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South Crofty Mine
Pool, Camborne, Cornwall
associated engineer
Not known
date  1854
era  Victorian  |  category  Mining/Quarrying  |  reference  SW663410
South Crofty Mine is located in Pool, between Camborne and Redruth, 800m south of Camborne School of Mines. Mining activity in the area began at Penhellick Vean in the 1590s, and thereafter smaller mines joined together to become South Wheal Crofty in 1854. South Croft Mine was the last working tin mine in Cornwall.
The mine produced copper, tin, zinc, arsenic and tungsten. Production peaked in the 19th century and by 1920 it had yielded 37,500 tonnes of copper, 12,200 tonnes of tin, 3,300 tonnes of arsenic and 1,400 tonnes of tungsten.
South Crofty once occupied a much larger area than the present site boundary. Its underground mineral rights cover some 500 hectares between Camborne and Redruth.
In 1859, a 'man engine' was installed in Dunkin’s Shaft, part of the former New Cook's Kitchen Mine. Invented by Michael Loam in the 1840s, the man engine was essentially a long timber pole with one-man platforms set into it at intervals. The reciprocating motion of a beam engine at the top of the mineshaft raised and lowered it. To ascend or descend, miners stepped from the platforms onto corresponding platforms in the sides of the shaft at the end of each stroke, saving themselves long climbs on ladders.
Part of the mine was sold in 1861 to pay for the construction of a pumping engine house at Palmer’s Shaft. During the 1860s workings were extended into deeper lodes of tin, as the shallower deposits of copper and tin were extracted.
The sinking of Robinson’s Shaft began in 1901, and a pumping engine house was constructed in 1903 using stone from three derelict engine houses. The 2m beam engine was designed by Captain Samuel Grose, an apprentice of Richard Trevithick, and built in 1854 at the Copperhouse Foundry at Hayle. It had worked four other mines previously and had a cylinder replaced by Harvey & Co of Hayle before it was bought by South Crofty for £375, ten percent of its original price. It began by pumping water at 26 litres per second from the 616m level of Robinson’s Shaft, which was used for miner access rather than ore, and is 682m deep.
In July 1906, the South Wheal Crofty Company became South Crofty Ltd. New headgear and ore bins were installed at Robinson’s Shaft.
The main mine shaft, New Cook’s Kitchen Shaft, now called Cook’s Shaft, was begun in 1907 and its stamping and milling areas were refurbished in 1908.
During World War I (1914-18) there was increased demand for metals but the post-war depression led to the closure of five nearby mines in 1920 and one in 1921. Also in 1921, an underground rock collapse blocked both shafts of neighbouring East Pool Mine, which caused associated flooding in South Crofty. To combat this, the mine owners bought the 2.3m cast-iron beam pumping engine, designed by Matthew Loam and built in 1873 at Harvey’s Foundry in Hayle, that had once been in Fortescue’s Shaft at Wheal Grenville.
In 1922, a house was built to contain the new engine. Although traditional in appearance, it was built in reinforced concrete for speed. The engine pumped water from the 622m deep Cook’s Shaft until 28th December 1950, when overloading caused one side of the beam to break. The engine was replaced by electric pumps located within the shaft and the engine house was demolished.
The size of South Crofty increased considerably in 1936 when the owners purchased the large mine at Dolcoath to the west.
On 1st May 1955, Robinson’s engine stopped pumping. It was the last Cornish beam engine to work a Cornish mine. The engine has been preserved in its house, although electric pumps were installed in the shaft. The engine house is Grade II* listed and is under the care of the National Trust. Public access is restricted.
In 1970 the headframe adjacent to Cook's Shaft was replaced with a larger one equipped with a powerful electric winding mechanism, which was reconfigured in 1988 with separate winding gears to allow both men and ore to be raised simultaneously.
The price of tin crashed in 1985, triggering widespread hardship for miners. South Crofty survived this through modernisation and government assistance. However, it closed on 6th March 1998, by which time Cook's Shaft was 769m deep, with a further incline to a depth of 859m.
In 2001, the mine was reopened by Baseresult Holdings Ltd under the name New Cook's Kitchen Mine, but was later abandoned.
The price of tin has increased rapidly to more than three times its 1998 level. It's in demand for lead-free solder amongst other things. Consequently, Baseresult formed a new company on 2nd November 2007 — Western United Mines Ltd — to own and run South Crofty . It still has large reserves of tin, which the company aims to produce commercially by the end of 2009 after an investment of some £59m.
Man engine: Michael Loam
Cook's beam engine: Matthew Loam
Robinson's beam engine: Captain Samual Grose
Contractor (Robinson's engine house): J. & W. Gay
Contractor (Robinson's engine): Copperhouse Foundry
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"Cornish Engines" by Peter Laws, The National Trust, National Trust Enterprises Ltd, London, 1993
"Mines of Cornwall and Devon (an historic photographic record)" by Peter Stanier, Twelveheads Press, Truro, 1998
"Mining Sites in Cornwall and South West Devon" by Barry Atkinson, Dyllansow Truran, Redruth, 1988
www.cornish-mining.org.uk
www.mindat.org
www.southcrofty.co.uk
Location

South Crofty Mine