Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape
The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was transformed in the 18th and 19th century by industrialised copper and tin mining. Steam technology was pioneered here.
The remaining landscape is dotted with waste and spoil heaps and ruined mines, railways, canals and engine houses. Also, migrating Cornish miners have had influence on mines all over the world, leading to the survival of Cornish engine houses in Spain, Mexico, South Africa and Australia.
The following 10 subsites are included in this WHS:
- St Just Mining District
- The Port of Hayle
- Tregonning and Gwinear Mining Districts with Trewavas
- Wendron Mining District
- Camborne and Redruth Mining District with Wheal Peevor and Portreath Harbour
- Gwennap Mining District with Devoran and Perran and Kennall Vale
- St Agnes Mining District
- The Luxulyan Valley and Charlestown
- Caradon Mining District
- Tamar Valley Mining District with Tavistock
Visit March 2015
The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape is one of the more remote sites on the UK mainland. The closest international airport I could fly into was Bristol, still a 2 hour and 45 minute drive away from my first destination. The WHS is spread out over 10 locations, most even much further at the tip of Cornwall and totally out of reach for my weekend trip. Together they form a partly relict and partly evolving cultural landscape, the result of 18th and early 19th century copper and tin mining.
I had been advised to start at St. Agnes Mining District. St. Agnes is a coastal village with a mining history since prehistoric times. I had brought with me a print of a 9km circular walk along the coast, taking in some of the mining ruins. After parking the rental car in the town center, I started walking immediately. Signage isn't great, but somehow I found my way to the Trevaunance Cove. From here copper ore was shipped to Wales for smelting, and coal and other goods were unloaded for use at the mines. Already on this first stretch I saw a couple of the characteristic chimneys from the former mines. It's a very pretty landscape.
After my lunch at the Driftwood Spars (a former warehouse), I started hiking the full loop along the coast. There were numerous people about, often walking their dogs or just enjoying the sunny weather like I did. The leaflet I brought pointed out several points of interest on the way, but I found it difficult to trace them down. Most of the time my eyes were drawn to the carcasses of the mines - with some imagination they resemble Crusader castle ruins. In the distance you can also see the remains of waste and spoil heaps, but the landscape in general feels quite natural. I spent some 3 hours in this area, and the scenery certainly lived up to my expectations.
The next morning I set out for Gwenapp Pit, a former hollow created by mining turned into an amphitheatre. It is situated way out in the countryside, only reachable by a series of typical English narrow roads and even narrower bridges. Although I found the visitor center closed, the gate to the Pit itself was open and I had a look around. It's a funny construction, used in the late 18th century for the Methodist preachings of John Wesley. Its stepped form with turf seats dates from later remodelling.
My last stop was Tavistock, a town in West Devon clearly on the well-worn tourist path. The Tavistock Canal that crosssects it is a good example of the transport network that resulted from the mining in the region. The local museum only opens from Easter, like others that I encountered over the weekend. Maybe for the better, as it prevented me from making more derogatory remarks about regional British museums! So I just roamed around in town a bit. The former Iron Works now have been turned into housing. I tracked all sites of historic interest down, from the Sir Francis Drake statue to the Wharf. I ate a cheese and bacon pasty and drove on after 1.5 hours or so.
I found it hard to really get a good grip on the value of this WHS, having to put the pieces of the puzzle together myself as the elements are so scattered. The nomination file is an interesting read, though it focuses mostly on the mining heydays of this region and less so on the resulting landscape. There's no doubt about the importance and global impact of these pioneering industries. The effect of mining I found much less visible than at the Nord Pais de Calais Mining Basin WHS for example, which peaked some 100 years later. The St. Agnes Mining District definitely was the most rewarding location of the 3 that I visited.
Tom Livesey - January 2016
My parents live in Cornwall, so I often have the opportunity to see another of the 10 subsites. To date I have visited five of them.
St Just Mining District - in the far west of Cornwall you will find this is one of the most photogenic parts, with derelict mineshaft pumping stations clinging to the rocky coast. I suggest heading to the Count House at Botallack and walking from there.
The Port of Hayle - near to St Just, much less picturesque. This was an industrial centre, and you can see the remains of a foundry and millpond.
Gwennap Mining District with Devoran and Perran and Kennall Vale - a good way to see this subsite is to cycle the 11 mile miners' track. It takes you through quarry 'valleys'.
