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Cornwall’s industrial history

Discover Cornwall's fascinating industrial history. Cornwall once hummed with the sound of machinery and pick axes which mined Cornwall's tin, copper, zinc, slate and gold.
Cornwall once hummed with the sound of machinery and pick axes which mined Cornwall’s tin, copper, zinc, slate and gold. The county was also one of the few sources of high quality china clay in Europe which was needed to produce white porcelain. Countless small railways were developed for transporting the clay and metals to the nearby ports and a few still survive.

Geevor Tin Mine

Don’t be deterred by the run-down exterior of the Geevor Tin Mine, the largest preserved mining site in the UK. Don your hard hat and take a guided tour of the 18th century tunnels at Wheal Mexico near Penwith. There is also an interesting Mining Museum and Heritage Centre with a shop and café.

Poldark Mine

Better known for its atmospheric ghost tours, Poldark Mine near Helston has something for everyone with its interpretive centre on the World Heritage Site. Regular tours are led by a mining guide who recounts the mine’s history dating back to 1493. Ghost tours include the services of a paranormal investigator with the added spine-chilling backdrop of the mine’s natural creaks and groans.

Visitors can also pan for gold, search for diamonds or post a postcard from below ground as part of the excellent tour. The site has craft workshops in the yard where visitors can throw a pot, dip candles and see a wood turner at work as in the past.

Launceston Steam Railway

This narrow-gauge steam railway runs along the old North Cornwall Railway linking Launceston with Newmills. Visit the vintage transport and machinery at the museum in Launceston Station or explore the Norman Castle before taking a nostalgic trip on the steam railway to Newmills Farm Park.

Botallack Settlement

The ruined shell of the Crowns Engine House sit on top of the cliffs at St Just, indicating where an 800 metre long diagonal shaft was dug beneath the ocean in 1858 in search of coal. Most of the clifftop buildings were once part of the arsenic-refining works, now one of the best preserved sites of arsenic production in the world. Visit the country houses where miners would have lined up for their subsistence wages at the end of the week in this historic mine and cement works which operated from 1780 to 1914.

Carnglaze Slate Caverns

These fascinating slate caverns near St Neot, Liskeard, are open all year round with a constant 10°c temperature. Guided tours take visitors into the three underground caverns which were hand-cut by slate miners to cathedral-sized proportions. The trip descends 60 metres and runs 150 metres into the hillside to a crystal clear subterranean lake. The chamber which was once used as a Rum Store now holds a display of minerals.

Wheal Martyn China Clay Works

Wheal Martyn is the only remaining china clay museum in Cornwall. It is well laid out on the site of two former china clay pits. The conical spoil heaps around are the relics of this former lucrative industry. The attraction has interactive displays of tools and machinery along with Cornwall’s largest working waterwheel. After visiting the industrial museum and seeing the pit views of the working mine, explore the surrounding grounds which include access to woodland walks and the Clay Trail cycleway.

About Gillian Birch

Born in Cheshire, Gillian Birch moved to Cornwall at her earliest opportunity and never looked back. After 20 years, her ongoing discovery of popular attractions, quiet footpaths and local eateries has made her a fount of knowledge as she entertains readers with her informative articles on the hidden gems of Devon & Cornwall from a local point-of-view.

Find Gillian on Google+, and Twitter.

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