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Great Polgooth Mine, Cornwall

Principal ores: TIN & COPPER

St Austell: grid reference SW937564

Notable minerals: Amethyst, Calcite, Cassiterite, Chalcopyrite, Chlorite, Dolomite, Erythrite, Pyrites & Smaltite.

Great Polgooth lies immediately east of the village of Polgooth, itself about one and a half miles southwest of St. Austell in the St. Stephen Area of the St. Austell Mining District. The eastern part of the sett on the slopes of Mulvra Hill is now home to the St. Austell Golf Club. Known over the years by a number of names including Old Polgooth, Polgooth United and also as Polgooth and Tregongeeves, there has been a mine here since at least the 1590's.

Basically a collection of former mines that had been absorbed and amalgamated by the early eighteenth century, Polgooth was well established by 1720. A few years later, in 1727, Polgooth purchased one of the early Newcomen pumping engines to dewater the mine as it increased in depth. The 50-inch cylinder engine was one of the first to be installed in Cornwall and remained at work until it was replaced by a more modern 58-inch Boulton & Watt engine in 1784. This engine was later replaced by an 80-inch pumping engine made by William Sims and installed in the early 1820's. This ancient tin and copper mine worked a large number of lodes from, as one contemporary report stated, 'not less than than 50 shafts'.

Polgooth worked: Polgooth Main Lode, Torstey's Lode, Taylor's Lode, Mulvra Lode, Phillis' Lode, Snailcreep Lode, New Glans Lode, Screed's Lode, St. Martin's Lode, Vanvean Lode, Ragg's North Lode and Large Elvan Lode. From the vast number of shafts on the sett, here are some of the more noteworthy: Engine Shaft, Reed's Shaft, Little Mulvra Shaft, Botteral's Shaft, Bunny's Shaft, Williams' Shaft, Stitch Shaft, Brazier's Shaft, New Glans Shaft, Bowden's Shaft, Clarke's Shaft, Eustace's Shaft, Varcoe's Shaft, Morcom's Shaft, Coon's Shaft, Vanvean Shaft, Burnley's Shaft and St. Martins Shaft.

The mine closed between 1807 and 1822 as the ore prices fluctuated, but reopened in 1823. The manager at this time was the entrepreneur John Taylor, of Gwennap, later to become famous in mining circles for the connection of the Redruth-Lanner-Gwennap mines by a horse drawn Mineral Tramway.

By 1837, Polgooth had risen to become Cornwall's third largest producer of tin, but as the tin price slumped in the early 1840's so Polgooth struggled and closed again. From an average of 260 tons of tin a year between 1852 and 1856, production began to decline. Over the next half century or so, Polgooth like many other Cornish mines produced ore very intermittently, with the mine producing little or lying idle for long periods. Finally at the turn of the twentieth century, all underground work stopped. Although there was still some surface work from the ore dumps until 1929, this was the end for Great Polgooth.

A good account of the state of Great Polgooth in the mid 1860's comes from Thomas Spargo's book of 1865, entitled 'Statistics and Observations on the Mines of Cornwall and Devon' where he writes '... Near St. Austell, is a very old mine, and has yielded tin to an enormous amount, under different companies. The engines and machinery were sold about six years ago, but at present about 100 persons are employed in dressing halvans, &c. (1861.) Lord Mount Edgcumbe and others are the landowners. A 30-inch (double) stamping engine is at work on the mine. Mr. W. Brown, of St. Austell, is the purser'.

Records of production are: 3,000 tons of black tin between 1853 and 1894 as well as 595 tons of 9.75% copper ore between 1815 and 1834.

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

South Polgooth (approx. 1.3 km; TIN)

Great Hewas United (approx. 2.6 km; TIN, COPPER, LEAD & SILVER)

Polmear (approx. 3.5 km; COPPER & PYRITES)

St Austell Consols (approx. 3.6 km; TIN, COPPER, LEAD, COBALT, NICKEL & URANIUM)

Great Dowgas (approx. 3.7 km; TIN)

Par Consols (approx. 6.4 km; COPPER & TIN)

Great Crinnis (approx. 6.4 km; COPPER, LEAD, IRON & SILVER)

Pembroke Mine (approx. 6.5 km; COPPER & TIN )

Wheal Bunnie (approx. 6.5 km; TIN & WOLFRAM)

Treverbyn, Knightor, Ruby & Trethurgy (approx. 6.6 km; IRON)


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