How Our Mining Culture Shaped Your World

A map of part of the world with arrows spreading out from Cornwall to different regions of the worldFind out how our mining culture affected different parts of the world.

Open the panels below to explore the influence Cornish mining had on the entire world.

The UK

Moor Row, Cumbria

Moor Row on the coastal fringes of Cumbria had experienced an influx of Cornish mineworkers and their families by the 1870s.

The Montreal Mines adjoining the town were eventually to produce 250,000 tons of haematite iron ore per year, the largest of any operation in the Whitehaven/Furness district.

Around 1,000 workers were employed by the mines in total here and the presence of a Penzance Street in the town gives an indication of the influence of the Cornish in the latter nineteenth century.

Somerset

Historic treats from Cornish mining in Somerset still exist today, at 'Burrow Farm Mine' and 'Dodington'.

Burrow Farm Mine, Brendon Hills, Somerset

The Burrow Farm Mine was established around 1860 for iron ore (haematite) and by 1868 the excavations had progressed to the stage where a pumping engine was required to dewater the workings. A 25 inch Cornish beam engine was installed at this time by the then Mine Captain Henry Skewis from Cornwall, though the ore reserves were to prove uneconomic and the mine closed the following year. Today the preserved engine house can be visited via footpaths along the former mineral railway track bed from Naked Boy’s Bridge.

Dodington, Quantock Hills, Somerset

Cornish mineworkers are known to have been employed in copper mining on the Quantocks from the late eighteenth century. The Fox family of Cornwall were to have extensive mining interests in the Dodington area, and Samuel and Matthew Grose and William Jenkin, of Redruth, were employed to manage the mines themselves which were to close in 1822. Two engine houses survive associated with the mines, at the Beech Grove and Glebe shafts respectively.  

Mining in Wales

Wales experienced an explosion of activity in mining for silver and copper.

Dorothea, Dyffryn Nantlle

An impressive 60 inch Cornish design pumping engine, constructed by Holman Brothers of Camborne, survives at Dorothea which was installed in 1906 to dewater the 600 ft (180m) deep slate quarry. This was to work until pumping was switched from steam to electric in 1951.  

Frongoch

This former lead and zinc mine near Pontrhydygroes in mid Wales dates from the late 1750s and by the 1820s the workings were leased by the Williams family of Scorrier, Cornwall. The leases were subsequently acquired by the renowned mining speculators John Taylor & Son and managed by the Francis family of Cornwall. A 60 inch Cornish pumping engine was installed around 1870 and this survives, although in a reduced state, along with a number of other mine buildings.

Llywernog

The discovery of argentiferous galena (silver-lead) at Llywernog was first made in the 1740s but it was not until the 1790s when two adits were driven into the hillside to aid drainage and access. In 1824 the mine lease was taken up by the Williams family of Scorrier, Cornwall, and Cornish mineworkers were recruited to provide much of the labour. Cornish surnames were to become common in the area and Methodist chapels were constructed in many nearby villages. Though the Williams’ association with the mine ended in 1834 the Cornish presence persisted under different owners until the mine finally closed in 1910. Today Llywernog is open as a visitor attraction with surface and underground tours.     

Anglesey, Parys Mountain, Amlwch

Anglesey experienced an explosion of activity in the latter decades of the eighteenth century when readily accessible opencast reserves of copper ore were exploited en masse at the Parys and Mona mines, depressing the world market price of copper. In 1811 the latter mine was reformed under the controlling interest of the Cornish-born John Vivian, of Swansea copper smelting renown, and deep shaft mining was pursued using Cornish methods. James Treweek of Gwennap became manager of the mine and over the next 40 years his sphere of influence was to include the overseeing of copper smelting on site, and at the nearby port of Amlwch, and the shipping interests of Mona. Today the Cornish engine house at Parys (1819) and the wharves at Amlwch are just some of the reminders of the scale of the Cornish influence on Anglesey.   

Minera Mine

Mining for silver-lead at Minera is known to have been taking place by 1296 but the Cornish were not to make their presence felt until 1745 when they formed part of an in-migrant workforce originating from Cornwall, Ireland and elsewhere. Cornish mining technology was also employed extensively at Minera in the nineteenth century and an 80 inch Cornish pumping engine was acquired, probably constructed by Harveys of Hayle, and installed at Taylors Shaft on or around 1845. Another 44 inch Cornish design pumping engine was installed at Meadow Shaft two years later and this has now been preserved for public view.

