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Great Work Mine, Cornwall

Principal ores: COPPER, TIN & LEAD

Wendron: grid reference SW596307


Notable minerals: Cassiterite, Chlorite & Dolomite.

National Trust omega at entrance to Great Work Mine


Great Work Mine Grid reference SW595308

Great Work Mine is situated on the metal rich saddle of land between the two outcrops of Godolphin Hill and Tregonning Hill. The original workings date from the early sixteenth century. There is an historical account by John Leland in about 1538 that 'There are no greater Tynne workes yn al Cornwal than be on Sir Wylliam Godolcan's Ground'. This indicates that the land was leased from Sir William Godolphin - the mineral lord - an ancestor of the very influential Godolphin Family. Other records show that the mine was employing as many as 3000 people in 1584, quite a shock when you visit the rather tranquil area today!


Leeds' Pumping Engine House at Great Work Mine


The present day remains of Great Work are quite impressive but pause awhile at the plaque erected near the entrance by the National Trust to learn the true size of the mine workings covering this whole area. The mineral lodes ran SW-NE stretching from Boscreege in the south to Deerpark in the north. Indeed a quick look at the 1888 map of the area lists a myriad of shafts and minor workings engulfed by Great Work as it expanded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The mine spread southwest swallowing Wheal Sidney (Pool's shaft; New Barker's shaft and Kendall's shaft) and incidentally named after Sir William's grandson Sidney Godolphin (1645-1712), Lord Treasurer and first Earl of Godolphin. It next took over the underground workings of the old Wheal Boys mine (Engine shaft; Jordan's pump shaft; Rosewarne Pump shaft and Bob shaft) and spread westward towards Wheal Reeth near Germoe. The plaque indicates that there would have been at least three engine houses here in the nineteenth century with a whim engine house and stamps engine house in addition to the preserved pumping engine house on Leeds' shaft. Research indicates that there were about a further dozen or so shafts as well as those visible today at Burnt Whim shaft, Crane Shaft and Fire Engine shaft, with the main ones being Wheal Breage shaft; Wheal Kine shaft; Blow Shaft; Mollard's shaft; Payhouse shaft; Trenhayle shaft; Plummer's shaft; Pennock's shaft; Pensandane shaft; Goodfortune shaft; Highborough shaft and Deerpark Shaft. Associated with the mine there would have been the usual boiler houses and calciner as well as ancillary workers like mine carpenters and grooms at the nearby stables spreading north through the valley.


Sign indicating danger of mineshafts at Great Work Mine


The Godolphin family did very well out of the mines on their land and were, in their day, well respected throughout England as well as their native Cornwall. Sidney's son, Francis Godolphin (1712-1766), became the 2nd Earl on the death of his father in 1766 and married Henrietta Churchill the Duchess of Marlborough. The couple's son William Godolphin, Marquess of Blandford died in 1731 of apoplexy, meaning there was now no male heir to continue the family name and so the title and lands passed into the hands of the Duke of Leeds - Thomas Osborne in 1785 - after whom the main shaft is named. Please take care if you are visiting the area and keep to the paths provided. The grilles atop Burnt Whim and Leeds shaft are to allow the nesting of bats in the old workings and NOT to entice inquisitive humans.


There is a wealth of information on the mines and miners of Cornwall available. Why not explore Cornwall's industrial heritage through the Bookstore?

Other nearby mines and their main ores

Wheal Reeth (Lady Gwendolen) (approx. 0.7 km; TIN)

Wheal Godolphin (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER & TIN)

Carleen Mine (approx. 2.1 km)

Leeds & St. Aubyn (approx. 2.5 km; TIN)

Gwin & Singer United (approx. 2.6 km; TIN & COPPER)

Penhale Wheal Vor (approx. 2.9 km; TIN)

Wheal Hendra (approx. 2.9 km; TIN & COPPER)

Wheal Metal (incl. Metal and Flow) (approx. 3.0 km; COPPER & TIN)

Sithney and Carnmeal (approx. 3.0 km; TIN)

Great Wheal Vor (approx. 3.0 km; COPPER & TIN)

 

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