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HER Number:14022
Name:WEST PHOENIX - Post Medieval mine


The mine worked for tin between 1872 and 1875, and for copper from 1877-1886. It was amalgamated with Phoenix United in 1886 and was closed in 1889. The buildings were demolished as a military exercise in the 1950's

Grid Reference:SX 2522 7217
Parish:St Cleer, Caradon, Cornwall
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Protected Status

  • Conservation Area: MINIONS

Other References/Statuses

  • Cornwall PROJECT ID: IN
  • National Mapping Programme (Morph No.): 385.22.1
  • Primary Record No. (1985-2009): 14022
  • SHINE Candidate (Yes)
  • SMR No. (OS Quarter-sheet and SMR No.): SX27SE 22

Monument Types

  • MINE (19th Century to Unknown - 1886 AD)

Full description

Early underground working on this site, as part of Witheybrook (14039) and Old Stowes (14018) probably dates from the days of the 'Old Men' who worked the east-west Stowes lode from the surface by lode-back workings virtually continuously from the upper end of the Clanacombe Valley to the west side of the Witheybrook Streamworks (14047), during the working of which the existence of the lode may have been discovered. References to the working of this ground below Stowes Hill survive from as early as 1513, when "Wethybrok Work" is recorded (see b9 for details); references to "Callapoll Worke" in 1570 (b9), "welcome to one, or Cowlapoole" and "Little Witheybrook or Broadway" in 1691 (b9) and " Witheybrook Tinwork" in 1727 (b10) indicate tin working in this area over a long period of time.

Setts here were taken up and re-worked by Cornwall Great United Mines (14056/7) during the 1830's, when they probably consisted of shallow shafts connected to a drainage adit. The valley-bottom shaft at Witheybrook was worked for some time by a horse-whim, and later by a small engine set up by an Exeter company (1851), but work had effectively ceased by 1863 (b11) and was "idle" by 1865 (b12). The sett was taken up again for copper and tin by Phoenix Mine as Phoenix and West Phoenix United Mines (or Phoenix United (14020)) in 1886 as it was recognised that this ground had been little developed below that reached by surface workings (b13, 14).

Eventually underground work began on the site, and a new range of buildings were constructed to house a 70" pumping engine at Norris' shaft, with a 24" rotary engine a little to the south, and a small range of ancillary structures (Materials House, Account House, Smith's Shop, Miner's Dry and Carpenter's Shop) beside an access road. Material hauled from the shaft was probably stamped by the rotative engine. The 70" engine had had a varied history, it appears, for it is almost certain that this was the 1853 12' external beamed engine built by J.E.Mare (Plymouth Foundry), designed by Hocking and Loam for Exmouth and Adams Utd. at Christow in Devon. It had been sold in 1862 to Old Wheal Neptune (Perranuthnoe), then re-erected in 1869 at the nearby Great Western Mines (Perranuthnoe) having been altered to a 12' x 10' beamed engine. The engine was next recorded when offered for sale in February 1873, but was re-used on the same site when the mine was reworked as Florence Consols until March 1875, after which it was sold in July 1876 to a S.Wales buyer. An engine matching this description was offered for sale at West Phoenix in November 1898. (b15).

There are some returns for tin between 1872-5, and the mine worked for copper from 1877-86, but output figures are hidden within those for Phoenix United, or confused with Stowes mine. Employment figures for the later years (1880-86) show only small numbers employed. The fate of West Phoenix was bound up with that of the rest of Phoenix United from their amalgamation in 1886 (b14), and was thus closed with the remainder of the group of mines in 1889. A short period of re-working is noted for 1891-8 (b16). The Ordnance Survey show the locations of the two engine houses, shaft, ancillary buildings and roadway, but little else (OS, 1880). More usefully, a plan of the surface remains (probably dating from the early 1880's) gives a good deal of detail of the layout of site components, and enables some interpretation of the field evidence to be carried out (see b9 for reference).

