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Geoscientist Online

Mining in Cornwall and Devon - Mines and Men

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This work is the result of over 40 years’ research into mine production data from the mines of Cornwall and Devon.  Mostly gained form Parliamentary Papers and other official nineteenth century sources.  The task of gathering the data was first started in the mid 1970s using the technology of the time to sort and store the vast amounts of information.  With state-of-the-art technology now available, a decision was made to publish this information. 

At first, offering the data on-line was considered - but the route eventually chosen was to introduce the subject with a book accompanied by a CD of all the data to date.  The book contains over 70 pages of tabulated figures in addition to the data that can be accessed on the CD.  The statistics date from 1790 to the present day and have been gathered from some very obscure sources.  The information presented not only details what the mines produced, who owned and managed them but also how many men, women and children were employed.

Not surprisingly, most data relates to metalliferous mining, but stone and clay quarrying and coal mining are also included.  A useful section is the inclusion of biographical notes relating to Mine Managers, in addition to a bibliography of mine-related books and articles.  The latter is not comprehensive but gives the researcher a starting-point for further investigations.  The book is illustrated with 15 photographs, mostly relatively modern.  These break up the text, but their quality is not as high as some other books on mining in the south west – possibly because of the quality of paper used.

There are some useful appendices such as the financial state of the mines over time and the costs of materials and labour in relation to them and in particular the section relating to mining companies and their personnel.  The biographical details relating to mine managers will be of interest to historians.  The final section of the book relates to the CD and is in effect a ‘user manual’.

This book will probably become a standard reference for the economic and social history of the mines of Cornwall and Devon, as a supplement to already-published works that relate to the geological and technical aspects of this fascinating area of study. 

Reviewed by Richard Porter

MINING IN CORNWALL AND DEVON:  MINES AND MEN by BURT R, with BURNLEY R, GILL M and NEILL A.  2014 Published by University of Exeter Press.  ISBN 978 0 85989 889 8.  251pp.  List Price £25.00