Saturday, 12 May 2012

Cornwall's only surviving tin producer

A short drive from Falmouth to Cornwall’s north coast takes you to the picturesque village of St. Agnes.

St Agnes and the surrounding area relied on fishing, farming, and mining for copper and tin. Mining came to an end in the 1920s but at its most active around 100 mines employed about 1000 miners.

Trevaunance Cove, St. Agnes
Ruined engine houses abound on this rugged coastline, and today we walked from the village down to the beautiful Trevaunance Cove and then the short but arduous section of the coastpath east towards Perranporth and to the Jericho Valley.

Jericho Valley
Evidence of old mining activity is everywhere, ruined engine houses and old spoil heaps, and at the end of the Jericho Valley, about one mile north east of St. Agnes lies the Blue Hills Mine. This mine dates from the early eighteenth century and closed around 1780 due to the excessive cost of dewatering the workings. It was restarted under the name East Polberro in 1813 and became Blue Hills in 1836.

Blue Hills was mainly a tin mine employing on average between 50 and 150 workers in its lifetime. There are no records of any copper ore being present. The mine was abandoned in 1897. An attempt to rework the mine in 1926 came to nothing.

Approaching the Blue Hills 70" pumping engine house

Gravity concentration at Blue Hills Tin
Further up the Jericho Valley lies Blue Hills Tin, run since 1975 by the Wills family (no relation!), and currently the only tin producer in Cornwall. Definitely worth a visit to see alluvial tin being produced by streaming, stamp milling, and gravity concentration by buddles and shaking tables. The concentrate is smelted on site and around 230 kg of tin are produced each year to be made into fine jewellery which is on sale in the mine shop.

More Cornish Walks
More on Cornish Mining
More on Cornwall


  1. Thanks for this Barry, Brought back many memories of many wonderful holidays in this area. I remember the pasties from the St. Agnes bakery- said to be the best in Cornwall. Trevaunance Cove has remnants of the past mining in this area. A mass of rectangular granite blocks lies along the western side of the beach. These were once part of the harbour constructed to ship tin out of the village. Your blog is great by the way!
    Michael Brent, Surrey, UK

    1. Many thanks for this Michael. I agree with you regarding the pasties. They were recommended, so we bought a couple and ate them at the cove- delicious! This photo was also taken yesterday and shows the west side of the Cove. In the centre can be seen the remains of the granite blocks. The harbour was built 5 times, three in the 17th century, and each time was soom destroyed by winter storms. It's a great area though, and highly recommended for a half day excursion from Falmouth


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