded water-powered tin stamps in the world.
1500 ... The mill equipment appears to have been renewed according to the historian the late Dr Hamilton Jenkin. One of his much prized books Wendron Tin, was published by Wendron Forge sponsored by Peter Young the founder of the museum.
1536 - 1539 .... King Henry VIII was the patron of Rewley Abbey & its Studium but even it too was dissolved in 1539. Abbot Nicholaus Austen, early in 1536 tried unsuccessfully to buy off the dissolution by offering £100 to Thomas Cromwell in the hope of keeping it or making it a college but he was pensioned off with £22 and wisely made an immediate move to study at Trinity Hall in Cambridge - so was clearly respected. [Other abbots were not as fortunate and of those who protested, most were horrifically executed as traitors or treated very badly] Little of the Abbey exists today except for a wall and gateway close to Oxford railway station.
1649s .... Henry Leonard was renting the stamping mill for 3s 4d a year, a corn mill and a blowing house, all at Trenere Wolas - the Trenear of today. During the Commonwealth a survey was undertaken and at that time there were many workers here at Trenear working the waterwheels and tin dressing operations. The rent was still only 3s 4d per annum. This use continued until the early 1880s
1715(?) to 1800 (?) Huel Roots mine was in production operated by a horse whim. John Wesley preached in Wendron and visited Porkellis to preach too. He would have ridden on horseback past the mine & water operated tin stamps here.
1854 ... In 1854, exactly 500 years after being given by the Black Prince to the monks, a lease of lands that included the waterways, leat, waterwheels and the tin dressing grounds, was granted by the successor in title to the dissolved abbey lands - a Mr Thomas Hocker of Stithians to a Mr Frederick Hill, a solicitor from Helston, who also owned the two adjoining Wendron Consols mines [one past the upper end of our present day car park, and the other on the other side of the road above the smithy], the rent agreed was £50 a year. Mr Hocker died 6 months later and is buried at Stithians where his monument can be seen. The lease relates in part to the four or five acres that are the gardens and car park of today.
1859 ... a gathering of over 700 people on a Wendron Festival in the grounds of the three mines was recorded in detail in the local newspaper.The Wendron Consols Festival was a popular annual event, according to this report in the West Briton newspaper in September 1859 - 158 years ago -
From the church a procession was formed, comprising the agents and persons employed in the mine, with their families and, preceded by the Porkellis Band, they marched to the Account House, where tables were laid and nearly 700 persons sat down. A happier party can scarcely be imagined – there sat the miner with his goodly wife and healthy children – the fine muscular sumpman – the intelligent tributor, and the bold tut worker, with many a fair bal maiden and those who constitute the stamps pare – all looked grateful and pleased, and even the babe seemed to enjoy the festival by crowing in its mother’s arms. After partaking of excellent cake and tea, the grace and doxology were sung, and the band played for some time.
The festival concluded with the Flora Dance, when a party comprising many of the youth and beauty of Wendron and Helston danced around the mine. A bonfire and tar barrels lit up the barren moor, and thus terminated a day which afforded great delight to the interested assembly. Refreshments were prepared in the Account House for the wives and daughters of the adventurers and their families.
1864 ... In 1864, the two Wendron Consols mines sold 117 tons of black tin for just over £7,000. It had a workforce of 184 men, 61 women and 50 boys. All the women and younger children were employed above ground in dressing & sorting the tin ores in what are the mine gardens of today
1871 - Tin prices had fallen and the two Wendron Consols mines closed as did the tin dressing floors, the tin stamps mill and the blowing house.
1885 ... In 1885 the waterwheels and Tin stamps were taken over by the Trenear Dairy Company who used the water wheel and its waterways until 1972, the mill was extended on one side and the resulting double-gabled dairy building was dated 1897. Butter and cream were produced, clotted cream and milk processed using the power of the water wheel. Eggs were also packed.
1938 ... The incoming milk record ledger for the year 1938 to September 1939 was found in the attics in 2015 and is now on display. It lists all of the local farmers and has precise details of their daily milk production and the amounts paid per gallon.
