Crowns Engine Houses, Botallack
Crowns Engine Houses at Botallack
The small historic village of Botallack, in Cornish, Bostalek, now a haven for visitors enjoying the beauty of West Penwith, was once part of Cornwall's thriving mining industry.
Botallack mine workings which include Carnyorth, Wheal Cock and the Crowns mine are famous for the magnificent granite and stone engine house which stands perched on the cliff edge, 30ft(9.1m) above the Atlantic Ocean.
The mines are now long abandoned but they live on as a romantic and picturesque reminder of what was once the lifeblood of this area of Cornwall.
Botallack and the cliffs between here and Levant are just two of the filming locations used for the BBC's latest adaptation of Poldark. The Crowns engine houses can be seen in several episodes of the series.
The following account was kindly provided by Lawrence Holmes of The Botallack Trust, part of the Carn Brea Mining Society:-
The Botallack Trust
The Botallack Trust is part of the Carn Brea Mining Society and was set up primarily to raise funds to restore the marvellous, evocative mining engine houses situated at the Crowns, St Just, Cornwall. In 1981 the Society became concerned at the deterioration of, arguably the most famous mining engine houses in the world, those of the Crowns at Botallack. A small sub committee of four members of the Society was formed and surveys, plans, specifications and costing were prepared for this major restoration project.
A 21 year lease was obtained from the Tregothnan Estate, the owners of the Crowns, and fund raising commenced in late 1981. In 1982 it was decided to form The Botallack Trust to administer the accumulated funds and carry out the restoration work. The Trust was finally declared in April 1984 and obtained charitable status in May 1984.
Over £20,000 was raised from many sources between 1982 and 1984. Largely due to the help of the late MP for Truro, Mr David Penhaligan, it was agreed that the labour was to be provided free of charge by the Manpower Services Commission. The work commenced in July 1984 and was completed in July 1985. The project became the largest privately sponsored mine engine house restoration project in Cornwall ever attempted up to that date, with a total value of work put at over £50,000. Work was only possible with the help of many bodies including the District and County Councils, Department of the Environment, private companies and Trusts and many individuals.
A little known aspect of the Crowns project was to secure the right of public access to the Crowns engine houses and few people realise that the houses were on private land owned by the Tregothnan Estate. The Trust also has the responsibility for maintenance of the houses for the duration of the 21 year lease.
The Botallack Trust is administered by six trustees who are all members of the Carn Brea Mining Society. The current Chairman is Lawrence Holmes. The objects of the Trust are not only to preserve and maintain the Crowns, but also to encourage and promote schemes to advance public education in all matters concerning the mining industry in the South West of England. The Trust, through the Carn Brea Mining Society, has been engaged in several projects in localities from west to mid Cornwall.
These include building restoration, old mine site clearance and preservation of old milling equipment at King Edward Mine near Troon, Camborne. The provision of the memorial plaque at Cargodna Shaft at Wheal Owles near St Just commemorating Cornwall’s third worst mining disaster and also a commemorative plaque at Newlyn East Village to pay tribute to the dead in Cornwall’s worst ever mining disaster at nearby East Wheal Rose in 1846. The Trust has also worked closely with the National Trust in the Wheal Edward/Owles/Kenidjack Valley area in West Penwith.
The Botallack Trust continued to maintain the two engine houses at the Crowns, pay the rent and the insurance until 26th February 2002 when the National Trust acquired the site. The Crowns at Botallack are now fully owned and maintained by the National Trust. The Trust have been so successful in promoting Botallack that many people assume the National Trust ‘saved the Crowns’. This was not so, as the words above illustrate.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BOTALLACK MINE
Botallack Mine lies in the St Just Mining area close to Land's End which is one of the oldest mining districts in Cornwall. The St Just area is believed to be the home of cliff mining, a fact which gives the area great historic significance. Small mines predominated on the coast in an almost unbroken chain. Here and there were larger concerns such as Botallack.
The mine is an ancient one, it’s lodes having been exploited since at least the year 1721. Joseph Came, writing in 1822, stated that it had been “....wrought under the sea beyond the memory of any person now living.....” The submarine levels at Wheat Cock were certainly worked in 1778, when Pryce described how the miners there became frightened by the rumbling of the rocks on the sea-bed above them during a storm.
In 1858 work began on sinking the famous Boscawen Diagonal Shaft at the Crowns to provide access to the seaward extension of its lodes a third of a mile out under the Atlantic. Many distinguished visitors came to Botallack to make the descent of this shaft and break off mineral specimens below the sea as souvenirs. Among them were the Prince and Princess of Wales (later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) who were here on July 24th, 1865 ; Queen Victoria’s 12 year-old son Prince Arthur ; a party of senior officers of the Russian Navy ; R. N. Ballantyne, the well-known Victorian author. None of them appear to have been deterred by an accident in 1863 when the wagon chain broke, sending 8 men and a boy hurtling to their deaths down the shaft. These underground 'adventures' became so popular among the nobility and the leisured class that they threatened to become a hindrance to the working of the mine unless they were restricted. A charge of half a guinea was imposed on each visitor. The money was donated to a fund for the
relief of widows and injured miners.
During the 1870's , as a result of a severe mining depression, Botallack began to make heavy losses, and in 1874 the Crowns section was abandoned. The adventurers struggled on for another 20 years but finally, in 1895, following the collapse of an underground dam in Wheat Cock, which flooded that section of the 112 fathom level, the mine was closed.
In 1905 a rise in the price of tin encouraged a new company to re-start Botallack. A new vertical shaft, known as Allen's Shaft, was sunk. After several disappointing years and the expenditure of a great deal of money, the enterprise was wound up and Botallack closed for a second time on March 14th, 1914.
The Lower Engine House
Also called The Crowns Pumping Engine House. A pumping engine house was built on the site prior to 1816 and was subsequently replaced by the present building in the 1830's. The house is situated approximately 60 feet above sea level. A 30” Harvey pumping engine was installed in 1832. This house is unique in that the chimney was built within the main walls because of the restricted space.
Crowns Engine shaft was sunk to the 135 fathom level and was the main pumping shaft. The mine was relatively dry, pumping less than 30 gallons per minute from this shaft. The engine house ceased to be used when the mine closed in 1895. The massive granite blocks used in parts of the house had to be lowered by hand down the cliff info position by block and tackle.
Upper Engine House
Also called Pearce's Engine House. Built between 1858 to 1861 to serve as a winding engine house for the newly constructed Boscawen Diagonal (inclined) Shaft. The house is situated approximately 110 feet above sea level and 50 feet above the Crowns Engine House. Boscawen Shaft commenced in the cliff 30 feet above sea level and inclined down at thirty two and a half degrees for a distance of 2,500 feet. The skip in Boscawen Shaft was in daily use until the shaft was closed around 1874. By 1880 all the gantry and walkways had been largely dismantled.
For more information about the Carn Brea Mining Society visit their website
The Carn Brea Mining Society also run King Edward Mine at Troon near Camborne.
For more information about King Edward Mine
Close to the village is the Manor House of Botallack dating back to the 1600's.
Do you have information of a historic or community interest about Botallack which you would like featured on this page please email us with your information.
Located in West Cornwall, on the North coast of the Land's End peninsula between St Just and St Ives.
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