The Levant Mine

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.

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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.

62 thoughts on “The Levant Mine”

  1. Serendipity! 🙂 I opened up my Reader en route to Viveka and there you were! How could I resist? And I knew instinctively it was one for me! 🙂 Thank you 🙂 🙂 Truth be told I’ve always thought these kind of places a blot on the landscape, and the thought of the life that went on below ground fills me with horror, Jude. But there is a drama to them and a fascination, I guess. It would be interesting to be there on the steam’s up day!
    It’s beaches for me 🙂 (and roses!) Cheers, and take care! This is likely to be my last visit before I jet off.

    1. Mining regions over the whole of the UK have changed dramatically, even in ‘our’ time. I have only ever once gone down a mine – a gold mine in Johannesburg. I could never have worked in those conditions, but many of my father’s relatives worked in the coal mines in Yorkshire.
      I agree with you – beaches and roses! Much better. I shall away and work on the roses post now.
      Have fun in Bristol. I am expecting lots of colourful… balloons 😀

  2. I thought I was looking at a scene from ‘Poldark’ when I saw your first photo Jude! Your photography collection here is stunning, and I really enjoyed reading the history of the mine, but how tough it must have been as you say for all those (and children too!) who worked these mines. What a fascinating place to visit, your post brings it to us so vividly. Thank you for taking me along with you on this beautiful walk today 🙂

  3. Great history, and a photo selection worthy of an official guide book. I love those tiles, lovely geometric shapes and colours. Imagine climbing up ladders for two hours, just to get home after a hard day in the mine!
    Unlike Jo, I don’t see these as blots on the landscape. I think that they are a valuable addition to that landscape, telling us how life was very hard, not that long ago, and reminding us of our industrial heritage, bought at the price of so many lives.
    You have excelled yourself with this one Jude.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. Jo’s industrial region has undergone a similar transformation. It is strange to see these former mining landscapes so transformed and as you say, it is not so long ago that they would have been teeming with workers.

  4. Lovely photos of a fascinating place. As soon as I saw the first picture in the reader I thought ‘that looks like Cornwall…’. Those mines are a very distinctive sight!

  5. Two hours to climb up out the mine! My goodness, those guys must have been fit. It takes me about two hours to climb out of bed these days.

    1. Haha… I know the feeling. And yes, that does sound excessive and I bet they didn’t get paid for that time either. I used to moan about a 45 minute drive to/from work!

      1. Never thought about them not getting paid! I’ll bet you’re right, though. Like you say, suddenly my morning commute doesn’t seem so bad.

  6. Just imagine working down there, two hours to climb back up! I’ll try to remember that when I’m at my desk that has a nice view of the hills, complaining! Your second photo with the shimmering sea in the background is fab, obviously they all are x:-)x

  7. I love these places, old disused industry , ruins etc. 🙂
    I think what I like best is that no matter how “ugly” they are, you can always make a beautiful picture with them. 🙂

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