Wheal Busy Smithy funding appeal

One of the two impressive cast iron lintels of the Smithy, which give an indication of the proud spirit the mine company wished to convey through its reworking of Wheal Busy in the 1870s. (Image courtesy of Ainsley Cocks)Since 2014 the World Heritage site has prioritised Wheal Busy Smithy as a conservation project and for many years before this members of the team, the local community and Cornwall Council have searched for a solution to preserve this fantastic piece of history, which is a noted feature of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ within the World Heritage Site.

Whilst being a well-known feature in the Chacewater area, the building has unfortunately been underutilised for some time which has led to deterioration of the scantle-slate roofing. The winter storms of 2014 also caused the partial collapse of the building’s south eastern corner, increasing concerns about its continued stability.

In 2018 the World Heritage Office approached Highways England with the aim of getting the Smithy included as one of the projects to be funded by the Highways England A30 Environmental Designated Funds. Since then the World Heritage Team has worked with Highways England, Arup contractors, Members of the Chasewater Parish Council and Tregothnan Estate to get the project approved for funding. We are delighted to announce that this project has now been approved for £1 million in funding. The Smithy is likely to be developed for community usage. 

The Smithy workshop at Wheal Busy near the former mining village of Chacewater is unique within the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site and is thought to be the largest historic blacksmiths on a metalliferous mine in Britain.

The Wheal Busy Smithy within the historic mining landscape of Chacewater and the Gwennap Area of the World Heritage Site. (Image courtesy of Ainsley Cocks)

Wheal Busy is a very important name in the annals of Cornish mining. The production of copper and tin in the area around Chacewater dates from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries, with the mine first being mentioned in 1666. Wheal Busy also saw the successive installation of early innovations in steam technology; a Newcomen atmospheric engine was at work dewatering the mine by around 1726, with this role assumed by a Smeaton improved atmospheric engine by 1775-1776. Eventually a Boulton & Watt separate condenser engine was installed, this being the first of its type to operate in Cornwall when it was put to work by its designer James Watt in 1777.

As an acknowledged feature of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, or international significance, within the World Heritage Site, the preservation of the Smithy is of the highest priority to the World Heritage Site team. Designated a Grade II Listed building, the Smithy has an extensive scantle-slate roof and impressive cast iron lintels over its two main entrances. The building owes much of its grand form to a major reworking of the mine in the 1870s and the lintels boldly proclaim the title: ‘Great Wheal Busy Mines 1872’.

Julian German, Chair of the World Heritage Site Partnership, commented that “the Partnership very much welcome the support that Highways England have pledged through the A30 Environmental Designated Funds scheme. The Wheal Busy Smithy poses a significant conservation challenge but this announcement will enable the emergency stabilisation of the building, which is a well-known and highly regarded feature of international importance within the World Heritage Site.” 

The World Heritage Site team are delighted that funding has been approved for the Smithy and look forward to working closely with Highways England, the Tregothnan Estate and the community of Chacewater to deliver the much-needed conservation of this unique aspect of Cornwall’s mining heritage.