Tin mining in Britain

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The ruined engine houses of Botallack Mine, Cornwall Botallack Crowns engine houses.jpg
The ruined engine houses of Botallack Mine, Cornwall
Tinners' gullies near the Warren House Inn, Dartmoor Tinners gullies near Warren House Inn.jpg
Tinners' gullies near the Warren House Inn, Dartmoor

Tin mining in Britain took place from prehistoric times, [1] during Bronze Age Britain, until the 20th century. Mention of tin mining in Britain was made by many Classical writers. Tin is necessary to smelt bronze, an alloy that played a vital cultural role during the Bronze Age. As South-West Britain was one of the few parts of Anglian stage England to escape glaciation, tin ore was readily available on the surface. Originally it is likely that cassiterite alluvial deposits in the gravels of streams were exploited but later underground working took place. Shallow cuttings were then used to extract ore. In the 19th century advances in mining engineering enabled the exploitation of much deeper mines. In a few cases these mines even extended both to multiple levels and workings below the seabed. [2] [3] [4]


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Dartmoor tin mining

The tin mining industry on Dartmoor, Devon, England, is thought to have originated in pre-Roman times, and continued right through to the 20th century, when the last commercially worked mine closed in November 1930. From the 12th century onwards tin mining was regulated by a stannary parliament which had its own laws.

Mounts Bay Bay on the south coast of Cornwall, England

Mount's Bay is a large, sweeping bay on the English Channel coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom, stretching from the Lizard Point to Gwennap Head. In the north of the bay, near Marazion, is St Michael's Mount; the origin of name of the bay. In summer, it is a large, benign, scenic, natural harbour. However, in winter, onshore gales present maritime risks, particularly for sailing ships. There are more than 150 known wrecks from the nineteenth century in the area. The eastern side of the bay centred around Marazion and St Michael's Mount was designated as a Marine Conservation Zone in January 2016.

Mining in Cornwall and Devon Mining in the English counties of Cornwall and Devon

Mining in Cornwall and Devon, in the southwest of England, began in the early Bronze Age, around 2150 BC. Tin, and later copper, were the most commonly extracted metals. Some tin mining continued long after the mining of other metals had become unprofitable, but ended in the late 20th century. In 2021, it was announced that a new mine was extracting battery-grade lithium carbonate, more than 20 years after the closure of the last South Crofty tin mine in Cornwall in 1998.

Gwennap Human settlement in England

Gwennap is a village and civil parish in Cornwall, England. It is about five miles (8 km) southeast of Redruth. Hamlets of Burncoose, Comford, Coombe, Crofthandy, Cusgarne, Fernsplatt, Frogpool, Hick's Mill, Tresamble and United Downs lie in the parish, as does Little Beside country house.

Prideaux Castle is a multivallate Iron Age hillfort situated atop a 133 m (435 ft) high conical hill near the southern boundary of the parish of Luxulyan, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is also sometimes referred to as Prideaux Warren, Prideaux War-Ring, or Prideaux Hillfort. The site is a scheduled monument and so protected from unauthorised works by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

Geology of Cornwall

The geology of Cornwall, England, is dominated by its granite backbone, part of the Cornubian batholith, formed during the Variscan orogeny. Around this is an extensive metamorphic aureole formed in the mainly Devonian slates that make up most of the rest of the county. There is an area of sandstone and shale of Carboniferous age in the north east, and the Lizard peninsula is formed of a rare section of uplifted oceanic crust.

Whiteworks Former mining hamlet in Devon, England

Whiteworks is a former mining hamlet near the town of Princetown, within Dartmoor National Park, in the English county of Devon. Tin mining is central to the history of settlement at Whiteworks, which was once home to one of Dartmoor's largest tin mines. The original cottages and their inhabitants were related to this industry, until the area became used increasingly for farming in the 20th century. The site has now largely been abandoned, although Whiteworks is still on the route of many walks including Abbots Way Walk passes 500 m to the west.

Mining in Roman Britain

Mining was one of the most prosperous activities in Roman Britain. Britain was rich in resources such as copper, gold, iron, lead, salt, silver, and tin, materials in high demand in the Roman Empire. Sufficient supply of metals was needed to fulfill the demand for coinage and luxury artefacts by the elite.The Romans started panning and puddling for gold. The abundance of mineral resources in the British Isles was probably one of the reasons for the Roman conquest of Britain. They were able to use advanced technology to find, develop and extract valuable minerals on a scale unequaled until the Middle ages.

Poldark Mine is a tourist attraction near the town of Helston in Cornwall, England, UK. It lies within the Wendron Mining District of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. Its features include underground guided tours through ancient tin mine workings, a museum of industrial heritage, mining equipment and Cornish social history, a scheduled ancient monument and riverside gardens.

Pentewan Human settlement in England

Pentewan is a coastal village and former port in south Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is situated at grid reference SX 019 472 3 miles (4.8 km) south of St Austell at the mouth of the St Austell River.

