Dolcoath Mine

Dolcoath Mine was once commonly known as “The Queen of Cornish Mines”. Because it was one of the richest and deepest in Cornwall. The surviving Dolcoath Mine buildings have recently been stabilised (late 1990’s), most of my images were taken during the mid 90’s before the work was carried out.

Today 2017, it is sad that such a great mine has so little left on the surface to see. With the addition of a new road through the Wheal Harriet site. also with new houses being built below William’s shaft, there is even less now.
Dolcoath Mine
The paperwork is from Josiah Thomas who was the Mine Captain from 1867 to 1895. He first introduced compressed air drilling machines to the mine in 1876, also Californian Stamps in 1892. Subsequently appointed managing director of the mine in 1895, he died in October 1901. For more images of this document follow this Link: Mining Documents.
The sett was first worked for alluvial tin during the 1580’s when the ground was leased to the Crane family from the mineral owners the Basset family. By the 1720’s the mine was being worked for copper, during the 1740’s the workings had reached almost 300ft in depth. In the late 1780’s the mine was over 600ft deep with Copper ore production on the increase. During the years 1785-1789 over 15,000 tons of ore were produced.
Dolcoath Mine
A Dolcoath Mine certificate dating from 1911.
Cheap copper production from Parys Mountain in Anglesey caused the mine to close during March 1790. However the Anglesey deposit was soon worked out and the copper prices rose again. In 1799 the mine reopened under Andrew Vivian, Richard Trevithick was engaged as engineer.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 1 – Taken in 1999/2000 this is the well preserved Compressor House along with it’s chimney, the building dates from 1883. Sadly, time has not been kind and it is in urgent need of repair.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 2 –  Another image of the Mine Compressor House. This is the front of the building showing the ornate brickwork around the windows and door.
The early years of the project brought little profit as the lower levels of the mine had proved so difficult to drain. New engines were installed and production increased to a point where Dolcoath was the fifth largest producer in the South West.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 3- This is Harriett’s Engine House, built in 1860. It contained a 60″ Pumping Engine built by the Perran Foundry, this was re-cylindered during 1865 to 65″.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 4 – A second image of Harriett’s Shaft Pumping Engine House.
As the mine progressed deeper the copper began to run out, in 1832 closure was once again a possibility. However the mine captain Charles Thomas was convinced that Tin would be found deeper in the workings. This proved to be correct and Dolcoath was producing Tin by the 1850’s.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 5 – A side on view of Harriet’s Shaft Engine House.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 6 – The open Harriett’s Shaft, this was subsequently capped soon after the image was taken (1996). This shaft when the mine closed had reached 470 Fathoms deep below the adit level..
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 7 – The remains of the Mine Dry. This is where the miners changed into their underground clothes, also it is said there was a tunnel from here to the shaft. Today the buildings are used as a Youth Centre.
The mine continued to grow and pay huge profits. By the early 1880’s she was over 2000ft deep and had over 50 miles of passage. Some of the lodes were over 30ft wide and very rich in Tin. Over 2,500ft underground was the 412 fathom level. Here the lode had been mined out and the whole structure was supported by a forest of timber.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 8 – The Dry from a slightly different angle, this was built during 1888 when working it was heated by steam from Harriet’s Engine Boiler House.
These timbers of best pitch pine were 20″ square and over 30ft in length. Above this man made forest was over 600ft of broken waste rock. The timbers were set 2ft apart creating what was believed to be the biggest and most secure stull in Cornwall.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 9 – At Harriet’s Shaft the original winder has been returned to its loadings.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 10 – The 60″ Pumping Engine House at Stray Park Mine, this became part of the Queen of Mines during 1870.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 11 – Stray Park was never a profitable Mine, it was one of those that always showed more promises than results. Subsequently sold to the company for just under £2,000. The site has also been cleared and stabilised.
In September 1893 the famous 412 fathom level was the site of a disaster when part of this massive structure collapsed. It had been noted underground that several of the timbers were bending under the extreme weight above them.
Whilst 8 miners worked to strengthen the stull it suddenly gave way, thousands of tons of rock fell burying the men. The noise was tremendous and a rush of air swept through the workings. This was so strong that a man on the same level was stripped naked and a wagon was thrown a distance of 20ft.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 12 – The surviving Engine House at New East Shaft.
