World Heritage Site

industrial landscape of Cornwall in the 18th century

Cornish Mining: a true World Heritage

World Heritage sites, recognised by UNESCO, are places of value and significance to the whole of the world.  This puts the Cornish Mining landscape in the same league as the Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge.

Cornwall and west Devon's mining landscape was shaped during a period of huge industrial activity.  From 1700 to 1914, metal mining played a vital role in transforming Britain’s way of life.  It was one of the greatest periods of economic, technological and social development Britain has ever known.

The landscapes of Cornwall and west Devon were radically reshaped during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by deep-lode mining for copper and tin. The mines, engine houses, foundries, new towns, smallholdings, ports, harbours, and ancillary industries together reflect prolific innovation which, in the early nineteenth century, enabled the region to produce two-thirds of the world's supply of copper. During the late 1800s, arsenic production came into ascendancy with mines in the east of Cornwall and west Devon supplying half the world’s demand.

The early nineteenth century also saw a revolution in steam technology which was to radically transform hard-rock mining fortunes. The high-pressure expansively operated beam pumping engine pioneered by the engineers Trevithick and Woolf enabled mining at much greater depths than had been possible hitherto. Cornish-design beam engines and other mining machinery was to be exported from major engineering foundries in Hayle, Perranarworthal, Tavistock and elsewhere to mining fields around the world throughout the century.

 

Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Royal Institution of Cornwall

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