Bal maiden Female manual labourer

A bal maiden, from the Cornish language bal, a mine, and the English "maiden", a young or unmarried woman, was a female manual labourer working in the mining industries of Cornwall and western Devon, at the south-western extremity of Great Britain. The term has been in use since at least the early 18th century. At least 55,000 women and girls worked as bal maidens, and the actual number is likely to have been much higher.

Mining archaeology is a specific field well-developed in the British Isles during recent decades. A reason of ongoing interest in this field is the particular bond between regional history and the exploitation of metals. References to mines in the area exist in Strabo's works. However the first accomplished study on the topic was attempted by Oliver Davies in 1935. Other momentous researches were that of geologist John S. Jackson about mines in Ireland and Lewis, Jones in Dolaucothi goldmine in Wales, and the pioneering work of Ronald F. Tylecote. Moreover, in the 1980s and 1990s a new generation of amateurs and scientists began investigations in different locations in the British Isles, including Duncan James on the Great Orme's Head, Simon Timberlake with the Early Mines Research Group at sites in Wales and William O'Brien in Ireland.

Metals and metal working had been known to the people of modern Italy since the Bronze Age. By 53 BC, Rome had expanded to control an immense expanse of the Mediterranean. This included Italy and its islands, Spain, Macedonia, Africa, Asia Minor, Syria and Greece; by the end of the Emperor Trajan's reign, the Roman Empire had grown further to encompass parts of Britain, Egypt, all of modern Germany west of the Rhine, Dacia, Noricum, Judea, Armenia, Illyria, and Thrace. As the empire grew, so did its need for metals.

Wheal Vor was a metalliferous mine about 2 miles (3.2 km) north west of Helston and 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the village of Breage in the west of Cornwall, England, UK. It is considered to be part of the Mount's Bay mining district. Until the mid-19th century the mine was notable for its willingness to try out new innovations. Although very rich in copper and tin ores, the mine never lived up to its expectations: during the later part of the 19th century it had several periods of closure, and an attempt to reopen it in the 1960s was not successful mainly because of bureaucracy. Today the site is part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape.

Ding Dong mines Old mining area in Cornwall

The Ding Dong mines lie in an old and extensive mining area situated in the parish of Madron, in Penwith, Cornwall, England. They are about two miles north east of the St Just to Penzance road. They look out over Mount's Bay and St Michael's Mount to the south west. Since 2006 the site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, part of Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape.

Tin sources and trade in ancient times

Tin is an essential metal in the creation of tin-bronzes, and its acquisition was an important part of ancient cultures from the Bronze Age onward. Its use began in the Middle East and the Balkans around 3000 BC. Tin is a relatively rare element in the Earth's crust, with about two parts per million (ppm), compared to iron with 50,000 ppm, copper with 70 ppm, lead with 16 ppm, arsenic with 5 ppm, silver with 0.1 ppm, and gold with 0.005 ppm. Ancient sources of tin were therefore rare, and the metal usually had to be traded over very long distances to meet demand in areas which lacked tin deposits.

Holmbush, Cornwall Human settlement in England

Holmbush is a village in Cornwall, England that is situated in the suburban area of St Austell. It was a centre for tin and copper mining in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with a few houses to the south of the A390 road. It was developed in the 1970s, with the construction of housing and an industrial estate to the north of the road. Since 1974, the site of Cuddra mine has been developed as Pine Lodge Gardens, an attraction holding over 6,000 varieties of plants, many collected by the owner on plant hunting expeditions.

Tin mining began early in the Bronze Age, as bronze is a copper-tin alloy. Tin is a relatively rare element in the Earth's crust, with approximately 2 ppm, compared to iron with 50,000 ppm.

Mulberry Downs Quarry is a disused opencast tin mine in Cornwall, England, UK. Today the site is described as a 'chasm' being a steep or sheer-sided pit 700 foot (210 m) long and up to 100 foot (30 m) deep, and the quarry and immediate surroundings are heavily wooded. The quarry was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1973 for its geological interest.

Devon Great Consols Former copper mine in Devon, England

Devon Great Consols was a copper mine near Tavistock in Devon. The lease on the site was taken from the Duke of Bedford in 1844 by a group of investors. The 1,024 shares, sold at one pound each, were divided among the six men. Earlier attempts to mine this property had all ended in failure.


  1. French, C. N. "The 'Submerged Forest' palaeosols of Cornwall" (PDF). The 'Submerged Forest' Palaeosols of Cornwall. Geoscience in South-west England. 1999. 9: 365–369. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  2. Hawkes, J. R. (1974). "Volcanism and metallogenesis: the tin province of South-West England". Bulletin Volcanologique. 38 (3): 1125–1146. Bibcode:1974BVol...38.1125H. doi:10.1007/BF02597110. S2CID   140694894.
  3. Developments in the Early Bronze Age Metallurgy of Southern Britain by S. P. Needham, M. N. Leese, D. R. Hook and M. J. Hughes, World Archaeology Vol. 20, No. 3, Archaeometallurgy (Feb., 1989), pp. 383-402
  4. Metal Makes the World Go Round