Wheal Roots Tin Mine at The Poldark Mine of today is the only complete tin mine in Cornwall open to the general public for underground guided tours. Generally regarded as one of the most historic locations in the annals of Cornish Mining History, it has been open to the public for 45 years.
The mine is on several levels and the guided tours by experienced Cornishmen receive many accolades for their unvarnished presentation there are no gimmicks or frills. The atmosphere in Wheal Roots 18th century Tin Mine workings is tangible, leaving a profound memory on the explorers who venture below.
The mine tours encompass three or four levels of the 18th century mine workings of Wheal Roots Mine which prospered during the 1700s, but can boast far earlier hand worked mediaeval origins [sometime between 500 AD to about 1500 AD] in peripheral adits and other areas of the mine that are inaccessible to visitors.
The hamlet of Trenear is part of the village and district of Wendron near Helston and lies in a vale below the village church. This is where the three mines, three Tin Stamping Mills, the post office, the village shop, sawmill, the forge & blacksmiths with its petrol pumps and the Wheelwrights were thriving a century ago that continued until the end of the 1960s. Wendron is one of the few rural villages that has no new houses.
Trenear is located on the B3297 Helston to Redruth road 3 miles from Helston on the edge of the beautiful Lizard Peninsula. The mine is on Porkellis lane in Lower Trenear [Trenere Wolas] set below a granite escarpment in six acres of waterside country style gardens in a beautiful wooded glen on the River Cober valley floor. The river & the 13c mill race is fed from Porkellis Moor a Site of Special Scientific interest due to its biodiversity. The rich flora and fauna naturally extends through the woodlands surrounding the Poldark grounds which are teaming with wildlife.
The workings lie below several acres of hillside fields that form private farmland in the village. The grounds are known today as the Trenere Wolas Gardyn being the name of the location in the 1400s and before. The spelling of Gardyn is taken from middle English which was in use from circa 1100 to 1500. Wolas means lower in Cornish.
The tiny Poldark Demesne is about 230 feet above sea level in a rural farming community just over 3 miles from the ancient port of Gweek from where much tin was exported, the port dates to 450 BC when tin was traded with the Phoenicians.
In Mediaeval times Gweek was a busy port. Tin and copper ore from the mines in Wendron were exported, charcoal for smelting tin, coal and timber was imported. Trade dwindled due to the decline of tin and copper mining and the port of Gweek on the Helford River became silted up and gradually fell into disuse.
Porthleven is another harbour less than 6 miles from Trenear by the sea near Mounts Bay on the English Channel to the south. The mine is around 8 miles from the Atlantic Coast to the West at Hayle.
Wheal Roots, Hwel Roots or Huel Roots, is a tin mine now known as The Poldark Mine and has a special place in the story of Cornish tin mining. Its an ancient location that is the veritable cradle of tinning in Cornwall. The mine is also a Regionally Important Geological & Geomorphological Site [RIGS] No K31 The old mine workings representing the roots of a lode. This cannot be seen anywhere else. The main stope shaft is believed to be the location of a Carbona Mass and its upper level was once worked as a Goffen Shaft in ancient times - again most unusual.
The mine, monument & grounds are part of the UNESCO Cornish & Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Inscription - Area 4.
A unique 4000 year old Bronze-Age Scheduled Ancient Monument - the Trenear Mortar Outcrop - sits in the riverside grounds where alluvial tin ore was processed by ancient Britons.
The Trenear Mortar Outcrop is formed from a living granite outcrop some 290 million years old. The granite here is the oldest in Cornwall being some 20 million years earlier than the remainder and is part of the Carnmenellis Pluton. This Monument Stone serves to confirm the great antiquity and national importance of the location. We call this our TIN HENGE.
The Cornish Heritage Collection was started by the late Peter Brigham Young in 1963 and first opened its doors to the public on June 1st 1971. It was one of the very first Industrial Heritage Museums and is the interpretation centre for the Wendron Mining District which once had over 60 mines with some 9000 people and workers at its peak.
The area produced great quantities of tin, copper,small amounts of China clay and other minerals. Much tin was processed at the Poldark Mine of today at the Tin Stamping Mills & tin dressing floors operated by water wheels from the 13th century until the mid 1870s. There was also a blowing house here, a grist mill and fish ponds too.
Copper ore was handled here from Wendron Consols Mine which from 1854 was under the same ownership. Wendron Consol together with New Wendron Consols mine were linked underground through Wheal Roots mine. The 13th century water courses remain as does the original water wheel pit which contains a more modern 1904 wheel from Treamble Iron Ore & Fullers Earth Mine at Perranporth.