The Famous Laxey Wheel

The Great Laxey Lead and Zinc Mine saw the installation of the, what would become famous, Laxey Wheel (‘Lady Isabella’) in 1854.

The Great Laxey Lead and Zinc Mine

Once a major producer of these two metals the mine also saw the installation of the, what would become famous, Laxey Wheel (‘Lady Isabella’) in 1854. Installed to pump from deepening workings, this was overseen by the Cornish Mine Captain Richard Rowe originally of St Agnes who also secured a beam winding engine for the mine in addition to constructing ‘Rowe’s Pier’ at Laxey. 

Foxdale

Mining commenced in the Foxdale area for silver-lead in the early eighteenth century but Cornish involvement is understood to have commenced around 100 years later. Edward Bawden became manager of the Isle of Man Mining Company in 1830 and the number of Cornish engine houses in the area is an indication of the significance of the Cornish presence, with remains of these surviving at North and South Bradda mines, Beckwith’s Mine, and Cross-vein.  

 

North America

The Richest Hill on Earth

During the 1880s Butte had become the greatest copper producing centre in the world and was described as ‘the richest hill on earth’ by many.

When the 19th century mining boom hit the American West, the Cornish were considered some of the best hard rock miners in the world. Many of them subsequently migrated and settled in North America’s many mining regions, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and California.

Pasties in Michigan

The miners took more than just their mining knowledge to North America! Pasties are still popular fodder even after 150 years...

Pasties are particularly popular in the mining region of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan known as the Copper Country. Calumet in this area hosts an annual Pasty Fest. During the festival there are Pasty eating contests, games and a tug of war where the losers must jump into an inflatable pool filled with tomato ketchup!

Read more: Cornish Mining in North America

The USA Cornish Heritage Site

Some of the distinctive stone cottages built by the Cornish in the mid nineteenth century have been restored as the Pendarvis Restoration.

Such is the heritage value of the cottages on Shake Rag Alley that these comprise the only officially designated Cornish heritage site in the USA.

Cousin Jack's Legacy

The expertise and innovation that the Cornish miners took with them to South Africa had a profound effect on American mining.

Cornish mine workers took their traditions and pastimes with them to America, some of which are still practised in some communities today.

Cornwall Furnace

The Cornwall Furnace site is a unique survival in the USA of an early iron ore smelter dating from around 1856.

This was established by Peter Grubb in 1742.

Mining in the Rockies

Mining in the Rockies in south western Colorado commenced in 1859.

This followed the discovery of what became known as ‘The Gregory Lode’ by prospector John Gregory

The Californian Gold Rush

Grass Valley came to prominence in 1850 following the discovery of gold along what would be known as Gold Hill.

This would mark the start of deep hard-rock mining in the area which required a skill that the Cornish were well placed to supply.

 

Mexico

Mexican Wave

It was Cornish miners who introduced football to Mexico.

The country’s first football club – Pachuca Athletic Club – originally comprised exclusively of Cornish mine workers.

 

South Africa

The Diamond Rush

During the 1800s, Kimberly in South Africa saw the world’s greatest ever diamond rush.

Hard rock mining techniques were required to extract the precious stones and so Cornish immigrants flooded in to try and make their fortune.

 

Australia

The Copper Triangle - Moonta Mine

In 1859 a shepherd discovered traces of copper in South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula.

This prompted a rush for mining leases. Soon after, mines had been established in Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo. The mine in Moonta alone produced $10 million worth of copper...

The Copper Triangle - Kadina Mine

South Australia owes its global status as a copper region to Cornwall’s mining expertise.

Kernewek Lowender (Cornish for ‘Cornish happiness’) is a festival held every two years in the Copper Triangle to celebrate the region’s ties to Cornwall.

 

New Zealand

The Invincible Mine...

From its origins in the late 1870s Waihi was to grow to become one of the world’s most important gold mining centres...

In the 1870s and 1880s, New Zealand had an immigration drive to bring skilled labour into the country. The Cornish had built a reputation as hard workers who were also suitable to colonial life, as demonstrated by their successful settlement in South Australia.