Wheal Trewavas

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Wheal Trewavas or Trewavas Head Mine stands perched on the cliffs just east of Trewavas Head, half a mile to the southeast of Wheal Prosper between Praa Sands and Porthleven, overlooking Mount's Bay.

Trewavas Mine is part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The two engine houses with their detached chimneys, and the capstan platform at Old Engine Shaft, are all Grade II Listed Buildings.

Exercise great caution when visiting the mine as not only are the buildings perched on the cliff edge but there are numerous mine open shafts. Do not climb over fences and do not allow your children or dogs to be left unaccompanied or off their lead.

The mine stands on the southern end of the granite outcrop known as the Godolphin - Tregonning Granite.

The engine houses are best viewed from the Cornwall coast path. If you are approaching from Praa Sands, then the first engine house you see is on 'Old Engine Shaft' and the engine house slightly east of this is on New Engine shaft or Roger's shaft.

These stunning, buildings once housed the mine's pumping engines.

Wheal Trewavas opened in 1834 with a pumping engine installed on Old Engine shaft working the Old (South) Lode. It stands on a ledge 20 metres above the sea. The Old Engine Shaft is actually a pair of adjoining shafts being worked on Old Lode.

Outside Old Engine house is a large circular stone platform. A horse powered capstan operated here. This is a manual capstan plat and a little higher up the cliff there is a horse whim plat. Helicopters from RNAS Culdrose sometimes use the circular stone platform for practicing their landing technique.

There is an adit at the back of the platform.

One of the doorways of Old Engine house is very tall. The SSW wall of the engine house shows the remains of the boiler house roof. Its stone chimney is located on the slope above.

New Engine shaft (Roger's) was named after the 1838 pumping house with its 45 inch engine which was built higher up the cliff (SW 600 265)

A third, non-vertical shaft was sunk a little inland on the eastern part of the sett. This was called Diagonal Shaft. It extended to 600 ft and out under the sea.

A 70 inch pumping engine replaced the smaller one on New Engine shaft.

Four copper lodes were worked at Wheal Trewavas: North Lode; Sowan Way Lode; Trewavas South (Old) Lode and Nimble Cutter Lode. They ran in a south easterly direction under the sea bed. The south east copper lode continued out under the sea and a small pumping engine and a steam whim were built on the south lode. Ore was carried to the cliff top by a horse whim. The Great tin lode cut across the copper lodes in an east to west direction.

In its heyday in the 1840s, more than 160 miners were employed and with additional workers employed in associated trades this figure exceeded 200 people.

17,500 tons of copper ore, worth over £100,000, were extracted from Wheal Trewavas during its twelve years of operation. Today, this would be over £10 million.

The mine spoil at Trewavas is spread across several dumps.

In 2015, the engine houses were renovated in a project led by The National Trust.

Aluminium, calcium, carbon, copper, fluorine, hydrogen, iron, oxygen, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, tin, uranium, zirconium all occur here.

Minerals found include Cassiterite, Chalcocite, Chalcopyrite, 'Chlorite Group', Fluorite, Kaolinite, 'Monazite', Quartz, Siderite, Tristramite (TL), Uraninite, 'Xenotime', Zircon

Wheal Trewavas has produced the best specimens of the mineral, Tristramite. It occurs here as a fine-grained aggregate and as coarser-grained infilling occupying fractures. Tristramite was first discovered in the course of X-ray diffraction examination of radioactive material collected from south-west England by staff of the former Atomic Energy Division of the Geological Survey and Museum of Great Britain (now Institute of Geological Sciences).

New Engine Shaft

Ore was hauled up the coastal slope by an inclined tramway. Three are visible, each a straight cutting, with a platform of the type used for a horse whim above it. The easternmost cuts that on its west; it may have been replaced by the third following reuse for flat rods.

West of the shaft are horse whim and capstan platforms.

The floors and dumps west of the inclines, extend south to the sea. Ore would have been broken by hand and sorted in this area including ore from other shafts within the sett.

By 1844 power was taken from the New Engine by flat rods. These are believed to have run machinery at the Old Shaft, via a cutting through the mine road, and the eastern tram incline.

Other features on the site include the remains of a possible openwork (the name for a pit used to extract ore from a lode without accessing it from underground).; in excess of eleven shafts and several adits. The count house (the office of the mine where shareholders met and accounts were prepared) is next to the track close to the possible openwork; some of its wall are still visible.

A launder (gutter carrying water) may have taken water from a nearby spring to power the steam engines.

Old quarries to the west and north west of Old Engine Shaft provided stone for the mine buildings.

Reports of how the mine closed vary slightly.

One version states that the mine flooded on the day that the `tributers` annual dinner was to take place. The meal was to be served underground in the section of the mine under the sea bed. While making the final preparations for the meal one of the men noticed water dripping from the roof of the tunnel. He and a fellow miner fled the scene and got to the surface before the sea poured into the mine. There was no further attempt at working the mine except for a minor exploration of the eastern part of the mine in 1879.

The mine closed a short time after the installation of a larger engine and there was some question of financial irregularities or possibly the creditors calling in their loans. It has been suggested that the dividends paid to shareholders were being funded by borrowed money.

In 1837 it had been reported that the 20 fathom level east of the Engine shaft had been stopped because it was too close to the sea despite being worth £30 to £40 per fathom.

In June 1844, a false report circulated that the sea had broken into the mine and it would have to close.

It continued to work normally until May 1846 when it was decided at a meeting of the company that the lodes were no longer viable and therefore the mine should be stopped immediately with the materials and assets to be sold at auction, “taking away only such ore as will pay”.

The mine closed in mid 1846 and was allowed to flood.

In 1850 the sea flooded the older lodes.


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If you are driving here park at the Rinsey Cove car park and take the coast path to the left (east) for approx. one mile.


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