Botallack Mine, St Just
Part of Cornwall’s Tin Coast running from Pendeen to St Just, as well as the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, Botallack is perhaps the best-known of all Cornish mines. With its ‘Crowns’ engine houses perched high above the wild and stormy sea, you might well recognise this picturesque reminder of Cornwall’s mining heyday as Wheal Leisure from the recent series of Poldark…
THE HISTORY OF BOTALLACK MINE
Botallack mine’s lower levels ran 570m deep and almost half a mile out underneath the sea – making it a so-called submarine mine. Tunnels throughout the mines would have been created using chisels and gunpowder – and during Cornwall’s mining heyday, Botallack produced 14,500 tonnes of tin, 20,000 tonnes of copper ore and 1,500 tonnes of refined arsenic.
In the early 1800s, a pumping engine was set up at the base of the cliffs, to pump out undersea workings from Wheal Button, just north of Botallack. When the engine was deemed successful, it was replaced with the lower engine house you see today.
In the 1860s, a new shaft was dug out to sea and a new winding engine was installed (the higher engine house today). The Prince and Princess of Wales visited the mine and this led to a form of mine tourism, with the Botallack owners charging one guinea per person to visit.
Botallack closed in 1895 due to falling copper and tin prices – one of the last few Cornish mines to close.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE AND DO?
The Count House at Botallack was originally built as a mine office, built to look grander than other nearby buildings so as to entice wealthy shareholders to invest. Visit the Count House Workshop (which was once home to stables) to discover more about Botallack and Cornwall’s mining history, and enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake whilst you're there.
Marvel at the ‘Crowns’ – the famous engine houses perched dramatically on the edge of the cliff - and pretend you’re in Poldark! Recognised worldwide and a source of creative inspiration for countless artists, it is thought that these mines were first worked in the sixteenth century.
Follow the Botallack audio trail – a downloadable guide of the site. The information and personal accounts really set the scene and help you get the most out of your visit.
See if you can spot the Cornish chough or peregrine falcon roosting on the cliff face along the Botallack Mining Walk. Just a mile long, through pretty coastal heathland, it’s a pleasant walk suitable for the whole family.
… and of course, enjoy the scenery! This is one of the most unspoilt and rugged spots in the county, and on a clear day, you can even catch glimpses of the Isles of Scilly out to sea. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!