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Stories from the mines

As the Mineral Gallery Transformation continues, we’re getting closer to opening by the day.

Our Engagement Manager, Lauren, has been gathering stories from across Cornwall to feature in the updated space. To do this, Lauren has conducted interviews with people from across Cornwall, including artists and storytellers. But she has also gone back in time, using our archives to hear from
Cornish miners. Below, we explore a bit about the community of Cornish miners.

“You can work in a mine and not hardly know anyone. But when you go to the pub, you know them all. Because you’ve heard of them, you know what level they’re working on. But actually at the mine you have, you’ve only seen [the people] on your shift.”

The industrial revolution had a huge impact for Cornwall. At the beginning of the 1800s Cornwall supplied two thirds of the world’s copper. Although there were many other trades and industries in Cornwall, mining provided the greatest employment and underpinned a regional identity.

Historically, mining only provided wealth for a few, and most mine workers’ wages were low, life expectancy was short and disasters frequent. While some improvements were made over time, working in the mines was still hard labour.

“It’s the conditions that we’ve worked in that made us all bond with one another.”

While working in the mines was hard work, the communities around the mining industry were strong. The mines provided an active social scene for those that were interested, and a sense of community beyond the mine’s boundaries.

“It’s very, very hard work. But like I say particularly, you know, if you’re working together and playing rugby together […] it’s just, yeah, wonderful social life.”

In the late 1900s, Cornish miners enjoyed Sports and Social Clubs, discos, beach
barbeques, even sports days with races and hurdles. There were also plenty of team sports, including cricket teams, rugby teams, even a tug-o-war and snooker team. And even after the last tin mines closed in 1990 and 1998, those communities continued to exist.

“We still meet up with people from the mine now, there is a Cornish Miners Association. They have a good do just before Christmas and everybody comes and has a drink and a reminisce and lots and lots of shouting as lots of the miners are deaf now.”

We are looking forward to sharing more stories in the Mineral Gallery upgrade, until then you can discover a bit more about Mining Communities on our website.

Quotes in this blog have been taken from a series of interviews with ex-Cornish miners who worked in the mines in the late 1900s.

This project is funded by the UK Government’s Town Deal programme in partnership with Truro Town Deal and Cornwall Council.