Cornwall & West Devon Mining Landscape

The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape is a World Heritage Site which includes select mining landscapes across Cornwall and West Devon in the south west of the United Kingdom. The site was added  in 2006.

Up to the mid-16th century, Devon produced approximately 25-40% of the amount of tin that Cornwall did but the total amount of tin production from both Cornwall and Devon during this period was relatively small. After the 1540s, Cornwall’s production took off and Devon’s production was only about between a ninth to a tenth of that of Cornwall. From the mid-16th century onwards, the Devon Stannaries were worth very little in income to the King and were sidelined as such following the Supremacy of Parliament Act 1512 (this does not apply to the Stannaries of Cornwall).

The landscapes of Cornwall and West Devon were radically reshaped during the 18th and 19th centuries by deep-lode mining for copper and tin. The underground mines, engine houses, foundries, new towns, smallholdings, ports, harbours, and ancillary industries together reflect prolific innovation which, in the early 19th century, enabled the region to produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of copper. During the late 19th century, arsenic production came into ascendancy with mines in the east of Cornwall and West Devon supplying half the world’s demand.

The early 19th century also saw a revolution in steam engine technology which was to radically transform hard-rock mining fortunes. The high-pressure expansively operated beam pumping engine developed by the engineers Richard Trevithick and Arthur Woolf enabled mining at much greater depths than had been possible hitherto. Cornish-design beam engines and other mining machinery was to be exported from major engineering foundries in Hayle, Perranarworthal, Tavistock and elsewhere to mining fields around the world throughout the century.

Commencing in the early 19th century, significant numbers of mine workers migrated to live and work in mining communities based on Cornish traditions, this flow reaching its zenith at the end of the 19th century. Today numerous migrant-descended Cornish communities flourish around the world and distinctive Cornish-design engine houses can be seen in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, the British Virgin Islands, Spain, and in the mining fields of other parts of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

A much reduced mining industry continued in Cornwall after the copper crash of the 1860s with production mainly focused on tin. Metalliferous mining finally ceased in Cornwall in 1998 with the closure of South Crofty Mine, Pool, the last tin mine to operate in Europe.

The World Heritage designation applies to the following sites:

  • St Just Mining District, Cornwall
  • The Port of Hayle, Cornwall
  • Tregonning and Gwinear Mining Districts with Trewavas, Cornwall – near Hayle, Helston, Porthleven
  • Wendron Mining District, Cornwall – near Helston
  • Camborne and Redruth Mining District with Wheal Peevor  and Portreath Harbour, Cornwall
  • Gwennap Mining District with Devoran and Perran  and Kennall Vale, Cornwall – near Redruth and Truro
  • St Agnes Mining District, Cornwall – near Redruth
  • The Luxulyan Valley and Charlestown, Cornwall – near St Austell
  • Caradon Mining District, Cornwall – near Liskeard
  • Tamar Valley Mining District, Cornwall; with Tavistock, Devon

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