Wheal Ellen, situated just up the road from Porthtowan, is a little treasure.
Formerly known as Old Wheal Basset, this mine worked from approximately 1826 to 1867, with an attempt at reworking the sett in 1907. Between 1826 and 1862, Wheal Ellen raised 24,153 tons of 6% copper ore. 220 people were employed at the mine between 1836-37.


The pumping engine house was built in 1866 for a 70-inch engine; this engine came from Boscawen mine but was never actually installed, eventually going to Blencowe Consols and then onto Van Mine in Wales. This Grade II listed building has a very unique castellated stack. It’s boiler house, although nothing remains, would have been along its east wall.


There was a rich supply of copper here, with approximately ten lodes being worked. These include: Wheal Bank, Lead, Black, Red, Flat, Champions, Green, Paulls, Great and Little Caunter lodes. Other lodes are mentioned on another map.
A large number of shafts were sunk as well, although few were named (that I could find), and include: Nice’s, William’s, Engine, Martin’s and three New shafts.


An attempt at reworking the area for copper and zinc in 1907 led to the building of a number of structures on the land, including an office building and foundations for a gas engine. Some of the remains can been seen to the south-east of the engine house.


The whole area around the engine house is a ‘right to roam’ and free to access. It is right on the road though, and there’s no official parking close by.
Planning permission was put in at the end of last year to covert the engine house into a dwelling, so if this goes through, the access might become limited.



Acton, B. (2005) Around Perranporth, St Agnes and Portreath. Truro: Landfall Publications.

Brown, K. and Acton, B. (2007) Exploring Cornish Mines: Volume One. 4th edn. Truro: Landfall.

Dines, H. G. (1956) The metalliferous mining regions of south-west England. British Geological Survey.

De La Beche, H. T. (1839) Report on the Geology of Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset. London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans.

Nance, D. and Brown, K. (2014) A complete guide to the engine houses of West Cornwall. Gloucestershire: Lightmoor Press.

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