12 Cornish Mining Facts

January 08th, 2024

Cornwall boasts a rich mining heritage, with many historic engine houses and crumbling mining structures still gracing the county’s impressive coastline. The now iconic landmarks hint at an industrious past when Cornish miners were celebrated as some of the best in the world.

With a history spanning from antiquity to the mining heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, there is so much to learn – about the landscape, natural resources and communities that made many of the mines’ success possible.

1. Cornish mining can be traced to the bronze age

The Cornish landscape has provided plentiful mining resources for several thousand years. During what we now call the bronze age, copper and tin were among the most extracted metals as they were key in the production of bronze.

Fast forward to Roman-occupied Britain, and Cornish tin was being traded across the world with an emerging network of international trade.

2. Advances in gunpowder were key

In the 17th century, advancements in the use of gunpowder to blast through rock meant Cornish miners could keep up with rising demands for copper. This new, effective method for deepening mines and breaking through granite was key in developing the burgeoning success of copper mining in the early 18th century.

A view of an old Cornish mines from the cliffs

3. South Crofty was the last tin mine in the UK to close

South Crofty is one of Cornwall’s most well-known mines, with the first documented production dating back to 1592. Since then, it has seen intermittent production until it closed in 1998 after several years of decreasing tin prices.

However, this closure wasn’t the end of the mine – after changing ownership several times, various projects have been planned for the site, and new mining rights have been obtained.

4. Cornish tin miners had specific rights

The Stannary Charter of 1201 gave tine miners the right to mine for tin on anyone’s land. This same charter (and subsequent amendments) meant tinners were only subject to certain laws and taxes. They could also only be arrested and judged by the so-called Lord Warden of the Stannaries.

Stannary Law continued to be used in some form into the late 19th century.

The ultimate guide to Cornish folkore

5. Steam engines were introduced early

To get access to deeper reserves, better drainage systems were required. This led to the early introduction of steam engines in Cornish mines, which were used as early as the 1730s. The engine house is now an iconic symbol of Cornish mining and was a crucial part of keeping up with increased demand in the 18th century.

A ruin of a Cornish mine

6. There was an increase in arsenic mining in the 19th century

During the late 19th century, a few of Cornwall’s mines were producing more than half of the arsenic in the world.

Created as a by-product during the processing of copper and tin, the arsenic was used as an insecticide and an ingredient in paint. Due to the dangerous nature of arsenic, clay was used as a protective layer to cover the miners’ skin while at work.

Along with arsenic, copper and tin, some other metals were also historically mined, including silver and zinc.

7. Women were key players in the mining industry

While mining is often thought of as a male-dominated job, women and girls played their part in the mining process too. They may not have gone underground, but they were an essential part of the mining processes. Known as ‘Bal Maidens’, these women would help to separate the tin from any other mined substances.

The best secret beaches in Cornwall

8. Dolcoath mine is the deepest in Cornwall

The largest and deepest mine in Cornwall, Dolcoath’s principal shaft reaches 3,300ft (1,000m) below the surface. Tragically, the mine is also known for a major accident in 1893, where seven men were killed in a collapse.

9. Many mines are known as ‘wheals’

You’ll often see the word ‘wheal’ prefixing the name of a Cornish mine. This term tends to mean a place of work/working (i.e. a mine). One of the most iconic is Wheal Coates – its remains sit magnificently on the cliff side along from St Agnes Head and Chapel Porth beach, allowing for some unbeatable views and photo opportunities.

The ruin of Wheal Coates mine engine house

10. Cornish mines have World Heritage status

In 2006, various mining sites across Cornwall became UNESCO World Heritage Sites, indicating their historical and cultural significance. This puts our beloved mines in good company, with other world-famous landmarks, such as Stonehenge, Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China being awarded the same status.

The site consists of ten unique areas spanning from west Cornwall to west Devon.

11. Cornwall has turned its sights to lithium mining

While tin and copper may no longer be the focus, there are some new mining opportunities for Cornwall. The coming years will see an uptick in lithium mining, which is a key component in the production of electric cars and other batteries. Projects like this follow in the footsteps of a proud heritage, reviving the long-standing Cornish industry.

12. You can visit lots of Cornish mines

While Cornwall’s mining heyday might be over, there are still plenty of ways to experience and appreciate this integral part of the county’s history. With museums, attractions and tours of the mines themselves, you can get up close with the past.

One popular tourist spot is Poldark Mine, which is the only complete underground tin mine open for public visits. Due to its connection to the popular TV drama of the same name, visitors come from near and far to learn more about Cornish mining.

The best outdoor attractions in Cornwall

Our luxury holiday park in Cornwall is ideally situated with easy access to many of the leading mining attractions and spectacular historical sites. So, if you want to explore Cornwall’s mining heritage for yourself, why not make The Valley your base?

We’re also a stone’s throw away from several stunning beaches and other top tourist spots, so you can make the most of your Cornish adventure.


