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South Tolcarne Mine, Cornwall

Principal ores: COPPER

Camborne: grid reference SW656381

The histories and locations of Tolcarne Mine and South Tolcarne are so closely linked historically and by location, it is exceedingly difficult to differentiate between the two. The sett lies on the slopes of Camborne Beacon, about a mile south-east of Camborne Church and is bounded to the northwest by West Stray Park and to the southeast by South Condurrow. South Tolcarne is recorded as having worked Fraser's Lode, Engine Lode and later on the Great Flat Lode from Engine Shaft. Tolcarne Mine is reported to have cut Field's (Taylor's) Lode and Gossan (King's) Lode by Field's Shaft, New Shaft and Gossan (or North) Shaft.To confuse the issue even further it is known that Tolcarne was worked as West Wheal Grenville between 1855 and 1858.

Production dates and figures are also, as you can imagine, hard to unravel. Dines reports that South Tolcarne produced 320 tons of black tin and 1,300 tons of 11% copper ore between 1858 and 1883. Tolcarne Mine meanwhile is recorded as having an output of 99 tons of black tin and 5,630 tons of 5.5% copper ore between 1860 and 1870. The highly respected mining author Tom Morrison in his book Cornwall's Central Mines: The Southern District states that South Tolcarne raised 528 tons of copper ore worth £2,504 in 1860, with 476 tons raised the following year. The ore was however of quite a low grade and only achieved a orice of £3.87 per ton as against the norm of between £6 and £7 a ton. Machinery at the sett was an 18-inch double acting pumping and winding engine. Due to the poor quality of the ore along with difficulty in balancing development against such meagre income Tolcarne struggled. When the price of copper slumped in the winter of 1866-67, this caused Tolcarne to close. 'The same area was reopened as South Tolcarne in 1872 and worked until October 1886 when it was renamed West Condurrow. The company was wound up in 1888.

Thomas Spargo states in his book The Mines of Cornwall (1865) that Tolcarne was '... in 6,000 shares. Pursers, Messrs. Taylor and Sons, London. Local Purser, Mr. J. P. Bennetts, Falmouth. Manager, Captain Joseph Jewell, Redruth. Landowner, Sir R. R. Vyvyan, Bart. Dues, 1-15th. Depth of adit, 35 fathoms. Depth under it, 60 fathoms. Pumping and winding engine, 18-inch. Rocks, granite and clay-slate. 78 men, 20 females, and 22 boys employed.
Mineral Sold In 1864: Copper ore 843tons 1cwt. 2qrs. 0lbs. for £3,262 13/- 3d.
The present Company commenced about five years ago. Their operations have been explorative, and their success all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances. Their prospects are good, and dividends at an early date may be expected. The mine is situated in the Camborne group'

South Tolcarne came into being in September 1872 when a Cost Book company in 6,000 shares was set up under a 21-year lease granted by Sir R.R. Vyvyan at 1/20th dues. South Tolcarne inherited some of the problems of its predecessor, struggling through the 1870's with many calls made on the company's finances. In mid-1877 the company decided to abandon their current workings at Engine Shaft and concentrate their efforts in the east, near the boundary with South Condurrow. The timbering was removed from Engine Shaft and installed in Gossan Shaft - incidentally also known as North or Flat Rod Shaft. Boundary Shaft was also cleared with a view to further development. Despite all of this upheaval, or maybe because of it, the company faltered and the mine was abandoned in mid-1878. The lack of a definite plan had caused the failure of the mine.

After all the bad fortune, South Tolcarne now had a change of luck. In the Autumn of 1880, the Great Flat Lode was discovered The formerly almost worthless shares became a much sought after commodity almost overnight. The new found prosperity allowed the managers at South Tolcarne to fulfill their plans. New buildings were constructed and new machinery tendered for. In February 1881 a Miner's Dry was constructed to allow the miners to change their workclothes, wash and dress in their everyday wear before the walk home. Later that year a 30-inch Stamps Engine and a 26-inch Winding Engine were purchased.

The next few years saw a number of problems affecting South Tolcarne: On 31st October 1881 the engine house caught fire, this led to flooding caused by the lack of pumping. In 1884 the major shareholder was declared bankrupt and this severely weakened the company's finances. This was followed by a long winded dispute between Sir Vyell Vyvyan of South Tolcarne and W. C. Pendarves owner of neighbouring South Condurrow. The dispute ran for the next four years and concerned mineral rights and the placement of further shafts near the boundary of the two setts. As part of the ngotiations South Tolcarne was renamed West Condurrow in 1886. The two owners could not come to an agreeable compromise and the dispute ultimately led to the abandonment of what could have been a relatively profitable mine.

For more information on South Tolcarne and its neighbouring mines please purchase a copy of the excellent Cornwall's Central Mines: The Southern District by T. A. Morrison.

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

Carn Camborne (approx. 0.5 km; COPPER, TIN, ZINC & ARSENIC)

Great Condurrow (approx. 0.7 km)

South Condurrow (approx. 0.7 km; TIN & COPPER)

Camborne Vean (approx. 0.8 km; COPPER 1845-85 & TIN 1857-84)

Grenville United (approx. 1.0 km; COPPER & TIN)

Dolcoath (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & MISPICKEL)

West Wheal Frances (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER & TIN)

North Dolcoath (approx. 1.8 km; COPPER & SILVER ORE)

Stray Park (approx. 1.9 km; TIN & COPPER)

Cook’s Kitchen (approx. 2.0 km; COPPER, TIN & ARSENIC)


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