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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Cornwall Part 2

Originally published on Blogspot by Gethin Thomas October 27th 2021

Botallack and Porthleven

The image that defines this part of Cornwall is the Crown Engine Houses, clinging to the base of the cliffs at Botallack. The Tin Coast stretches for seven miles here. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This has been a place of industry for two thousand years and even the Romans came here for their tin supplies. Beneath this landscape are over a thousand mine shafts and hundreds of miles of tunnels. Above ground the engine houses and chimneys enabled the recovery of the ore and processed it.

The Botallack Mine is a former mine in Botallack in the west of Cornwall, England, UK. Botallack was a submarine mine with tunnels extending under the sea, in places for half a mile. Over its recorded lifetime the mine produced around 14,500 tonnes of tin, 20,000 tonnes of copper, and 1,500 tonnes of arsenic. (Wikipedia)

In the 1860s a new diagonal shaft was dug. A visit by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1865, when they descended the shaft, created a mini-boom in tourism, causing the mine operators to charge visitors a guinea per person.

The engine houses in the Crowns section of Botallack Mine are set low down the cliffs north of Botallack. There are two engine houses and the remains of another pair on the cliff slopes above; the mine extends for about 400 metres out under the Atlantic ocean; the deepest shaft is 250 fathoms (about 500 metres) below sea level.

There are two arsenic works opposite the Botallack Mine count house. At the top of the cliffs there are also the remains of one of the mine's arsenic-refining works from the early twentieth century. Here are the arsenic labyrinths. The ore was burned and arsenic was given off which was deposited on the inside walls of the labyrinth. This was then scraped off by workers. Arsenic was mistakenly believed to have health giving properties when in fact it accumulates as a poison. It's effects are long term and it is possible because of the shorter life expectancy of the times the toxic effects were never observed as people died young anyway relative to today.

This is Allen's Shaft. It was commenced in 1906 and reached a depth of 1400 feet, 426 metres. It was the final mining period of the area and it was one of the biggest mines ever dug in Cornwall with five compartments. The chimney is what remains from the horizontal steam winder. The mine was never a success and closed in 1914 never finding the hoped for tin lodes.

During the 1980's with a booming tin price a new steel tower and winder were installed with a view to restart the mine. The shaft was also reconditioned, just before the tin price once again crashed.


Porthleven is a fishing port near Helston in Cornwall, England, UK. As the most southerly port in Great Britain, it was originally developed as a harbour of refuge, when this part of the Cornish coastline was infamous for wrecks in the days of sail.

In the summer of 1810 a prospectus was printed by W. Penaluna, Helston, and also by a Fleet Street firm. It related to the ” Prince of Wales’ Harbour, to be constructed at Porthleven.” It stated : “The frequent occurrence of wrecks in the Mount’s Bay, and the distressing calamities thereby produced on lives and property, have been a matter of serious reflection with many persons for some time past. Within a very short space of time, not less than twelve vessels have been lost near, and within sight of, the inhabitants of Porthleven.” It proved, too, that surveys by competent engineers had been made of the cove, and it had been plainly demonstrated that a commodious, extensive, and safe harbour could be made. (

In 1811 an Act was passed for the construction of Porthleven Harbour. On the 18th October, 1825, the magistrates in quarter session assembled certified that Porthleven Harbour was completed to admit vessels of 200 tons, and in 1826 it was opened for traffic.

By preparing grooves, in which balks of timber were let down during stormy weather, the boats and shipping could remain secure during the severest gale. As a result of their exertions, the trade of the port and the prosperity of the fishermen greatly increased.

These excerpts are from the following interesting history of the harbour.

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