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Great Wheal Vor Mine, Cornwall

Principal ores: COPPER & TIN

Wendron: grid reference SW621302

Notable minerals: Albite, Apatite, Blende, Cassiterite, Chlorite, Chalcopyrite, Copper, Dolomite, Melaconite, Mica, Mispickel, Orthoclase, Pyrites, Steatite, Talc & Wolfram.

Decorated brickwork of Watson's Shaft, West Wheal Metal

Location: This mine lies on the south coast of Cornwall, near to the village of Carleen, about 2 miles northwest of Helston in Breage Parish. For those visitors hoping to see an array of mining remains they will sadly be disappointed. Little remains of the extensive workings of 15 or so engines said by the historian Joseph Y. Watson in his 'A Compendium of British Mining' to 'resemble a small town'. Wheal Vor had its heyday between 1812 and 1848 and was said at the time to 'contain the richest tin lode in all of Cornwall'. The ore grade at the 274 fathom level was about 5% compared to the more normal 1% to 1.5% grade usually found in Cornwall. On the face of it, Wheal Vor should have been a runaway success and be spoken of these days as one of Cornwall's greatest mines. As it is, the name of Wheal Vor means little if anything. Quite why the Mine did not live up to these expectations is a matter of some debate. Some experts cite the problems with the ingress of water, others the variability of the ore deposits and yet others the fact that successive companies taking on Wheal Vor did not seem to manage the mine successfully. The whole history of Wheal Vor is one of great expectations but frequent closures and restarts from 1848 onwards. Wheal Vor is however famous for a number of reasons:

  • It is thought to have been the first mine to use a Savery pump in 1698.

  • The first mine to install a Newcomen pumping engine in about 1710.

  • The first Cornish mine to install a Brunton Calciner in 1835.

  • The first mine to use steam power.

    A reminder of days gone by - Wheal Vreagh

    There is thought to have been some sort of mine on this site from the early 15th century. In the eighteenth century the mine with its near neighbour Great Work (about 1 mile to the northeast) employed several thousand people. One record shows that in 1840 there were 1174 employees, quite a significant increase on the 500 or so miners employed in 1820. Other mines working the extended sett included Wheal Metal and Great Wheal Fortune on Carnmeal Downs. Wheal Vor closed in 1848 to 1853 and reopened in 1858. The two main shareholders in this latest concern were the Cornish Copper Company and Harvey's, both of Hayle. In 1854 Harvey's installed a 100-inch cylinder pumping engine on Crease's Shaft - named incidentally after the company chairman. However the topsy-turvy nature of Wheal Vor's finances soon meant that this engine was up for sale again in 1860. Crease's shaft was abandoned as production moved south to Wheal Metal.

    Iveys 60-inch Pumping Engine House at Wheal Metal & Flow

    In 1870 Ivey's shaft at Wheal Metal reached a depth of 227 fathoms but had problems with water, a shaft collapse, drop in ore grade combined with a fall in tin prices. This resulted in the ceasing of all production from the mines to the east of Edward's Shaft in 1874. A couple of attempts were made to rework sections of Wheal Vor in 1906 and as late as 1967 but these enterprises came to nothing.

    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

    Gwin & Singer United (approx. 0.5 km; TIN & COPPER)

    Penhale Wheal Vor (approx. 0.7 km; TIN)

    Sithney and Carnmeal (approx. 0.9 km; TIN)

    Wheal Metal (incl. Metal and Flow) (approx. 0.9 km; COPPER & TIN)

    Carleen Mine (approx. 1.2 km)

    Great Wheal Fortune (approx. 1.6 km; COPPER, TIN, ARSENIC & MISPICKEL)

    Wheal Prospidnick (approx. 2.1 km; LEAD)

    Wheal Vrawz (approx. 2.4 km; TIN)

    Wheal Godolphin (approx. 3.0 km; COPPER & TIN)

    Great Work (approx. 3.0 km; COPPER, TIN & LEAD)


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