Much of the landscape of Cornwall and West Devon was transformed in the 18th and early 19th centuries as a result of the rapid growth of pioneering copper and tin mining. Its deep underground mines, engine houses, foundries, new towns, smallholdings, ports and harbours, and their ancillary industries together reflect prolific innovation which, in the early 19th century, enabled the region to produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of copper. The substantial remains are a testimony to the contribution Cornwall and West Devon made to the Industrial Revolution in the rest of Britain and to the fundamental influence the area had on the mining world at large. Cornish technology embodied in engines, engine houses and mining equipment was exported around the world. Cornwall and West Devon were the heartland from which mining technology rapidly spread.
Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, Wheal Coates, St Agnes
© Nomination File
Outstanding Universal Value
The landscapes of Cornwall and west Devon were radically reshaped during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by deep mining for predominantly copper and tin. The remains of mines, engines houses, smallholdings, ports, harbours, canals, railways, tramroads, and industries allied to mining, along with new towns and villages reflect an extended period of industrial expansion and prolific innovation. Together these are testimony, in an inter-linked and highly legible way, to the sophistication and success of early, large-scale, industrialised non-ferrous hard-rock mining. The technology and infrastructure developed at Cornish and west Devon mines enabled these to dominate copper, tin and later arsenic production worldwide, and to greatly influence nineteenth century mining practice internationally.
The extensive Site comprises the most authentic and historically important components of the Cornwall and west Devon mining landscape dating principally from 1700 to 1914, the period during which the most significant industrial and social impacts occurred. The ten areas of the Site together form a unified, coherent cultural landscape and share a common identity as part of the overall exploitation of metalliferous minerals here from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. Copper and tin particularly were required in increasing quantities at this time through the growing needs of British industry and commerce. Copper was used to protect the hulls of ocean-going timber ships, for domestic ware, and as a major constituent of important alloys such as brass and, with tin, bronze. The usage of tin was also increasing greatly through the requirements of the tin plate industry, for use in the canning of foods and in communications.
The substantial remains within the Site are a prominent reminder of the contribution Cornwall and west Devon made to the Industrial Revolution in Britain and to the fundamental influence the area asserted on the development of mining globally. Innovative Cornish technology embodied in high-pressure steam engines and other mining equipment was exported around the world, concurrent with the movement of mineworkers migrating to live and work in mining communities based in many instances on Cornish traditions. The transfer of mining technology and related culture led to a replication of readily discernable landscapes overseas, and numerous migrant-descended communities prosper around the globe as confirmation of the scale of this influence.
Criterion (ii): The development of industrialised mining in Cornwall and west Devon between 1700 and 1914, and particularly the innovative use of the high-pressure steam beam engine, led to the evolution of an industrialised society manifest in the transformation of the landscape through the creation of smallholdings, railways, canals, docks and ports, and the creation or remodelling of towns and villages. Together these had a profound impact on the growth of industrialisation in the United Kingdom, and consequently on industrialised mining around the world.
Criterion (iii): The extent and scope of the remains of copper and tin mining, and the associated transformation of the urban and rural landscapes presents a vivid and legible testimony to the success of Cornish and west Devon industrialised mining when the area dominated the world's output of copper, tin and arsenic.
Criterion (iv): The mining landscape of Cornwall and west Devon, and particularly its characteristic engine houses and beam engines as a technological ensemble in a landscape, reflect the substantial contribution the area made to the Industrial Revolution and formative changes in mining practices around the world.
The areas enclosed within the property satisfactorily reflect the way prosperity derived from mining transformed the landscape both in urban and rural areas, and encapsulates the extent of those changes.
Some of the mining landscapes and towns within the property are within development zones and may be vulnerable to the possibility of incompatible development.
The property as a whole has high authenticity in terms of form, design and materials and, in general, the location and setting of the surviving features. The mines, engine houses, associated buildings and other features have either been consolidated or await work. In the villages and towns there has been some loss of architectural detail, particularly in the terraced housing, but it is considered that this is reversible.
The ability of features within the property to continue to express its Outstanding Universal Value may be reduced, however, if developments were to be permitted without sufficient regard to their historic character as constituent parts of the Site. The spatial arrangements of areas such as Hayle Harbour and the settings of Redruth and Camborne are of particular concern and these may be vulnerable unless planning policies and guidance are rigorously and consistently applied.