What is Cornwall Famous For?

June 21st, 2021

Cornwall is celebrated for many reasons; the gorgeous coastline, the incredible ales and locally produced foods and the welcoming feeling you get when you arrive. There are a number of things that Cornwall is famous for – we take a look at what puts Cornwall on the map!

If you’re feeling inspired for a stay at our luxury accommodation in Cornwall by the end of this post, then The Valley is the perfect place to make your base for visiting all that Cornwall has to offer!

Freshly cooked Cornish pasties

Pasties

For many, Cornish Pasties will be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the coastal county.

The reliable and delicious pasty and all its glorious variations have been part of the British diet for hundreds of years. With fillings to suit all tastes, seasons and locations, the pasty is, for many, a true and unique taste of Cornwall.

What are the Origins of the Cornish Pasty?

During the 17th century, miner’s wives in Cornwall would send their husbands off to work and wanted to provide a filling and practical bite to eat, which was when the beloved pasty became popular in the area. A hot filling, with vegetables, meat and a delicious gravy, all wrapped in crumbly pastry, was the perfect option for a long, hard day at work.

Some of the mines in Cornwall even installed pasty ovens, so the workers could bring their raw pasties down, and cook them fresh on their lunch.

Pies

Cornwall is famous for delicious short-crust pastry pies. Family recipes that have been passed down through generations, with variations in each family, offer an authentic taste of Cornwall.

What is Stargazy Pie?

The Stargazy pie is the most recognisable by the smell and sight, with the heads of pilchards that poke their way through the pastry being not easily forgotten. The heads mimic the idea of staring up at the night’s sky, with the fish admiring the stars.

The creation supposedly began in Mousehole and was a tradition which celebrates the fisherman Tom Bawcock, who, as legend has you believe, braved a ferocious sea in the hope of bringing back a large catch to feed his starving village. When the catch was brought back, it was made into the famous Stargazy pie.

This celebration still takes place around Cornwall on the 23rd of December every year.

Poldark

While the books were first published back in 1945, it has been the most recent BBC interpretation of Poldark that has truly put Cornwall on the map.

The series has formed a whole new tourism spin for the county, with fans of the show flocking to Cornwall to head off on tours to see the gorgeous landscapes that make up the filming sites for the show for themselves.

Beaches

With over 300 beaches across 300 miles of coastline in this coastal county, it is no surprise that there are some incredible seaside spots to visit.

From the tropical feel of lying on the sand in the sun to catching some waves from some of the best surf in the country, the beaches in Cornwall provide something for everyone and are beautiful all year round.

Bagpipes

The Cornish Bagpipes have been used as part of ceremonies and celebrations as early as the 14th century. The instruments take true craftsmanship to create, which very few people today can still accomplish.

The recognisable Cornish sound, which is pitched in a low D, is made by the two long chanters, which can be played independently to produce a pleasant harmony.

Kilts and Tartan

Each colour and pattern of tartan have an important meaning, with each Kilt worn for a variety of reasons. Tartans can be worn as a representation of a family, special occasions such as the Cornish National Day or hunting expeditions, in combat, and others represented a specific location within Cornwall.

One of the earliest records of tartan and kilts being worn is from the early 19th century, although it is believed they have been worn for much longer.

Wedding Traditions

Cornish wedding traditions consist of unique, bizarre and, in some cases, completely odd practices. One of the many historical customs was the ‘giving pepper.’

A complete gorse bush would be placed in the bed of the newlyweds, and once they had reached the room and settled, the guest would rush in and beat the couple with an array of apparatuses that were all intended to cause pain.

It was said that this ritual had to take place before midnight to avoid any bad luck that could curse the marriage.

Gorse was often the primary plant used for the decoration of chapels, houses and bouquets for wedding ceremonies. The flower represented bountiful times to come, and the attractive bright yellow flowers and the summery scent was perfect for such a special occasion.

Handfasting is another Cornish wedding tradition; the couple holds hands and makes a pledge to one another, then a cord or ribbon is tied around their hands to represent the bond of their declaration to one another. Handfasting is still popular today among many Cornish couples and other newlyweds in search of an alternative wedding ceremony.

A slice of Cornish Yarg cheese on a table
Image Credit: Tristan Ferne under CC 2.0

Yarg

A 17th-century recipe and name that is recognised worldwide – Yarg, a sumptuous lemony cheese wrapped in nettles (don’t worry, they won’t sting) that is produced in the heart of the Cornish countryside.

The recipe was found by a Cornish farmer named Alan Gray, which is where the origin of the name of the cheese comes from, contrary to common belief that it is a word from the Cornish language; Gray spelt backwards is Yarg.

The cheese continues to win awards for taste, appearance and the traditional methods used to make it.

Language

The Cornish language originates from the Celtic races that occupied parts of England and Europe. The language is said to be similar to Welsh, and both of the languages date to pre-Roman periods.

