The Circle - William Penaluna, 1819

The Circle, or Historical Survey of Sixty Parishes & Towns in Cornwall


This parish is situated about four miles west of Redruth. Its name, which is neither disgraced nor dignified with the appellation of saint, is said to have been derived from a famous well that was formerly in high repute in this district, known by the name of Cam-burne Well. To this sacred fountain many of the young and aged formerly resorted, to acquire sanctity from its celebrated virtues. But its reputation has been long on the decline, and its magical excellencies are only known from the tales of tradition, or the records of superstition.

Camborne is bounded on the north by Illogan, on the east by Redruth, on the south by Gwinear, and on the west by Crowan. The town has of late years started into much consideration ; and being situated in the heart of a mining district, its population and trade may be expected to increase in proportion to the prosperity of the mines, and the current value of their treasures. As a growing rival to Redruth, it is already become a post and a market town. Its market, which is considerable, was established in 1802. Its commodious market-house was erected at the expence of Lord de Dunstanville. It has also four fairs for cattle, which are held in the church town, on March 7, Whitsun Tuesday, June 29, and on the second Tuesday in November. Besides the church town the principal villages are Berippa, Penpons, Trewithian, and Tucking Mill. But in almost every part, its surface is thickly sown with cottages belonging to the miners.

On the northern declivity of that ridge of granite, which stretches from the vicinity of Redruth towards the western extremity of the county, there is a regular line of copper mines distributed over a vast tract of country. Among these there are several known by the name of "The Camborne Mines," from their being chiefly situated in this parish. Some of these have been working for several generations, by which means having descended to a considerable depth, they are now kept open at a vast increase of expence.

The ore of Wheal Gons and Stray-Park is chiefly of the yellow kind, and its richness corresponds with the brilliancy of its appearance. The lodes however, vary considerably in their dimensions, some being twelve feet wide, and others scarcely as many inches.

The celebrated mine of Dolcoath lies about three miles west from Carnbre ; and in its complicated machinery and workings, it suggests a vast idea of what the human powers, when muscular energy and scientific intellect combine, are capable of accomplishing, through years of unremitting perseverance. In this mine every thing is gigantic ; and the mind is bewildered in a chaos of sublime magnificence, in attempting to concentrate in one point a comprehensive view of its various phenomena. The workings of this mine extend upwards of a mile in length ; but the breadth is irregular. This tract of country is intersected with innumerable shafts, most of which are connected together by some subterranean passages, by which the earth is eaten into a kind of honeycomb at the depth from the surface, of 1200 feet. On this mine there are eight engines, five to raise the rubbish and ore, and three to drain the extensive bottom of the water which is constantly collecting. Among these engines, the largest is built upon the principle of Bolton and Watts, on a scale that is stupendous ; but the machinery is so ingeniously contrived, that diversified operations are performed with rapidity and ease. It accomplishes the labour of 200 horses, by lifting an enormous weight in the vast column of water that is moved at every stroke, in addition to fifty gallons which are discharged seven times in every minute.

The number of persons employed on this mine, including women and children, are about 1600. The quantity of copper extracted from the ore that is raised every month, amounts to between sixty and seventy tons, to which may be added a small quantity of tin. In former years this mine produced a small portion of cobalt. The largest sum that the adventurers ever realized in one month, during fifty years, was £7040.

The matrix in which the ore of Dolcoath is embedded, is quartz, accompanied with chlorite and killas.

Cook's Kitchen was formerly for a long time one of the most productive mines in Cornwall ; and during the aggregate of ten years, which terminated with the last century, its real profits amounted to £100,000. Since that period, as its workings have gradually become deeper, the expence has regularly increased ; and the same quantity of ore, if sold at the same price as formerly, will leave the actual profits in a diminished state. The depth of this mine in some parts is at present nearly 200 fathoms. Although Cook's Kitchen yields ore of different sorts, its richest and most productive is that of the solid grey kind. Some of this grey ore is worth £30 per ton, and occasionally 100 tons of ore will produce ninety tons of copper. When this metal is extracted, the remainder is sulphur mixed with arsenic and iron. In this extensive mine, as well as in Dolcoath, there are many lodes, the magnitudes of which bear only a small proportion to one another. The long celebrated "great north lode" of Cook's Kitchen, is in some places fifty feet wide, while in others it is no more than six ; and consequently, its produce must vary in proportion to the dimensions that are exposed to view. Among the apparatus for draining it of water, and facilitating its workings, Cook's Kitchen has three very large overshot water-wheels, of which the respective diameters are 42, 48, and 54 feet. The largest of these enormous wheels is under-ground ; and consequently this and all its appendages are concealed from the light of day. This subterranean machinery rarely fails to strike with wonder and admiration, such visitors as descend into these gloomy abodes.

