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Abstract

Carclaze tin mine was an open pit operation which exploited a massive cassiterite-bearing greisen-bordered quartz-tourmaline vein stockwork, straddling the granite margin near St Austell. It became a ‘must-see’ location for visitors to Cornwall from all over Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, particularly those interested in the then-fashionable pursuits of geology and mineralogy. Intellectually, the early scientific interest in Carclaze can be seen as part of the Enlightenment, but in the nineteenth century the influence of Romanticism can also be detected. Much of the attraction was due to the openness and accessibility of Carclaze pit, which allowed the geology to be easily appreciated. This resulted in the development of the mine being particularly well documented by a large number of contemporary accounts and illustrations, which has also enabled an early, partly underground, canal to be rediscovered. The earliest account was by the Frenchman M. Jars who visited the pit in 1765; this was followed by accounts by other French geotourists from the early to mid-nineteenth century. The Germans Von Oeynhausen and Von Dechen provided the first geological map and cross-section of the pit in 1829. Accounts by local Cornish authors emphasize that Carclaze was a significant ‘sight’ for visitors. The earliest account of the pit by an English geologist was by Adam Sedgwick in 1822; in later publications he speculated on the formation of parallel vein swarms and schorl rock, partly based on his observations in Carclaze Old Tin Pit. De la Beche provided a pen-and-ink sketch of the south face of the pit in 1839. There are also many accounts by non-scientific visitors throughout the nineteenth century and, together with published lithographs, these are particularly helpful in describing and showing the methods of mining. Tin extraction from the Old Tin Pit had practically ceased by the mid-nineteenth century as production switched to china clay from new pits to the north. The historic south face of the Old Tin Pit, as illustrated by De La Beche, has survived into the twenty-first century and has been designated a County Geology Site by the Cornwall Geoconservation Group, although it is now threatened by housing and industrial development proposals.

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