Sunday, 29 March 2015

Poldark brings Cornwall's wonderful mining heritage to life

Along with millions of others, we have been enjoying the news BBC series of Poldark, adapted from Winston Graham's books. Set in late 18th century Cornwall, the plot follows Ross Poldark's attempts to make his derelict tin mines a success, as well as his relationship with his servant girl Demelza.

I am not sure that the series would have such a great following if Ross was involved with coal mining in the north of England. It is the glorious Cornish coastal scenery which makes the show so watchable, although Amanda and Barbara would no doubt argue that the leading actor is also a contributory factor.

Location managers couldn’t resist the rich mining heritage of the stretch of west Cornwall coast linking Botallack and Levant (see posting of 2nd October 2014). The perilously perched Crowns Mine engine houses, built in the mid 19th century, double as the Poldark family mine Wheal Grambler.
Crowns Engine Houses, Botallack
Botallack was given World Heritage Site status in 2006 and is part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The iconic ruins are the most photographed and painted engine houses in the county (posting of 30th May 2010) and such inspiring coastal locations had an impact on the Poldark cast. "So much of the piece came alive when we were filming in Cornwall and everyone found their character in the outdoors," said Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Demelza Carne. "Demelza is very connected to the landscape," added Eleanor. "I also love the countryside and just enjoyed exploring all the different coves and beaches and the endless beautiful blue water, it was so gorgeous. It is such a peaceful and relaxing place."
I couldn't resist pausing the TV to take the photo below, showing how digital enhancement has brought the Botallack Mines back to life in vivid colour. It is clear that the template for the computer generated images was the late 19th century photo of the mine in its heyday.
Botallack in the 19th century
 A little further westward from the Botallack Mines is the West Wheal Owles engine house, which, suitably dressed up, played a major part in the Poldark series as the fictional Wheal Leisure, the mine which Ross brings back to life.

West Wheal Owles

Filming at Wheal Owles, 2014
This is a wonderful stretch of coastline which I would strongly recommend you visit if you are interested in Cornwall's unique mining history.

More on Cornish Mining


  1. I personally haven't been watching Poldark. However, anything that gives the Cornish tourist industry & Cornwall's soon to be revived tin mining industry any positive advertisement is to be welcomed.
    David M. Pollard, Consultant Geologist, UK

    1. I have my doubts about the revival David, but I hope you are right. There are a number of companies interested

  2. Interestingly enough, in the last episode (29th March), the stack of West Wheal Owles was shown with smoke billowing from it! Rather strange as the BBC 'restored' building clearly does not contain an engine...

    Incidentally, the shot of West Wheal Owles (before filming) is one of mine. I don't mind you using it but it is nice to be asked first.

    1. Yes, I noticed that too, Anon, but I suppose there must be some dramatic licence! Sorry about the photo. I had two on file, one of which must be yours and was taken from the internet. I have now replaced it by mine, which is virtually identical.

  3. I enjoyed the original Poldark made in 1975. We played the entire series one wet weekend in 2013. Cornwall mining, competitive commerce and smuggling made a wonderful mixture of intrigue and relationships. Look forward to the new series when it arrives here in Australia.

  4. bit behind the conversation as its moved on, but linking Wheal Owls to another Cornish history story is of course Mr Richard Boyns who owned Wheal Owls and wrote the book Tin. It is now made as a local film

    1. The Tin movie comes to Falmouth next week. Definitely going to see it, and will let you know what I think of it

  5. Excellent. Its certainly looks like an interesting story. I will have to see if I can get tickets too. I know its selling out where its being shown!


If you have difficulty posting a comment, please email the comment to and I will submit on your behalf