Levant Beam Engine, Pendeen, Cornwall, Mining Heritage
Levant Mine is one of Cornwall's most famous tin and copper mines. Notable because many of its levels extended far out under the sea and for its "man engine" disaster in 1919. We first went there in 1999 and it's a really magical place, now in the care of the National Trust. It's right on the north coast at Pendeen (between St Ives and Lands End). The engine houses are right on the cliffs with stunning sea views just a bit further south west from Geevor Mine (which is also a visitor centre, albeit a much more modern mine). There's a great book about Levant called The Mine Under the Sea by Jack Penhale, which is a contemporary account of riding the man engine and working in the mine. Jack Penhale was really Raymond Harry (died 1976). I managed to get a copy of this book from Ebay but bidding was hot! Luckily the book is now back in print (22/12/07) and can be obtained from www.geevor.com - thanks to Malcolm, who is Raymond's maternal Grandson for this information.
We recently visited again (June, 2006) and the following is a rough and ready guide to the place.
The main attraction is a fully restored steam whim (winding engine) which I think was installed in 1840. It was stopped in about 1930 and then stood idle for 60 years. The Trevithic Society have done a great job of restoring it and on certain days you can visit and see it steaming. Click here for more details.
If you can't visit for real but would like to see the engine steaming, click here (allow time to download 2415kb).
Also at the mine you can take a guided tour or wander around by yourself and see the haulage shaft and pump shaft and various other surface features. The best part in my opinion is the recently reopened entrance to the man engine shaft, which is described in detail in The Mine Under the Sea. Having read the book, it was a great feeling to retrace the steps of the miners some 90 odd years later. From the ruins of "The Dry" (a big shed where the miners got changed into their underground gear) spiral stairs lead to a long tunnel lined with granite which led to the top of the man engine shaft. Click here to find out what a man engine is.
In the 1960's, the neighbouring mine at Geevor was running low on reserves and decided to branch out into the area formerly worked by Levant. This meant draining Levant mine which had been flooded for many years. Initial inspections revealed that the water in the shafts fell and rose with the tide. Using a dye, it was discovered that the sea had holed through into a level called the 40 backs which was quite near the sea bed. This hole was plugged using a very fine type of cement pumped at great expense from the cliffs out to the hole in the sea bed. If you visit Levant you'll see there's still quite a bit of it lying about near the old tramlines near the pump shaft. Once the hole was sealed the old workings were pumped out and Geevor drove a sub-decline shaft to intercept the old Levant workings. A fantastic engineering feat.
We also visited Geevor on the same day. You can take an underground tour, watch a film and generally have a good look around the surface features of this modern mine which only closed in the 1990's.
Other good Cornish Mining Books include:
Levant - A Champion Cornish Mine - John Corin