Ale & Cakes Mine, Cornwall
Gwennap: grid reference SW749416
Notable minerals: Chalcopyrite, Malachite & Pyrites.
United Mines is the name taken by the company consisting of the former Ale and Cakes Mine, Wheal Cupboard and Poldory who amalgamated in about 1780. These mines are situated just to the south of the Great Consolidated Mines in the parish of Gwennap and border the villages of St. Day and Crofthandy in the west and the Poldice and Carnon valleys in the north. Some time later the group was expanded to take in the mines of Wheal Britannia, Wheal Clifford, Wheal Moor, Wheal Squire and Copper Hill Mine.
In the early 1820's a young man called John Taylor acquired the lease of abandoned mines in Gwennap parish and spent the next few years building up the mines. He initially re-worked their setts before striking the richest copper lode in the world (at that time). The fortunes of the Gwennap Mines and John Taylor in particular improved to such a great extent that they were well in profit by 1822. The chief production of the area was copper although there was some tin produced as well as ochre. The output was then shipped north along the Portreath Tramroad to the port of Portreath for smelting in south Wales. This was an acceptable situation but left his businesses open to the tolls levied by other people. As his fortunes increased so did its owners asking price. John Taylor's remedy to this was to construct his own tramway south through the Carnon Valley to the port at Devoran. It opened in 1824. Initially horse-drawn the Redruth and Chasewater mineral tramway was converted to steam in the mid-nineteenth century. The railway proved to be a great success and operated for over 90 years before closing in 1915. Many sections are still clearly definable today.
Eldon's pumping engine house, also known as Little's, held a 30-inch cylinder pumping engine and was built around the 1830's. Its main use was for pumping up water from the adit to the surface. It lies today rather overlooked by the large number of visitors to the 'United Downs Landfill Site'. John Taylor, now quite an entrepreneur in the mining industry, joined the company in 1840 when his lease to work the nearby Consols group was not renewed.
United Mines continued to expand its operations. Within a few years it became a rival to, and eventually amalgamated with, the neighbouring Consolidated Mines in 1857 to form 'Clifford Amalgamated Mines'. Production also increased to include ores of tungsten, zinc, lead-silver, iron and ochre. At its peak this area ran almost 20 engines on its mines and boasted over 80 miles of underground workings. Unfortunately the 40 or so years of prosperity were soon to come to an end as metals were located in other parts of the world depressing their price on the open market. The mines fell into decline and finally closed in about 1870.
The area is known today as United Downs and a few reminders of the areas rich mining past still remain for the enthusiast. The ore is found underground in two major lodes. These are the 'Great South Lode' and the more northerly 'Hot Lode'- indicating the extreme temperatures found at depth. The deepest shafts reached a depth of 285 fathoms or over 1700 feet.
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
East Wheal Damsel (approx. 0.7 km; COPPER & TIN)
Wheal Squire, United Mines (approx. 0.8 km; COPPER)
Wheal Maid (approx. 0.9 km; TIN)
Consolidated Mines (Consols) (approx. 0.9 km; COPPER & TIN)
Poldice (approx. 1.1 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & ZINC)
Wheal Jewell (approx. 1.4 km; COPPER)
Ting Tang (approx. 1.5 km; COPPER)
Mount Wellington (approx. 1.7 km; TIN)
Wheal Damsel (approx. 1.8 km; COPPER & TIN)
Wheal Unity (approx. 2.0 km; COPPER)