Historically extensive tin and copper mining has occurred in Devon and Cornwall, as well as arsenic, silver, zinc and over 30 more minerals … kaolin in recent times has been the most important economically. (In the Bronze Age 4,000 years ago arsenic was often included in bronze, which made the alloy harder).
|Workings at bottom of Cligga Cliff, Perranporth
c/o Mining in Cornwall
Originally tin was found as alluvial deposits before shallow cuttings were used to extract the ore – then tin lodes were found outcropping on the cliffs, with mines being dug from the 1500s.
The tin trade was controlled by the Phoenicians, who kept their sources secret. About 4,000 years (2,000 BC) trade was flourishing here ... the Roman, Diodorus Siculus, described ancient tin mining – while the mining resources contributed to the Romans invading Britain.
|Ore of tin: Cassiterite
There are few remains today … the later workings have destroyed the earlier ones … a few leats can still be found – water being supplied to a mineral outcrop.
There are a few stone hammers to be found at the ZennorWayside Museum ... while it is thought that mining was mostly undertaken with shovels, antler picks and wooden wedges.
|Domesday Book - large and smaller volumes
rebound and lying on their 'Tudor' bindings
Much of the land and the rights were owned by the Crown and were not known about ... there is no record in the Domesday book (1086) of tin mining in Cornwall ...
|King John (1166 - 1216)
However in 1201 King John granted a charter to the tin miners confirming their “just and ancient customs and liberties”.
The Stannary Parliament and Stannary Court were legislative and legal institutions in Cornwall reflecting how important the tin mining industry was to the English economy.
The privileges of the Stannaries were confirmed by Edward III (1312 – 1377) on the creation of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1337. This confirmed that the tin miners were exempt from all civil jurisdiction other than that of the Stannary Court.
|Edward III as head of the
Order of the Garter
The tin miners were angered as the scale of taxes overturned the previous rights granted by Edward III which exempted Cornwall from all taxes of 10ths or 15ths of income.
The Cornish rebelled! They garnered an army of men and started walking to London – gathering more supporters en route … 15,000 marched into Devon …
They went to Taunton (Devon), Wells and Bath (Somerset), Bristol, Salisbury (Wiltshire), Winchester (Hampshire), Guildford (Surrey) and on to Kent … (essentially across the width of southern England)
… Henry had not been idle and gathered a force at Hounslow Heath (west London – where Heathrow airport is) …
All in all things started to fall apart for the Cornish and the Battle of Deptford Bridge took place on 17 June 1497 … the Cornish lost, were cut to pieces and put to flight …
Prisoners were sold into slavery and estates were seized and handed to more loyal subjects. In due course Crown agents pauperised sections of Cornwall for years to come ...
|Showing the Isle of Dogs loop on the Thames
Blackheath/Deptford in the broad area of Greenwich Park
In 1508 Henry VII restored the privileges in return for payment from the tin miners of £1,000 an enormous sum to support his war on Scotland.
Tin mining increased again in the 1540s when German miners came over who had knowledge of new techniques. Thomas Epsley, a Somerset man, developed a method (1689) using gunpowder to blast the very hard granite loose, using gunpowder with quill fuses: it revolutionised hard rock mining. A third boom occurred in the 1700s when shafts were dug to extract the ore.
In the 1800s Cornish mining reached its zenith before foreign competition depressed the price of first copper, and later tin.
Many miners went off to use their skills in the Americas, South Africa and Australia …
During the 20th century various ores became profitable … but no working mines remain today – though surveys are still conducted as more technology is developed.
Geevor Mine is run as a Heritage Museum and is an Anchor Point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage.
Camborne School of Mines was founded in 1888 and has an international reputation … built on the knowledge of miners from earlier centuries … Cornwall is one of the most important and influential metalliferous mining regions in the world.
|c/o Old Cornish Mines Match Box Labels
The geology influenced the knowledge acquired – while the training provided in the 20th and 21st centuries was recognised and has ensured it consolidated its position as a leading international education institution, under the auspices of Exeter University.
This has become a potted history of Tin Mining, the Cornish Rebellion and the Stannary Parliament …
|Zennor - Tin Miners Arms pub,
church and wind swept tree
The rebellion was referred to in Wolf Hall – as the protagonist, Thomas Cromwell, remembers the panic caused by the approach of the rebels, when he was a young boy …
That is T for Tin Miners, the Tin Miners Rebellion and the Cornish Stannery Parliament and Court … the po –t-t- t- ed history … from Aspects of British Cornwall …
PS An author Sarah Foot - see my Y post for Literature - the best-seller 'Following the River Fowey', included interviews with old Cornish characters her grandfather would have known, such as the retired tinner Ralph Finch who recalled the appalling conditions he endured in the mines on Bodmin Moor.
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