Cornish Engine Houses

If you have ever visited Cornwall, or if you have watched Poldark, then you will be aware that the county is littered with the remains of abandoned engine houses and chimney stacks. It would be remiss of me not to show some of these, though I didn’t venture down the one open to the public (Geevor Mine above) as I suffer from mild claustrophobia and can’t stand being in the dark.

The engine houses were built to provide a framework for the steam-pumping engine and more beam engines were installed in Cornwall and west Devon than any other mining region of the world: it is thought that around 3,000 engine houses were built in total to house them of which 200 still remain. They stand adjacent to where the main mine shafts were and provide one of the most distinctive displays of industrial buildings anywhere in the world.


Near Pendeen
Near Pendeen

The strength and size of the structures, usually built out of local stone and granite with brick detailing over the windows, arches and topmost chimney stack, is the principle reason that so many have survived. They are quite appealing to a photographer, but beware of getting too close as there might be a danger of falling stonework, hidden holes and stones and deep drops.

And of course they often provide an excellent subject for a silhouette.

Published by


I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

44 thoughts on “Cornish Engine Houses”

  1. First time I’ve seen your blog on laptop. It’s great! this post has everything: elegant industrial architecture, mild dilapidation, splendid skies, historical background. who needs a Poldark?

    1. Thanks Meg. All the things I like to photograph, though I have to admit to being attracted to some landscapes and seascapes down there.

  2. Was it coal mining or something else? Beautiful remnant structures; they seem to murmur with history and stories to tell.

    Hey! Poldark (the new version) starts this week on tv – I’m so excited to see Ross, Cornwall and i hope it’s as good as I remember the original !!

    1. Tin and copper mainly with some arsenic thrown in! The new Poldark is… well, you tell me when you’ve watched it. The scenery will blow your mind!

      1. Would love to see the mining area but, like you, no claustrophobia-inducing descents!!

        We missed the first episode (I forgot to set my recorder) but will tape it next Sunday. You will hear my “WOW, look at that scenery” ( and that might include my view of Poldark himself 😜)

  3. Love the first one, Jude, and that last full size with the flowers in the foreground. 🙂 Not fussed on mines either. I was outside a mining museum doing ‘shall I/shan’t I recently, and shan’t won. I decided to Google it instead 🙂

    1. Cornwall is not known for its castles so these ruins are a good substitute for me 🙂
      The last few images were taken on our sunset walk, the evening light around there was truly golden.

  4. The stonework on the engine houses is amazing. In fact, as I can’t quite afford a Castle, I may have just found the affordable alternative 🙂 Love the header shot – it’s like something from Game of Thrones 🙂

    1. The sky in the header shot was amazing, though the sun was in the wrong direction, hence the silhouette. However, maybe that was for the best.

  5. That sky in your header is so dramatic Jude and the silhouettes add to the drama. Golden hour is the very best time to enhance the glow of the local stone as shown in your last photos.

    1. Well, we went out for a walk to watch the sun set, then decided that where we intended to walk to was further away than we’d thought so turned around and decided to go photograph these two engine houses that were very close to where we stayed. The light was lovely , though the sunset failed to impress.

    1. Those huge things in Australia are SO ugly. I grew up in coal mining country (when we had one) but never thought of pit-heads as being photogenic. Just dirty places…

Comments are closed.