Bottallack and Levant Mines - History and Facts | History Hit

Bottallack and Levant Mines

Antara Bate

07 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Bottallack and Levant Mines

During the 19th century there were over 100 engine houses in the St Just district, though mining has been documented in the area much further back than this. The remains of the mine buildings at Botallack give a fascinating glimpse of Cornish mining over a century ago. Also within the St Just Mining District is Levant Mine and Beam Engine; one of the most ancient hard-rock tin and copper mining areas in Cornwall.

Bottallack and Levant Mines history

Early mining records in the area date from at least the 1500s. These mine workings are far simpler than later ones and are much closer to the surface because of the difficulties of drainage. Some archaeological evidence suggests that the area was mined in the mid-Roman period, around 200 AD, and there is even suggestion of Bronze Age workings.

The entire mine at Bottallack closed in 1895 due to rapidly falling copper and tin prices. Most other Cornish mines had already closed.

As at Levant and Geevor, Botallack is a submarine mine, with its workings reaching half a mile out under the seabed. Many of these workings would have been produced with hammers, chisels and gunpowder, long before compressed and mechanical air drills were invented. Botallack produced roughly 14,500 tonnes of tin, 20,000 tonnes of copper and 1,500 tonnes of refined arsenic. A staggering 1.5 million tonnes of waste would have been dumped into the sea and dyed it a distinctive red colour.

Possibly the most photographed point of the mine, the three crown rocks just offshore stand over lodes that stretch far out to sea.

In the 1860s, during a major reorganisation of the mine, a new diagonal shaft was excavated out under the sea to a depth of 500m. The Prince and Princess of Wales descended this shaft in 1865 to inaugurate the new section of the mine. Botallack soon became a popular tourist destination for those wishing to follow in their footsteps. It became so popular that the mine started charging a guinea a head.

Copper and tin had been mined at Levant for generations, and the mine workings of Levant extend over a mile out under the sea bed. Levant Mine first appeared on a map in 1748, yet it was in 1820 that the Levant Mining Company was formed. By 1836, 320 men, 44 women and 186 children were employed on the site.

In 1919, the man engine suffered a disastrous failure when a link between the rod and the engine snapped, killing 31 men. Levant experienced a steady decline and in 1930 the mine closed.

Bottallack and Levant Mines today

In the BBC series Poldark, the ruins around Botallack play a starring role as Wheal Leisure, the mine that Ross Poldark resurrects on his return to England. Botallack was also used during the filming of the original 1970s series.

Today there are popular walking trails around Bottallack and Levant Mines where visitors can learn about the history of the area as well as experiencing beautiful scenery.

Getting to Bottallack and Levant Mines

Bottalack and Levant Mines are on the Tin Coast, near St Just, Cornwall and the postcode is TR19 7QQ. The nearest train station is Penzance which is 7 miles away. There is also an hourly bus service from Penzance to Trewellard, 1 mile from the site of Levant Mine.

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Cornwall's Historic Sites

Nestled amongst Cornwall's rugged landscape are historic sites ranging from ancient Neolithic villages to mines that worked throughout the Industrial Revolution.