1966.... In 1966 Peter Young [the founder of what is the Poldark Mine, Gardens & Museum of today] acquired the freehold of the village forge for £100 and some marshland which is now the lower pond and leat area around the mine entrance. He started to collect machinery from many places around the UK and thus created what was to become one of the very first Industrial Heritage Collections in Great Britain, before that term was coined. Peter called it the Cornish Heritage Collection.
1971 ... Peter Young and his wife Jose opened the lower part of the gardens to the public on June 1st 1971 as Wendron Forge, their daughter Carol Young recalled that no one attended on that very first day! Wendron Forge was the trading name of the workshops set up by the Youngs where they employed local craftsmen to make clocks, plaques and a variety of seats and other wooden items. Examples remain here to this day and several of the stainless steel plaques are on display. Profits were used to buy land and in 1975/6 to open the mine with the help of a team of friends and volunteers. The present car park was purchased soon afterwards and included the Bronze-Age Trenear Mortar Stone, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
1972 ..... The Trenear Dairy closed and was sold to a furniture warehouse. Peter tried to buy the Dairy and old mill, but the price was inflated. A few years later Peter Young was able to secretly purchase the former Trenear Dairy land and the old mill building through a company he had formed in London. The purchase was at a rather more advantageous price. This enabled the two separate land holdings to be joined together again much as they were before the 1850s.
1972 ... In the winter of 1972-1973 the Greensplat Cornish Beam Engine was moved 30 miles to Trenear and erected here. This was done with the help of volunteers and cost a great deal of money at the time, the move alone costing £8,000 - a great sum of money at that time. This engine was the very last to have worked in commercial service which was in Christmas week 1959 beating all other similar claims by some five years. It had been built by Harvey of Hayle for the Bunny Tin mine circa 1846 and moved in the 1880s to Greensplat.
1973 ... Wendron Forge staged a Brass on the Grass concert, which is a phrase he appears to have coined. Attended by the Mayor of Helston and the Chairman of Cornwall Council with the Band of the Royal Marines and Mousehole Male Voice Choir.
1975 ... The ancient Huel Roots tin mine [which has pre-roman workings not seen on the educational tours of today] was accidentally re-discovered by Peter Young in 1975, an access tunnel was driven at a cost of £75,000 [an enormous sum at that time] and with much clearance being done by a team of volunteers, a substantial section of the 18th century parts of the mine was opened to the public in 1976 as Wheal Roots Mine.
1977 ... POLDARK MINE ..... BBC Television filmed underground and other sequences in the mine grounds for their long running popular Poldark Costume Drama series in 1977 and also another series called Penmarric. The mine was re-named Poldark Mine in 1977 by the author Winston Graham who had become good friends with Peter and Jose Young. That friendship between the Young family and Winston Graham continued down the years and some of Winston Grahams books were launched at the mine
1979 ... The Holman Bros Museum Collection in Camborne was given to Peter Young for just £1 and all came to Poldark Mine to create a very special museum. The core of this important collection remains the nucleus of the Museum to this day.
1983 ... a second exit passageway was driven to facilitate an extended circular underground tour around this time. The cost was over £85,000, clearance work continued to be carried out by volunteers.
1983 ... The band of the Royal Marines performed a Brass on the Grass concert at the mine to celebrate the birthday of Peter Youngs brother.
1985 ... The family of John McLeod leased the sales showroom at Poldark Mine for £21,187 per annum from 11th November.
1989 Peter and Jose Young retired to live in Spain. John McLeod and his brother took over from the Young family. He had been working with them for some years as a tenant operator of the sales showroom and the bar & restaurant. John financed the blasting of a further deep inclined passageway to improve the circular tour, this vital staircase is used today to exit from the deepest parts of the mine [4 Level] open to the public. Volunteers continued to assist with these works. Unfortunately in the recession some 10 years later John ran out of money and the mine went into administration. All debts were settled and the museum collection was handed over intact to the new owners.
1999 ... The museum & Mine changed hands and sadly a 14 year run down commenced, including an immediate sell-off of items from the collection. This meant that much of the working machinery collected by Peter Young, his friends and volunteers was removed or sold off for personal gain. All working machinery apart from the beam engine was sold. The museum lost its direction as many regularly came to see the working machinery of bygone years.
