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  • Writer's pictureGeoScience Limited

Poldark- fact or fiction?? or both?!

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Author: Jon Gutmanis (Chief Geologist)

This Sunday, September 4th, Poldark returns to our TV screens to continue the epic tales of smuggling, romance and intrigue set in the context of Cornwalls 19th century tin mining industry which was a world leader at the time.

Filming took place at a number of spectacular locations around the county, known well to the GeoScience Geology team. Crown Mines and Wheal Leisure at Botallack on the Penwith coast are perhaps the most dramatic. We've all seen lovely pictures of the mines at sunset, sunrise and on a sunny day, but life for the miners wasn't always so picturesque.

This image shows miners using the 'man engine', an engine used for carrying miners to and from the surface. and was essentially a long rod that moved up and down with fixed platforms the men could stand on.

The contact between the Hercynian granites and the Devonian deepwater sediments is exposed along the cliffs, including the metamorphic aureole. Many mineral lodes cut across the contact and head north-west out to sea, and one of the shafts at Crowns Mine was inclined 450 from the base of the cliffs to chase these lodes offshore. In fact some of the workings offshore came within metres of the seabed and the miners could hear the crash of boulders on the seabed during Atlantic storms. This was extreme mining, and in 1863 there was a tragic accident when a wagon ran loose down the incline and 9 miners died. Undeterred, two years later there was a Royal visit underground by the Prince and Princess of Wales.

So it wasn’t all romance and spectacular sunsets, for the people of the time there was a lot of what you might call ‘living on the edge’. But it is great to have such geology and history on our own doorstep…...Well done to Auntie Beeb for bringing the Poldark novels to our living rooms.

Images from : Botallack- Monographs of Mining History Vol. 3 (Cyril Noall) 1972

The Story of Mining in Cornwall (Allen Buckley) 2005

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