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West Wheal Frances Mine, Cornwall

Principal ores: COPPER & TIN

Redruth: grid reference SW673392


Notable minerals: Chalcopyrite & Cuprite.

Situated to the west of Treskillard near Newton Moor and bounded on the west by the Red River, West Wheal Frances was a small sett surrounded by South Wheal Frances to the south, West Wheal Basset to the north, East Grenville and Condurrow Setts to the west. West Wheal Frances worked from 1848 to 1896, but although it raised over 9,000 tons of black tin during this period, it cannot be classed as a profitable mine. The return to its investors of just over £22,000 far outweighed by the investment of just short of £100,000!

All that is Visible of West Wheal Frances today is the winding engine house over Smith's Shaft beside the road between Troon and Carnkie.

West Wheal Frances commenced working in about 1848 and part of the sett may have been on the former workings of the ancient Wheal Charmer mine. The mine worked South Frances Main Lode, West Frances Lode, Copper Lode, Pascoes (North) Lode, Middle Lode, Basset's (South) Lode and the Great Flat Lode from a number of shafts including: Engine Shaft (later renamed Bailey's Shaft), Smith's Shaft, Pease's Shaft, Wheal Charmer Shaft, New Shaft and Fortescues (also known as Old Flat Rod Shaft).

The mine was initialled leased from Lady Grenville, the company formed in 512 shares, with dues at 1/15, with the dewatering of the mine carried out by a 40-inch pumping engine. Production was patchy throughout the 1850's, improving in late 1861 on the back of new ore discoveries. New plant and machinery was purchased late the following year. In mid 1864 a new lease was granted by Lord Fortescue, with the dues now payable at 1/18th.

The mining historian Thomas Spargo gives us a little insight into the state of the mine in the mid 1860's as he reports in his book 'Statistics and Observations on the Mines of Cornwall and Devon' (1864) that West Wheal Frances '... Is in Illogan, and adjoining South Frances and West Basset. Working commenced in 1848. The returns have been very small. The position of the sett — immediately west of South Frances — imparted a high estimation of its value; but, after fourteen years' operations, no discovery of importance has been, made; but great confidence of good results is, notwithstanding, entertained and warranted by the " indications." Owner of the soil, Lady Grenville. Dues 1-15th. Depth, 97 fathoms under adit. 36 men and 4 boys employed (1861). A pumping engine of about 45-inch cylinder, and a 22-inch steam whim, are the machinery employed. Two lodes worked on. Purser, R. H. Pike; manager, Charles Thomas'.

As the decade wore on, sales of tin increased steadily from 2 tons in 1860 to 136 tons in 1866. The slump in tin prices in 1866 severely affected West Wheal Frances and although production increased to 222 tons in 1869, it did not clear the mine's debts. Prices began to recover helping West Wheal Frances to record a small profit in 1868, paying dividends between 1869 and 1872, as prices improved further to a high of £84.041 per ton in 1872. The sinking of Smith's Shaft commenced in mid 1869, with a 24-inch winder bought, installed and working by the autumn. As prices rose however, costs increased too and production fell. The 'Mining Journal' of 17th May 1783 reporting the fall in production as being caused by a 'lack of men'.

Output continued to fall seeing the cessation of dividends and the slide of the company's finances back into the red. As the tin price fell once more in 1873-74, West Wheal Frances re-negotiated the terms of its lease with Lord Fortescue, the mineral lord. He agreed to allow the mine to pay dues at the lower rate of 1/30th. The mine was obviously struggling. As the price of tin continued to fall, so the state of the company's accounts grew worse. Problems increased for the mine when the bottom of the mine was flooded due to heavy rain in early 1875, though once Bailey's Shaft had been pumped clear of water, production picked up again. The tin price however remained in its depressed state until 1878. Curiously as the tin price began to rise in 1879, production at West Wheal Frances fell. The mine missing out largely on the high tin prices of 1881-82.

New Shaft, actually on South Condurrow ground, but sunk on an arrangemnt with that mine, commenced sinking in 1883, attempting to cut the Great Flat Lode. Tin production increased from 121 tons in 1883 to 394 tons in 1884, allowing dividends to be paid once more between 1887 and 1889. In 1893, the tin price slumped disastrously causing shockwaves throughout the industry. West Wheal Frances was not immune to the fall and, despite struggling on for a few more years the mine was finally abandoned in 1896 when one of its major shareholders, M. H. Williams of Dolcoath, withdrew his capital. The 60-inch and 40-inch pumping engines were put up for sale in 1898 as was the 24-inch winder on Smith's Shaft.

For more information on production dates and so on please see Roger Burt's excellent book Cornish Mines: Metalliferous and Associated Minerals, 1845-1913 (Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom, 1845-1913).


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 Wheal Frances (approx. 0.9 km; COPPER & TIN)

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

Great Condurrow (approx. 1.1 km)

West Wheal Basset (approx. 1.1 km; COPPER & TIN)

South Condurrow (approx. 1.3 km; TIN & COPPER)

South Tincroft (approx. 1.6 km; COPPER, TIN & LEAD)

Dolcoath (approx. 1.6 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & MISPICKEL)

Cook’s Kitchen (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER, TIN & ARSENIC)

South Tolcarne (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER)

Pendarves United (approx. 1.7 km; COPPER & TIN)

 

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