2002 ... Winston Grahams last book, Bella Poldark was launched in the mine gardens in 2002 when he was 94 years of age. Sadly he died in the following year.
2006 ... Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was inscribed by UNESCO as A World Heritage Site, Poldark Mine being part of that inscription and is in the oldest granite in Cornwall. Poldark Mine is designated as the Interpretation centre for the Wendron Mining District and is AREA 4 of the 10 districts.
2009 ... The Trenear Mortar Outcrop was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument No 36032. The mortar outcrop at Trenear, 9m north east of Poldark Mine entrance is the only known example of an early hand tin-crushing site in the South West of England. The monument includes a large earth fast slab of granite with at least 17 circular or oval shaped hollows, here argued to have been ore-grinding mortars, worn into its upper face. The site lies within the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, site No. 17. The mortar outcrop is situated on the northern edge of the floodplain associated with the River Cober.
2013 .... Rhys Casenove unveiled a brass tablet to the memory of his mother, Lady McAlpine, better known as Angharad Rees who played Demelza Poldark in the original BBC TV series. She loved this place and was a regular visitor to the mine down the years, and popped in quite close to the end of her life which had sadly ended rather too soon in 2012. The memorial plaque can be seen during the mine tour.
2013 .... Following 14 years of decline and neglect, apart from one or two brighter moments, the mine & museum closed at the end of September 2013 and went into receivership. Many items were taken away from the museum, the offices were ransacked, historic and other records were pillaged.
2014 ... In May 2014 a heritage orientated individual took over under licence from the Administration. All amusements and other play areas were immediately removed and the mine reverted to an historic underground educational mine tour with a new museum.
June 2014, following costly underground repairs the mine and museum reopened under new direction following the bankruptcy. Many former guides, workers and volunteers returned to the fold as the restoration commenced with some vigour.
In June 2014 Bristol based Mammoth Films on behalf of BBC Television filmed the underground sequences of the new series of Poldark in the mine. The sale of the mine to the new philanthropic owner completed in October 2014. This triggered a programme of repairs to be carried out. Changes were made to immediately remove the remains of all of the peripheral non-mining amusements.
Restoration of the gardens commenced in earnest and soon no less than 88 leylandii trees were felled and other improvements followed. The Falmouth Docks steam railway engine that had been ignominiously sold off on EBay was recovered by the new owner and eventually returned to the museum in October with the generous assistance of the trustees of the Chasewater Railway in Staffordshire.
In early June Peter Young was very pleased to learn of the locomotives pending return when he telephoned the museum from his home in Spain to have a long informative discussion with the new custodian.
2014 .... July 1, the founder of the museum, discoverer of the mine and visionary entrepreneur, former Royal Marine Peter Brigham Young, died peacefully in Spain. In 2015 A casket containing some of his ashes were brought by his daughter Carol to be placed in the mine.
2015 ... Restoration of the mine continued with new powerful electric pumps, proper rising mains were installed, and a host of other improvements and infrastructure upgrades were carried out by contractors and volunteers. Contractors also generously gave some of their time free of charge. Some new lighting was fitted using LED technology and this was the start of major improvement to the electrical services. A number of sheds filled with artefacts and junk were cleared and many historic artefacts, mine drills, scale models and other mining items found their way back into the public museum areas.
A cabinet of Curiosities was created from the remaining scattered collection of the late Peter England. He had been curator of the museum during the Young family ownership and had amassed his collection in the 1950s in forays to the Portobello Antiques Market in London during his time as a lecturer at the Paddington Technical College. More curios and historic items were added by the new custodian from his collection. We continue to purchase artefacts to add to the collections.
A new refreshment counter was created in the new Museum building, Switzers Buttery. The former open verandah was enclosed with a new disabled ramp and a new room for teas overlooking the gardens was created using reclaimed materials from other parts of the grounds.
A bandstand was built in the garden toward the end of the summer of 2015 and in September was used for the first Brass on the Grass concert for over 14 years. The following year 2016 saw no less than 8 brass band concerts, a wedding and two well attended plays being performed in the gardens. The bandstand is one of the three places licenced for weddings & civil partnerships. Sunday afternoon band concerts (12pm -2pm ) have been regular events ever since.