The Cornish language is now being promoted, and many individuals and communities are being encouraged to learn it, to keep the history and tradition alive.

Folklore

One of the most famous Cornish legends is that the birthplace of King Arthur was the picturesque and postcard village of Tintagel. The remains of the powerful and breath-taking castle also remain on the coastline of the village, with folklore claiming that the cave below is Merlin’s.

Cornwall has an endless supply of myths and legends, from mermaids to giants! You can read about more of these tales on our blog.

the ultimate guide to Cornish folklore blog banner

Celebrities

There have been several famous people who have grown up and lived in the beautiful part of the country, Cornwall.

Mick Fleetwood from the world-famous band Fleetwood Mac was born and raised in Redruth. Roger Taylor, the drummer from the band Queen, went to school in Truro and now lives near the beautiful town of Falmouth. The famous actor, Robert Shaw, from the films ‘Jaws’ and ‘From Russia With Love’, spent much of his childhood growing up in Truro.

Your Cornish holiday would not be complete without trying a Cornish pie or pasty or visiting one of the magical places that are immersed in folklore. Where will you head on your holiday?


5 Fascinating Facts About the Lizard Peninsula

October 19th, 2020

 

The Lizard Peninsula is the most southern part of the UK, standing out for its unique geology and rock formations. Its rugged, rocky coastline is believed to contain rock which dates to over 500 million years old!

 

What is the Lizard Peninsula?

 

Almost an island of its own, the Lizard Peninsula is an impressive rocky headland surrounded by ocean on three of its sides with the Helford River to the North.

 

Situated on the South West Coast Path, it is a popular spot for walkers who come to marvel at its beauty as they enjoy a spot of adventure during their Cornwall short breaks.

 

It’s beautiful landscape not only attracts the attention of visitors, but the unique area is a hot spot for scientists as well! We explore its incredible history and offerings with our top selection of fascinating facts!

 

Rocky Cornish coastline
 

The Origins of Its Name is Not What You Assume

 

Despite its mysterious title, the name ‘Lizard’ unfortunately doesn’t derive from mystical origins.

 

Neither does the name come from the Serpentine rock which the area is renowned for. The surface of Serpentine transforms into a snake and scaly like surface once polished.

 

The roots of its name are relatively ambivalent, but one proposal is that it comes from the Cornish term ‘Lys Ardh’ which means ‘high court’.

 


Another suggestion is that the name has connections to the Cornish word ‘lezou’ which is translated to ‘headland’.

 

 

The RNLI boathouse at Lizard

Image Credit: Visit Cornwall

 

Home to the UK’s Most Southerly Lighthouse

 

As the most southerly point in the UK, it comes as little surprise that it also boasts the UK’s most southerly lighthouse.

 

Previous to the lighthouse’s construction in 1752, the coast of the Lizard was a dangerous area for ships and was titled the ‘Graveyard of Ships’. The spot is now home to the Lizard Lifeboat Station.

 

Serpentine rock

CC by Laurel F

 

Mainland Britain’s Largest Outcrop of Serpentine

 

As mentioned, the Lizard Peninsula has been a point of interest for scientists and geologists.

 

It isn’t uncommon to see many university students visit the area as the rocks here are not found in nearby locations.

 

One distinct rock is Serpentine. The Lizard Peninsula is mainland Britain’s most significant outcrop of the rock. It’s striking appearance was reportedly favoured by Queen Victoria which heightened the industry in the 19th-century.

 

Best Preserved Exposed Ophiolite in the UK

 

Another area of geological interest at the Lizard Peninsula is the ophiolite.

 

The Lizard Peninsula is heralded as UK’s top spot to see the best-preserved source of exposed ophiolite.

 

An ophiolite is a unique form of rock formation which is produced from the Earth’s oceanic crust pushed onto the continental crust. It is often green in colour.

 

The parts of ophiolite include:

• The serpentinites
• The ‘oceanic complex’
• The metamorphic basement

 

An ophiolite can be found in the mountain belts of locations such as the Himalayas and the Alps, and amazingly you can also see it in Cornwall!

 

Coastline at the Lizard

Image Credit: Visit Cornwall

 

It’s an Area of Outstanding Beauty

 

The Lizard Peninsula has received many awards for its stunning landscape and is a heavily protected area. It is largely recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as well as providing eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These awards and sites are specifically bestowed to protect the geology and wildlife of the area.

 

The Lizard Peninsula is cared for and under the ownership of a variety of organisations including the National Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural England.

 

Off land, the surrounding ocean at the Manacles has been awarded as a Marine Conservation Zone which is rich in marine biodiversity.

 

The Lizard Peninsula is a stunning, natural and protected area, providing the ultimate location for wildlife to blossom. What are your favourite facts about the Lizard Peninsula? Which has not been covered in our blog? Why not share your thoughts on our social media channels; we would love to know!