Perched on cliffs overlook Trevaunance Cove sits the remains of Wheal Kitty mine. Mining has occured all around the St Agnes area since the time of the old men, but this particular sett was first documented in 1758.
The mine was next mentioned under the names Pink and Goonlaze in 1778, with reference made to ore remaining unsold on the surface, potentially due to a lack of stamping equipment. By 1838, functioning as a copper, tin and iron pyrite mine, Kitty had reached a depth of 50-fathoms and employed 258 people.
At some point, the separate workings dotted along this patch of coastline, including Wheal Pink, Goonlaze and Wheal Bottle/Vottle were all amalgamated into one. Penhalls, a larger neighbour, remained a separate enterprise until 1904.
In 1852, the mine was reopened following a boost in tin prices, sparking celebration throughout St Agnes. The mine remained fairly prosperous until the 1890’s; in 1896 all of the pumps were stopped and work concentration on the area above adit. The following year work had ground to a halt.
The early 20th century saw more work being done on the site. In 1907, Wheal Kitty opened alongside neighbour Penhall’s mine, which had been idle since 1888, as Wheal Kitty and Penhall’s United Ltd in 1907 along with Gooninis mine. This venture came to its end in 1919.
Another attempt was made in 1926 to connect Wheal Kitty, Polberro and Wheal Friendly workings; this was completed in 1929. However, by 1930 most of these sections were exhausted and work was transferred over to the Polberro area, focusing on Turnavore shaft and Wheal Kitty stopped work for the final time.
Shafts on the mine, including Penhall’s:
Sara’s (158-fathoms/290m), Holgate’s (110-fathoms/201m), Old Sump, West Pink Old Shaft (17-fathoms/31m), Engine (80-fathoms/146m), Pink (86-fathoms/157m) Flatrod (40-fathoms/73m), Pryer’s/New (204-fathoms/373m), Vottle (65-fathoms/119m), Old Engine (34-fathoms/62m), Western (40-fathoms/73m), Penhall’s Engine (80-fathoms/146m), Ennor’s (20-fathoms/37m), South (20-fathoms/37m) and Sunny Corner (54-fathoms/99m).
Lodes on the sett include West Kitty, Wheal Kitty, Pink, Stamps, Wheal Vottle, Wheal Osborne and Clarige.
There would have been a number of engines working on the site throughout it’s history. Here is a brief selection that I’ve come across in my research:
>1842 40″ pumping engine
>1842 32″ stamps engine with 72 heads of stamps
>1842 16″ whim engine
1852 50″ pumping engine on Old Sump shaft
1852 60″ pumping engine from Perran Foundry
1863 50″ pumping engine on Engine shaft, built by Harvey’s
>1874 a stamps engine caught fire, with the surviving bob wall being used to provide rotative power
1910 65″ pumping engine on Sara’s shaft, built by Perran Foundry
>1916 30″ double acting engine with 2 flywheels and 48 heads of stamps
Other equipment that would have been used over the years included a Holman’s whim, a 150HP horizonal engine, a compressor that ran 3 drills, a 14″ steam winder, the 1926 mill that contained 40 electric California stamps, shaking tables and 2 Bruton calciners. There was also a tailings and slime plant and Penhall’s had an arsenic plant built in the 1870’s.
Output from the mine varies depending on which book you read, but Dines says:
1853-1918 – 9,511 tons tin
1834-1896 – 2,024 tons copper
1858-1862 – 590 tons pyrite
Wheal Kitty sits next to the coastpath between Trevaunance and Trevellas Coombe’s, although many of the concrete remains are now overgrown with gorse and difficult to get to. Sara’s engine house and many of the buildings surrounding it have been converted into offices, but there is still access to walk around them from the outside.
Brown, K. and Acton, B. (2007) Exploring Cornish Mines: Volume Two. 2nd edn. Truro: Landfall Publications.
Cole, R. (2002) Sara’s Shaft, Wheal Kitty, St Agnes. Available at: http://map.cornwall.gov.uk/reports_event_record/2002/2002R074.pdf (Accessed: 4 July 2019).
Dines, H. G. (1956) The metalliferous mining regions of south-west England. British Geological Survey.
Edmonds, E. (1993) Mines Around St. Agnes West Kitty, Wheal Kitty & Penhalls and Polberro, St. Agnes. Available at: https://www.aditnow.co.uk/documents/personal-album-272/Kitty.pdf.
Nance, D. and Brown, K. (2014) A complete guide to the engine houses of West Cornwall. Gloucestershire: Lightmoor Press.