The Levant Mine

The site of the Levant Mine is truly splendid, perched as it is on the edge of the Atlantic coast in the south-west. Man has mined here since the Bronze Age. A copper mine was around in 1670 followed by the profitable tin mine in 1850. It was one of the top ten mines in Cornwall and shafts were sunk deeper and further under the sea. It was finally closed in 1930 partially brought about through the Man Engine* disaster in 1919.


The Levant Beam Engine is still steamed up on selected days from April to October and guided tours of the site are available or you can do a self-guided trail. The site is under the control of the National Trust.

The Miner’s Dry is the site of the former washrooms and the tunnel to the Man Engine is at the bottom of the spiral staircase in the corner. It was here that a man ran in 1919 crying out “the engine’s gone!”

*The lower levels of the mine were 1900 feet underground which is half the height of the Empire State Building in New York. It used to take 90 minutes for a man to climb down by ladder and more than 2 hours to climb back up. The Man Engine was installed in 1857 and took men down in ‘steps’ of 12 feet down. Step off, wait, then step on. Repeat. It consisted of linked timber rods attached to the beam of a steam engine which rose and fell every 10 seconds. Men would step onto little ledges it took only 30 mins to reach the bottom. On 20 October 1919 the top link snapped and twenty miners died. The lowest levels of the mine were abandoned after this tragedy. Source: Nine Walks around St Just and St Ives by Robin Bates and Bill Scolding

The Count House was once a grand building that housed the mine offices and boardroom, you can still see the domestic rooms in these ruins including part of the tiled hallway and the fireplace.


It is an absorbing site to wander around, though you do need to watch your step as it is very uneven and all sorts of rubble from the mine workings lie waiting for the unsuspecting in the grass. You feel a sense of history, but it is hard to imagine that this serene place reclaimed by nature and home to many a pied wagtail and jackdaw was once an industrial hive of activity and noise, a mass of turning wheels, smoking chimneys, thudding stamps and 600 men, women and children working here in 1870.

If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.


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I live in the UK, but when I was younger I spent several years travelling the world followed by a period living in South Africa. I look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

60 thoughts on “The Levant Mine”

  1. Serendipity! 🙂 I opened up my Reader en route to Viveka and there you were! How could I resist? And I knew instinctively it was one for me! 🙂 Thank you 🙂 🙂 Truth be told I’ve always thought these kind of places a blot on the landscape, and the thought of the life that went on below ground fills me with horror, Jude. But there is a drama to them and a fascination, I guess. It would be interesting to be there on the steam’s up day!
    It’s beaches for me 🙂 (and roses!) Cheers, and take care! This is likely to be my last visit before I jet off.

    1. Mining regions over the whole of the UK have changed dramatically, even in ‘our’ time. I have only ever once gone down a mine – a gold mine in Johannesburg. I could never have worked in those conditions, but many of my father’s relatives worked in the coal mines in Yorkshire.
      I agree with you – beaches and roses! Much better. I shall away and work on the roses post now.
      Have fun in Bristol. I am expecting lots of colourful… balloons 😀

  2. I thought I was looking at a scene from ‘Poldark’ when I saw your first photo Jude! Your photography collection here is stunning, and I really enjoyed reading the history of the mine, but how tough it must have been as you say for all those (and children too!) who worked these mines. What a fascinating place to visit, your post brings it to us so vividly. Thank you for taking me along with you on this beautiful walk today 🙂

  3. Great history, and a photo selection worthy of an official guide book. I love those tiles, lovely geometric shapes and colours. Imagine climbing up ladders for two hours, just to get home after a hard day in the mine!
    Unlike Jo, I don’t see these as blots on the landscape. I think that they are a valuable addition to that landscape, telling us how life was very hard, not that long ago, and reminding us of our industrial heritage, bought at the price of so many lives.
    You have excelled yourself with this one Jude.
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. Jo’s industrial region has undergone a similar transformation. It is strange to see these former mining landscapes so transformed and as you say, it is not so long ago that they would have been teeming with workers.

