Holmbush Mine, Callington, Cornwall, UK
Text and photography by Richard de Nul.
The Holmbush Mine is probably one of the oldest workings in the district. There’s evidence of its existence in the early 17th century. It’s certain that the mine was active during the 1790’s.
Engine house at the Hitchen’s Shaft, Holmbush Mine (1)
Wall’s Shaft burrow as seen from the Lower Whim house (2)
Kelly Bray Mine is situated to the south and the Redmoor Mine is located to the south-west. The set of mines is situated west of the Kit Hill granite and worked mainly a series of E-W tin, copper and arsenic lodes. The Holmbush Lode is composed mainly of quartz with mispickel, pyrite, chalcopyrite and other copper ores, and here and there much fluorspar and siderite. The mispickel is in ribs or veins, chiefly at the footwall and is associated in places with chalcopyrite and pyrite.
These latter minerals occurs as strings, either separately or together, traversing the mispickel and quartz, though, occasionally, large masses of chalcopyrite occupy the full width of the lode. A very good example was the mine at the East Holmbush. The mispickel ore was raised through the Wall’s Shaft. The remains of a spalling floor is still visible between the pond and the burrow.
The Holmbush Lower Whim house with the large engine pond in front (5).
The opposite photo presents the Wall’s Shaft burrow (2) as seen from the Lower Whim house.
The spalling floor is in front. It is aside this floor that I had the luck to find in April 2007 a nice ‘spalled’ mispickel specimen.
Ruins in front of the Holmbush plantation, west of the Hitchen’s shaft of the Holmbush Mine (6).
The Launceton – Callinton road is just behind the tress in the left area of the photo.
Tin accompanies the copper in the lower levels. Lead has been worked by levels between the other lodes. Lead was very important and of high economic value because of the high silver content. Dump material show quartz with galena and incrustations of fluorspar and siderite.
The other economic minerals were tungsten and copper. According to Hamilton Jenkin, the lead was worked first, but copper was the main product in the late 1830’s.
The mine employed over 250 people during the 1840’s. In 1919-1920 the dumps were worked over at Holmbush and the mine was irregular active in 1922. After that, the mine closed definitely.
The Holmbush Lower Whim house (3) is remarkably well preserved.
As it can be seen on the first photo, it still has remains of a roof.
The other photo has a view through the east windows (4).
The building has been used for farm purposes for a long time.
The Kelly Bray Mine lies just beneath the Kelly Bray village and contains four E-W lodes, Lead Lode and the eastern crosscourse. The deep adit of the mine appears to connect with the Redmoor Adit which is at Little Bearland, half a mile S-W of Kelly Bray Shaft. There are not a lot of details known about this mine.
Arsenopyrite or mispickel was the most important ore. Of less importance was copper. Mispickel or arsenopyrite is a sulpharsenide and is locally known as ‘mundic’. A term formerly used to include both pyrite and mispickel, the latter being distinguished as ‘white mundic’. Mispickel contains up to 46 % of arsenic, but when the content falls below 20% it is not of sufficient value to work. It was the main ore for the arsenic production. See references.
When brought to the surface, the ore was broken down often by hand hammers and sorted by boys and women. The women employed on the surface, were known as Bal Maidens. The image width of this specimen (7) is about 11 cm.
East Kelly Bray mine was mined for its sulphur, which was also of less importance.
The Redmoor Mine consists of two groups of E-W lodes, one north and the other south of the road. It was a main producer of arsenopyrite (8). Of the northern group little is known. South of the road the E-W lodes are Johnson’s, Vivian’s and Great South Lode. The chief shaft is Johnson’s and sunk vertically at the intersection of the Johnson’s and the Lead Lode. The deep adit, commencing at Liltle Bearland, 250 yards SW of the shaft, passes first eastward for 100 fms apparently following Great South Lode. Then it turns north-westward for 100 fms to join the Lead Lode. It follows into the northern part of the mine and it is believed to connect with Kelly Bray Adit.
The most important ores were lead and arsenic. The mine was a top producer for silver in the region and could be compared with the well-known Prince of Wales Mine. Black tin and copper were of less importance. Tin recovery was uneconomic because of the high mispickel content. Since 1840 the activity of the mines was sporadic and starting in 1845 some mines worked together as Callington United.
Redmoor and Kelly Bray worked together from 1843 to 1854 under the name of Emmens United Mines.
In 1888, they were taken up with Holmbush by the Callington United Mines Company and continued to produce until 1892. In 1893 all mining ceased at Kelly Bray Mine. All machinery was sold and the workings flooded. No more mining was ever done and the area is now built over by an industrial estate.
Parts of Redmoor were worked on a small way between about 1907 and during the First World War (1913-1914) to work for wolfram.
Another attempt to reopen was made in 1934 under the name of East Cornwall United Mines. Exploratory work took place in 1943 but without much result.
The mineralogy is quite complex because lead, fluorite, arsenopyrite, copper and iron are all presents on the dumps. A full listing or description of all minerals is not under the discussion in this website. The best reference is without doubt the mineralogical database on Mindat. Today, it is still possible to find good minerals, although most of them are only visible with a hand-lens or a microscope wityh a higher magnification. Worthwhile to mention is the mineral called 'holmbushite' (9) which is an acicular variety of carbonate-fluorapatite and called after it's locality of discovery, the Holmbush Mine.
- DE NUL, Richard (2007). The Greenhill Arsenic Works, Gunnislake, Cornwall England, UK. CDROM.
- DINES H.G. (1956). The Metalliferous Mining Region of South-West England, Vol 1.
- BOOKER, Frank (1967). The Industrial Archeaeology of the Tamar Valley. 266.
- EMBREY, P.G. and SYMES, R.F. (1987). Minerals of Cornwall and Devon.
- BROWN Kenneth and ACTON Bob (1999). Exploring Cornish Mines, Vol. 4.