A local story has it that this mine (referred to as Goldiggings Copper Mine) worked a good lode of copper, but holed into Witheybrook Marsh, flooded, and had to be closed (b9). There is no corroboration for this story in any other located account of the mine, and it is probably mythical. The buildings were demolished as a military exercise in the 1950's (b7). Shambrook, suggests that this occurred between 1939-45, but this may be based on his assumption that this was a period when military demolition was most likely to have taken place (b17).

Site surveyed by Sharpe in 1987 (b9). Being an extractive site only, the structural remains are relatively simple, and are dominated by the rubble piles of the two engine-houses. This is a sad site: a reminder of earlier attitudes towards industrial sites that have by no means entirely disappeared today. Photographs of these buildings from the 1950's show an impressive collection of buildings, in what appear to be reasonable structural condition. Had they survived to the 1980's, they would be high on the list of sites to conserve. Much of the cut stonework has been removed from the site, but a fragment of bedstone still sits on the summit of the pumping engine mound (SX 2523 7215), and sections of window-head bricking can be seen lying amongst the debris, together with fragments of timber and metal. The remnants of a granite loading protrude northwards from the whim and stamps engine site (SX 2525 7212), and whilst the chimneys have gone, sections of their flues, and the rough outlines of one of the boiler-houses are just visible.

The foundations of the ancillary buildings are clear (SX 2522 7206), and reveal a range of remarkably small structures: the Carpenter's Shop detached and to the north has left few traces beyond a rectangular pit 10m x 2m x 1.2m deep; the Materials House measures 8m x 5m; the Account House 5m x 5m, with an internal dividing wall and chimney (very small rooms !); the Smith's Shop 4.2m x 5m and the Dry 3m x 5. With the exception of the Carpenter's Shop, all are within one build, and doors opened onto the service road to the south-west. The boiler-pond, and its feeder-leat can be seen to the south of the shaft (SX 2525 7210). Water was drawn from a large reservoir created by the construction of the massive stone-faced dam across the streamworks gully that still holds back a substantial pond, and led to the site by the leat curving across the moor from its west side. Evidently there was adequate surface water available for the boilers, for the pumped water was allowed to flow away to the north towards the streamworks from the now-choked shaft. Some material from the dumps has been removed, probably to surface the Goldiggings Quarry (14017) road, from which the hard-surfaced mine access road diverges at SX 2549 7187. In the vicinity can be seen lode back workings on and near the Stowe's Lode, and a scatter of prospecting pits that indicate where the lode was lost on the slopes of the hill below Goldiggings.

These engines houses should not be, but are, a messy eyesore, being fresh-looking piles of rubble. The remainder of the buildings are stable, if rather incomprehensible to the general public, given the absence of the engine houses, and the dumps, although robbed, are substantial. Leats and ponds are clear, as are roadways to, and within the site, and the roadway over the hill to the incline leading to the Phoenix dressing floors is (with the exception of a short section in the valley bottom) in good condition. The site is covered by hard-grazed moorland grasses, with a very small amount of short gorse in clumps. This is a popular area for walkers, who make their way down the hill from Cheesewring Quarry (14016), or along the roadway from Minions to Goldiggings Quarry. Several buildings and a chimney, shafts, and spoil tips are visible on air photographs (p1) and were plotted as part of the NMP.

Site history:
1: 1987. SHARPE, A / CAU

Cornwall Archaeological Unit, 2015, Minions Film Impacts 2015, Cornwall (Report). SCO27261.

<1> Webb & Geach, 1863, History and Progress of Mining in the Caradon and Liskeard District, 75 (Bibliographic reference). SCO5031.

<p1> RAF, 1946, 3G/TUD/137/5353 (Photographic Record). SCO10715.

<2> UNKNOWN, 1881, NOTICE OF SALE, 16/6/1881 (Unedited Source). SCO6380.

<3> Ordnance Survey, 1900s, 2nd Edition 1:2500 Map (Cartographic materials). SCO4050.

<4> Collins, JH, 1912, Observations on the West of England Mining Region, 551 (Bibliographic reference). SCO3168.

<5> Dines, HG, 1956, The Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England, 591-594 (Bibliographic reference). SCO3217.

<6> Ordnance Survey, 1970s, 1:10,000 OS Map (Cartographic materials). SCO4045.