2016 ... A new special section in the museum was created the Methodist Connection Collection to tell the story of the profound influence that the ministry of John & Charles Wesley had on the lives of the Cornish miner and other Cornish folk in the 1700s. There were Wesleyan chapels all over Cornwall. Since 2016 the collection has been expanded to include no less than two full sized church pipe organs, one built in Truro as a WW1 memorial to the fallen of the Treverva area. We have another in storage and another is set to be relocated here in June 2017.
There are lots of monogrammed china from various local and other places. The entire contents of the 1805 Georgian Sunday School from Flushing on the Fal River are on display. The major contents of the 1816 Flushing Methodist Church are now in our care. The 1880 communion table and chairs from Falmouth Pikes Hill Methodist Chapel are in the museum. The chapel was demolished long ago. There is inter alia an 1850s era octagonal baptismal font carved in dark Cornish Serpentine that was used at Falmouth until 2016. The charismatic Billy Bray was a tin miner-preacher in the early 1800s - he was virtually a pauper but nonetheless raised funds to build no less than three Bible Christian chapels and mention is made of him in the collection too.
It is often forgotten that most of the Methodist chapels in Cornwall were funded over many years literally by the hard-earned pennies of miners, farm workers and fishermen - at one time there were over 900 in use. Miners going abroad would send money to their chapels and families too. 184 chapels are now listed buildings but year by year more are closing down and turning to other uses. Many of the first local village schools & some secondary schools or colleges were opened & run by the Methodist church, most of these were later taken over by the state in the early 1900s but some survived. The miners would sing Wesleys hymns below ground as did the bal maidens and workers on the surface, or on the way to the mines in their clogs, aprons and white buckram or straw hats. Services were sometimes held in the underground passageways, there were several miners who were much respected preachers. The charismatic Billy Bray was a miner & evangelical preacher, he literally built no less than three chapels, much by his own hands. The museum is aiming to save as much as possible of Cornish Methodist churches and chapels and to tell the story of Methodism and its effect on the lives of the Cornish people and elsewhere in the world through missionary work and migration.
2016... Early Summer in 2016 saw old buildings at the mine being bulldozed, the gardens much improved and a volunteer group established. Volunteers commenced clearance of the woodland gardens and to restore machinery and buildings.
2016 ... December 2016 saw the museum being expanded to include a section on Tin & Copper called Techno Tin that encompasses telegraphy, telephony and telecommunications. During the year six large cabinets were presented by the Tank Museum at Bovington. Two large circular modern chandeliers arrived at the same time. These cabinets and lights came from Harrods in Knightsbridge London. The huge lanterns now illuminate the shop and ticket counter. A better and bigger book & rock shop was created along with a new entrance hallway and opened on December 3rd.
2017... In May the Book, Rock & Memento shop bookcases, counter, shelves and other fittings were presented to the museum by the National Trust from the Elgar Birthplace Museum in Worcestershire.
2017 ... In April no less than eight large state-of-the-art professional museum cabinets were presented to the mine museum by the National Museum of Wales. This enabled most of the old cabinets to be removed and the museum has been in the throes of being slowly re-organised since June. We hope to complete a more extensive museum by the end of the summer. This will enable expansion into the present storage area which will add a further 70 feet of museum space.
In brief ....
The world-famous Poldark Mine and ancient tinning floors are a UNESCO World Heritage location. The grounds also contain a Bronze-Age Scheduled Ancient Monument to tin working - the only such monument in the South West.
The mine & tin dressing floors are celebrated for their unrivalled industrial history from the 13th century and for more recent links with the popular Poldark BBC television part fictional series of the 1970s. Scenes being filmed within the labyrinth of mine levels.
Winston Graham, author of the Poldark books, was a regular visitor here launching his final book at the mine in 2002 amid much celebration and media interest, it was he who re-named the ancient Huel Roots Mine as Poldark Mine some 40 years ago.
In 2014 the Mine was again used as the location for all of the underground sequences for a new BBC broadcasting of the Poldark series. A number of artifacts from the museum at Poldark Mine were used as props in the filming and can be seen by visitors.
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