Constantine Cornwall

King Edward Mine

A misty damp evening welcomed twenty three members of the society to the King Edward Museum near Troon, however our cheery guide for the evening, Kingsley Rickard, who proved to be a fount of knowledge and regaled us with mining stories, soon made everyone forget about the inclement weather.

An introductory talk required the group to enter a room once used by students of the Camborne School of Mines to learn the techniques of surveying. The building and the furnishings, including the sloping stools, date from 1897.

The King Edward mine (KEM) began life in the late 18th century and was known as the South Condurrow Mine. Several of the earlier buildings are currently being reno- vated, made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Originally mining copper, the mine soon began to produce tin. Employing 450, it closed in 1890. A movement to educate miners in geology and better techniques began in the 1850s and several small schools developed, which were combined to form the Camborne School of Mines (CSM) in 1888. The school leased South Condurrow from the Pendarves family in 1890 to train their students and maintained the lease until 2005 when Cornwall Council purchased the site. The concept of a museum was floated in 1987.

Originally CSM had funded the mine from the small amount of tin produced by the students, however in 1920 Wheal Grenville closed and King Edward was no longer drained so the school moved activity to Great Condurrow and today uses Holman’s old test mine to the south west of Troon. Use of the mine by CSM has ensured that apart from the loss of the headstock and a derelict engine house the mine on the surface appears today very much as it did in the early 1900s. The processing plant at KEM was kept in use for many years and today provides the main attraction for visitors.

The Reception is housed in what was the calciner where the tin ore was roasted at 600 centigrade to remove arsenic. In this mine the low proportion of arsenic made it uneconomical to collect so it was released into the atmosphere!

The shaft collapsed in 1997 but the winding house, was rebuilt in recent years fol- lowing a fire in 1957 and houses the Holman engine that was installed in 1905 and reclaimed from the Poldark mine.

Ore was initially processed by sorting the fine material using a sieve and then crush- ing the larger pieces before it went to the stamps to be reduced to sand. The structure and equipment was made in Kent and taken to an exhibition in Paris before purchase by KEM in 1904. Leaving the stamps the material is lifted by a dipper wheel and then sorted before going to shaking tables to separate the tin from the waste. The process seeks to increase the percentage of tin from 2% when mined to 60% when processed.

Because this was a teaching facility, the group were also able to see other forms of sorting and enhancement operating including a Cornish round head frame and a buddle. Finally we watched rag frames at work, simple structures used by the streamers who sought to remove more tin from the waste released by the mines. Chairman, Geoff Roberts, thanked Kingsley for a very informative and interesting visit. The Group will meet on 18th September at 19.15 in Constantine WI Hall to hear about the Lakes Pottery. The speaker will be Mike Edwards.

Don Garman