Tolgus Tin Mill - Cornwall by Harishkumar Shah

Tolgus Tin Mill - Cornwall

Tolgus, in its present form, produced tin for nearly two hundred years - long hard years which have seen the rise, fall and rebirth and fall again of the Cornish tin industry. The ancient mill produced tin concentrates from sands lost by mines both past and present, containing the ore cassiterite, a heavy oxide of tin. It is this heaviness which allows the ore to be separated from the other unwanted minerals. To accomplish this the Cornish tin streamer developed ingenious and intriguing machines and processes bearing names with a character of their own - round frames, dipper wheels, rake classifiers, launders and pulverizers and the impressive Cornish stamps.

Tin streaming in the Portreath Valley started with the working of alluvial deposits followed by the building of mills to catch the tailings discharged by the Pen-an-Drea mine and others under Redruth. Within Tolgus Mill there is unique proof of this ancient history. Whilst the car park was being constructed an elvan (a special hard rock) mortar stone bearing the inundations made by three-headed Cornish stamps was recovered. Used on all four sides, this is the only known complete such anvil stone - we also have fragments of other stamp base stones. This stone has been dated as being pre-1600s.
The mill as it is seen today starts with the return of the gold-mining Uren brothers from Australia towards the end of the 1860s. They acquired sets of Cornish stamps in the Portreath Valley to crush the ore dug from shallow mines and waste dumps in the area. The Stewart family, relations of the Urens, ran Tolgus Streamworks from the 19th century, and in 1928 their old cost book company was wound up and Tolgus Tin Stamping Company was registered. The Stewarts remained at Tolgus until 1970 when the company was taken over by a small consortium. In 1976 Madame Tussaud’s acquired the Company which then became Tolgus Tin (Cornwall) Ltd., with the purpose of preserving and developing both the mill and the methods used in tin recovery. In 1986 the site was leased and then sold to Concorde Minerals who had the intention of running the mill as a full commercial tin mill. The intention was to build a large modern mill. With a dramatic collapse in the price of tin, work ceased and the site was sold to the present owners. Leased for a few years to the Trevithick Trust, the mill is now back in the hands of the owners who envisage a long and honourable future for this unique part of the Cornish heritage.
The machinery on display covers the period 1860-1960.