Tregonning and Gwinear Mining Districts with Trewavas - a split subsite: the main part is to an area of hilly heathland with good views from the top. Several miles away is also inscribed the village of Rinsey, where - like at St Just - you will find picturesque cliffside mine buildings.
Tamar Valley Mining District with Tavistock - this site is in the far east of Cornwall, where it borders Devon. Again, it is a split subsite, with one part featuring Kit Hill (very windy when I visited) and the other referring to the town of Tavistock (technically in Devon). It is a handsome mining town that was prettified by the 7th Duke of Bedford.
Read more from Tom Livesey here.
Ian Cade - March 2015
This was the site with which I finally 'completed' my home island of Britain so obviously I was always going to be happy with it, but it formed the basis of a lovely long weekend in the 'West Country'. It also enabled us to discover what “World Heritage” is in Cornish “Ertach an Bys” if you were wondering.
The idea of trotting around disused mines and remnant industrial wastelands may not instantly appeal; my wife wasn't necessarily so keen on the idea. But the reality of a trip can actually be very enjoyable, mostly due to the natural setting of the sites. This is best seen at the wonderful village of St Agnes. It sits above a quintessentially Cornish beach, where we sat and watched the coast guard rowers set off around the headland, before looking up at the looming chimney stacks of the former mine on the cliffs above, a more enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning would be hard to find. Just outside the village are the stunningly situated industrial remains of Wheal Coates which to my eye were the highlight of the WHS, not just because of the impressive vistas, but because you can also comprehend the mines stretching out under the sea below.
Our weekend took us around every one of the inscribed locations, the other highlights were the unique open air auditorium of Gwennap pit, made famous by Methodist preacher John Wesley. The surrounding landscape was also frequented by the Heavyweights of the early industrial revolution in Britain, including Boulton and Watt plus local lad Richard Trevithick, his work on steam engines in Gwennap was later used to build the first ever locomotives, and also provide mining expertise in Peru and Costa Rica. The quaint port of Charlestown was also a lovely place to view the former mining infrastructure and see from where the goods and people were shipped around the world.
On top of these mining relics this farthest limb of southern England provides some wonderful treats. The rugged northern coast is full of sandy coves and pleasant towns and the southern coast is home to some wonderful fishing villages, Mevagissey and Looe being highlights. Even the Cornish capital of Truro proved to be a nice surprise with a nice neo-gothic cathedral. Whilst further east the charms of Dartmoor National Park provided a wonderful way to arrive in the listed areas around Tavistock.
Though perhaps it is the food and drink that is most appealing, the peninsula is unsurprisingly renowned for its seafood, but the dairy produce (especially cream) is also very impressive. Mining has even produced the food that Cornwall is most famous for, the eponymous Pasty. All this can be washed down with some fine ciders and decent ales.
We had a rather enjoyable long weekend travelling all over the peninsula using the listed areas as a way of seeing the best of it. The industrial heritage is impressive, consisting of some spectacular undersea mines and the birthplace of steam driven transport. It is also interesting to discover the human and cultural legacy of the industry. However for the casual visitor it is the spectacular locations of the industrial relics around St Agnes that really made this an enjoyable site to visit.
[Site 7: Experience 7]
Eva Kisgyorgy - May 2010
I visited the Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall. There is an informative website (how to get there, opening hours, etc.) at http://www.geevor.com/
I took bus no 17 from Penzance. There are a couple of buildings one can visit and a very interesting underground tour to a mine tunnel - highly recommended.
All the mines in the area were family businesses, with just 10-20 employees. The Geevor mine is about 300 years old and was just recently discovered.
If you stay in Penzance, there are lots of other great places to visit in the area: St Ives, Minack theater, Scilly island, etc.
John Booth - May 2010
Over a few days I managed to visit a number of the sites:
Hayle - port for exporting tin
Wendron mining district - the Poldark mine with its interesting museum and exhibits
Portreath harbour - port for importing coal and exporting tin; many old mine workingws in this area
St Agnes - many derilict mine wotkings
Luxulyan - a mining village and Treffrey viaduct
Tamar valley - several derilict smelters seen from the train to Gunnislake
I visited all of the above by train or bus from Truro
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Full name: Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape
2006 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 10 locations.
