Throughout the long and fascinating history of the Wheal Jane site, the area has seen much change, evolving from a tin mine to a consolidated group of businesses, with a future as an Earth Science Park business cluster to look forward to. Below are some of the images taken from Wheal Jane’s past, with comparative images of how the site looks today to show how far it has evolved.
The concentrator building, or mill as it was generally known, has an interesting history. It was by far the largest structure on the site being some 80m x 20m and enclosing, on several floors, around 67,000 ft2. Strangely, it occupied the most prominent position on the site on the skyline along the site’s northern boundary.
After extraction ceased at Wheal Jane in 1991, the mill continued treating ore mined at South Crofty for a further seven years until South Crofty also closed in 1998. The ore was transported from South Crofty to Wheal Jane by road during that period. The demolition of the building was agreed with Cornwall Council as part of a long term remediation and development strategy for the site which was put in place in 2000. The demolition took place in 2006/7. Its demolition removed the only significant visual impact of the site. In 2011 the area previously occupied by the plant was redeveloped as a solar PV farm accommodating 5680 solar panels which have been generating 1.4Mw of electricity per year for almost five years. The aerial picture was taken a few weeks after the solar farm was completed. The oval feature within the farm, visible in both photos, is a hole in the ground left after an ore body was ‘stoped’ or worked right to surface. The working pre-dates the modern mine and is now a protected home to a variety of wildlife, again part of the long term remediation and management plan for the site. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
When the mine was in full production some 450 were employed on the site. This area was set out as terraced car parking and led down to the main mine entrance at first floor level. From this entrance, stairs led down to the dry (changing rooms), battery and lamp rooms, shift bosses offices, etc, and ultimately via an underground mezzanine tunnel to the main man riding shaft (Number 2 Shaft). Technical services were located on the upper floor.
This 1970s photo shows one of the car park terraces set up with a huge marquee to celebrate the mine’s opening. The picture was taken by local photographer John Peck whilst he was out for a walk. John was later to become the mine’s official photographer and remained so for many years. His pictures of both above and below ground now feature in many local exhibitions. As the second picture shows, the area is currently used for storage, mainly for offshore drilling equipment for a local company. Employment on the site has risen from just two in 1998 to some 150 today, and as the site continues to develop that number is expected to increase further. If the successful development of the Earth Science Park on site continues, it may not be too long before these areas will again return to their original intended use. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
As can be seen from these photographs, the area around Number 2 Shaft has changed dramatically over the years. The picture taken during the mining days features the Number 2 Shaft head frame, and the tracked access to the cages for plant and machinery. Number 2 was the main man-riding shaft, access to which was via an underground mezzanine tunnel which connected the dry to the shaft. The small building to the right is the banksman’s hut. The building just visible on the left was the mine stores building.
In the more recent photograph, the head frame no longer exists, having been dismantled some years ago. A small temporary hoisting gantry has been erected over the shaft collar. The water treatment plant pumps in the foreground disappear into the shaft beneath this frame. The former banksman’s house is now the South Crofty Collection jewellery workshop where refined Cornish tin is handcrafted into jewellery and giftware. The former stores building on the left is now the operational centre for the water treatment plant and houses offices, stores and a monitoring and telemetry centre. The plant is operated today by Veolia Ltd for the Coal Authority and monitored by the Environment Agency.
This series of photographs shows the view from just to the east of the Wheal Jane site’s main crusher house. The crusher house was located roughly midway between the headworks area and the processing plant. Ore hoisted from underground was stored adjacent to the crusher house and fed into the building for crushing via an underground hopper, the above ground structure of which can be seen just on the far side of the crusher house in photograph 1, taken in the late 1980s. The start of the overland conveyor system can be seen in the foreground with Clemows and Number 2 shafts to the rear.
In photograph 2, taken in 2008, the overland conveyor system and structures surrounding the hopper have been removed. The concrete top of the hopper is still visible to the left of the building.
In photograph 3, taken in May 2014, the entire superstructure has now been removed, creating a dramatic change to the views across the site. The steps in the foreground of photograph 1, which still remain, are visible in the foreground of photograph 3.
Below is a short video of the demolition in progress.
Mining Magazine, August 1914
An optimistic tone on the front cover of the August 1914 Mining Magazine, over 100 years ago, must surely have masked deep concerns as to what lay ahead following Britain’s declaration of war on August 4th, just days before publication. Few would have dared or could have foreseen the scale of events which would take place over the following four years.