Michell's Engine House

Michell's Engine House


East Pool mine (later known as East Pool and Agar mine), was a metalliferous mine in the Camborne and Redruth mining area, just east of the village of Pool in Cornwall, England. Worked from the early 18th century until 1945, first for copper and later tin, it was very profitable for much of its life. Today the site has two preserved beam engines and is part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. It is owned by the National Trust.

The country rock at the mine is metamorphosed killas and greenstone overlying the Carn Brea granite. The many lodes on the sett are all crossed by several elvan dykes. The mine's main produce was copper and later tin, arsenic and wolframite, also small amounts of the ores of bismuth, cobalt and uranium.

*** – History – ***

East Pool mine started out in the early 18th century as a copper mine called "Pool Old Bal". The land under which it was allowed to mine (the "sett") was leased from the Basset family and it generated enough money for that family to build their country house at Tehidy. The mine's adit was 32 fathoms (192 feet; 59 m) below ground and mining had taken place 16 fathoms (96 feet; 29 m) below this, the workings being drained by a flatrod system powered by a water wheel south of Pool village. This phase of mining ceased in 1784.

The mine restarted as East Pool mine in 1834. Its small sett (about 900 by 400 yards) was bounded on the west by South Crofty and Tincroft mines, and on the south by the Carn Brea mines. On its north was Wheal Agar, with which it was later to merge. The mine had a very productive and long life, raising 91,000 long tons of copper ore and, later, 46,000 long tons of tin ore. In its early days the copper ore here was particularly rich, selling in 1835 for over £12 a long ton which was more than twice the average price at the time. This first profitable period lasted for ten years during which time a total of £32,256 dividends were paid on the 128 shares that had cost their owners a mere £5 each.

By 1843 the mine was employing 300 people and its deepest workings were at 90 fathoms (540 feet; 160 m). However, a slump in the later 1840s almost caused the closure of the mine and its workings became partly flooded, which jeopardised the neighbouring South Crofty mine. This caused Lady Basset to threaten to revoke the sett unless the mine was fully worked. The mine struggled on, one regular source of income was the monthly drainage charges totalling £60 that were paid by the neighbouring mines, including Wheal Agar, but it was not profitable again until 1854.

In 1860 a rich body of ore containing wolframite was discovered. This ore has a similar specific gravity to cassiterite and the normal methods used for separating the ore from gangue could not separate these two minerals. To solve this problem a Wetherill's Magnetic Separator, which could process 10 tons of ore per day, was installed.

East Pool was one of the few mines, along with South Crofty, Tincroft, Dolcoath and Wheal Basset and a few others, that were able to survive the depression of the Cornish mining industry in the late 19th century. All these mines were close to one another and pumping water from the workings was still of highest priority: if any of the pumping engines stopped there were serious repercussions at the other mines. Such was the problem of underground water that their winding (whim) engines were adapted to haul water by using self-tipping water-skips; this was done at East Pool in 1897.

East Pool mine still had a problem with water coming from Wheal Agar, which was losing money at the time and kept threatening to switch off its pumps, which it did in late 1895. The productive lower levels of East Pool flooded, meaning that it was restricted to reworking its older higher levels. Negotiations between the two mines continued for over a year until, after the intervention of Lord Robartes, who owned the Wheal Agar land, East Pool purchased Wheal Agar and all its equipment for £4,000, taking possession on 10 March 1897.

Despite its problems, in almost every year from 1884 to 1913 more than 500 people were employed at the mine, with roughly half employed above ground and half underground. In 1913 the mine converted from a company that was run on the cost-book principle to a limited company called East Pool and Agar Ltd.

Since the 1860s, the mine had had an extensive ore processing plant located just over a mile to the east in the Red River valley at Tolvaddon, and from 1903 until August 1934 ore was transported there via a mineral tramway which used part of the track of the Camborne and Redruth Tramways, going through Pool village. After the tramway closed in 1934 the ore was carried by an aerial ropeway which ran directly across the countryside to the mill. This was a successful system that continued in use until the closure of the mine in 1945.

