Mining Settlements
 
Miners generally lived in two- or three-roomed houses built of granite or ‘cob’, a mixture of straw and mud. Their families were often large and they frequently took in lodgers to supplement their incomes. Keeping a big family in a damp over-crowded cottage without adequate sanitation meant a daily struggle to maintain respectable standards. In 1861, well over 60 per cent of the lodgers employed in the mining industry in Camborne and Redruth were accommodated in the houses of fellow miners. Some occupied cottages on smallholdings and had access to a few acres of land. Some lived in terraces or rows of cottages which might have gardens where food could be grown. The majority lived in towns, however, where gardens were small or replaced by courtyards offering little opportunity of supplementing their diet with garden produce. Mining radically changed the population distribution within Cornwall.
 

The industry and its ancillaries were employers of vast amounts of labour. Around 25 per cent of the population were employed in the mines alone. Throughout the eighteenth century nearly all Cornish copper - more than one-third of the world’s production at the time - came from the region between Truro and Hayle, and much of it in rural areas remote from established settlements. So until the 1840s, every parish west of Truro experienced rapid population growth. Numbers rose dramatically as ‘sojourners’ followed the fortunes of the mines. There was a constant movement of miners across the County as the fortunes of mines and mining districts waxed and waned. In 1801, the great mining parish of Gwennap had a population of 4,594. By 1841 it had mushroomed to 10,794. Copper was discovered and mined in the St Austell district on a large scale after 1812. The Caradon mines north of Liskeard were opened up around 1835 and became among the richest in Cornwall some fifteen years later. The Tamar Valley, already an old producer, saw renewed activity in the 1840s especially with the discovery of the richest copper mine of them all - Devon Great Consols. Between 1845 and 1866 the Duke of Bedford built 268 model industrial workers cottages in the Tavistock area. Lead mining districts such as St Newlyn East, Menheniot and Herodsfoot joined these ‘magnets’ of the 1840s.

the influence of mining on population. © HES.


As the mining industry gathered pace in mid- and east Cornwall, there was a marked movement from St Austell to Liskeard and St Cleer and longer distance movements of miners and their families from west to east, for example, from Gwennap to Calstock and Breage to Menheniot.

Villages such as Pendeen, Lanner, Four Lanes, Menheniot and Mary Tavy grew up haphazardly around new mines, while older towns close to the mines like Redruth, St Just and Tavistock grew rapidly to accommodate an influx in population. Redruth’s population grew from 4,924 to 11,504 between 1801 and 1861. In the Tavistock District, the population rocketed from 6,272 to 8,147 between the 1841 and 1851 censuses, an increase of 30 percent. Camborne grew from a small village to one of the largest towns in west Cornwall, witnessing significant inward migration from eight other districts. Such rapid industrialisation created social problems similar to those encountered in other industrial areas of Britain.

 

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