Tin Croft, which is about 130 fathoms deep, produces a vast quantity of copper ore, and a small portion of tin. But as its workings are less extensive than those of Dolcoath and Cook's Kitchen, its expences are comparatively diminutive. Its profits therefore, have been for many years proportionably equal to any mine in the county.

The mines of Dolcoath, Cook's Kitchen, and Tin Croft, all lie on the same lodes, which extend into their respective jurisdiction. These run parallel with the granite ridge already noticed ; but what is remarkably singular, they do not incline in the same direction. In all these mines the iron stone or blue elvan is generally found, at a certain depth in their descent. This stone is so exceedingly hard, that it has been deemed equal to cast iron ; and in proportion to the thickness of the stratum which it makes, the progress of the miners is slow, the difficulty of breaking it great, and the expence of working it considerable. This elvan consists chiefly of quartz and schoerl, and sometimes it is found on the surface of the ground.

Several other mines may be denominated from Camborne parish, some of which are productive, while others are much indebted to the adventurers. The mines in this district, as well as in others, submit to the vicissitudes which the price of their produce occasions. Some also that may be considered as belonging to this parish, extend their workings into other parishes ; so that an exclusive right cannot be claimed by any boundaries of parochial territory. In all these mining adventures the expence is certain, but the profits are too doubtful to submit to any regular estimation.

At Dolcoath mine, about two miles to the westward of Redruth, a stranger may be gratified at one view with a complete idea of the singular and interesting scenery peculiar to mining. The mine being situate on the brow of a hill, and reaching to an immense extent, the spectator will behold steam-engines, water-wheels, horse-whims, stamping-mills, &c. &c. all in full activity ; the effect of which is not a little heightened by the majestic elevation and imposing silence of the venerable Carnbre.

In a tenement called Carwynen, in this parish, there is a cromleh ; but it has nothing remarkable to merit a particular description. It has three supporters, which enclose an area five feet three inches wide, and seven feet long.

A stone which has an equal claim to be reckoned among the antiques of this county, is placed against the wall of the church. This is a flat stone of an oblong square, about three feet long, and two feet wide. Near the margin there is a running wreath, by which the following inscription is enclosed :—


This inscription requires prayers to be said for the soul of that man whose name it bears. From the name itself Leviut, it being Cornish for pilot or sailor, nothing can be inferred, that will serve to inform us whose soul it is that required an interest in the prayers of the passengers.

In this parish the remains of two ancient encampments are still visible ; one of these is on the tenement of Tregear, and the other on the barton of Drym.

The church is a handsome building, and from the appearance of its architecture, it was probably erected towards the conclusion of the fifteenth century. It has a nave and side aisles, with clustered pillars, and obtusely peaked arches. The capitals of the pillars are decorated with foliage in a manner that still distinguishes many of our Cornish churches. The pulpit is much ornamented with carvings, among which are many emblems of the Crucifixion, and to these are joined the royal arms of England. This appears to have been done about the time of building the church. Within this church there are several memorials for the family of Pendarves. There is a bust of Sir William in armour, on the head of which is a flowing peruke. The altar-piece, which is exceedingly magnificent, is of Sienna marble. This was erected in the year 1761, at the expence of Samuel Percival, Esq. whose lady brought to him the inheritance of Pendarves.

