Cornwall was Europe’s principal source of tin from classical times and an important source of copper during the Industrial Revolution period, and the ores of many other metals have been extracted from its mines.
The two steam engines at East Pool, alongside the main road between Camborne and Redruth, are amongst the most impressive monuments of the Cornish mining industry. The East Pool mine was worked for copper from the early eighteenth century until 1784, and was revived as a tin mine in 1834. At various times arsenic, tungsten and uranium have also been worked from depths of more than 550 m. It was amalgamated with the nearby Wheal Agar mine in 1897. A roof fall in 1921 led to the sinking of Taylor’s Shaf to enable access to workings beyond the fall, which were drained by an engine removed from the Carn Brea mine.
A Cornish engine of the type first built by Richard Trevithick, it was originally installed in 1892. It was supplied by the well-known Cornish engineering company, Harveys of Hayle, with a 90 inch (2.28 m) diameter cylinder and a beam weighing more than 50 tons. The East Pool mine closed in 1945 but the engine was retained until 1954 to pum water from the nearby South Crofty mine. The engine was bought by an American historian, Grenville Bathe, and presented to the Trevithick Society, from whom it passed to the National Trust in 1967.
The Trust also owns the Michell’s Whim engine, a 30 inch (0.76 m) winding engine of 1887 on the opposite side of the road, and the two are managed as one site. The adjacent Industrial Discovery Centre, with a captivating audio-visual presentation, provides an overview of Cornwall’s industrial heritage. There are few better places in which to appreciate the significance of steam power in the development of mining.