Protection and management requirements (2010)
The UK Government protects World Heritage Sites within its territory in two ways. Firstly individual buildings, monuments, gardens and landscapes are designated under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act, and secondly through the UK Spatial Planning system under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
National guidance on protecting the Historic Environment (Planning Policy Statement 5) and World Heritage (Circular 07/09) and accompanying explanatory guidance has been published by Government. Policies to protect, promote, conserve and enhance World Heritage Sites, their settings and buffer zones can be found in regional plans and in local authority plans and frameworks. The World Heritage Committee accepted that the Site is adequately protected through the general provisions of the UK planning system.
A detailed and comprehensive management plan has been created which stresses the need for an integrated and holistic management of this large, multi-area and diverse Site. The main strength of the plan is the effective network of local authority and other stakeholders that underpins it. The co-ordination of management of the property lies with the Site office for the property. Service-level agreements with other departments within Cornwall Council's Historic Environment department ensure the effective delivery of planning advice, and Sites and Monuments record keeping.
The Strategic Actions for 2005-2010 in the management plan have been in part completed, and the development of risk assessments and a monitoring system are underway utilising data capture systems being introduced by Cornwall Council. The production of detailed definitions of Outstanding Universal Value for specific landscapes within the Site will also be pursued to aid the delivery of planning advice.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the mineral resources of Cornwall and West Devon have been exploited for over 3,500 years. Until 1700, tin was the most important ore, its extractive production only being exceeded in Europe by Erzgebirge in the early 15th century. The Romans extracted the ore from tin streams to supply countries across northern Europe and extraction continued in early and later medieval times. In 1201 the importance of the tin industry was recognised by the establishment of a special legal framework that gave privileges to the tinners. It was administered through eight ‘Stannary' areas and persisted until 1838.
By the early 16th century, many tin streams were becoming exhausted and miners turned to the exploitation of outcrops. At first the shallow ore was mined in an open cast process. Once this was exhausted, progressively deeper shafts needed to be sunk. These had to be drained of water, usually by water-powered pumps.
In the 1580s German miners began mining copper ore. The first mines were unsuccessful and it was not until the early 1700s that a successful mine was established at Chacewater. Around the same time, gunpowder was introduced into mines and this greatly increased the speed at which mines could be established and the depth to which channels could be sunk. The development of steam engines allowed water to be pumped from these deep mines.
It was Thomas Newcomen from Devon who developed the ‘atmospheric' engine. The fist to be installed in a metal mine was at Great Wheal Vor between 1710 and 1714.
This heralded the beginning of industrialisation of the mining process. The early engines were however expensive and inefficient to run and their number increased only slowly until the more efficient Boulton and Watt engines were brought to the region in 1778. By 1790, 45 engines were working, laying the foundations for the expansion of the industry. The technology was in place to exploit the plentiful deep seams of copper and tin ore.
The last great technological leap was the invention of the high-pressure steam engine by Richard Trevithick of Camborne, which was more powerful and efficient. His first machine was constructed in 1800. The early three decades of the 19th century saw much experimentation with engine design, promoting competition amongst engineers and mine owners. And Cornish foundries were developed to meet the growing demand for the engines.
The construction of a transport infrastructure and the development of subsidiary industries accelerated the pace of change; by the 1850s Cornish mines dominated the world's copper markets.
Of course the extraction of copper and tin as a profitable business was only possible because of the high demand for these minerals, tin for plating and cans and copper for the brass products needed for ships and engines.
The landscape was transformed by the mines, engine houses and spoil heaps, by new towns and mining settlements constructed to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of miners, and by ports, harbours, railways and canals. Wealth generated was used to create copious public buildings and fine houses and landscape gardens for the mine owners.
At the same time, the technology that allowed the development of the mines was exported around the world to countries which had appropriate mining deposits. As a result, there are important examples of the diagnostic beam-engine houses surviving from 19th century Spain, Mexico, South Africa and Australia.
The copper crash of 1866 caused by increasing competition from Chile, Lake Superior and South Australia, precipitated the rapid closure of many copper mines, leaving only the tin mines active. They survived for a few more years until competition form Australia and Malaya led to an unsustainable drop in price. Miners started to emigrate taking their knowledge and technology with them to develop ‘Cornish' mines around the world. By the end of the 19th century, it was mainly arsenic workings that remained, exploiting the arsenical pyrites formerly discarded as waste.
A few mines survived, the last, South Crofty, closing in 1998. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation