South Crofty Mine Underground 18: The first few images on this page are of the extensive adit system of the mine which I was lucky enough to visit.
The adits were critical to the mines operation as they would carry the drainage water from the mine. The water was never pumped to surface as this was a waste of time and effort. It was usually pumped to adit level which was the lowest level of the mine above the water table. From here it would flow to an outlet. Many of these narrow tunnels were several hundreds of years old. Dug by men with hand tools and a candle on their head.
All the adits were regularly checked to ensure the water did not flow back into the workings.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.1 – On one Friday Allen Buckley kindly took me underground on one of his regular Drainage Adit inspections. This is if I remember rightly was in the Robinson’s Section of the mine, climbing the ladders on the way to the surface.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.2 – Allen Buckley working his way along one of the narrow Adits. The water can be seen flowing in a channel (known as a Launder) by his feet.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.3 – This is taken looking up one of the adit shafts. The ladders were about 20ft long going to platforms for safety.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.4 – Looking up a second adit shaft, these were often wet and cold only accessing the shallow workings of the mine.
Every level in the mine was connected by a ladder way. These were in place to aid ventilation and provide a second way out in case of emergency. Climbing them in the heat and humidity was brutal. Trying to negotiate a large camera bag through small gaps was a constant nightmare. The next few images show how confining they could be.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.5 – A rear view if my friend Dave Cox climbing a ladder between the levels. On the left of the image is an air ventilation pipe running up the ladderway.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.6 – A second image of a ladderway showing just how narrow they could be, I think its John Usoro above me. It was hot and hard work to climb these, going down was a nightmare carrying bags of cameras.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.7 – The ladderways between the levels were very confining, this one was almost vertical. Very often after several hours underground the wellie boots I was wearing would be full of sweat. I remember on my first trip underground I had to beg some water from a miner as I was suffering mild dehydration. I never made that mistake again! This is an image of my friend Matt Clark who came down with me on one occasion.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.8 – This ladderway had more room in it. These winzes allowed free air movement around the workings.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.9 – John Usoro climbing a ladder approaching a sollar. These were in place to attach the ladders and prevent rocks from falling down the ladderway. In the older days of Cornish Mining a hatch would have been in place so miners did not fall down them in the dark.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.10 – This is an image of the view looking down Roskear Shaft which was the secondary access for the mine. Taken from the 2000ft level, the guides for the cage in the shaft ended here.
In the 1980’s the decision was made to mine a sub decline to deepen the mine and hopefully exploit new deeper lodes. At this time the bottom of Cooks Kitchen Shaft was on the 380 fathom level. In the years to come this would be deepened to 400 fathom with the shaft sump on 420 fathom level.
There were actually two declines. North was from 380 to 420 Fathom, the west was from 420 to 470 Fathom. Both had been mined on a 1 in 4 incline. On one side was a conveyor belt for bringing the ore up from the lower levels. Whilst on the other were rails on which a wagon was pulled up by a winder at the top, each had its own small electric winder.
South Crofty Mine Underground 18.11 – The winder and the drum of wire rope on the incline on the 420 Fathom level of South Crofty. There was also a croust seat in this chamber for miners to rest at break times.
South Crofty Mine 18.12 – Another closer image of the winder drum and the wire rope.
South Crofty Mine 18.13 – A view looking down the incline, on the left is the entry to the 420 Fathom working level. The conveyor belt is on the right with the rails running next to it. The vertical post was a safety device to stop a wagon in case the wire rope broke.
South Crofty Mine 18.14 – The top of the conveyor belt. This was where any riders would get off the belt. On the right of the image is the access to the working level, probably 380 Fathom level.
The remaining images on the page are of the sub declines, they are probably a bit mixed up as I cannot remember the locations correctly. Walking up here after a few hours underground was always exhausting.
South Crofty Mine 18.15 – Dr Nick Le Boutillier walking down the incline at the start of one of our underground visits. The conveyor belt is on the right of the image.
South Crofty Mine 18.16 – Taken a few minutes after the previous image. Nick progressing down the steep incline.
South Crofty Mine 18.17 – John Usoro riding the conveyor belt on the way back to the shaft station. I did join him on some occasions, however mostly I suffered the hard walk. It was terrifying when you had to avoid the ore passes and get off.
South Crofty Mine 18.18 – An image of the incline looking up hill. The rails for the wagons can be seen clearly along with the wire rope used to pull them up.
South Crofty Mine 18.19 – John Usoro walking the 1 in 4 incline from the 445 to 400 Fathom Levels of South Crofty Mine. On the left of the image is the conveyor belt used to ferry the crushed ore to the skips in the shaft for raising to the surface.
This final image was a difficult one to print because of all the light and dark areas. Once again the effort in the darkroom was worth it. I will give an idea of the technicalities of Black and White printing. The centre area needed only 30 seconds exposure, the area to the left took around a minute, the roof took about 40 seconds. However, the light areas in the front and to the right of the image took between four and five minutes.
South Crofty Mine 18.20 – This final image is of John Usoro on the incline. The steepness of the passage is evident, it seemed to go on and on.
South Crofty Mine Underground 19