Mines of Caradon Area - Phoenix United Mine
Phoenix United Mine is a tin mine situated one mile northwest of Caradon Hill in the Liskeard Mining District.The group consists of Stowe's and Clinicombe Mine, later to include Withybrook and West Phoenix Mines under the banner of Phoenix United Mines. The Main lodes were Main Lode and New South Lode. The lodes were worked from a number of shafts including Polkinghorne's, Anna's (also known as New Engine Shaft), Stowe's, Redburrow, Hamilton's, West's; Old Sump, Seccombe's and Prince of Wales Shafts.
If you wish to explore the Phoenix United Mine the best place to park would be at the small car park adjacent to the Hurlers stone circle at nearby Minions. Look towards Caradon Hill to see the Stamps engine house of Wheal Jenkin with its separate chimney and the restored Bellingham's Whim engine house. You may just be able to make out the embankment of the former Liskeard and Caradon Railway. Turn 90 degrees left to see Phoenix United Mine at the end of a curving trackway a few hundred metres away.
Continue down the track taking care not to trespass and always be aware that Mining areas can be inherently dangerous - there may be hidden shafts and voids. Please remain on the paths provided. As you near the engine house note the square cross section of the granite part of the chimney. Several associated mine buildings come into view and this shows quite well the size of the workings.
Explore the area carefully, there's lots to see and an excellent guidebook for the mine would be the Exploring Cornish Mines: Four Guided Tours v. 4 by local authors Bob Acton and Kenneth Brown. Walk around the boilerhouse and other outbuildings and up the steps towards the engine house. Look across the fields here to see a good view of the nearby Cheesewring Quarry. Note the site of the Prince of Wales shaft and the pit for the balance bob. Follow the path down and around to the steps leading to the interior of the engine house and look straight ahead to see a commemorative plaque. Gaze skyward to see the impressive structure towering above you.
By 1864 the copper reserves had begun to run out and Mining Engineer and entrepreneur William West bought a controlling interest in the company. Samples showed that there were strong tin reserves underlying the copper and so Wheal Phoenix was converted to recover tin. Within a year the mine expanded the workforce growing from the original 130 in 1851 to 460. Wheal Phoenix continued to expand and the workforce grew steadily to over 600 by the early 1870's. In 1875 West Phoenix was included in the sett with the dressed ore sent down the recently opened Liskeard and Caradon Railway, the wagons returning with coal for the beam engines. Tin production began to fall away from its high point of 34,000 tons per year in 1877 to 22,000 tons per year in 1897. It continued in operation until 1898.
The current engine house was built in 1907 over the Prince of Wales shaft - incidentally sunk to a depth of 1200 feet (200 fathoms). It has an unusual square base to the chimney. It housed a 80" pumping beam engine - the last to be built in Cornwall by the world-reknowned Holman Brothers of Camborne. It was built in a disastrous attempt to rework the old rich lode from previous years but in its seven years of operation it recovered only 95 tons of black tin. This one engine house is a highly visible section of a far larger group of mines - the Phoenix United Mines Group. To the north of the Prince of Wales shaft lie the remains of Wheal Phoenix, Seccombe's pumping engine house, a whim engine house, twin stamps and the dressing floors of Wheal Phoenix and West Wheal Phoenix along with associated mine and other buildings such as a Count House, Engineer's House, Crushing engine and the remains of an old Smithy. A photograph in Exploring Cornish Mines shows exactly how the area would have looked late in the nineteenth century - quite awe inspiring!
Production from the various members of the group was as follows:
Indeed a lot of the mines in the immediate area surrounding the moorland village of Minions have 'Phoenix' somewhere in their name. The Heritage Centre is housed in the engine house of South Wheal Phoenix - Houseman's shaft. For more information on the geology of the area please click on Phoenix United Mines. The area is well worth a visit for its industrial archaeology as well as the more common reason to visit - the Hurlers stone circles.