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CORNWALL ARCHAEOLOGICAL UNIT.
A REPORT FOR ENGLISH HERITAGE by NICK CAHILL. BA. IHBC.
Hayle’s position so close to the mines, and its location on the north coast made it ideal as a port to service the mining industry, since it was well placed to trade with the great coal and smelting areas of South Wales and the great trading centre at Bristol. The St Erth valley was an ancient andl well-established tin-mining area with many long-established stamping mills. The area turned largely to copper from 1798-1850, and ancient tin-steaming works in St Erth were active throughout the 19th century, using steam engines by 1873, while the waste was still being re-worked during the Second World War.
Real growth came in the early 18th century, with the expansion of tin mining in the Angarrack area, east of Hayle, but especially with the development of copper mining. Both tin and copper were exploited on a greater scale and at much greater depths, which led to a growth in the use of steam engines. The Hayle mining area was one of the ﬁrst areas in Cornwall to exploit its copper reserves on a large scale (from about 1750) - the area of Mellanear Mine was already being worked in 1750, and was then known as Leah Copper Work.
The greatest expansion in local mining began in the 1790s with the opening of Wheal Alfred in 1793, based on the amalgamation of older workings. This mine really took off in about 1805, going through several phases of closure and re-opening between 1816 and 1864. By the early 19th century the mine employed some 1500 people, and was described in 1814 as the 3rd largest copper mine in Cornwall. Other local mines included several on the same lodes and in the same area as Wheal Alfred, with some large sales of copper in the 1790s, but generally little produced after about 1800. There was some mining actually within the area of the present town of Hayle in the late 18th century. An adit was driven from Copperhouse Creek southwards under the lands owned by the CCCo, which was also involved in the development of North Wheal Alfred, whose dumps, together with some surviving buildings, are still visible south of Trevassack. Harvey’s owned or leased the land Mellanear mine was on and had some degree of involvement in its expansion.
The last major phase of working at all these local mines was between 1846-62, with some initial success at Wheal Alfred that led to a number of other local mines being re-opened after about 1850, only to close by 1862.
5.2.2 Mine-related industries
The ﬁrst industrial venture at Hayle was a small copper smelter set up near the lower end of Penpol Creek in 1710. It was located here to take advantage of local supplies of ore, and to eliminate the cost of road transport of coal (the biggest single potential expense in any copper smelting enterprise in Cornwall, and the reason why all but a small fraction of ore was exported to and smelted in South Wales throughout the 18th century and 19th century). Although proﬁtable, the smelter was closed by 1735, the original partners having died or retired.
From 1740, the increasing demands by local mines and traders for imported coal, rope, bricks and other essentials led to quays being built in the narrows at the mouth of the ‘East Loe’ (Copperhouse Creek) - known as ‘Merchant’ Curnow’s quays - and at Carnsew. Dr W/illiam Borlase, the great Cornish Antiquary, wrote in 1758 that between 500 and 1000 mules and pack horses were usually to be seen at Hayle each day, transporting supplies inland and returning laden with copper ore (quoted in Noall 1984, 114). In 1758 the CCCo moved here from Carn Entral, Camborne and set up a copper smelter on the foreshore waste of Ventonleague on the southern shore of the Phillack estuary (Copperhouse Creek). By the 1780s the company had become extremely successful, a canal had been dug from the mouth of Penpol Creek up to Ventonleague to bring vessels right up to the works; additional land for industrial use and housing was purchased on both sides of the creek, and two old quays (North Quay and Carnsew Quay) had been acquired by 1789. john Harvey (1730-1803) was a blacksmith at Carnhell Green who set up a small foundry and engineering works at Hayle in 1779 to supply the local mining industry; by 1800 50 men were employed by Harvey. The foundry expanded from 1803; family and professional partnerships with great engineers such as Richard Trevithick, Wilham West and (from 1816) Arthur Woolf gave the ﬁrm a level of expertise unmatched by other engineering works in Cornwall. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the main activity, business and proﬁts of both Harvey’s and the CCCo remained the considerable seaborne trade between Hayle, South Wales and Bristol - the import and sale of coal, timber and building materials. Although most of the shipping in the harbour was used to supply the mining industry of Cornwall, with copper ore and tin metal returning to South Wales, there was also an important and long-lived passenger trade between Hayle and Bristol. As ﬁerce competitors, the CCCo and the Harvey family became locked in a bitter and drawn out dispute over rights to the waterfront at Carnsew and Penpol. This is one of the central episodes in Hayle’s history, which affected the development of the harbour and quays in a way which is still evident today, and contributed to the distinctive, and different, identities of Copperhouse and Foundry.
In 1819 the CCCo ceased to smelt copper ore; it needed to diversify, and a new works was cpnstructed which became the Copperhouse Foundry and engineering works. In later years this iron foundry was known as Sandys, Carne and Vivian, or simply “Copperhouse”. The foundry became one of the “big three” in Cornwall, ranking alongside Harvey’s and Perran Foundry (at Perranarworthal, between Truro and Falrnouth) for the quality of their work and engineering expertise.
126.96.36.199. The Industrial Remains.
The other major area in Foundry with buried archaeological potential is in the island between Foundry Square and Chapel Terrace. This was the site of the Trelissick Tin Smelter built by George Grenfell in 1820. He gave up his interest in 1847, but the smelter carried on under different owners 1855, when Harvey bought the site and removed the smelter furnaces, using part of the site for storage for his foundry. This in turn became the site of the Drill Hall of the Volunteer Artillery Battery formed in 1860, with the old smelter/warehouse building possibly being re-used. It was in the forecourt of this building that the standing Public Hall and market of 1867 (now Lloyds Bank) was built. The bank, Post Ofﬁce and parcels depot occupying the site today are bounded by a series of stone walls with traces of buildings and openings in them. The wall dividing the car park from Chapel Terrace follows the line of the now culverted Penpol Steam, also the ancient parish boundary between St Erth and Phillack. The car park itself is the site of a row of early 19th century cottages demolished in the 1980s.
Just to the south-east of Foundry is a complex of ponds, banks, mine wastes and burrows along the Penpol stream that would appear to be an area of high archaeological potential. Other areas in Foundry are likely to have limited archaeological potential, being either heavily redeveloped, as at the Mellanear Smelter site, or being sites where the only known structures are still standing.
No attempt has been made here to describe the mining remains around the outskirts of Hayle, although the mining operations these reﬂect undoubtedly had an impact on the settlement. Although there are some visible remains within the study area, these are limited to the dumps of Wheal Alfred mine, and a number of sites of shafts and other dumps which have not been surveyed or categorised in detail in the inventory - they are most notably to be found in the ﬁelds immediately to the east of the Mellanear smelter site. Some cottages in the High Lanes area may be converted mine buildings - especially those just south of Trevassack, and the large house in Water Lane built in the mid-late 19th century may be associated with Gundry’s Shaft which was shown as a working mine site on the north side of the lane on the 1877 OS map (part of Mellanear Mine).