Visiting a historical mine in Cornwall is always going to be an exciting experience for young and old alike. It’s not just seeing the old machines, sometimes in action, and learning about the experiences of the hardy miners from days gone by that’s fascinating. It’s imagining what it would have been like to be here when Cornish mining was in its heyday. To this end, East Pool Mine is an attraction that needs to be experienced.
The mine, which is in Pool village between the towns of Redruth and Camborne, sits in the heart of the UNESCO Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. Once called Pool Old Bal – ‘bal’ is a mine in Cornish – it opened in the early 1700s and worked all the way up to 1784 as a highly profitable copper mine. It was later reopened in 1834 under the moniker we know today, focusing more on tin. East Pool finally closed in 1945, meaning that it’s one of Cornwall’s only 18th century mines that’s still remembered by a select few locals as a place that was operating when they were kids.
The neighbouring Wheal Agar mine, the site of which is now a Morrison’s supermarket, closed in 1895 and was responsible for regularly flooding the East Pool mine, eventually meaning that East Pool’s workers could only operate on its highest levels. The East Pool team bought Wheal Agar for £4,000 in 1897. It’s estimated that, over the years, more than 92,000 tons of copper ore and more than 47,000 tons of tin ore were mined at East Pool.
One remaining mine building from the old days that’s still standing on the site today is Michell’s Engine House, where both ore and miners were winched up from a depth of around 1,500ft. There’s also an impressive Cornish beam engine on the site – one of the largest surviving Cornish pumping engines in the world, no less – which was originally powered by high-pressure steam boilers that had been introduced by famous local engineer and inventor Richard Trevithick, the man who’s annually celebrated in the ever-popular Trevithick Day.
The East Pool Mine attraction, which is managed by the National Trust and includes a fascinating industrial heritage discovery centre, is open between Tuesdays and Saturdays for guided tours, however you must book a place in advance. There’s no turning up on the day here. There’s free parking in the Morrison’s car park next door, though. Do check ahead to see if Michell’s Engine House is open to visitors and then prepare to take a step back in time and try to imagine what life was once like for all those hardy Cornish miners extracting tin and copper from the rocks beneath your feet.