By Mrs. Grace Percival, the lady of the above Samuel Percival, Esq. a school was founded for the instruction of twelve boys and eight girls, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. This school is at Penpons, and the endowment consists of a house and twenty guineas per annum. Her munificence has also provided a temporary relief for widows and orphan children, which is annually distributed on Old Christmas Day. The Wesleyan Methodists have a large and elegant meeting-house here, and a respectable congregation ; they have also meeting-houses in several parts of this parish.

On the tenement of Trewn, or Treun, Dr. Borlase mentions the walls of an ancient chapel, near a well called Fentoner, much noticed for the medicinal qualities of its waters. On the manor of Treslothan there are some remains of an ancient chapel.

Menadarva, though now a farm house, was in early times a seat of the Arundells, descended from the Arundells of Trerice. To this branch of that family, it was given, according to Hals, by John Arundell, Esq. of Trerice, commonly called John Tilbury, because he was posted at this place under queen Elizabeth, to oppose the Spanish Armada in 1588. This bequest ran in the following words :—" I give and bequeath to my natural son John Arundell, my manor and barton of Menadarva in Camburne, and to his heirs lawfully begotten for ever." The last male heir (as was supposed) of this family dying without issue, his sisters on his demise took possession of this lordship, and on their marriages conveyed it to their respective husbands, who remained in the quiet enjoyment of their portions for many years. It happened however, that a younger brother of these ladies, who had taken up his abode in Spain as a merchant, and who was known to be dead, and supposed to have left no issue, had actually left an infant son. This child who passed his minority in Spain, without knowing any thing of his father's connexions in England, visited this country when he came of age ; and, on reaching Cornwall, discovered this property, to which the laws of England gave him an undeniable right. He set up his claim to the manor and barton of Menadarva, as the heir at law and brought on a trial at Launceston assizes. In this trial it appeared, on the oath of some Spanish merchants, that he was the legitimate son of Arundell, who died in Spain. In consequence of which a verdict was obtained in his favour, and at the time when Hals wrote, he was in the actual possession of the inheritance.

Pendarves, the seat of E. W. Pendarves, Esq. is a handsome modern building, having two fronts, which consist of squared granite. It is erected on a pleasing eminence, which commands an extensive view over the western part of the county. The southern front overlooks a large piece of artificial water, which considerably adds to the elegance of the whole.

In a field near Pendarves, is a cromleh, consisting of three upright stones, and nother covering them.

Rosewarne, which is near Camborne town, was the seat of the late William Harris, Esq. The situation of the house is not elevated, and consequently the prospects from it are not extensive; but its local beauties amply compensate for these deficiencies. The gardens and walks with which the house is surrounded, exhibit fertility in her neatest attire. The house is rather conveniently large, than magnificently spacious; but its accommodations, that are adapted to every necessary purpose, render it a delightful habitation for such as prefer retirement and the charms of nature, to the artificial grandeur of tumultuous life.

In the workhouse belonging to this parish, which is situated in the vicinity of the town, a murder was committed about four years since, by an insane man, attended with circumstances of peculiar barbarity. The poor man, who had for some time been deranged, was chained in a room, and a woman appointed by the parish to attend upon him. For some time they lived together in peace. One evening however, in the depth of winter, something occurred which it is supposed occasioned a quarrel between them ; when the woman being within his reach, he gave her a blow with some instrument, which he repeated until she expired. Alarmed at what he had done, his next contrivance was to conceal the body ; and to do this no other means were in his power but to consume it with fire. Having taken this horrid resolution, he lighted up a funeral pile with some coals that were within his reach, to which he added every thing that could feed the flame ; and before the morning he had actually reduced it to ashes. The neighbours on the approach of daylight, were astonished at the extraordinary smell, which directed them to the fatal spot. On breaking open the door, the woman was not to he found ; and the only reply they could obtain from the lunatic, was, that "Molly was gone to ashes." Of this they discovered an enormous heap, in which were some fragments of bones, that on being touched turned to dust. The unhappy lunatic has since been removed to Bodmin Gaol, where he still continues, exhibiting an appearance that places human nature in its lowest state of pitiable degradation.

Camborne is distant twelve miles west-south-west from Truro ; contains 5933 acres, 887 houses, and about 5000 inhabitants; is in the hundred of Penwith.