<7> Ordish, HG, 1967, Cornish Engine Houses, VOL 2, 18 (Bibliographic reference). SCO4044.

<8> UNKNOWN, 1977, UNKNOWN TITLE, NO 73, 15 (Unedited Source). SCO8404.

<9> Sharpe, A, 1989, The Minions Survey, 153-156 (Bibliographic reference). SCO4378.

<10> Harvey, EG, 1875, Mullyon: its History, Scenery and Antiquities (Bibliographic reference). SCO3465.

<11> Worth, RH, 1880, A Sketch of the Life of William West of Tredenham (Cartographic materials). SCO5073.

<12> Spargo, T, 1865, The Mines of Cornwall (Bibliographic reference). SCO4470.

<13> Barton, DB, 1964, A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of E Cornwall and W Devon, 47-55 (Bibliographic reference). SCO2784.

<14> Barton, DB, 1967, A History of Tin Mining and Smelting in Cornwall, 193 (Bibliographic reference). SCO2786.

<15> Barton, DB, 1965, The Cornish Beam Engine (Bibliographic reference). SCO2788.

<16> Burt, R, Waite, P & Burnley, R, 1987, Cornish Mines: Metalliferous and Associated Minerals, 1845-1913, 364-365 (Bibliographic reference). SCO2974.

<17> Shambrook, HR, 1982, The Caradon and Phoenix Mining Area (Bibliographic reference). SCO4339.

Sources / Further Reading

---SCO27261 - Report: Cornwall Archaeological Unit. 2015. Minions Film Impacts 2015, Cornwall. Devon and Cornwall.
[p1]SCO10715 - Photographic Record: RAF. 1946. 3G/TUD/137/5353. ABP.
[1]SCO5031 - Bibliographic reference: Webb & Geach. 1863. History and Progress of Mining in the Caradon and Liskeard District. 75.
[2]SCO6380 - Unedited Source: UNKNOWN. 1881. NOTICE OF SALE. WEST BRITON. 16/6/1881.
[3]SCO4050 - Cartographic materials: Ordnance Survey. 1900s. 2nd Edition 1:2500 Map.
[4]SCO3168 - Bibliographic reference: Collins, JH. 1912. Observations on the West of England Mining Region. 551.
[5]SCO3217 - Bibliographic reference: Dines, HG. 1956. The Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England. 591-594.
[6]SCO4045 - Cartographic materials: Ordnance Survey. 1970s. 1:10,000 OS Map.
[7]SCO4044 - Bibliographic reference: Ordish, HG. 1967. Cornish Engine Houses. VOL 2, 18.
[8]SCO8404 - Unedited Source: UNKNOWN. 1977. UNKNOWN TITLE. PMMC. NO 73, 15.
[9]SCO4378 - Bibliographic reference: Sharpe, A. 1989. The Minions Survey. 153-156.
[10]SCO3465 - Bibliographic reference: Harvey, EG. 1875. Mullyon: its History, Scenery and Antiquities.
[11]SCO5073 - Cartographic materials: Worth, RH. 1880. A Sketch of the Life of William West of Tredenham.
[12]SCO4470 - Bibliographic reference: Spargo, T. 1865. The Mines of Cornwall.
[13]SCO2784 - Bibliographic reference: Barton, DB. 1964. A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of E Cornwall and W Devon. 47-55.
[14]SCO2786 - Bibliographic reference: Barton, DB. 1967. A History of Tin Mining and Smelting in Cornwall. 193.
[15]SCO2788 - Bibliographic reference: Barton, DB. 1965. The Cornish Beam Engine.
[16]SCO2974 - Bibliographic reference: Burt, R, Waite, P & Burnley, R. 1987. Cornish Mines: Metalliferous and Associated Minerals, 1845-1913. 364-365.
[17]SCO4339 - Bibliographic reference: Shambrook, HR. 1982. The Caradon and Phoenix Mining Area.

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • ECO2807 - Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project historic buildings consultancy
  • ECO4428 - Minions Film Impacts 2015, Cornwall (Ref: 2015R030)

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MCO58246Parent of: WEST PHOENIX - C19 boundary stone (Monument)