Tolgus Tin Works is situated in the Portreath Valley on the B3300. The plant dates from the 1860’s, it worked until the late 1980’s when the low price of Tin forced its closure. The purpose of the plant was to recover Tin from ore supplied by small local mines and to rework locally sourced dump material. Also the slimes which was the processed waste from other mines, usually dumped into the stream which flows past the works. The stream also supplied power for the huge range of diverse machinery based on the site.
I spent a day at the Tolgus Tin works in May 2012, the plant is a photographers paradise with textures and patterns everywhere. I have tried to be different, looking for photographs where others might walk past, I had time to study the machinery and choose my angles carefully.
Tolgus Tin Works 1: Outside the entrance to the plant is this Stationary Engine made by Holman Brothers of Camborne.
Tolgus Tin Works 2: As with most Cornish Mining enterprises money was always short. Any material the operators could find they would use. The roof covering the plant is a mish mash of varying materials.
Tolgus Tin Works 3: The different textures and materials made an ideal subject for Black and White Photography.
Tolgus Tin Works 4: The raised roof in the background was the home of the Cornish Stamps.
Tolgus Tin Works 5: This is looking the other way over the roof of the Stamps house.
Tolgus Tin Works 6: This is the section of roof above the Cornish Stamps.
Tolgus Tin Works 7: I have a great affection for water wheels, this one caught my eye. At one time the whole plant was powered by water.
Tolgus Tin Works 8: This image is of the Slimes Treatment Area.
Tolgus Tin Works 9: The light and shadows on this water wheel makes a very interesting image.
Tolgus Tin Works 10: Another image of the water wheel from a different angle.
The rest of the photographs are taken inside the mill itself, sadly the sun that had been out decided to disappear behind clouds. The covered mill is very interesting with machinery that is over 100 years old and some more modern plant that is still used in the industry today.
In one of the side room there were two Ball Mills. These are rotating cylinders filled with metal balls. when the ore is added the action of the balls in the cylinder break up the ore to release the fine particles of Tin.
Tolgus Tin Works 11: This is one of the Ball Mills in the plant. The roof space contained drive wheels which powered the machinery when the plant was powered by water.
Tolgus Tin Works 12: A close up of the drive wheel in the roof space.
Tolgus Tin Works 13: The large Ball Mill. In the wooden box on the floor are some of the metal balls which were placed inside to break up the Tin bearing material.
Tolgus Tin Works 14: The side of the main mill, in the background there is a smaller unit.
Tolgus Tin Works 15: The drive wheels for the main mill made an interesting photograph.
Tolgus Tin Works 16: The second smaller Ball Mill.
Tolgus Tin Works 17: This is the drive motor for the mill.
Tolgus Tin Works 18: Old cog wheels make an interesting image, nice textures.
Tolgus Tin Works 19: A well balanced image of a drive wheel in the plant.
Tolgus Tin Works 20: Circles were the shape of the day. Interesting and fun to photograph, behind this was another water wheel.
Tolgus Tin Works 21: Intricate drive wheels for some of the plant machinery on the site.
Tolgus Tin Works 22: This piece of machinery caught my eye.
Tolgus Tin Works 23: Graham’s Man Cave, this was his workshop when he worked in the mill. His love of the place was evident with the amount of time he spent renovating the old machinery.
Tolgus Tin Works 24: In the foreground is one of the workshop lathes, behind are a pair of Shaking Tables.
Shaking Tables are a more modern way of separating the fine Tin particles from the processed material from the mill. The table is shaken continuously by an electric drive unit which has an arm and a spring attached to the table top. A constant stream of water containing the particles is fed across the table top. On the deck surface are “riffles” which hold the heavier material in lines. The lighter waste is carried away by the water. The mill has both James and Holmans table.
Holmans Tables are still made in Cornwall today.
Tolgus Tin Works 25: Two Shaking Tables in the mill area. The drive units are mounted on concrete plinths.
Tolgus Tin Works 26: A James shaking table, in need of some TLC.
Tolgus Tin Works 27: One of the motors attached to a “James” shaking table.
Tolgus Tin Works 28: A Holmans Shaking Table.
Tolgus Tin Works 29: The drive unit of the Holmans table. The spring encasing the piston which moves the table can be clearly seen.
Tolgus Tin Works 30: A detailed image of the Holmans drive unit, with the distinctive makers name on the side of the casing.
Tolgus Tin Works 31: Another image of the drive unit, this time the spring and the attached arm to the table top are very clear.
The plant contains the only surviving original set of Cornish Stamps in Europe. Powered by water this machine would crush the ore bearing rocks into a fine powder which would release the Tin held within. The Cornish Round Frames and Shaking Tables would then remove the valuable metal from the crushed material.
Tolgus Works 32: The Cornish Stamps in all their glory, these were installed in 1865. A difficult thing to photograph due to the limited space. on this occasion I used a 17mm extreme wide angle lens. There is a small amount of “flash dropout” at the edges but a good image overall.
Tolgus Works 33: The Stamp have twelve Heads in three groups of four.
Tolgus Works 34: This is the main drive wheel for the Stamps. These were powered by a water wheel which would turn the main Cam in the centre of the image.
Tolgus Works 35: A closer image of the drive wheels. The 14 ft water wheel that drove the stamps is on the left of the image out of shot.
Tolgus Works 36: The makers mark on the set of Cornish Stamps. These were made in Sara’s Foundry of Redruth in 1865, only about a mile up the road.
Tolgus Works 37: This is the cam of the Stamps. As it was turned by he water the protruding sections would lift the hammers, they would then drop by their own weight smashing the material beneath.
Tolgus Works 38: A more detailed picture of the cam, the curved lifters can be clearly seen.
Tolgus Works 39: These are the arms of the Cornish Stamps attached to the hammers below.
The next few images on the page are of a Cornish Round Frame. These were widely used in the Tin process for recovering the finest particles of Tin from the processed “Slimes”. The mixture holding the remaining particles of Tin is fed onto the revolving timber deck of the frame. The weight of the Tin material causes it to remain on the table whilst the waste drains off below. Then after a while the table is cleaned with water and the concentrate is removed. This was the final part of the process, the slimes could be treated several times to remove as much of the valuable metal as possible.
Tolgus Works 40: The drive wheel for the Round Frame.
Tolgus Works 41: A detailed picture showing the sloping wooden deck. This was renovated by Graham who did a great job of returning it to working condition.
Tolgus Works 42: The whole of the Round Frame. The waste material would drop down the centre leaving the heavier Tin particles on the timber deck.
Tolgus Works 43: A final image of the Round Frame, taken with a 17mm wide angle lens on a single flash. Not an easy thing to capture as the room was quite cramped.
Tolgus Works 44: To complete the page, this building on the site caught my eye.
My thanks go to Graham Williams for the chance he gave me to see this amazing place. It’s open to the public and well worth a visit.
For more information follow the link: Tolgus Tin Works