  4. Lovely photos of a fascinating place. As soon as I saw the first picture in the reader I thought ‘that looks like Cornwall…’. Those mines are a very distinctive sight!

    1. Haha… I know the feeling. And yes, that does sound excessive and I bet they didn’t get paid for that time either. I used to moan about a 45 minute drive to/from work!

  5. Just imagine working down there, two hours to climb back up! I’ll try to remember that when I’m at my desk that has a nice view of the hills, complaining! Your second photo with the shimmering sea in the background is fab, obviously they all are x:-)x

  6. I love these places, old disused industry , ruins etc. 🙂
    I think what I like best is that no matter how “ugly” they are, you can always make a beautiful picture with them. 🙂

  7. (Damn! I just lost a long comment. Here goes again, before I forget.)

    Beautiful stonework and a lovely description of the noise in the heyday of the mine. A lovely sense of long history too. However, it’s great to see nature reclaiming and birds settling. Mining is so destructive of lives as well as landscape: I saw an exhibition in Broken Hill of a tea-set where each cup represented one miner killed, and there were a lot. An acquaintance died in a mine accident shortly after I left.

    1. I agree, mining is a horrible way to earn a living, though mining seems to be what is making your country VERY rich. Talking of BH, I met a miner in a pub there in 1998 who was from England. Small world.

  8. Jude although the rubble may cause some footing issues what a fascinating place to explore. I smile thinking about wandering around and imagining the sounds and stories of centuries.

  9. So much history in Britain and I’m pleased to see it preserved by historical societies. Future generations really do need to be reminded of how difficult life was. Just think of that 2 hour climb back up after a day of hard physical slaving at the mine face. How many hours would they work, 8, 10 hour days + the climb down and then up again? With always the thought of an impending disaster.

    1. Working life is so much less physical these days, it is no wonder that people are overweight. Those poor blokes worked a 10 hour shift with only a pasty for lunch. I found out why the Cornish pasty has the crust the way it does (around the curve) it is so they could hold it to eat and then throw away the crust, which may have been contaminated by arsenic!

  10. These walks through history are both interesting and often very sad. I would love sometimes to be able to step back in time and see it as it was rather than the ruin that exists today … but I guess I will have to rely only on my imagination and your great photos.

  11. Loved your photos, Jude. We visited a couple of the mines two years ago and did the tour of Poldark. So fascinating but awful to think of people including children actually having to work in these hell-holes.

  12. Fascinating, Jude! We have many mine shafts and tailings littering our foothills and mountainsides, but most didn’t require the types of buildings that you show here. I still shudder when I hear of problems at a mine; those men and women are right up there with the military and first responders fir dangerous occupations.

    I liked your suggestion to think about the beehive if activity and the noise level that would have been present. It does help with vusualizing the details.

    I’ve started trekking a few local areas and reading the history. It is to satisfy my own curiosity, but I’m considering a post or two because I’m so fascinated when you write and photograph your mine sites.

    1. Nature has a way of reclaiming these places, once abandoned, within a very short time. The National Trust maintain the area so it isn’t overgrown and lost to us.

  13. Another place we visited last year. I enjoyed the beautiful setting and the poignant history. John enjoyed the working beam engine and chatting to the engineer. That part leaves me cold!

    1. We arrived as the site was closing and anyway the beam wasn’t steaming that day, but maybe we’ll go back. I’m not bothered either but the OH is a bit of an anorak 😉

  14. Fascinating. My father was from a mining family in Wales. Fortunately none of his generation had to work down there. But some of the older generation died in accidents down the mines. In one year, his father died in WW1 and his brother died in a mining accident. Can you imagine what teh family went through!

    1. It was a rotten job. And a rotten war. 😦
      But I guess whilst there are minerals under the earth there will always be someone making a profit from digging them out.

  15. It’s hard to imagine that the drama of the man’s engine happened there… It looks so peaceful today! Thanks for an interesting historical walk 🙂

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