On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

Last time I talked in very general terms about the main, and most obvious, sights at Botallack, a disused tin mine in Cornwall:

First, there is the enormous stone chimney, to power the pumps that maintain low water levels in the mine:

And then there is something which I have never managed to fathom out. It looks rather like Cornwall’s attempt at Peru’s Nazca lines, but constructed with stone and concrete:

In among them were two Georgian missile silos, their “Hanover” ICBMs targeted on Napoléon’s distant boudoir. Spot the photographer, by the way:

Walk a little further on to the south and there is a view of  the winding gear, the top bits of a more modern chimney, and a ruined wall. And what a sky! :

Keep walking and there is a view back towards the car park. The metal winding gear has not been used for a long time, perhaps as far back as 1900.

Again, everywhere there are ruined buildings, all of them in local stone:

At least one of the forgotten buildings was an arsenic-refining works. In areas of volcanic rock where tin and copper are mined, some nasty substances may always  be encountered such as arsenic, cadmium, lithium and even uranium.
I suspect that perhaps, over the years, the local builders and farmers have been helping themselves to many of the pre-cut stone blocks for their own walls and/or barn building or perhaps even as the hard core for country roads.

If you turn round and walk past the big stone chimney:

You can then continue for fifty or a hundred yards, until you get to the “abandoned mine engine of Wheal Owles”:

That particular disused mine is frequently used in Poldark episodes when the work force is filmed  actually working the mine. I have walked over to the Wheal Owles on just one occasion but I didn’t take any photographs. To be honest there are so many of this type of ruined pump house in this part of West Cornwall that the old adage “Seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” comes into play.

This is the view straight ahead of the bench towards the north. There is another large ruined building and then what looks like the stump of a demolished chimney nearer to the tip of the headland.

Here’s that same view looking slightly more northwards;

You can just see the reason why the BBC people chose this site. It’s at the bottom left of the photograph above, and it’s one of the Crowns mines, the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall and its second most photographed tourist site after the Men-an-Tol:

We’ll walk down to see  the Crowns mines next time.


Filed under Cornwall, Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal, Science

26 responses to “On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

  1. I’ve often wondered why when all the buildings at an industrial site have been removed or demolished the chimney or smoke stack is left standing. Do you know?

    • To be perfectly honest, I’d have to say that I don’t know, but my best guess would be that such a demolition is perhaps a difficult job to do either safely or cheaply so the owner of the site leaves it for the next owner to foot the expense. Alternatively, there may be the possibly forlorn hope that one day somebody will come along and start the mine up again. That is presumably more likely if the chimney is still there.
      Mining in Cornwall can depend hugely on the world price of copper or tin, and mines do close down and then start up again, although at the present moment there is no mining of any sort in Cornwall except china clay.
      The most typical thing to see in West Cornwall is a ruin exactly like the Wheal Owles mine in the seventh picture. The chimney and walls are still there, but somebody has “borrowed” all the roof slates!

      • Perhaps we should considered these abandoned chimneys, wherever they are throughout the world, as monuments to hopes and dreams.

      • What a lovely thought. And it’s doubly true when you think that the men who worked those Cornish mines were forced to leave their birthplace in large numbers and emigrate to Canada, Argentina and a host of other countries including the USA. Amazingly, “Some inhabitants of Tangier Island, Virginia, a former Cornish fishing settlement, have a Cornish accent that traces back to the Cornish settlers who settled there in 1686” (Wikipedia)

  2. More reminders of 1964. I spotted your shadow 🙂

  3. Your reply to ‘a gray’ answered my question, and I did spot your shadow in the picture. (It was hard to avoid it, eh)

    • It’s my trademark, a little like Alfred Hitchcock always being somewhere in the picture. I gave up doing it eventually, because the sun would not always cooperate with where I was standing.

  4. I always wanted to know what it looked like way out past Plymouth. Looking forward to more pictures.

    • Western Cornwall has a coastline almost exclusively of 200-300 feet cliffs, interrupted quite frequently by beautiful sandy beaches. Inland, there are some fields for dairy cattle but much of the higher land is covered by deep bracken with very little woodland. Huge granite blocks called “tors” break through the bracken in quite a few places and support birds such as ravens and buzzards.

  5. I’m quite a fan of old industrial sites. Thanks for all these shots. Now I might have to run around and take some of the chimneys that remain in Ballarat.

    • They are a wonderful example of our industrial past, captured wonderfully well in the paintings of LS Lowry which always seem to have lots of chimneys, all of them with lots of smoke, a sight that has disappeared completely over here.

  6. Are any of these buildings protected by English Heritage or the National Trust? I suspect most of them will be listed buildings and have preservation orders but that doesn’t automatically mean that they are cared for.

  7. I suspect that Botallack is looked after by either English Heritage or the National Trust. It may even be land owed by the South West Coastal Footpath.
    I would be very surprised indeed, though, if all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of old industrial ruins and Stone Age tombs were in the care of English Heritage or the National Trust. Preservation orders are more likely. Not many of the buildings in these two categories are in much need of preservation, however. They are usually made of hundreds of tons of granite and it would take heavy lifting gear to budge even the smallest stone. Luckily, land in western Cornwall is of extremely poor quality for agriculture, and nobody would ever bother clearing the ruins to get at even more rocks underneath.
    There is one famous story, however, of some upper class oaf destroying a famous landmark and its even more famous stone:

  8. Pingback: Chimneys. – Paol Soren

  9. Lovely pictures John. Cornwall is a land of history, with its smugglers and tales and there’s something hidden around every corner. These old mines are symbolic of that rich history.

  10. Chris Waller

    It is difficult to imagine that Cornwall, a place we now think of as a holiday destination, was once a centre of metal mining and smelting. I seem to remember reading many years ago that the Phoenicians traded for tin with the Cornish as long ago as 1,000 BC though I can’t recall the source of this claim.

    • Apparently, the claim has been in existence for several hundred years, but the archaeologists refute it saying that there is no archaeological evidence. Having said that, there was no archaeological evidence for the chimpanzee until around 2006. This page is quite interesting:
      The theory is that the Phoenicians used to land at St Michael’s Mount and moor their ships there. Tin and copper was mined all over the peninsula, with various local chieftains and their men guarding it in their stone castles (google images of “Chun Castle”, now in ruins). The chieftains, with the men at Chun Castle mercenaries of Irish origin, would bring the copper and tin down to Marazion, on the mainland opposite St Michael’s Mount, where it would be sold and then transported out to the ships. Rather than Phoenicians, one ethnic group reckoned to have traded here are the Jews, with rather strange place names scattered around the area. Marazion, for example, and no High Street in Penzance, but a Marketjew Street.
      Hence the Victorians’ belief in “Did those feet in ancient times walk upon England’s mountain’s green? ” In short, Joseph of Arimathea was a trader in copper and tin, he came to Marazion regularly. A rich man, he brought his young relation Jesus with him on occasion. They even went as far as Glastonbury where Joseph left his staff in the ground and it blossomed into a tree eventually. It is still there today, (more or less) and is the Palestinian subspecies of hawthorn. Try googling “joseph of arimathea cornwall”.

  11. A fascinating place. I don’t know if I will ever be able to go there, Thank you for sharing.

    • There are always so many interesting places on the Internet but we all get a little taste of them when people tell us about their own lives, which may be ordinary to them but fascinating to others.

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