In 1921 there was a large rockfall underground which destroyed both of the mine's winding shafts, and caused flooding, so the next year a new shaft, named Taylor's Shaft after the mine manager, was started. In 1924 a notable 90-inch (2.3 m) pumping engine was installed at this shaft, having been moved from Carn Brea mine where it had lain unused since 1914. It was known as Harvey's Engine and had been designed by Nicholas Trestrail and built in 1892 by Harvey & Co.

It pumped water from the mine using seven lifts of pumps of 18-and-16-inch (0.46 and 0.41 m) diameter. The 110 foot tall (34 m) chimney stack for this engine's boilers was completed before the engine house was built. The unique feature of this stack, the vertical letters "EPAL" displayed in white bricks near the top, is still visible. As well as standing for "East Pool and Agar Limited", "EPAL" was also the brand name of the arsenic sold by the company.

The mine was taken over by its neighbour, South Crofty, and closed in 1945, but Harvey's Engine continued to pump water out of the South Crofty workings until 28 September 1954, when it was replaced by electrical pumps. It is likely that the Harvey's engine would have been scrapped were it not for the intervention of a Mr Greville Bathe of Florida, who purchased the engine and donated it to the Cornish Engines Preservation Committee, who gave it to the National Trust in 1967.

*** – Mining Terms – ***

Over one hundred years on from the industrial mining peak, the bizarre terms used on a day to day basis in the 19th century seem alien in our modern language. Can you tell a 'tributer' from a 'tutworker'? Use the National Trust mining dictionary to decipher a 'leat' from a 'lode' or tell the difference between the 'stope' and the 'stamp'.

  • Arsenic (As). A highly poisonous substance which was extremely profitable in the 19th centruy for East Pool Mine. Its uses included as a pesticide and in fireworks. Totally safe in its original ore form, it is not until this is roasted along with all of the tin etc, that is becomes extremely dangerous. The chemical symbol for arsenic is As.
  • Alluvial tin. Tin found near the surface of the earth, often at the bottom of valleys, which can be mined easily from the surface using ‘opencast’ trenches. This was the most common type of mining up to the 14th and 15th centuries.
  • Alloy. An alloy is a mixutre of two metals. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.
  • Bal. A Cornish term for ‘mine’.
  • Bal maiden. Women and girls who worked above ground at Cornish mines carried out back breaking work such as crushing the ore by hand. Girls under 12 would sort the ore whilst older girls would break the rocks open or transport them between different stages in the dressing process.
  • Blowing house. An older type of tin smelting furnace, where the concentrated ore - now a fine powder - would be heating to high temperatures to begin the process of smelting to turn the ore into molten metal.
  • Bronze. An alloy which is 80-90 percent copper and 10 percent tin.
  • Copper (Cu).Copper is especially useful due to its ability to carry electrical current and is often used as electrical wire. It is a soft metal and was used in history in decorative pieces such as jewellery. It was often mixed with other harder metals. When it oxidises (degrades when in contact with oxygen) it turns into a green pigment known as verdigris. The chemical symbol for copper is Cu.
  • Crowst, crib or mossel.Miners lunch (different terms were used in different parts of the county). This was usually around 11am and at East Pool Mine it was known as 'Crowst Time'.
  • Dry. A room where miners could wash and change their clothes at the beginning and end of their shift. It was a place of much cameraderie and singing.
  • Grass. A term used for the surface of the mine, getting ‘up to grass’.
  • Lode. Veins of mineralised material found in the ground which can extend for hundreds of meters in length and depth, depending on the geology. Think of curtains in the rock which contained the valuable ores.
  • Level/shaft workings. Begun in the 13th century and widespread by the 15th century, miners would follow alluvial lodes downwards into the earth, supporting tunnels as they progressed. Such mines were not as extensive as later 18th century workings when steam powered engines could effectively drain them, but it was nonetheless an attempt to mine ores under the ground.
  • Leat. An artificial watercourse supplying water to a watermill or pond. They were often wood lined and brough water from where it was, to where it was needed, relying on gravity.
  • Ore.A rock that contains metals which can be extracted through refining.
  • Shaft. A vertical passage used for accessing underground workings, ventilation and hauling the ore out.
  • Stoping and stope. ‘Stoping’ is the term for extracting ore from an underground mine, the ‘stope’ is the open space that is left behind.
  • Stamping mills and stamps. Originally powered by water wheels and later steam engines, these were machines which crushed rocks to a finer and finer powder in order to extract the tin.
  • Smelting. Where the tin was melted to separate pure tin/copper from impurities. The end products were ingots of solid metal.
  • Tallow. Tallow is made from beef or mutton fat and was used by miners to make candles. These were their only light in the mine and not only were they extremely stinky, but they gave off huge amounts of smoke. Carbide lamps were not used in Levant until the late 1920s.
  • Tributer. A skilled sub-contractor who would bid for a pitch in the mine on a monthly basis on ‘setting days’ was paid according to the amount of ore they extracted and sent to the surface or 'grass'. Those who had an eye on bidding for a pitch next to the one they had worked, would often go to some lengths to conceal its true value.
  • Tutworker. Worked on non-productive but necessary tasks underground, at a fixed price per fathom.
  • Tin (Sn). Tin is one of the most abundant and useful metals mined in Cornwall. Its uses included making tin cans, creating soldering joints, and plating other metals as it didnt corrode easily. Black tin was the name given to the concentrate produced by a mine, white tin was the metal produced by the smelter. The chemical symbol for tin is Sn. 'The cry of tin' was the crackling sound produced when a pure sheet or bar of tin was bent.
  • Touch pipe. Clay pipe or ‘cledger’ loaded with twist tobacco, a favourite with miners.
  • Wheal. Cornish term originally denoting ‘place of work’ and later ‘mine’ or ‘shaft’.
  • Whim. A Cornish term for a winding device to haul men and ore up from the mine shaft.

