Winding Gear

Winding Gear

Gallery No. 3

Gallery No. 3

 

Tin and copper have been mined from the general area of Geevor since the late 18th century. It was originally a small enterprise known as Wheal an Giver, "a piece of ground occupied by goats". The area was worked under the name of East Levant Mine until 1840 and then as North Levant from 1851 to 1891 when it closed. During the 1880s as many as 176 workers were employed at the mine, but in the ten years after North Levant's closure the site saw only intermittent activity by a few miners. At the turn of the 20th century a group of St. Just miners who had emigrated to South Africa were forced to return by the outbreak of the Second Boer War. They leased the area and conducted more thorough prospecting, being encouraged enough to set up a company called Levant North (Wheal Geevor) in 1901. The price of tin had rapidly risen to £181 a ton in 1906 from a low of £64 in 1896. The Wethered shaft (named after Oliver Wethered, one of the founders of the mine) was begun in 1909 and initial development occurred around it. By 1919, the works were moving west toward the coastline and the Victory shaft (named to celebrate the end of the First World War) was sunk about 540 metres to the north-west. The mine suspended operations in 1921 and again for 12 months during the tin crisis in 1930 that permanently closed many other Cornish mines. In 1944 working through Wethered shaft was discontinued, but the Victory shaft continued in use.

 

From the end of World War II until the early 1960s both Geevor and South Crofty found it hard to raise capital and to recruit skilled miners. Both mines took on Polish and Italian miners at this time. New investment, forward-looking management and rising tin prices in the 1960s improved matters. During the 1960s there was much underground exploration; this included extending into the undersea workings of the Levant mine that had closed in 1930, work that was complicated by a hole in the seabed that first had to be plugged before the workings could be drained. By the 1970s Geevor's sett covered an area of about three square miles and included Boscaswell Downs mine, Pendeen Consols and Levant mine. In 1985 the International Tin Council failed and there was a dramatic fall in the price of the metal. The mine struggled on for a few years, but closed in 1990, and the pumps were switched off in May 1991 allowing the workings to flood. During the 20th century Geevor drove over 85 miles (137 km) of tunnels from which it produced around 50,000 tons of black tin and made a profit of over £7 million. On average over a million gallons of water, a quarter of which was sea-water, was pumped from the mine daily.

 

The museum tells the story of tin mining in Cornwall and Geevor in particular, showing what happened on the surface and underground and what life was like for those who worked there, including oral history recordings. Visitors can also walk through the mine buildings to see the original machinery and there is a guided underground tour into Wheal Mexico, an 18th-century mine. The site has a souvenir shop and a cafe that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. There are interactive activities e.g. panning for gold and gemstones. They offer a 10% discount to visitors who travel to Geevor by 300 vintage bus. Geevor is built on a steep slope and therefore some areas of the site are not accessible to those with visual or mobility impairments.There is currently wheelchair access to the museum, a number of the mine buildings and many surface areas.Guided tours are available and guide dogs are welcome.

 

Location : Pendeen, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 7EW

Transport: Penzance (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 10 and 300 Vintage bus stop outside.

Opening Times : Sunday to Friday 09:00 to 17:00.

Tickets : Adult £12.95; Senior £11.00; Child (4+) £7.00. Museum only £10.00

Tel: 01736 788662