- Camborne and Redruth Mining District(005i) with Wheal Peevor (005ii) and Portreath Harbour (005iii) Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- Caradon Mining District Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- Gwennap Mining District (006i) with Devoran and Perran (006ii) and Kennall Vale (006iii) Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- St Agnes Mining District Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- St Just Mining District United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- Tamar Valley Mining District (010i) with Tavistock (010ii) Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- The Luxulyan Valley (008i) and Charlestown (008ii) Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- The Port of Hayle Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- Tregonning and Gwinear Mining Districts(003i) with Trewavas (003ii) Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
- Wendron Mining District Cornwall, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irela
The site has 28 connections. Show all
- Bazaars & Market Halls Tavistock
- Canals Tavistock canal
- Dovecotes Cotehele House - Stone Dovecote
- Railways "A high-quality transport network involving canals, railways and tramways connecting mines to ports was constructed in the early 19th century. This included ... tramways and railways at Poldice Plateway, Redruth & Chasewater Railway, Liskeard & Caradon Railway and the East Cornwall Mineral Railway."
- Theatres Gwennap Pit (amphitheatre)
- Water wheels At Morwellham Quay
- Atlantic Ocean The north coast on the Celtic Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean (wiki)
- English Channel 1215-003ii Trewavas, 1215-008ii Charlestown and 1215-010i Tamar Valley Mining District, Morwellham Port . "The Trewavas coastal enclave in the south of the Area contains some important remains that mark the sites of old undersea copper mines. The cliff-slope engine house of Wheal Prosper was acquired by the National Trust and consolidated in 1971. The dramatic cliff-side engine houses, shafts and impressive capstan platform of Wheal Trewavas are amongst the most spectacular in their situation, anywhere"... "Charlestown, designed by the foremost civil engineer of the day - John Smeaton FRS (1724-92) - is one of the finest examples of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century industrial harbour works in Britain" ... Morwellham "is some 3km below the tidal limit near Gunnislake" ..."This was the busiest inland river port west of Exeter, taking vessels up to 300 tonnes. During the mid-nineteenth century it became the greatest copper ore port in the world" (Nom File)
- Copper production
- River Ports Morwellham Quay: a historic river port in Devon, England that developed to support the local mines (wiki)
- Sea Ports Port of Hayle and Portreath
- Silver production "Silver-bearing ores have been worked on the Bere Ferrers or Birland peninsula, between the Tamar and Tavy rivers south of Tavistock, for nearly six centuries. By the middle of the 19th century there were at least a dozen mines, some consolidated into larger setts."
- Steam technology
- Painted by JMW Turner Tamar Valley Mining District. "Crossing the Brook". Early Turner (1815) showing the Tamar Valley and Calstock in the style of French 17th C painter Claude but with signs of industrialisation in the valley.
- Prince Charles He "owns" various parts of this site as a result of his "position" as Duke of Cornwall. Locations include Drakewalls Mine, Prince of Wales Mine, Gunnislake Clitters Mine in the Tamar Valley Mining District.
- Sir Francis Drake Drake was born c1544 in Tavistock within the inscribed boundary - "at Crowndale Farm, just to the west of what is now Tavistock College. A Blue Plaque is mounted on the current farmhouse, behind which Drake is believed to have been born, the original farmhouse having been dismantled and the stone transported for use in Lew Trenchard"
Religion and Belief
- Protestantism Gwennap Pit (situated within the Gwennap mining district) was used by John Wesley, the founder of "Methodism" as a preaching site 18 times between 1776 and 1789. It has since become a Methodist "shrine". See
- Built in the 18th century Between 1700 and 1814, the industrialisation of non-ferrous mining in Cornwall and West Devon transformed the landscape and the structure of society (AB ev)
WHS on Other Lists
- European Route of Industrial Heritage Morwellham Quay, Geevor Tin Mine
World Heritage Process
- First sites filling gaps cited by ICOMOS Industrial landscape / coal energy (2006)
- Incorrect UNESCO 'Number of locations' 15 locations not 10 - Locations 1215-003,5,6,8 and 10 each consist of 2 geographically separate locations numbered "003i" and "003ii" etc
- Industrial Landscapes
- Relict Cultural Landscapes "The impact of mining on the Cornwall and West Devon landscape during the period 1700-1914 was large-scale and the speed at which the industry was abandoned resulted in an unparalleled relict primary mining landscape."