During my fellowship this past summer I had the opportunity to take a trip to the archives of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum in Cornwall. On my way back to Penzance, I decided to stop off at the Geevor Tin Mine. Buried in the west of Cornwall, Geevor produced nearly 50,000 tons of “black tin” during its eighty years of operation. When it closed in 1990 the mine was converted into a living history museum, serving as an anchor on the European Route of Industrial Heritage.
Its closure was not, in most respects, a surprising development. Tin (and copper) mining in Cornwall and Devon date back to the bronze age, but after millennia of active production these ancient mines began to falter as the reach of colonial trade unearthed lucrative (and untapped) sources of metal in the rivers and islands of the Far East and throughout the mountains of South America. By 1821 British tin, which had enjoyed a brief export renaissance during the early era of colonial conquest, was of little value outside of the European market&emdash;to the extent that the East India Company suspended interests entirely.
I wanted to share two collections of images relevant to the history of Cornish tin mining. The first is my collection of photos of Geevor Tin Mine (linked above). The second is a gallery of tin production images from the British Library’s initial batch digitization of their archives.