or Alluvial Tin|
In very early times tin was found in stream and river beds, as gravel or pebbles. The tinners would prospect, rather like gold diggers, working on the open moorland and using the natural flow of water to wash away any impurities, leaving the heavier tin to settle out in specially costructed pits. As time went on, more and more inventive methods of catching the tin developed - some of them to be seen at Tolgus today . Cornish tin was one of the very earliest of English exports, highly prized for its purity.
Tinners - the privileged class
In 1201a Tinners' Charter set down the rights and considerable privileges of those engaged in the tin industry. Tinners had the right to search for tin on any unenclosed land, as well as being exempt from ordinary laws and taxes, and from military service. In return they were subject to their 'Stannary' laws. (Stannary comes from the Latin word for tin, 'stannum') Under the Charter, Cornwall was divided into four districts, or Stannaries. Each had six Stannators who made up the Tinners' Parliament, which tried any cases relating to the industry, and each had its Coinage Town to which all tin from the district had to be taken to be weighed and taxed ('coined') before it was sold. The 'Coinage' was really a tin market, the streets piled high with gleaming and valuable ingots of tin, and was the occasion of great festivity. But it took place only twice, and later four times, a year, and such infrequent sales of their product placed the tinners under great financial strain, forcing them to borrow money in the intervals, so in 1838 it was replaced by a tax paid at the smelting house.
'Lode' is the Cornish term for a vein of mineral.
The Romans knew about open cast mining, where the lode was at or near the surface, but it was not until the middle of the eighteenth century that underground mining as we know it developed. The power of steam,discovered in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen, was harnessed to combat the miner's deadliest enemy - water. The Cornish beam engine, developed by Richard Trevithick, became a familiar sight all over the county, pumping out gallons of water daily and enabling the search for tin to go deeper than ever. Dolcoath, Queen of Cornish mines, at 550 fathoms (3300 ft.) is still oneof the deepest metal mines in Britain.
Depth, however, meant not only danger from flooding, but a gruelling climb up almost vertical ladders at the end of a 'core', or shift. Even after the invention in the 1840's of the Man~ngine, which used steps on oscillating rods to raise men to the surface, many continued to use the ladders as a point of honour, seriously straining heart and lungs in the process.
Mechanical rock drills too, while improving the ease and speed of 'boring' (drilling) created an excessive amount of dust, and made their own contribution to the respiratory diseases suffered by countless miners. One such drill was even known as 'the Widow Maker
|History of Tolgus||Stream Tin & Lode Tin||Management & Workers||12-headed Cornish Stamp||Sulpher & Arsenic Waste Disposal.|
|Water Power||The Sand House||The Slime Plant. Assaying.||Smelting||Trevithick Trust|
|TOLGUS Tin streaming at Redruth|