Visitors travel from all corners of the globe to trace the footsteps of their Wendron ancestors and to explore the labyrinth of four levels, caverns, adits, stopes, passageways and shafts that make up this 18th century mine since it was first opened to the public in 1976.
The mine has been seen by millions all over the world due to the BBC Poldark Drama that was filmed here twice during the 1970s and in the current BBC series of Poldark. Other BBC productions have also been filmed here, such as Penmarric, BBC Childrens programmes, BBC TVs FLOG IT, and sequences in a number of documentaries such as with Adam Hart-Davies.
THE MINE WORKINGS & A MODERN EDUCATIONAL MINING ROLE
The mine has four levels that may be explored, there is a further unexplored level. There are a number of former access shafts and about 3 miles of passageways. The mine has three stope shafts where tin bearing ore was removed and which can be seen on the guided tours. The mine was worked by vertical shafts with ladders some of which are pointed out during the tour, others are not accessible or are capped.
There are a number of unique features such as the Shammeling Shaft and distinctive veins of blue peach or ore-bearing tourmaline. Recently one of the professors from the Camborne School of Mines discovered that the main stope shaft is the location of a relatively rare Carbona Mass. Parts of the mine were worked in mediaeval times but the areas shown to visitors today date from the 1700s.
ATMOSPHERIC UNDERGROUND MINE TOURS
Sir Neil Cossons OBE FSA FMA, the former chairman of English Heritage and current President of the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), is regarded as the leading authority on industrial heritage in Britain. He declared that Poldark Mine was One of the two most atmospheric mine tours in Europe. The other mine being the vast 14th century former Royal Salt Mine near Krakow in Poland which has been open as a state museum for many years.
Wheal Roots at Poldark Mine has been open to the public for 45 years, an incredible record that no other UK mine can equal. Literally millions of visitors have been here during those years and many millions more have seen the mine in a variety of BBC television programmes and documentaries. The mine has a George V Royal Mail postbox underground which has been there for over 40 years and postcards mailed in the mine get stamped with a special postmark.
THE BBC POLDARK DRAMA CONNECTION
Most recently and twice during the 1970s the mine has been the location for underground sequences in the two BBC Television series of Poldark! People are continuing to come here from all over the world to have a peek at this remarkable and historic mine that is described as The Jewel in the Crown of the World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation [UNESCO] World Heritage Team.
CAMBORNE SCHOOL OF MINES at POLDARK MINE - Although Wheal Roots ceased mining over 200 years ago it continues to have a vital and active role in training mining students from all over the world for multidisciplinary mining qualifications. Cornwall continues to have a significant effect on mining throughout the world. We at the mine are pleased to be a field study location for CSM which is part of Exeter University which furthers our educational aims and activities.
The world renowned Camborne School of Mines founded in 1888 is part of Exeter University and Wheal Roots Tin Mine Workings at Poldark Mine are used by the University as a field study location for their students & postgraduates who are based at their Penryn Campus near Falmouth just 8 miles away from us.
Practical surveying using both state of the art Global Positioning System [GPS] and traditional mechanical theodolites is taught. Applied geology, training & induction courses, together with other underground training work is carried out by postgraduates and students in the mine, usually but not exclusively outside public opening times. You may note the modern survey tags on the passageway walls and roofs throughout the workings.
There are several GPS permanent markers on the surface here at Poldark Mine - see if you can spot them. The equipment used is very expensive and students get several days practical training here combined with study & lectures at the university.
Since the mine workings were first opened to the public 45 years ago many CSM students have worked here as volunteers and mine guides. This link has continued down the years with several former students who regularly assist and support in a variety of ways. For a number of years, our regular monthly inspections are carried out by Henderson Mines Research whose principal qualified from the CSM many years ago and who has a long association with the mine since the very early days.
An example of this bond can be downloaded from elsewhere on this web site as the late Dr N. G. LeBOUTILLIER BSc PhD MCSM EurGeol CGeol FGS produced a definitive geological survey of the mine for his degree in 2004. The mine workings were filled with mud and rubble and much of this was cleared by volunteers many of whom were students at CSM. More recently a number of modern fire doors, windows and other items including our ticket office windows, were reclaimed from the former Camborne School of Mine premises in Pool which closed a few years ago when the campus moved to Penryn.
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