Wheal Owles Mine, Cornwall
Penwith: grid reference SW366325
Notable minerals: Actinolite, Apatite, Calcite, Chalybite, Diallogite, Autunite,Chrysocolla, Malachite, Pitchblende & Torbernite.
Location: Wheal Owles Mine (pronounced 'Oals') lies on the cliffs on the north coast of Cornwall, about a mile and a half northeast of Cape Cornwall in the St. Just mining area of north Penwith district. The mine is thought to have been an amalgamation of several smaller and more ancient mines including Wheal Drea, Wheal Edward and Wheal Gendall. To the southwest lies the area worked by Boswedden Mine whilst to the northeast lies the sett of Botallack Mines including the Crowns Mine, Parknoweth, Wheal Chase and Wheal Hen. There is known to have been a mine in this general area from the 1700's but Wheal Owles' best years were during the decade 1860-70.
A piece in the Kelly's Directory for 1873 states the following: ' Leased from John W Scobell esq.....there were 25 shafts sunk on the Wheal Owles Sett supporting eleven steam engines...Adit level is 300 feet above the sea and there are 33 miles of underground workings....The 3 or 4 principal shafts are 190 fathoms (1200 feet) deep.'.
Any prosperity for Wheal Owles was relatively short lived and as metal prices fell in the 1870's, due largely to tin discoveries in Australia and also the Great Flat Lode south of Carn Brea Hill in the Camborne-Redruth Area, the decision was taken to concentrate all efforts on working the Cargodna copper lode and West Wheal Owles Lode on the western section of the Wheal Owles Sett. Ore grades were found to improve to the north and so production moved seaward in the 1880's. The solitary wall standing nearby is all that remains of the Cargodna winding engine house.
West Wheal Owles as this section became known continued working until one fateful day in January 1893. About 40 miners were working as a 'pare' or team in the undersea levels of Wheal Owles and some 400 feet below adit level accidentally holed into the flooded old workings of Wheal Drea Mine. It appears that the miners thought that they were about 40 yards away and quite safe from breaking into the workings of the old mine but were tragically mistaken. They holed into the workings of Wheal Drea at a depth of some 900 feet (148 fathoms) below the surface. The head pressure on this volume of water must have been enormous and the sea thundered into Wheal Owles trapping over 30 men. There were some heroic deeds on that day and some miners were saved by quick thinking of their colleagues but there were still 19 miners and one mine boy lost on that fateful morning. For a fuller account of the story see the reports at The Wheal Owles Disaster. A plaque on the rear of the engine house commemorates the disaster.
The Plaque lists those lost: '10th January 1893
Thomas Allen; Lewis Blewett Wilkins; Peter Dale; William Davey; William Eddy; James Edwards Trembath; Thomas Ellis; John Grose; Thomas Grose; Charles Hitchens Thomas; John Olds (Bosanko); William Roberts; James Rowe; William Stevens Thomas; John Taylor; Mark Taylor; James Thomas; Edward White; Edward Williams; James Williams.'
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Other nearby mines and their main ores
Boscean (approx. 0.4 km; TIN)
Wheal Edward (approx. 0.6 km; COPPER & TIN)
Boswedden (approx. 1.1 km; TIN & COPPER)
Wheal Castle (approx. 1.1 km; TIN)
Botallack Crowns (approx. 1.2 km; TIN & COPPER)
St. Just Amalgamated (approx. 1.3 km; TIN)
Spearn Consols (approx. 1.4 km; TIN & COPPER)
Bosorne (approx. 1.5 km; TIN)
St. Just United (approx. 1.7 km; TIN)
Levant (approx. 2.1 km; TIN, COPPER & SILVER)