Miners rushed to the site of the fall which had choked the level for a distance of 28 yards. It is difficult to image their feelings in the heat, danger and choking dust. After 40 hours of digging the miners were recovered. Sadly 7 men were killed, the only survivor Richard Davies who was amazingly unhurt.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 13 – This house contained a rotative beam engine that hoisted from New East Shaft, also there was a secondary beam that pumped water from adit level to supply the processing floors. The house was disused in 1894 because it was replaced by a steam winder.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 14- During 1913 it was converted to an electricity substation which was housed in the building on the right of the image.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 15 – A close up of the wall, showing the fine brickwork and traces of plaster.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 16 – This image was taken from inside the building, the Engine House windows have been bricked time.
In 1895 a new Limited Company was formed which replaced the old “Cost Book” system. A new 3000ft vertical shaft was proposed in the southern part of the mine. The aim was to bypass old workings and intersect known lodes.
A new shaft on the sett called Williams Shaft was started and completed during 1912. The shaft is 17ft in diameter and is 3300ft deep, consequently making it the deepest in Cornwall.
Dolcoath Mine William's Shaft
This image taken in 1912 reproduced here from: www.gracesguide.co.uk
Dolcoath Mine William's Shaft
The unique winding engine at Williams Shaft. At the Poldark Mine Museum there is a working model of this amazing piece of machinery. Image used here by permission: Mac Waters as featured on www.cornishmemory.com.
Dolcoath Mine
The bottom of Williams shaft taken in 1912, difficult to believe this was 3000ft underground because the area is so tidy and clean. This image taken in 1912 reproduced here from: www.gracesguide.co.uk
The shaft is vertical to 3000ft where it meets the Dolcoath Main Lode. At the bottom is a chamber which contained a battery of electric pumps. The winding arrangement here was unique, the winder could not be placed far enough from the shaft because it would cross a nearby road.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 17 – The Winding Engine House on Williams Shaft as it was in mid 1990’s. (Before stabilisation) In the foreground are the legs of a gantry which enabled water to be pumped from here to the research establishment at Nancekuke during the 1950’s.
Consequently a winding engine made by Holman Brothers was installed. This was mounted on rails and could literally move along the walls of the house. This enabled the winder driver to keep a straight approach to the headgear over the shaft. As a result the maximum the engine moved was 16ft.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 18 – A general view of the site, it was cleared and renovated during the early 2000’s.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 19 – The gable end of the William’s Shaft Winder House.
Also at this time the mine was re-equipped with new suface machinery including 40 heads of Californian stamps along with new winding engines.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 20 – The finely finished internal wall of the Winding House.
Sadly the reserves the owners had hoped for were never found. By 1920 the mine had all but been worked out. That and the collapse in the Tin price brought closure.
Dolcoath Mine
Dolcoath Mine 21 – Another image of the interior, at the time the photo was taken the building was in danger of collapsing.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 22 – The holes in the wall were to support the moving floor on which the winder was mounted.
When the mine closed there was almost 70 miles of underground passage, which now lie flooded and silent. The production is thought to have been 350,000 tons Copper and 80,000 tons of Tin.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 23 – Taken from the foundations of the compressor house at Williams Shaftt. In the distance the headframe over New Cooks Kitchen Shaft at South Crofty Mine.
The next few general images were taken around the site. Almost all were taken in the early 1990’s the area is now heavily overgrown. A sad ending to such a great mine.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 24 – A view towards the Engine House at New East Shaft. In the background is the headframe of South Crofty Mine. In the foreground is the stump of a chimney along with a base of an engine house.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 25 – A view from the edge of the mine sett. This is looking towards the Engine Houses of Cook’s Kitchen Mine and the headframe of South Crofty on the left.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 26 – Looking across the stump of a second Engine House on the site, in the background is the Compressor House.
Cornish Mine Images
Dolcoath Mine 27 – Finally, looking across the bridge over the railway into the site, the building in the background is the Compressor House. The concrete foundations to the right of the image are where the compressors were mounted.
An attempted re-opening on the northern section of the mine occurred during 1923, a new shaft was sunk at Roskear to 2000ft. Sadly the attempt failed, but had the shaft been further deepened they would have intersected the South Crofty Roskear lodes. If this had happened things might have been very different, the irony of Cornish Mining.

Harriet’s Shaft Winder

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