Book Review: The Story of Mining in Cornwall by Allen Buckley

The Story of Mining in Cornwall by Allen Buckley

The Story of Mining in Cornwall. By Allen Buckley. Published by Cornwall Editions, Ltd., 8 Langurtho Road, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1EQ, England. www.cornwalleditions.co.uk. 2005. 240 pp. Bibliography, illustrations, index. Hardcover. £45.

This is a beautiful book to look at with lots of excellent color, black and white photographs showing places, documents, maps and mining activities (surface and underground, modern and period photographs) in Cornwall, on the surface and underground. The excellent illustrations are combined the most comprehensive and easy to understand history of mining in Cornwall that I have read, and I do have a number of Cornish mining books to compare it with. Readers need to be aware that I was educated in Cornwall as a mining engineer and worked underground in Wheal Jane one of the mines discussed in the book. I just wish I had Cornish ancestors.

The book begins by looking at the ancient tin industry (prior to the Norman Conquest), dispelling the Phoenician myth that I certainly heard about and have seen in print, but examining surviving evidence for what is reality. The next two chapters look at the late medieval and early modern periods examining the changes in management and technology, with an especially good explanation of the Stannaries. Reading the rest of the book moves by century through both the tin and copper industries describing: the changes in mining equipment and techniques; the problems with water and how to remove it from the mines; labor and union issues; religion among the miners; female labor; capitalization of the mines as they grew in size and consolidated; cost book system; global politics and discovery of deposits elsewhere in the world with the effect on tin and copper prices; the rise and fall of the mines that accompanied the rise and fall of tin and copper prices. We learn about the great mines like the Dolcoath, Cooks Kitchen, Botallock, East Pool, and South Crofty. The last tin mine, South Crofty closed in March 1998.

Tin and copper were not the only economic minerals in Cornwall. There is a chapter on the many other unique minerals found within the county, with photographs of some wonderful mineral specimens, plus a description of how they were exploited. There are additional chapters for the China Clay and State industries within Cornwall. The book concludes with a good bibliography and glossary of mining terms.

This book provides an excellent overview of the mining industry within Cornwall. You are not likely to learn about your individual miner, but you will understand the big picture and be able to put the miner and their family into context, learning about the good and the learn years and how they coped. This book is highly recommended for those with Cornish mining connections.

Editorial – This older review for a book which should be available through inter-library loan or as a used is being added because of comments from a couple of Australian readers responding to my latest review on coal miners, mentioning that they had Cornish miners. There are major differences between coal mining – a soft rock, and tin/copper mining – a hard rock. It appears to not be available from the publishers website.

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