    EPAL Chimney Stack

    EPAL Chimney Stack

    *** – Visiting – ***

    At the very heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site sit these two great beam engines, originally powered by high-pressure steam boilers introduced by local hero Richard Trevithick. Preserved in their towering engine houses, they are a reminder of Cornwall's days as a world-famous centre of industry, engineering and innovation.

    The pumping engine is one of the largest surviving Cornish beam engines in the world, and the restored winding engine can be seen in action daily. So come and enjoy a film, displays, models and knowledgeable guides, and discover the whole dramatic story of Cornish mining.

    The site is currently closed due to the pandemic. Please click here to find out details of when it will reopen.


    *** – Facilities – ***


  • • East Pool Mine is based on two sites, around 500m apart: The main site East Pool Mine and Taylor's Engine House and the smaller site, Michell's Engine House.
  • • Free parking is in Morrison's supermarket car park for East Pool Mine and Taylor's Engine House, and outside Michell's Engine House.
  • • Tea and coffee are available from the visitor reception at East Pool Mine.
  • • For sale in the small shop, there is a comprehensive selection of mining and local history books, and a range of local mineral, rock and tin samples.
  • • There is a picnic area for sunny days.
  • • Dogs on leads are welcome to explore the outside areas.
  • Family:-

  • • Baby changing facilities are available.
  • • There are activities for children and families throughout the mine including a brass rubbings trail and a mine inspector quiz.
  • Access:-

  • • Parking for anyone with limited mobility is immediately outside the NT reception building, and accessed via Trevithick Road.
  • • The reception building is accessible via a ramp, which runs throughout the building.
  • • Taylor's Engine House has a steep set of Cornish Engine House steps to the entrance, while Michell's Engine House is accessible to the ground floor.
  • • East Pool Mine is an industrial site, with loose gravel paths, steep steps and uneven ground.

    Location : East Pool Mine, Agar Road, Pool, near Redruth, Cornwall, TR15 3NP

    Transport: Redruth (National Rail) Or Camborne (National Rail) both 2 miles or bus. Bus Routes : frequent services from Penzance, St Ives and Truro (passing Camborne and Redruth train station). 34, 46, 47, T1 and T2 stop close by.

    Opening Times : see above.

    Tickets : Adult £9.00;   Child £4.50.

    Tel: 01209 315027