1908 Ordnance Survey map
Surface layout of the mine in 1913
Schematic of the main stope (circa 1914)
No.2 Level entrance re-opened - 1980s
Restoration of No.2 Level
(Photograph courtesy of the National Monuments Centre)
(© Crown copyright NMR)
Surprisingly we have never come across any photographs of the mine from the 1910s period. We believe that photographs must have been taken as the dressing floor buildings would have been a prominent feature from anyone visiting or living in Zennor. If any thinks they have a period photograph that may be of Rosevale Mine, we would be very interested to see it.
For further background information:
Mining activity has been carried out in the Zennor area since early times. Several relatively small mines are recorded in the vicinity of the village (C. Noall, 1993).
The early history of Rosevale Mine has been poorly recorded. During the eighteenth century several tin lodes were being worked on the western side of the Foage Valley under the name of 'Wheal Chance'. This activity was centred on a shaft near the top of Trewey Hill and on a Deep Adit driven under the hillside from the Foage Valley. One of the few reminders of this time is a gravestone in Zennor Church that is dedicated to a miner named Matthew Thomas who in 1809 was killed by a fall of ground at Wheal Chance. The mine was active during the 1840s and may have continued at intervals during the nineteenth century, by local miners on a relatively small scale.
During the mid-1900s a party of local prospectors, led by William Nankervis, who had returned to their native parish after working abroad, re-opened the mine. They started a tunnel in the side of the valley, which struck a lode (thought to be the eastward extension of Wheal Chance Lode), and they erected a battery of 5 stamps driven by water-wheel. Although they mostly concentrated on development, they sold 5 -6 tons of black tin.
In 1912 Rayfield (Cornwall) Tin Syndicate Limited, a subsidiary of Rayfield (Nigeria) Tin Fields Ltd under the chairmanship of Oliver Wethered, took on the lease of Rosevale, then practically a virgin mine, and the adjoining Blueburrow Lode (400 yards to the south) from the Nankervis family. The lease was granted for 21 years and the annual rent was set at £36, which would merge into dues set at 1/50th of all minerals sold. The company renamed the sett, which covered an area of 40 acres, as the 'Zennor Mine' and William Nankervis became the mine captain, at a salary of £8 per month.
The aim was to continue Top (No.1) Level to its intersection with the Caunter Lode and on towards the western boundary. A new tunnel (No.2) was started at base of the valley, a winze was deepened from the Top Level and a raise was put up to surface to aid ventilation. The aim was to extend development along the lode and ready to open up ground for stoping. The only record of output at this time was 26 tons of tinstuff from the development work that produced 11 cwt 17 lbs of tin.
By mid-1913 operations on the main lode had proved the existence of a large ore body, up to 3 feet wide, where an assay across the face of the drive gave 473 lbs per ton. The new dressing mill, comprising two heads of Holman pneumatic stamps and a rock breaker with the capacity to treat 50 tons of tinstuff per day, was being constructed; it was hoped the plant would be running within the next few months. No.2 Level was being driven eastwards and westwards from the winze sunk from No.1 Level, but the drive west was proving to be of little value. A crosscut was being driven north on No.1 Level towards the suspected eastern extension of Wheal Chance Lode. There was estimated to be 2,000 – 3,000 tons of payable tin ground that had so far been opened up. An independent report at this time recommended raising additional funding to enable further exploration.
By late 1913 the development work had proved to be very encouraging, so a company, named Zennor Tin Mines Syndicate Ltd, was registered, as a subsidiary of Rayfield (Cornwall) Tin Syndicate Ltd, with a nominal capital of £50,000 in 5s shares, to work the mine. The mill had still not been completed, but this was expected within the first few weeks of 1914. In 1913 the mine sold 1 ton 18 cwt of black tin for a value of £153 (source: J. Brooke).
The mill was still awaiting completion in early 1914, but it was hoped to soon make an issue on the new company. However, due to the continued low price of tin, work was stopped in the Blueburrow section in mid-1914 in order to minimise expenditure. In the Rosevale section the main lode was 2½ feet wide and yielding 50 – 60 lbs per ton. By this time it was clear that the workings on the Main Lode were not going to intersect the Wheal Chance Lode. Plans were made to drive a crosscut from the end of No.2 Level to intersect the lode, but this was anticipated to be 'heavy work' and was never implemented.
By this time World War I had started and it was expected that the War and the low tin price would continue for a long period. Oliver Wethered expressed his reluctance to close down the mine altogether, but unless there was evidence of anything a great deal better than what had been found so far he considered there was no justification in continuing. Consequently all operations at the mine ceased in autumn of 1914 and provisions were put in place to repay debits.
Rayfield (Cornwall) Tin Syndicate Ltd had spent a large sum of money on this mine and continued to retain their interest in it throughout 1915 to 1917, but no work was carried out. At this time Zennor Parish Council made contingency plans that in the event of an air raid the church bell would be rung and people were recommended to take refuge in Rosevale Mine.
In early 1918 the company considered re-opening the mine. Although the mill would take little to put back into working order, the company had limited available funds and labour was in short supply. The company had acquired some additional land (four times the original size) in the vicinity of the mine, which included a potentially valuable area of china clay. The objective of this acquisition resulted from a study of the dip of the lodes and their extensions. The intention was to start some exploratory drilling to prove further lodes, but nothing more is recorded. Finally the company was liquidated in 1925.
The mine remained abandoned until the early 1970s when the restoration project was started. ?
Rosevale Mine even has its own ghost story of a blood-covered spectre that has been seen hurrying down Foage Lane on a bicycle. Apparently this grisly event is associated with the death of a miner from a gas explosion at the surface plant on the mine (Eric Hirth, 1986: Ghosts of Cornwall).