The site of the Levant Mine is truly splendid, perched as it is on the edge of the Atlantic coast in the south-west. Man has mined here since the Bronze Age. A copper mine was around in 1670 followed by the profitable tin mine in 1850. It was one of the top ten mines in Cornwall and shafts were sunk deeper and further under the sea. It was finally closed in 1930 partially brought about through the Man Engine* disaster in 1919.
The Levant Beam Engine is still steamed up on selected days from April to October and guided tours of the site are available or you can do a self-guided trail. The site is under the control of the National Trust.
The Miner’s Dry is the site of the former washrooms and the tunnel to the Man Engine is at the bottom of the spiral staircase in the corner. It was here that a man ran in 1919 crying out “the engine’s gone!”
*The lower levels of the mine were 1900 feet underground which is half the height of the Empire State Building in New York. It used to take 90 minutes for a man to climb down by ladder and more than 2 hours to climb back up. The Man Engine was installed in 1857 and took men down in ‘steps’ of 12 feet down. Step off, wait, then step on. Repeat. It consisted of linked timber rods attached to the beam of a steam engine which rose and fell every 10 seconds. Men would step onto little ledges it took only 30 mins to reach the bottom. On 20 October 1919 the top link snapped and twenty miners died. The lowest levels of the mine were abandoned after this tragedy. Source: Nine Walks around St Just and St Ives by Robin Bates and Bill Scolding
The Count House was once a grand building that housed the mine offices and boardroom, you can still see the domestic rooms in these ruins including part of the tiled hallway and the fireplace.
It is an absorbing site to wander around, though you do need to watch your step as it is very uneven and all sorts of rubble from the mine workings lie waiting for the unsuspecting in the grass. You feel a sense of history, but it is hard to imagine that this serene place reclaimed by nature and home to many a pied wagtail and jackdaw was once an industrial hive of activity and noise, a mass of turning wheels, smoking chimneys, thudding stamps and 600 men, women and children working here in 1870.
If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.